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Kanazawajo, or Kanazawa Castle, is a fortressed castle where Lord Maeda worked and lived with his family.
It used to be amazingly well furnished with weapons. Sadly however, it burned down in 1759.
Let’s check out the highlights of these ruins and the restoration with our friend, Karolina from Poland!

web_0203_06.jpg[3] Tsurunomaru Hirobaweb_0203_07.jpg[4] An ornamental ridge-end tile, in the shape of a samurai topknot, complete with Lord Maeda’s family crest.web_0203_08.jpg[5] A plastered white wall called Namako-bei

• OPEN: 7:00-18:00 (Mar.- Oct. 15) / 8:00-17:00 (Oct. 16-Feb.) • Admission: free

web_0203_04.jpgTraditional Rickshaw ROMANYA [浪漫屋] Phone: 090-5366-9216 • Fare: for one person ¥2,000 (10-min ride) / ¥3,000 (20-min ride); for two people ¥3,000 (10-min ride) / ¥5,000 (20-min ride) • Rickshaw station: Temple Enchoji in Higashi Chayagai district; the bottom of Konyazaka slope leading to Kenrokuen garden. *Pick-up service around the castle is also available (reservations required).

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OVERVIEW

Kanazawajo, along with Kenrokuen garden, is a must-visit landmark located on the other side of O-hori-dori Avenue. The ruins of the castle are designated as a national historic site. All Kanazawa citizens wish that fires had never destroyed these buildings.
Be aware this castle was designed as a fortress, and features plastered white walls with tiled roofs. The walls are actually quite thick, filled with pebbles so that bullets couldn’t penetrate. You will notice some parts of the tiled roofs look grayish, while others appear more white. Those are special tiles made of lead. The ‘official’ reason of utilizing the material is for making the castle gorgeous. Therefore the castle looks as if it is covered with beautiful snow. However, another alleged and more practical reason, is that they were going to use the roof to make bullets in case of war. History says Kaga-han was well known as a cautious clan. There are many interesting stories by the way, to indicate they were covertly preparing for the possibility of sudden war.
The original wooden sections are unfortunately gone due to repeated fires, however you can still see the different types of stone walls built as foundations. Some built around 1600 are preserved as ruins, while others have been rebuilt for restorations in modern times. As a result, Kanazawa Castle is the so-called, “Museum of stone walls” in Japan. You will see the changes through the times, and even the personal design tastes of each successive lord. For instance, its height was the most important aspect during the older age, as it provided defense against invaders, and showed the lord’s authority. On the other hand, the restored complex of the three buildings: Hishi Yagura, Gojukken Nagaya and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura, implies that the third Lord (Toshitsune) must have put emphasis on its design as well. Its foundation features colorful stones like a mosaic work.
It‘s weird that this important site used to be a university campus, and there had been some public tennis courts on the reclaimed outer moat before it was restored. Ishikawa prefecture has been involved in on-going work on its restoration since 1999, and it’s still under construction. Residents like us enjoy the developments while strolling around the nature-rich park every season.



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6 OF THE SITE’S BEST HIGHLIGHTS

MUSEUM: Hishi Yagura, Gojukken Nagaya, Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura

The complex of three buildings: Hishiyagura tower, Gojukken Nagaya armory, and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura tower, have been faithfully restored to the original design of 1809. The construction was finished in 2001. This building also features lead roofs and Namako-bei (plastered white walls). You will soon know it’s sort of a “museum of Japanese architecture.” Most of the wood blocks, such as pillars, are fastened without nails and bolts. Construction uses the dovetailing technique, a simple method of joining blocks common in Japanese carpentry for traditional architecture.

web_0203_08.jpg[6] The complex of three buildings: Hishiyakura tower, Gojukken Nagaya armory, and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura tower

• Open: 7:00-18:00 (Mar.- Oct. 15); 8:00-17:00 (Oct. 16- Feb); open everyday
• Admission: adult ¥310; child ¥100; (credit cards not accepted)
* A set ticket includes admission to Kenrokuen garden: adult ¥500
* Shoes off in the building. A plastic bag will be provided at the entrance.

