Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Barks in Japan- Castles and samurai

Panoramic view of an internal wall and moat, Edo Castle.
Whilst in Japan, I went to Himeji Castle and the Edo Castle grounds in Tokyo. These castles were not designed for heavy gunfire, and their architecture reflects that. They have a built stone base with a wooden superstructure. At Himeji, the wood was coated in thick (3cm) white plaster to withstand fire. Around the castles themselves were further outer walls covering many square kilometres.
Himeji and Tokyo


Himeji castle was never attacked, and is Japan's finest castle. It is said to resemble a white heron taking flight. The wooden superstructure is not original- it has been pulled down and rebuilt a few times.
Main keep from an outer gate

At the railway station there is a nice model of the castle, showing the main keep and the western bailey. There was a smaller scale model inside the keep which was difficult to photograph, but showed the surrounding countryside and the extended defensive works.
From the south: keep at the right, western bailey to the left.

Castle from the east, showing key terrain nearby.

Approaching the keep from the south

Note the different shape of the firing apertures

Windows, with small square ports for firing arquebuses, and a vent for dropping stones.

Main keep

View from the main keep over the western bailey
A lovely garden just outside the castle grounds

I didn't take any inside pictures of the keep, but it is surprisingly roomy and light compared to European stone castles I have visited.

Edo Castle, Tokyo

You can't get around all of the Edo castle grounds in Tokyo as it comprises the current Imperial Palace. A portion has been set aside for the public, and has a charming garden. There is none of the original castle remaining except for the stonework, and it is hard to visualise what the castle may have looked like.

Outer wall, moat, and corner tower.

Diagram of wall construction- these walls are huge!
I found a marker showing the site of a corridor where, in 1701, Asana unsuccessfully attacked Kiro, and was ordered to commit honourable suicide the same day. He left behind his famous forty-seven retainers, who killed Kiro the next year before committing seppuku themselves.
Forty Seven Ronin began here
Pond, garden, lantern.

National Museum

Elsewhere in Tokyo is the National Museum. It has a good selection of artefacts- I've photographed much of the armour they had on display. I was never really sure what it was made of- my research confirms metal, laced together. A painter's nightmare.
Domaru style armour, 15th century

Saigabachi style helmet, 17th century

Helmet with hair, 17th century

Domaru style armour, 14-15th century

Gusoku style armour, 17th century

Gusoku style armour, 16-17th century

Quiver, bow, and arrows

Demons killing humans

Samurai drama
In the park around the National Museum, I was surprised to find a memorial commemorating General Ulysses S. Grant's 1879 visit, where he planted a tree. It's not too healthy now.

Next time- Hiroshima.


  1. Looks a fantastic trip Barks! Thanks for sharing such cool pics

  2. It looks breath taking! Sensational photographs, thank you for sharing them Barks.

    1. Its very easy to take good photos of such impressive scenery!

  3. Thank you for the pics. And keep your eye on the skies above for an ICBM passing overhead.

  4. Wonderful pictures, Barks. It sounds like you had an amazing trip! I love that shot of the model of Himeji Castle. It seems like an incredibly well done model, even by the high standards of big museums.

    1. I'm biased toward good models. They're much more informative than a diagram, and give you a better overview than being on the ground looking up.

  5. Thanks for sharing the amazing pictures.