The construction of the grand Kumamoto Castle and urban planning
Kumamoto Castle is one of Japan’s Three Great Castles that was completed in 1607 after a 7-year construction process by the feudal lord of Higo, Kiyomasa Kato. Beginning with a large castle keep, 49 yagura turrets, 18 turret gates and 29 castle gates were incorporated into the castle grounds which measured about a huge 98ha and had a circumference of 5.3km. The interior is lush with gingko and camphor trees, and the castle is famous for its beauty with surviving remnants of a castle town all around it.
A castle well worth seeing for its imaginative and original design
There are 4 gates with which to enter its expansive grounds, but for first-timers, coming in through the main gate of Hohoatego-mon is recommended. There are performers garbed as armored samurai in front of the gate along with volunteer guides. The Udo Yagura is a precious wooden turret that has retained its original structure and has been designated as an Important Cultural Property. One characteristic of the turret is the linear uncurved gables and there is also its 3-layer and 5-story structure which goes all the way underground. The Kuragari (Darkness) Passageway is an underground passageway that goes to the official Honmaru Palace, something that is unusual even in Japan. The stone walls include items that were there right from the time of construction, and even traces of the fire from Seinan War can be glimpsed. The Honmaru Palace which was restored in 2008 had been the core for the castle with facilities such as living quarters and a kitchen for the daimyo (feudal lord), and at the time, it is said that it had as many as 53 rooms. The castle keep was situated on top of the 50m Mt. Chausu, and is a composite complex made of the large keep (3 layers 6 stories with 1 underground floor, 30m) and the small keep (2 layers, 4 stories with 1 underground floor, 19m). Much of the castle had been burned down in war, but it was rebuilt in 1960 so that from the top level of the large keep, a full view can be had of Kumamoto City. The restoration of the keep was faithful down to the numbers and rows of tiles, and it is a deeply aesthetic structure with an underlying tone of black. The interior has weapons and furnishings of generations of Higo daimyo as well as displays of documents of the Seinan War among other exhibits.