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【The CASTLE EXPO 2016 - Part 2】 Immerse yourself in the world of castles from all over Japan! Three days in which all the castles in Japan are gathered in Yokohama!

In recent years, an increasing number of people seem to be interested in "castle tours" regardless of age or sex. The event long awaited by "castle fans" was held on the 3 day holiday for Christmas.
At "The CASTLE EXPO2016" you can find all contents on Japanese castles gathered in Yokohama, such as valuable resource materials, photographs, models, lectures by knowledgeable people, and goods of Japanese castles.
In the first part, we introduced you the talk event and interview with rakugo storyteller Shota Shunputei, who appeared as a "castles expert" at the event, and he is also a big fan of castles himself.

Photo&Text: Rumiko Ozeki

"The CASTLE EXPO2016" is held on December 23, 24 and 25 for 3 days. Minato Mirai at Christmas is crowded with couples and families with large Christmas trees decorated here and there.

"Welcome! Enjoy your visit!"


They let us take photos of them in various formations and poses.
In the last few years, you can often see people like these called "Omotenashi Bushotai" (army generals in costume) at castles around the country, who perform the role of these famous generals. Now it really feels like we arrived at the castle, I am so excited!

All of the famous castles all lined up! Photo exhibition of Japan's Top 100 Castles

All the area from the first floor to the fifth floor of this spacious conference hall at Pacifico Yokohama is filled with all kinds of castles, so I was at a loss where to begin, so I started first by going to the photo exhibition of Japan's Top 100 Castles.

the photo exhibition of Japan's Top 100 Castles

The list of "Japan's Top 100 Castles" has been established by the Japan Castle Foundation in 2006 in order to have castles and castle ruins be better known by more people, since they are a representative cultural heritage of Japan and also a historical symbol of their area; and also in order to act as a guide when exploring castles in each area of the country.

The castles that have remained in their original state in Japan since the Edo period are called the "12 original castles", of which 5 castles (Himeji Castle, Hikone castle, Inuyama castle, Matsumoto Castle, Matsue Castle) are national treasures.

With these "12 original castles" at the head of the list, they chose more than one castle from each prefecture, and also set up a stamp collection event which makes the castle tours even more fun.

At the CASTLE EXPO2016, they have lined up panels with photos of the selected top 100 castles all the way from the north to the south, from the Nemuro Peninsula Chashi Site (Onnemotochashi) in Hokkaido to the Shuri Castle in Okinawa. On the panels you can read information about the castle's history and other things like their representative lords. Just by walking around, looking at each one, you can feel as if you have walked around 100 castles.

Besides the panels exhibition, there are also booths organized by local management organizations of the castles that have been selected in Japan's top 100, here guides dressed as Sengoku period princesses and Sengoku warriors give visitors information regarding the castle exploration and other sightseeing spots around the castle.

Left: It didn't move, so we thought it was only a piece of armor, but we were surprised to see there was a person inside!

Left: It didn't move, so we thought it was only a piece of armor, but we were surprised to see there was a person inside!

Local mascots are also all here!

Each town with a castle also has a local mascot. (Well, local mascots are actually all over the country, not only in towns with castles.)

Local mascots from all the regions have gathered here in Yokohama for this event. The most popular one is Hikonyan from Hikone castle, of course. There is also this year's NHK Taiga historical drama, "Onna Joshu Naotora", where Naotora Ii is the main character, so it is going to be a busy year for Hikonyan, the cat of the Ii family.

Buddhist priest Naotora-chan, Hikonyan, and the daimyo Ieyasu-kun

In the photo from the left are: Buddhist priest Naotora-chan, Hikonyan, and the daimyo Ieyasu-kun. Naotora-chan is originally from Hamamatsu, so in her right hand, she has a "spear in the shape of an eel(!)". (She kind of resembles the actress Ko Shibasaki.)

There are other mascots as well!

Umemaru, Wanmaru-kun

In the photo from the left: Umemaru from Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture (Odawara Castle), and Wanmaru-kun from Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture (Inuyama Castle).


