On the heels of yesterday’s professionally guided sightseeing around Hiroshima, today we decided to add a self-guided tour of Hiroshima castle.
The travel company had booked our train tickets for early morning to go to Okayama. However, last night we changed the Shinkansen tickets to late afternoon and took ourselves off to Hiroshima castle. Before leaving the hotel we forwarded two suitcases to Kobe and kept just the items we thought we would need for two days before we got to Kobe.
We decided to use the Hiroshima Loop Bus system. There are three routes around the city. The bus station was opposite the hotel. So onto the bus we got and made our stop the castle.
The castle is an impressive five storey pagoda shaped building. The castle is built on a stone base of 12.4 meters. The total height from base to the fifth floor roof is 39 meters, so the building itself is 26.6 meters tall. The castle was built by Mori Terumoto and was completed some time between 1592 and 1599.
Terumoto’s grandfather, Motonari became a feudal lord of most of the Chūgoku region. When he died in 1582 his grandson succeeded him.
He was one of five Great Elders. However, he was anxious to expand his power and in battle he defeated Takeda who ruled the Aki province. As well as becoming a war lord he took over the naval power. He realised the importance of the delta at the mouth of the river Oka. He ordered his retainers to reclaim the land in order to build the castle and with it a complete castle town. Following the battle of Skigehara in 1600, Terumoto was forced to flee to Hagi, in the mountains. He was defeated by Fukushima Masanori. In 1619 there was a flood and Masanori restored the castle, however, he failed to get planning permission from the Shogun who banished him. The castle was then taken over by Asano Nagaakira. The castle remained in the Asano family for 12 generations, up to 1868 with the return to power of the Meiji emperor.
Fukushima built a town for the common folk. The samurai warriors lived within the walls of the castle, but they needed provisions. So also within the castle town were the artisans required to maintain the castle, the iron foundry to make the armoury and the weapons; the
carpenters, the food merchants, etc. On the reclaimed land crops were planted so that the town could be self sufficient. Crops such as cotton, spring onions, lotus, and sweet potatoes were planted because they could tolerate the salt in the reclaimed land. Cotton in particular was an important crop and was shipped around the country. When Commodore Perry, an American naval leader, brought his ships into Japan in 1858, Japan ceased to be isolationist and international trade opened up.
Canals that had been dug were gradually filled in and these became roads.
We took the lift up to the fifth floor to get some idea of the view. Then we walked down. On each floor was an exhibit of life in the castle. We saw a film setting out the history of the period and the castle, and saw displays with clothes of the period, weapons, plans of the town and various items that had been saved. Saved because on 6 August 1945 Hiroshima castle was destroyed by the A-bomb. The present castle was reconstructed in 1958 and is a national treasure.
We walked back to the train station and picked up our bags and sat in the hotel writing up the blog until it was time to get the bullet train to Okayama.
Okayama is an industrial town that looks in serious need of a freshen up. We stayed at the Granvia hotel which also looked “tired”. We decided to take a stroll around the town but there was really nowhere obvious to stroll to, except the ice cream bar. Although we had not needed to awaken early today, our inner alarm clock seemed to be set to go off early, so it was pot noodles for supper and an early night.
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