Castles! (part 1)

It was a long weekend around these parts– Marine Day, for encouraging people to get out to the beach. (Is that not the best idea for a summer holiday?) Anyway, the plan was to head over to Taipei, but a series of unfortunate events saw Tara heading out alone to bring some big-island love to our small, even-more-humid neighbor.  Undeterred, I headed out to see 3 castles in 3 days. (I have a list… it keeps getting mysteriously longer…)

First up this weekend was Kakegawa– not one of the 12 original castles, but a really awesome reconstruction.  I first spotted Kakegawa from a train on a fieldtrip (work)– it looked interesting from afar, but I decided it needed a return visit for closer inspection. (You have to be sure– all manner of cool little devices and nooks and crannies can be hidden under those lurking eaves…)

Castle lurking on the left

One of my favorite things about Japanese castles is the pride the locals take in their castle– it’s always got one foot up on the others, although they all generally acknowledge Himeji and some of the other 12 are pretty darn good.

Clan flags leading the way up

Kakegawa’s claim to fame is that it led the historical reconstruction period and was the first to be reconstructed with wood vice concrete etc like Nagoya’s castle (more on Nagoya later). In practical terms, this not only makes the castle WAY cooler, but the first thing I noticed (once I recovered from flights of stairs in the crushing heat and humidity) was the smell of the cedar wood. It’s nice to think that it would have smelled like this back then, but I’m sure several hundred guys running around in heavy armor in the middle of the summer would have had a counterbalancing effect.  (At the very least, these guys had a better handle on bathing and sanitation than their European counterparts.)

Giant main room with me for scale

In addition to giving the warriors plenty of room to maneuver, the rooms come equipped with:

Key ingredient in any castle

Kakegawa also had a feature I think is sorely lacking in most castle adventure stories: rock dropping. Gunpowder took a while to show up in these parts, so the feisty-types supplemented bows and siege equipment with rock-dropping. In some castles, they just put holes in the walls, but in Kakegawa they were clearly thinking bigger:

Simply lift the floor panels out of the way and let fall on the poor sods climbing your steep walls…

In 40lbs of armor with rocks flying down, I imagine this looks less tempting…

On the whole it was a slightly small castle, mostly for storage, look-outs, and of course any actual fighting.  At a modest four stories, the view is still impressive since Kakegawa is built on one of the biggest hills around:

Scenery looks deceptively cool…

The important folks all lived in an adjacent palace, complete with yet MORE rooms for ambushing warriors to leap out, but alas the place was relatively quiet when I visited. Only one lonely employee wandering about hoping someone would ask him questions.

Contemplative curator

Thus ended the first castle tour. Stay tuned for more castle adventures. (And for those of you less thrilled than I with these fellows, for Tara’s Taiwan adventures).

Shaggy local monster

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