Topped with impressive two-meter tall glittering 18 Karat gold dolphin-like roof ornaments, Nagoya Castle boasted the nations biggest keep. Work on the imposing fortress began in 1610, and was completed two years later.
The crafty shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, had the castle built at next to no personal cost by ordering 20 former enemy warlords to complete the massive construction. Sourcing and transporting the many tons of huge stones, construction materials, and labor costs placed considerable financial strain on the various lords, preventing them from spending on arms, armor and armies, thus lessening any potential for insurrection.
Anyone refusing to comply would be destroyed, and so to show compliance, many would carve crests in the stones they supplied to prove their allegiance. These crests can still be seen along the stone walls and makes for an enjoyable side attraction, looking for the many varied marks made.
Rising Like A Phoenix From The Ashes
Until World War 2, Nagoya Castle, its palace and remaining structures were the best preserved of all the castles in Japan, and had been designated a National Treasure. On May 14, 1945, just months before Japan surrendered, American aerial fire bombing reduced the castle, it’s turrets, gates, walls and fabulous palaces to ashes. Only three watchtowers and two gates survived the inferno.
The castle keeps were reconstructed in 1959. Special exhibitions are regularly staged in the second floor Exhibit Hall, while the third floor features a reproduced castle town environment. Samurai armor and weapons are displayed on the fourth floor, and the fifth provides a fascinating history of Nagoya Castle. The top floor is an observation deck and souvenir stand. English explanations will make your visit more enjoyable.
A traditionally authentic reconstruction of the Hommaru Palace the lavish palace below the castle keep commenced in 2009.
There’s more than just the big castle. Stroll the beautiful gardens and enjoy the seasonal flowers and blossom, try a traditional beverage in the tea -rooms, hunt for crests engraved on the stone walls or just lap up the history at Japan’s biggest castle, Nagoya Castle.
Japan’s Finest Castle Palace, Nagoya Castle Hommaru Palace
In the very center of the militarily strong and imposing Nagoya Castle, surrounded by the two keeps and various watchtowers, was the Hommaru Palace, a superb palace designed as the living quarters of the castle’s lord, and later for the shogun. Its architecture, and its interior were simply gorgeous. The entire building was made of high quality, much prized hinoki, a fragrant cypress, and richly decorated with colorful paintings done on pure gold leaf, portraying tigers, leopards, auspicious birds and animals, and of plants and flowers.
Tokugawa Ieyasu was so impressed, he ordered a similar palace be constructed in Kyoto. (That palace remains as a National Treasure, but was always inferior to the Nagoya palace.) A year after its completion, Ieyasu’s son, Lord Tokugawa Yoshinao, the first lord of Nagoya, moved himself out of the main palace, into the equally sumptuous palace in the adjoining second Citadel, and decreed that the Hommaru Palace would henceforth only be used for visits by the shogun himself. It was only used about 5 times in the following 250 years, and so was maintained in pristine condition. So much so that following the end of Japan’s feudal period, three Emperors regularly used the palace as a summer residence between 1893 and 1930.
Unfortunately the palace was destroyed during the air raids of 1945. Many of the important art works had been removed and put into storage beforehand, saving them from destruction. The Hommaru Palace is being traditionally and authentically reconstructed in three segments. The first part opened to the public in 2013, the second in June 2016, and the project will be completed by 2018.