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Shikoku: Ozu Castle trip

Since friday was 'culture day' in Japan, Y0-chan had the day off and we took a trip to the neighboring island of Shikoku.

With the help of G00gle Maps. let me try to explain a little bit.  Take 

a look at this map. We drove east from Fuku0ka( 福岡 ) on the west side of Kyu$hu to the town of B3ppu ( 別府 ) and then took a ferry across to the Japanese island of Shikoku.

Actually Shikoku has that 

narrow peninsula that sticks way out, so we took a shorter ferry that goes to a port about 3/4 of the way out called Misaki. It took about 1.5 hours and its a car ferry so we drove y0-chan's car. We didn't have a specific plan for the rest of the day, so we just played it by ear...

"Land ho!"

We stopped at the first rest stop after landing and found out that the first main city we were passing through had a castle... (and you know its all about visiting the castles...) It was a pretty small town called Ozu ( 大洲 ), there really isn't much of anything around the castle, except a few houses, some of which are even built on top of the old outer walls of the castle.

Being in a small town in the middle of nowhere this castle is not very big as far as castles in Japan goes, only about 60 ft tall:

At first I was not very impressed... but then once we got inside I learned a little more about this structure. It turns out that the two buildings on the sides were original, but the main tower was destroyed about 120 years ago. About 2 years ago it was rebuilt, but unlike the big castles rebuilt in the last 50 years (Kumamoto, Osaka, etc), they did this one completely original - out of wood and plaster using traditional techniques. (much like the smaller turrets and quarters being rebuilt at Kumam0t0 castle). I believe its the tallest reconstructed wooden castle currently.

They did a really good job too:

The woodwork is pretty good. But not exactly wheelchair friendly...

They make you take off your shoes at the door of course, but at the last set of stair cases they suggest you put the ill-fitting free slippers in the box rather than tripping on your way down those stairs. (which may or may not happen after you bash your head into that beam).

For me just studying the construction is interesting...  On the 2nd picture I've used photoshop to draw a green line on the 

splice lap joints you can find in some of the main beams.

Also they had these informative models of the construction techniques:

The happy town's people all participate... from the chopping down of the trees to the hauling of rocks.

Including some comedic relief. The part they left out is where that guy was beheaded after he got out of the water by his shogun overlord...

I think this model may have been made by the same guy who made that ninja battle diaorama at Karat$u castle)

The main tower is only 4 stories, so it doesn't take long to get to the top:

And here's a blurb on the history and reconstruction

Being rebuilt in the original style, it lacks the large observation windows or balconies for tourists you find in the modern castle rebuilds (like here in Karat$u castle). But thats OK, since the view wasn't necessarily all that:

The castle is situated on a hill in a crook in this river. Apparently it held some strategic value at some point. Here's a map via g00gle. At this point the castle is still listed as 'the ruins of Ozu Castle' ( 大洲城跡 ). [as an aside, notice how detailed the map data g00gle has for japan is. They've got labels for supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations, government buildings, etc. looks like they've licensed the whole bit from car navigation system mappers or something...]

They had an informative diagram showing the relative sizes of a few castles in these parts vs the rest of japan:


14.5m - Marugame Castle ( link)

15.3m - Uwajima Castle ( pic)

15.4m - Matsuyama Castle (check back for tomorrow's entry!)

18.1m - Kochu Castle ( link)

19.5m - Ozu Castle (this place)

29.0m - Osaka Castle ( Mcchubb)

29.0m - Azuchi Castle ( link)

31.5m - Himeji Castle ( link)

44.0m - Edo Castle (what is now the Imperial Palace in Tokyo - link)

(I really want to visit that Azuchi one next time i get a chance...)

Anyway, the two side buildings are not terribly exciting, since they're relatively small 2 story affairs:

But its nice to compare to the rebuilt tower... makes you appreciate the quality of the reconstruction if nothing else.

The sun was setting as we got out, and the staff was closing up the building for the night:

But there was still enough light to get a good picture from below:

Not too bad, a good unexpected surprise. I told y0-chan that I'm going to make my dream house in the same style some day... (except for the stairs maybe).

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April 13, 2007