These are Shimanekko from Shimane Prefecture (Matsue Castle), and Chikiri-kun from Osaka, Kishiwada (Kishiwada Castle).

All of these characters gathered here from all the castle towns, it really has a Japanese feel to it.

And all the way from Kumamoto came the local mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, Kumamon, and Higomaru, the local mascot of Kumamoto city. This time we could not meet with Kumamon, but we could see Higomaru's show.


Higomaru seems to be a fairy who came to our modern age in 2007, at the festival organized to commemorate 400 years since the building of Kumamoto Castle.

It looks like it would be hard to walk with that body shape, but once he started dancing he was very lively, especially the spinning move looked very skillful.

It has a "Liba tape" stuck to its roof.

What? Isn't that a band-aid, you may ask. It seems that most people in Kumamoto Prefecture call band-aid "Liba tape", this is a custom-made item from the local company "Libatape" which makes band-aids.
Kumamoto Castle has suffered great damage due to last year's earthquake and has been hurt, so this is a message that it will heal its wounds and try their best.

Since it was Christmas day, it was dancing and spinning with Alisa, their partner, wearing a Santa hat & Liba tape!

Kumamoto Castle (This photo was take in October 2015.)

I can hardly wait for Kumamoto Castle to recover its former appearance. (This photo was take in October 2015.)

At the CASTLE EXPO2016, there was also an exhibition of stones depicting unusual patterns that have emerged from the restoration work of Kumamoto castle, and a reconstruction support corner for Kumamoto. It seems that they gathered 738,052 yen in 3 days from donation by many castle fans.

The stonemason's group, Anoshu, who were hired by Nobunaga

At the CASTLE EXPO2016 a talk event and a forum were held, where they invited a lot of "castle specialists", including the rakugo storyteller introduced in part one, Shota Shunputei, who has a great interest in castles.

One of the rare opportunities that we could enjoy at this event was a lecture by Mr. Suminori Awata, the representative of the construction company Awata Kensetsu (head office: Otsu, Shiga Prefecture). He is a descendant in the lineage of the masonry group "Anoshu" who were employed by Oda Nobunaga, since he valued their masonry technology highly.

The title of the lecture was "The masonry group Anoshu appointed by Nobunaga, and their stone walls."

They say that the first castle that had stone walls, the turning point from the mountain castles of the Middle Ages to the castles of the early modern period, was Azuchi Castle built by Oda Nobunaga. The stone walls of Azuchi Castle were build by the Anoshu.

The stone wall of Azuchi Castle still standing today

The stone wall of Azuchi Castle still standing today

There is no manual for the method of masonry of the Anoshu, even today it is still passed down only by oral tradition. The reason for this is, as it says in the Anoshu Hiden

"Listen to the voice of the stone, understand the soul of the stone. Your soul and the soul of the stone should become one. Mount each stone by feeling out a place for it where it can sit comfortably forever. For this, a training of the mind and arms is essential." (from the Anoshu Hiden Kokorogamae)

This essential "dialogue with the stones" is very difficult to explain with words.
Mr. Awata, who is a descendant of the Anoshu, has been working on repairing the stone walls of the Azuchi Castle and Hikone Castle.
At the lecture he also introduced the tools used by the Anoshu, but these were nothing special or new, they were just the tools that have been used since ancient times.
I felt that the reliability of the technology was not in the tools, but in the imagination of the craftsmen who manipulate the stones at will.

The descendant of the Anoshu, Mr. Suminori Awata

The descendant of the Anoshu, Mr. Suminori Awata

At the end, Mr. Awata introduced us to the unforgettable famous words of Oda Nobunaga.

"Those who are born talented, rely on it and refuse to train, they get overconfident.
However, those who are not born with talent try hard every day to acquire those skills.
They have a completely different mindset. This is important."

