Kanazawa Castle (Kanazawa-Jo)

Kanazawa is a famous "castle town" of Japan, so it was di rigeur to go see the local castle. Kanazawa castle is famous from the Edo period, when the Maeda family (starting with Maeda Toshiie) occupied the castle. For other castle photos, see my page on Himeji Castle (which I visited in 1998).

Most of the castle at this point is a reconstruction, but the Ishikawa-mon gate area (shown in the photo at right) is original. Like most castles you'll see in Japan these days, the structures you actually see here were never used in war. Although these buildings were built after the Tokugawa shoguns had consolidated power, Kanazawa castle in an earlier form did have some involvement in the wars that led to the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate.

At right, Frances-and-Yasuko (it's Frances' arm on Yasuko's body!), Matt, Lesley (hamming for the camera as usual), Pierre, Sondra, Urs, Simon, and Joy.


It was a drizzly day as we all streamed in to the grounds. There used to be a University on the grounds of the castle, but it moved several years ago and now the grounds are used for concerts in the summer.

KanazawaJo1.jpg The main reconstructed buildings are the two turrets (Hishi Yagura and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura) and long storehouse (Gojukken Nagaya) shown here. The buildings were reconstructed piece by piece, using records from the castle's earlier reconstruction. Like many Japanese castles, Kanazawa-Jo has burnt down a number of times, and there were records from the rebuilding in 1808 even though some of the structures were first built around 1632. The castle was burnt down again in 1881 during the Meiji restoration. KanazawaJo2.jpg

Japanese castles and gardens often have exquisitely composed views from various points, and Kanazawa-Jo is no exception. At left is a newly planted garden within the castle grounds; right next to the castle is the famous Kenrokuen Gardens. We didn't make it to the gardens, but they are supposed to be spectacular, comparable to the Kourakuen Gardens I went to in Okayama in 1998.

The picture at right is the view back down from the castle to the area where we are walking above.


The meticulous reconstruction of the castle is inspiring. The exact joinery used in the original castle was recreated and woods were gathered from around the world to recreate the look (although 70% of the wood was from Ishikawa prefecture, American white cedar and other non-local woods were used since local wood is harder to find then it was a few hundred years ago). The earthen walls and lead roof tiles of the original were reproduced as well -- and no, no one knows exactly why they used lead. There are lots of exhibits of the techniques used; the project was a ¥10billion ($100 million) restoration completed in 2001. This time it has a sprinkler system and everything so hopefully it won't burn down again.

At right, we've climbed up into one of the castle watchtowers (something you probably wouldn't be allowed to do in America for liability reasons!). Top row: Pierre (and his retroreflective jacket!), Simon, and Matt. Middle: Joy, Hans, Sondra, Urs, and Leo. Bottom: Frances, Seul, and Lesley.

KanazawaJo8.jpg More views from the castle lookout towers. At left, the entranceway with the city of Kanazawa visible behind it. At right, the other side of the building, from the other tower. KanazawaJo9.jpg
KanazawaJoNoNaka4.jpg After getting back down to the main level. Back row: Urs and Hans. Middle: Sondra, Pierre, Matt, and Simon; Front: Lesley, Joy, Frances, and Suel; anchoring the group is Yasuko (who didn't make the climb for the other group shot!).
LordAndLadyMaeda2.jpg Kanazawa was ruled by the Maeda family in the Edo period, and the founding Lord and Lady Maeda are celebrated in the region. Therefore, the tourist district surrounding the castle has, of course, cutouts of Lord and Lady Maeda! At left Frances and Matt, and at right me and Joy, fill their famous clothes. Joy is probably one of the first black Lady Maedas, but it goes with the red kimono nicely. LordAndLadyMaeda3.jpg
EntranceToori.jpg The castle inspires some of the surrounding buildings as well. At left is a a torii (shinto shrine entrance gate) and at right a stone lantern attached to some newer buildings near the castle. EntranceLantern.jpg
The extremely European-looking building is actually the Noh theatre in Kanazawa. NohTheatre.jpg After our trip to Kanazawa-Jo, we headed back to pick up our bags and go to Biz Cafe and Famille (figured out the pattern yet?).
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  © 2004 Leo Hourvitz