Nagoya's Castle

Nagoya's greatest pride is its Castle, which we spell with the capital letter because it and Nagoya are inseparable. One of the golden dolphins standing on the topmost roof of the castle, throwing its sparkling beams for miles around, which one passing Nagoya even by railway can never miss, would be worth more than a million yen, if its gold were melted into bullion and sold at par. The castle's artistic and historical value is immense, not to be counted in coin of the realm. One naturally wonders why so much good gold was used in making such an apparently useless ornamentation on top of a castle meant for defense and war. That is part of history and would carry us far beyond the scope of a book of this nature. Suffice it to say that it was a work of love and devotion of one Katō Kiyomasa, a name to remember in Japanese history, to please the first Tokugawa Shōgun, Ieyasu, or perhaps, to please himself. More than twenty "outside" daimyō had been ordered to share the burden of this work, and though the others, especially a doughty lord like Fukushima, grumbled ferociously, Kiyomasa made it his own work and went out of his way to do the most difficult and expensive part of it, and into the bargain added these two golden dolphins. He spent a sum large enough to represent, it is said, the three years' revenues of his great feudatory, which would amount in current coinage to tens of million yen. The dolphin, the fabulous fish, was said to have a talismanic virtue against fires, and the golden dolphins of Nagoya have certainly done their duty. For, while one or two mishaps have occurred to the dolphins themselves, the castle itself has remained unharmed by fire or war.

True that Nagoya had some pretension to civic prosperity even in the middle ages, but it was from the date of the Castle that its prosperity definitely began.

And the first place to visit in Nagoya is still the Castle. To walk on the clean-swept, spacious gravelpaths between the outer and the inner moats is an inspiration--it makes one forget the present and live in a charmed sphere of romance and heroism. The donjon soaring high, fresh and majestic in its sweeping outline, stands just as it did three centuries ago, and in its grand, mysterious way, seems to tell tales of pathos and mystery at which one never ceases to wonder. As the visitor goes up its wooden stairways, one after another, rising higher, ever higher, above the city level, to an ever-widening view of the surrounding plains, he is struck with the sense of its magnificence, and wonders at the real motive which may have inspired its master builder. Was Kiyomasa a cowardly knight who, after the death of his best friend and master, Hideyoshi, sought his own advantages in the new régime under Ieyasu, the arch enemy of his late Lord? Or did he work for the sake of the work itself, as a true artist is said to do always? Whatever the explanation, the mystery is part of the great story which the Castle itself tells to all who will gaze upon it.

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