Mr. Awata, who has the special skill of the masonry of the Anoshu, which has been passed on through the ages, believes the words of Oda Nobunaga that "daily effort is more important than talent". This belief could come from the method in which Anoshu technology is passed on, by "listening to the voice of the stones".

It will be interesting when visiting all the castles in each area, to look at them and think: "These stone walls may have been built by the Anoshu as well."

There are many exhibited items such as castle dioramas as well

At the CASTLE EXPO2016 there were exhibited the models of the current 12 original castles, and dioramas of 40 castles from all over the country.

A model of Himeji Castle that is a national treasure and a world heritage site. Its roof is black, so this is from before it was renovated?

A model of Himeji Castle that is a national treasure and a world heritage site. Its roof is black, so this is from before it was renovated?

The castle dioramas were especially interesting, since they included not only the building but also the entire castle, it was easy to understand its size and elevation difference, and it was great that we could imagine the entire castle!

Diorama of Kochi Castle. The difference in elevation is easy to see.

Diorama of Kochi Castle. The difference in elevation is easy to see.

Diorama of Azuchi Castle, whose keep was burned down. The stone wall of the Anoshu!

Diorama of Azuchi Castle, whose keep was burned down. The stone wall of the Anoshu!

It is pretty elaborate, isn't it? There is rarely a chance to see an exhibition the diorama of 40 castles together, so all the castle fans were delighted!

There was also a merchandise sales section, where in addition to castle goods, books, and plastic models, there was also a special selection of souvenirs from each castle town.

The 2016 Taiga drama Sanada Maru was also very popular, so there were a lot of Sanada Maru related goods as well

The 2016 Taiga drama Sanada Maru was also very popular, so there were a lot of Sanada Maru related goods as well

There were also all the well-known confectionery and sake from the castle towns. There were also capsule toy vending machines!

There were also all the well-known confectionery and sake from the castle towns. There were also capsule toy vending machines!

Also, in the corner titled "Castle UKIYOE woodblock prints 〜Matsuzaki Collection〜" there were displayed 10 ukiyoe woodblock prints which depicted warlords, battlefields or castles made by ukiyoe print artists from the Edo period until the end of the shogunate and the Meiji period. In the "Exhibition of selected castle pictorial maps" there were displayed 8 castle pictorial maps from the collection of the Japan Castle Foundation.

A picture of a castles on an old map of Japan

A picture of a castles on an old map of Japan. You can see that there were many castles in all areas of Japan.

I feel like I'm liking these castles more and more!


The exhibition used all the space from the first to the fifth floor of the Pacifico Yokohama conference hall, and it was held for 3 days. The CASTLE EXPO2016 was so fulfilling, we couldn't even see everything in one day.

In particular, the lectures and talk events of "castle specialists" called "selected premiums" were all valuable contents that you would not want to miss.

Besides the talk event regarding mountain castles by Shota Shunputei, who we introduced in the previous part, and today's lecture by Mr. Awata, the descendant of the Anoshu, there was also a forum on the topic of "Approaching the realities of the Siege of Odawara". There was also a lecture by Mr. Yu Hirayama, who was in charge of background research for the Taiga drama "Sanada Maru", which was very interesting for fans watching the drama.

In addition to castle researchers, also various "castle specialists" appeared on the stage, like castle photographers and castle illustrators who all look at castles from different points of view. We could learn from them how, for example, by being able to capture video using drones, castle photography has become more and more interesting.

The venue was always crowded with lots of people from adults to children, I could feel the excitement of this recent castle boom. It seems that the number of visitors during the 3 days has reached 19,000 people!

We have learned a lot in these 3 days about touring castles. We have learned that castles are not only those which have a keep, but mountain castles are also interesting, since they are where castles originated from. We have also learned that you can enjoy walking around the castle and think about how it seemed to those who attacked it or defended it.

The CASTLE EXPO2016 ended with great success, but actually it seems that this was only the beginning.
They are planning to continue holding this event to promote the exchange between castle fans and the castle regions, and for the development of castle research.

Although it was just finished, we already cannot wait to see what they are planning for this year.


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