Is it possible for a castle visit to be anti-climatic? Like an unnerving echo trembling through the corridors of a long abandoned, dank and decrepit dungeon; yes. As one slowly realizes that indeed this is all Nagoya-jo has to offer, curiosity begins to dwindle and intrigue gives way to dismay.
Nagoya-jo has more akin with a shell than a mausoleum. Itshalls are not the long dormant specimens my imagination convinced me they were to be. There are no hidden rooms or creaky floorboards, no surprises lurking around dimly lit corners. Unfortunately, nearly all of Nagoya-jo’s musty history turned to ash and smoke when the castle was set ablaze in 1945 by an Americanaerial raid.
Very few artifacts survived. Those that did are largely warehoused in Lord Tokugawa’s Museum. The reconstruction of Hommaru Palace has only just begun and has many years to go. Nagoya-jo’s reconstruction began shortly after it burnt down. It was completed in 1959. The reconstructed interior of Nagoya-jo is now a coldly organized set of wraparound chambers surrounding a dungeon-like stairwell and misfit elevator.
Maybe my expectations were too high, then again, maybe not. When I stop to think about it, I suppose I don’t really know what one should expect from a castle visit. As a Canadian, where history his a veneer sloppily glossed over us by “Heritage Minutes,” I long for the balanced depth of tannins and acidity which Canada could never provide.
I’ve heard there are better castles in Japan, so I will not be dissuaded from visiting more. I will set Nagoya-jo as the benchmark and feverishly pray it will soon be shattered. Perhaps my expectations are not to high, but evidently, this time they were.
About the Photos: I was too lazy to Photoshop any of them. The lack of a proper mouse and pad makes Photoshop an exercise in futility. I also currently lack a tripod, so some of the inside shots were a complete pain in the ass to take. For example, in order to get a balanced exposure of the bedroom (with a lamp just off centre), I had to hold my SLR still for 30 seconds. God bless lenses with image stabilizers built-in. Conversely, curse random tourists who decide to ignore the ghostly-gaijin statue holding an SLR and naively poke their heads into the shot.