Sunday, 18 Nov 2018

The Design of a Japanese Castle

Japanese Castle

The Japanese castle reached its developmental peak during the early seventeenth century. The power struggle between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa camps during the Momoyama period (1575–1600) stimulated the construction of hundreds of castles. The enormous quantity of materials and manpower needed for these increasingly complex fortresses were supplied by local farmers, merchants and samurai, as stipulated by their daimyo. Massive castles such as Osaka, Edo and Nagoya required substantial contributions from daimyo throughout the country. Remarkably, these major castles were completed in a matter of years. This frenetic period of castle building lasted 40 years, beginning in 1575 with Oda Nobunaga’s revolutionary Azuchi Castle and ending in 1615 with the Tokugawa’s edict banning new castle construction.

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 1

Japanese Castle

Initially a defensive stronghold, the castle became more of an administrative center and expression of power as Japan’s political situation began to stabilize in the early seventeenth century. Towns grew up around the castle and industries evolved to serve the needs of the castle population.

The Design of a Japanese Castle. Viewed from a distance, a Japanese castle appears to be little more than a large tower crowned with layers of sweeping roofs. This tower, however, is just one part of a castle complex made up of minor towers, storehouses, gates and a palace set in compounds delineated by earthworks, stonewalls, plastered mud walls and moats. Each castle is unique, distinguished by its location, whether sited on a mountain, hill or plain; its layout; the kind of stones used in its walls; the style, size, defensive and decorative detail of its main tower; the position, number and style of its other towers and gates; and whether it had a palace, gardens and other administrative buildings.

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 2

Japanese Castle

Optimal Siting. Japanese Castle

The optimal location for a castle changed with the political situation. Mountain castles (yamajiro) were common during the Warring States period (1467–1568), with thousands of warrior lords fighting for territory. It is estimated that around 5,000 of these simple fortifications were erected. Natural obstacles such as cliffs, rocky terrain and forests provided additional protection for these wooden forts. Although their inaccessibility hindered attack, mountain castles were susceptible to siege, difficult to build and inconvenient as an administrative base.

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 3

Japanese Castle

The Design of a Japanese Castle. With the consolidation of territories into the hands of a few powerful warlords in the second half of the sixteenth century, it was advantageous for castles to be built close to major transport routes for easy access and to monitor the movements of other warlords. Castles needed to be accessible both as a barracks and for administrative purposes. They were built either on top of a hill surrounded by a plain (hirayamajiro) or on a flat area of land (hirajiro). Since low ground offered less protection, many castles were built close to the sea, a lake or a river, with water diverted to fill surrounding moats. Many of the large modern castles built between 1596 and 1615, such as Himeji Castle, were hirayamajiro. Castles built on flat land surrounded by wet moats were called ‘floating castles’ (ukishiro) or ‘water castles’ (mizujiro).

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 4

Japanese Castle

Layout. Japanese Castle

Japanese castles comprise a series of compounds with the main tower (tenshu) situated in the highest, innermost bailey or enclosure (honmaru). Subsidiary enclosures housed the lord’s residence, storehouses and retainers’ quarters. These were commonly called ninomaru (second enclosure), sannomaru (third enclosure) and nishinomaru (western enclosure). Individual enclosures were separated by earthworks, stonewalls and moats. A castle may have only a few enclosures or as many as seven, such as at Kanazawa Castle. The layout (nawabari) of these enclosures was crucial for a castle’s defense. The aim was to confuse an enemy and obstruct access to the main tower.

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 5

Japanese Castle

The Design of a Japanese Castle. Natural topography was maximized in castle building. A hill site presented opportunities for a layout with minimum excavation, while natural features, such as a river or a steep escarpment, were often incorporated into the castle’s defensive system. The perimeter of the castle was usually circular or pentagonal, as these shapes reduced blind spots and required fewer soldiers to defend them. Extensive castle grounds kept vulnerable wooden buildings out of enemy range. The grounds of Edo Castle, for example, stretched 3 miles (5 km) from east to west and about 2.5 miles (4 km) north to south.

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 6

Japanese Castle

There were four types of layout: doshinenhashigokakurenkaku and complex. A doshinenlayout had the main enclosure at the center with the second and third enclosures arranged in concentric rings around it. Osaka Castle was one of the few castles to adopt this form because of the extensive earthworks needed to form the encircling moats. A second type of layout,hashigokaku, placed the main enclosure at the apex of a hill from which the second and third enclosures descend like steps. Inuyama Castle is typical of this style. A renkaku layout placed the main enclosure in the center with the second and third on either side, as at Nagoya and Hikone castles. A more complex layout can be seen at Himeji Castle where the approach to the main tenshutwists and turns before descending into the inner enclosure through a series of gates and small courtyards. Such a layout confused intruders, forcing them to slow down to the advantage of the defending samurai.

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 7

Japanese Castle

Stonewalls. Japanese Castle

Towering stonewalls (ishigaki) are one of the most imposing legacies of the Japanese castle. Reaching as high as 98 ft (30 m), these dry stonewalls have survived more than 400 years of rain, earthquakes and war. Their existence today is a tribute to the great skill of the Japanese stonemason. There were two main types of stonewall: a stone-faced embankment and a free-standing wall. Stone-faced walls surrounded castle enclosures and could reach heights of up to 98 ft (30 m). Stones were piled against a hill that had been carved to a desired angle, or against an embankment formed from a moat excavation. Free-standing walls were much lower and used as the base for towers, gates and mud walls. Behind the outer stone face was an inner core filled with pebbles and earth.

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 8

Japanese Castle

The Design of a Japanese Castle. Various kinds of stones were used in castle walls: field stones, cut stones, cracked stones and pebbles. Enormous single stones (kagami) were positioned at important entrances to impress visitors, such as the Higo stone at Osaka Castle and the Kiyomasu stone at Nagoya Castle. Auspiciously shaped stones were also placed at important entrances. Representing water, the hexagonal tortoise stone at the rear gate of Kanazawa Castle ‘protects’ the castle from fire. The availability of suitable stones, the financial resources of the lord and the timeframe determined the types of stone utilized. Specially cut stones took longer to prepare and were more costly than locally gathered field stones. Consequently, field stones and roughly hewn stones were the most common, with finely cut or decorative stones reserved for corners, important gateways and the base of the main tower.

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 9

Japanese Castle

No mortar was used in the stonewalls. This allowed the walls to move slightly during Japan’s frequent earthquakes, minimizing damage to the wall and the wooden structure above. The skill in stonewall building lay in positioning individual stones to lock them together. The earliest stonewalls were constructed with rough stones stacked against an earth embankment: random stone piling (ransekizumi) or field stone piling (nozurazumi). Gobozumi was a more sophisticated form of random style piling where long rectangular stones were embedded deep into the earth to stabilize a wall. ‘Beaten and inserted masonry’ (uchikomihagi) was the most common type of piling. It used individual rocks roughly hewn into shape by hammer and chisel. As these stones were still quite rough and asymmetrical, cracked stones and pebbles were used to fill any gaps in the outer face. Cut and inserted masonry (kirikomihagi) was the most technically advanced form of stone piling. Precisely hewn stones were carefully aligned to create a wall without gaps. The specially shaped stones were either square, rectangular or hexagonal and laid evenly in rows (nunozumi) or at right angles (kaginote). Particular attention was paid to the corners of stonewalls, with larger rectangular stones piled alternatively in a zipper-like fashion (sangizumi).

The Design of a Japanese Castle - photo 10

Japanese Castle

 

“Samurai Castles: History / Architecture / Visitors’ Guides”

Jennifer Mitchelhill

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