December, 2011

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at
previous issues.


Saga Han could make even canonns.

Saga Castle
Saga, a city of sagacity

Hello, friends.
December! How fast time flies! I cannot believe that the 2011, the year of the big earthquake, is going.
We should not forget the year and the people there.

One fine day in late October, I visited Saga Castle, one hour drive from Karatsu.
The explanation of this castle, I borrow from Wikipedia, since it is most kind in many details.

Here, the castle is restored now, and serves as a historic museum.
Photos are taken with my small camera, so please forgive me for not showing you very artistic pictures.
When you come to Karatsu, one of your next option is going to Saga, because Karatsu belongs to Saga Prefecture.

Saga Castle (佐賀城 Saga-jō?) is a Japanese castle located in Saga City, Saga Prefecture, Japan. It is a hiraijirō, a castle built on a plains rather than a hill or mountain, and is surrounded by a wall rather than being built above a stone base. Saga castle was home to the Nabeshima clan, daimyō of Saga Domain. It was also known as "Submerged Castle" (沈み城 Shizumi-jō?).

The location of Saga Castle was originally a fortified village under the control of the Ryūzōji clan, warlords of a small area of northern Kyūshū in the Muromachi period. After Ryūzōji Takanobu was defeated by a coalition of Shimazu and Arima forces in 1584, his retainer Nabeshima Naoshige gained control of the castle. Naoshige allied the clan with Toyotomi Hideyoshi and gained personal distinction during the Japanese invasions of Korea, during which time he befriended noted castle architect Katō Kiyomasa and future Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Following the Battle of Sekigahara, the Nabeshima clan was confirmed in its holdings in Hizen province, and Naoshige’s son, Nabeshima Katsushige became 1st daimyō of Saga Domain. Naoshige began work on rebuilding the castle with the approval of the Tokugawa Shogunate beginning in 1602, with the work completed under Katsushige by 1611. The original structure included a five-storey donjon surrounded by a system of 80-metre wide moats. Unusually, the moats are not surmounted by stone walls, but by earthen ramparts tall enough to conceal the inner fortifications. These ramparts were also planted with pine and camphor trees for additional concealment, which lent the castle its nickname.

A fire in 1726 destroyed most of the castle structures, including the donjon. The palace portion was restored two years later in the outer bailey, which was the centre of the Saga domain government for most of the Edo period. Another fire occurred in 1835, after which the buildings were reconstructed by Saga domain’s final daimyō Nabeshima Naomasa.

After the Meiji Restoration, the castle remained the location for the local government offices. However, the castle was occupied in 1874 by former politician Gotō Shimpei and his following of disgruntled samurai in the Saga Rebellion. The rebels were defeated by military force, during which most of the buildings in the castle were burned down.

Since 1874, the castle grounds have been used as the site for a court building and a prefectural office, and in 1883 it became a junior school. The buildings were eventually replaced by modern school buildings. In 1953, one of the surviving gates of the castle was proclaimed a Saga Prefectural Important Cultural Property (PICP). It gained national protection (ICP) in 1957.

From 2001 to 2004 the main portion of the castle was restored. It is now houses the Saga Castle History Museum and is the largest wooden castle reconstruction in Japan.

Saga Castle is also the castle where Yamamoto Tsunetomo, the orator of Hagakure, worked.

Main Gate, Shachi Gate
Shachi is an imaginary dolphin-like fish.
You will see the shachi on the right end of the roof.
This gate was designated as a National Important cultural asset in 1957.
Bullets went through this main gate door, at Battle of Saga erupted in 1874.
The Main Entrance
The hallway beside the official ceremonial hall

Naomasa Nabeshima became the 10th lord of Saga Domain (han) at the age of 17. Demonstrating strong leadership, he was committed to the introduction of science and technology, administrative reform, and education.

Exhibition room
Worrier's helmets some 400 years ago
fixing the broken paper of the sliding door.
The first reverberatory furnace in Japan was built in Saga.

The Saga Han made cannons, learning from Dutch.
On this phone, you can hear the recorded voice of Shigenobu Okuma, Politician, Prime Minister, the Founder of Waseda University.
who died in 1922.
This castle is clean and beautiful inch by inch.
Same winds as 200 years ago are blowing when we walk beside the castle.

Saga is not a flashy prefecture. It is a kind of sober, self-controlled district. Diligent, not wasting, and patient.
Wise lords led this small Han in Kyushu to be a strong, opinion-leading district at the time of Meiji Restoration.
Saga is a city of sagacity.
Karatsu was not included in this Han, but an antagonizing clan then. The cannons of Saga Han aimed at Karatsu, but they did not fire, because Karatsu did not fight. Karatsu survived the Restoration.
The characters of Saga and Karatsu people are quite different from each other. Nevertheless, I sometimes adore the deep, strong self-control of Saga People. This Saga Castle symbolizes the mind of Saga people quite well. Simple, clean, and avoiding useless decorations.

Thank you, friends. I hope you will have a happy and safe new year.
See you again.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

Proprietress of

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