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Takamatsu, a city of art facing a jewel of the world: the Seto


Takamatsu Castle (cont'd)

2012.05.31 by Cathy Hirano
Takamatsu Castle was one of just three seafront castles in Japan and the sea came right up to the outer walls on the north.

Imprint of seawater on stone

Takamatsu Castle was a flatland, rather than a mountaintop castle, which is why the city encroached upon it so easily. The grounds and outer moat extended another 100 meters south of the park's current location to where the Mitsukoshi department store now stands. The castle layout follows the Kakaku-shiki style, a spiral that winds toward the donjon at the center, and access could be denied by burning the wooden bridge that led to the island on which the donjon stood.

Originally surrounded by three moats, only the inner moat and the eastern half of the middle moat are left.

Middle moat

Inner moat

Because the moats are fed by the sea, their water level fluctuates with the tides.

Intake gate to let in the sea

In addition, they host not the ubiquitous carp but a species of porgy, a saltwater fish that is served to celebrate special occasions in Japan. I have never seen anyone fishing for them in this park, but for 50 yen, you can feed them with what looks like dog food pellets. You need a good throwing arm to get past the pigeons on the steps.

These sea bream are also being used to drum up funds for resurrection of the castle donjon. To support this cause, you can buy a sticker for 200 yen.

Five of the buildings on the castle grounds have been designated as national important cultural properties. Of these, the sea gate (Mizute-gomon) and the surviving castle turrets or yagura all date back to the 1670s. The other building, Hiunkaku, was built in the early 20th century.

The photo above shows Tsukimi-yagura with the adjoining sea gate and Watari-yagura. These are all open for viewing every Sunday at no extra charge.

Ushitora-yagura, above, is only open once a year on May 5.

Takamatsu castle could be approached by boat up to the sea gate and the turrets served as a watchtowers equipped with rifle slits

and holes for dropping stones and other unpleasant things on intruders.

Shuttered hole seen from inside

Same hole from outside

To resist enemy cannon fire, the turret walls were encased in fire-resistant clay applied to bamboo lattice frames and then coated in thick plaster. In the exterior walls, in particular, all wooden beams were covered to prevent the spread of fire. This made for walls 34 to 37 centimeters thick.

When these turrets were built, times were more settled and the general construction practice was to leave the wooden cross pieces in the interior castle walls exposed to cut costs. In both turrets, however, the interior crosspieces were covered.

Ushitora-yagura interior

In Tsukimi-yagura, the interior walls were not evenly covered. Instead, only enough wattle and daub was applied to cover the cross pieces, resulting in a ripple or wave-like effect known as Notaguri-kabe. This cut costs while still fireproofing the walls.

The wooden columns in Tsukimi-yagura extend from the ground straight up through the floors to the roof. Although not a single log, they were spliced together with joints resistant to warping and earthquakes.

The end of this beam carries the date (1676) and someone's signature, perhaps that of the builder. Amazing to see that the ink is still visible after more than 3 centuries.

Not to be outdone, some modern day creator has come up with these ingenious cardboard creations on sale in the office inside Hiunkaku.

For those who are not interested in castles or history, Tamamo Park is still great for a peaceful and picturesque stroll in the middle of the city.

Hours: sunrise to sunset (for example, 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM in mid summer; 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM in mid winter). Closed Dec. 29 to 31.
Admission: 200 yen for adults (discounts available through hotels), free on Jan 1-3 and May 5.
Location: directly across from JR Takamatsu Station and ANA Hotel Clement.

This blog's writer

Cathy Hirano

I've lived in Japan since 1978. After graduating from a Japanese university with a BA in cultural anthropology in 1983, I worked as a translator in a Japanese consulting engineering firm in Tokyo for several years. My Japanese husband and I moved to Takamatsu in 1987 to raise our two children in a slower-paced environment away from the big city pressures. We've never regretted it. I work as a freelance translator and interpreter and am involved in a lot of community work, including volunteering for Second Hand, a local NGO that supports educational and vocational training initiatives in Cambodia, and for the Takamatsu International Association. I love living in Takamatsu.

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