OK, back to Japan. We left Tokyo, going by train to the much smaller city of Kanazawa, a historic castle town.
One of the gates to Kanazawa Castle.
Kanazawa is on Japan’s western coast, facing the Sea of Japan (with Korea on the other side of the water).
The region around Kanazawa was once known as Kaga. In 1488, an alliance of farmers and Buddhist monks drove out the local feudal lord, and Kaga became known as the “Kingdom of Peasants”, or the Kaga Ikki.
The Kingdom of Peasants had its share of internal strife, but it survived for nearly 100 years. In 1582, the feudal lord Maeda Toshiie and his allies conquered Kaga after years of bitter fighting. He then set about consolidating his rule by building Kanazawa Castle.
While much of the castle perches on steep hillsides, on this side it looks down on a broad, flat lawn. There’s an aquatic garden with cattails and waterlilies near one of the gates.
Another entrance to the castle.
Kanazawa Castle has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. It is an imposing edifice of stone, timber, and metal. Recent reconstructions have tried to scrupulously use the same building techniques that were employed in the 1600s.
That’s a big door hinge.
Here’s an inner moat.
You can go inside the watchtowers and climb up to the top. The stairs are extremely steep. You have to take off your shoes and I was worried that my stocking feet would slip on the smooth wooden steps. I was clinging to the railings and carefully taking one step at a time.
A view of the City of Kanazawa from the watchtower.
The whitish roof tiles are made with lead.
A view from the top of another watchtower.
The castle has multiple sections divided by walls and moats.
One of the buildings has extensive indoor displays on the construction techniques used in the construction of the castle.
The craftsmanship was pretty impressive. All the wooden parts of the structures were joined without nails or screws. And some of the wooden posts were diamond-shaped, making for some complicated joinery.
If you go to Kanazawa Castle, I would also recommend visiting the Ishikawa Prefectural History Museum, which is pretty close by. It provides more context for understanding the times which inspired the building of the Castle.
Kanazawa Castle has a compelling aura. It recalls the monks and farmers who struggled against a feudal order centuries ago, as well as the noblemen who reasserted their control over this region.