Takahashi in Okayama, Japan -Part 2-
The Bicchuu Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi city(2)
When I reached the top, I found a tea server.
“Bicchuu Uji-cha”, a local tea was served and it was free.
“Thank god, I can cool my throat”, I thought, but surprisingly it was steaming hot!
I didn’t want to waste my tea, so I waited until it got cooler.
It tasted good enough to make me feel buying one, but it wasn’t sold on the spot.
I felt Takahashi locals missed the point a little.
“Tenshu-kaku”, the central tower, is relatively small as you can see from the photo.
So, you may be a little bit disappointed if you feel “the bigger, the better” like me.
(My first impression to the original “Mona Lisa” painting was just “Very small!”)
In the Edo era, this castle was a symbol of the reign rather than the home of its owner.
The owner normally stayed at “Onegoya” at the foot of the mountain, so servants also went to work there.
This is probably because the owner didn’t have to prepare for attacks by enemies in the Edo era.
Except occasional riots especially during the height of famine, there were no civil wars.
You can tell the “Matsuyama” castle wasn’t built to withstand in a battle from its rather weak structure.
It’s common that a Japanese castle has a very thick wall to protect from outside attacks, but the wall of the “Matsuyama” castle is hollow.
It has some defence systems like “Ishi-otoshi” and “Hazama” though.
“Ishi-otoshi”, a place to drop stones, is a hole (often with a lid) on the floor.
“Hazama”, a crenel, is a hole on the wall to shoot or spear at enemies.
– “Tsurezuregusa” Passage 109 –
After seeing around the castle, I went down the same route.
My knees were laughing (a Japanese expression which means “my knees were shaking”), so I felt relieved when I almost reached the end of the mountain trail, “At last!”
That was when I slipped and fell down to the ground.
This incident reminded me a story of “a tree climb master” in “Tsurezuregusa”, medieval Japanese essays. (Its author is believed to be Kenkou Yoshida);
A man called as “a tree climb master” sent his man to a high tree, and watching him cutting down its twigs.
The master didn’t say anything while his man was working at a dangerous high place, but when he came down to an eave height which was probably between 1 and 2 metres (3′ 4” and 6′ 8”) high, the master warned, “Watch out, come down carefully”.
The author who was there at that time asked the master,
“As your man is already down to that height, he would be safe even if he jumps off to the ground.
Why do you warn him now?”
The master answered,
“That’s exactly the point.
When he is at the dizzying height or on a weak branch which may snap in anytime, I don’t have to warn him because he would fully pay attention to his own safety.
People always get hurt at easy places.”
Now I know the master was absolutely right through my own experience.
The “Onegoya” residence was the true centre of the local politics, so there’s no wonder it was referred as “Oshiro”, the castle, while the “Matsuyama” castle as “Sanjyou” (or pronounciation may be “Yama-shiro”), the mountain castle.
The name “Negoya” was originally used for powerful clans’ “Koya” (hut or small house) in the Eastern area of Japan (Kantou and Chuubu).
Back then, an area where people settled in along the local authority’s residence began to be called as “Negoya” particularly in Kantou.
(“O” is a prefix to show respect)
The residence was demolished in the Meiji period, but stonewalls and courtyard still remain.
Now, the Takahasi High School is built on the site.
According to the official website (Japanese page) for Takahashi sightseeing, it costs 300 yen to enter the castle (in July 2014).
There is a combination ticket for 900 yen which allows you to enter the castle, Raikyuu-ji, two samurai residences and a local museum.
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