Dec 8, 2016
Most Japanese castles have a tower (tenshukaku), but at Kanazawa-jo Castle, its tower was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt. Instead, you can feel the rich tradition in the old buildings, especially the castle gates (mon). You should see how beautiful they are. It helps to understand that a main gate often has smaller gates.
The most famous main gate is Ishikawa Gate (Ishikawa-mon). It is near the famous Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three great gardens of Japan. While most of the buildings and gates in Kanazawa-jo Castle have been restored recently, this gate is an original constructed about 230 years ago. So old, and still standing!
From outside the castle, go through Ichino-mon, the first point of Ishikawa Gate. Walk through the square to reach the second gate called Nino-mon. You’re now inside the castle’s compound. The two gates and the square (masugata) were designed to protect the castle from attacks. Why not go into the watch tower (yagura) on top of the gate? The broad beams inside are symbolic of the architecture’s solidness. You can enter for free, but please remove your shoes first.
Come through the compound from the north side, and you’ll come to the second main gate, Kahoku Gate. Restored in 2010, this was once the main castle gate. I can just imagine the feudal lords and samurai passing through it!
You will also see a square here, and a watch tower. Take the stairs on your right to go up, admission is free. Admire the traditional timber work, then look out the window – you can see a distinctive roof design. Most roofs have dark grey tiles, but this one is white. I’ll tell you why. The lead tiles used turned white when they were exposed to carbon dioxide. And when the sun reflects off it, it’s dazzling! Only at Kanazawa Castle compound has this type of roof survived.
Finally, take the Hashizumebashi bridge across the moat to get to the third main gate, Hashizume Gate. Leading to Ninomaru Palace, I think this is the most elegant gate, especially after its 2015 restoration. Don’t you think the iron and wood stripes are eye-catching? Step closer and you can see more intricate details.
Because all restoration at Kanazawa-jo Castle has been historically accurate, the place has a very special charm. I hope you’ll enjoy the ambience as much as I have.
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