MYSTERY OF ENGRAVINGS

At the ruins of the stonewall, check the seals engraved on the stones. Over 1,400 stones with curved seals have been reported. You will see them at other castles constructed by previous rulers, such as the Tokyo Imperial Palace, or at Osaka Castle. The purpose of curving seals for public works are allegedly that they are the signs of several daimyo who were contracted to build the castle. However, Kanazawajo was built for a private lord. Thus, the reason behind the seals is still under debate. Some say they must have been the family seals of vassals, while other say they represent team or group signs for constructors.

web_0203_09.jpg[7] Stonewall ruins, with curved seals

田:Pronunciation: TA or DEN; Meaning: rice field *Possibly the initial symbol of a family name.
十:Pronunciation: TOU or JU; Meaning: ten *Possibly representing a number or a cross.

STONEWALL DESIGNS

As the castle complex is the so-called “Museum of stonewalls,” you will see many differences between foundation types. The design for the oldest one, which was built around 1600, is pretty simple, because it focused on practical use. It utilizes natural stones, and stands about 25 meters high to defend the keep from enemies. At around the time of the third lord, there was no actual war, so the Kaga domain spent money to support arts and crafts. Check the foundation under the museum to see stonewalls of that age! Utilizing colorful stones, it looks like a mosaic work. Yes, the age of art had started. Later that age when the fifth lord governed, more designs were showcased. The prominent stonewalls called “Shikishi-tanzaku-zumi” are not practical at all, but pretty interesting nonetheless!

web_0203_10.jpg[8] Shikishi-tanzaku-zumi stonewall

THREE GATES: Ishikawa-mon / Kahoku-mon / Hashizume-mon

web_0203_11.jpg[9] Hashizume-mon gate
Ishikawa-mon: this gate at the entrance has been designated as an Important Cultural Property, and was rebuilt in 1788. Though most people must think this is the main entrance facing Kenrokuen garden, it was actually used as the back door.
Kahoku-mon: after you have passed through the Ishikawa-mon, you will see this beautiful gate next to the San-no-maru lawn. It’s said that practically, Kahoku-mon used to be the main gate, and it was finally restored in 2010 after 130 years.
Hashizume-mon: part of the museum, and one of the three great gates within the castle complex, Hashizume-mon is actually comprised of two different gates (gate #1 and gate #2), which have been restored at different times. You will probably notice the vertical stripes on the gate doors. It’s hard to believe such a beautiful design was designed more than 130 years ago.

GARDEN & CAFE: Gyokusen-in-maru Teien/ Gyokuen-an

web_0203_13.jpg[10] Gyokuuseninmaru garden

Since Gyokusen-in-maru was created as Maeda’s private garden in 1634, it repeatedly improved its aesthetic appearance until the Meiji period began. This garden features a large pond in the center with lovely paths for strolling. The difference in height from the bottom of the pond to the top of the tallest stonewall used to be 22 meters. Be aware that visitors to the garden are only allowed to walk around periphery, not on the paths within. If you have time to appreciate the charming garden while sipping a cup of green tea, do not hesitate to stop by Gyokusen-an Café, just beside the garden!

Gyokusenan Cafe
• Open: 9:00-12:30; 13:00-16:30; closed New Year’s Holiday (Dec. 29 - Jan. 3)
• Matcha green tea: ¥720 (served with a Japanese confectionery)

OBSERVATORY:
Ushitora-yagura-ato / Honmaruenchi

Honmaruenchi, surrounded by trees, is the place where the first lord Toshiie built the castle tower known as tenshukaku. It’s said he ordered Takayama Ukon, who was well known as a Christian daimyo, to manage the construction. Although we can no longer see the magnificent tower which burned down in 1602, the adjeacent Ushitora-yagura-ato is definitely worth a look. It’s well known as the observatory to look down the Iouzen massif over Kenrokuen garden.
web_0203_12.jpg[11] A view from Ushitora-yagura-ato


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HISTORY

1546 Temple Oyama-Gobo was built on the site
1580 Katsuie Shibata captured the building, and his nephew Morimasa Sakuma used it as Kanazawa castle
1583 Triumphant Entry: Toshiie Maeda got the castle after a battle and renamed it Oyamajo castle
1587 Renovated by Christian daimyo Ukon Takayama, and renamed Kanazawajo again.
1592 Toshinaga Maeda carried out another renovation.
1602 The castle tower was burned down by lightning.
1632 A fire burned down a large part of the site.
1632 The Tatsumi-Yosui irrigation channel was installed.
1759 Most part of the castle burned down again.
1873 The site became property of the military government.
1949 The site was utilized as a university campus.
1996 Ishikawa Prefecture started management.
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