Nagoya Castle and Hommaru Palace

At the beginning of February the Center for Japanese Studies at Nanzan University arranged a field trip for all of it’s exchange students. We went to see Nagoya Castle and the recently reconstructed Hommaru Palace that is on the castle grounds.

It was a chilly 9 degrees centigrade that day and not everyone, including me, had bundled up appropriately. Just one of the many lessons I learned during my first month abroad. Even if it looks sunny and warm, it won’t feel like it due to the humidity. Because Montana is much less humid, it look a while for me to adjust to this very different kind of cold.

Before entering the grounds, our CJS guide broke us into groups each with it’s own tour guide. My group had an adorable elderly lady who spoke amazing English. When our group member told her that we could speak Japanese, she started conducting the simple explanations in Japanese and only using English if we looked confused or it was a more abstract concept. This is an interesting contrast to the ninja actors that we ran into. They insisted on speaking English even after we said “speaking Japanese is fine” in Japanese. Nonetheless, the ninjas were a little cheesy but entertaining.

I was very impressed by the level of dedication that was involved in the reconstruction of Hommaru Palace. It was constructed alongside Nagoya Castle as offices for Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, but was burned to the ground in a World War II air raid. Decades later, they are finally in the process of rebuilding. Every effort is being made to rebuild in a historically accurate manner. They are even going to far as to use the original type of wood, hinoki cypress. A single board of this wood costs almost US $2000 and much of the palace is made of it. The craftsmanship needed to rebuild this way is simply extraordinary.

The main castle, several side buildings, and the original golden dolphins that sit atop the castle were also destroyed during air raids in World War II. These buildings have already been rebuilt and I never would have guessed that had once been entirely destroyed. I suppose this just one more example of the perseverance of the Japanese people. Even if it takes decades, they will continue to rebuilt what was lost. This gives me hope for the repair of Kumamoto Castle, which was severely damaged by and earthquake in April 2016. It is estimated to take 20 years to repair the castle. Much of the prefecture is still struggling to rebuild but I have hope that things will one day be set right again.

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