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Samurai Archives Japanese History Podcast


Follow your hosts on a trek into Japanese history, from ancient Japan to the end of the Samurai and all points in between - culture, warfare, literature, and interviews. Simply stated, our mission is to bridge the gap between the popular and the academic, and to bring the world of academic Japanese history accessible to a wider audience through discussion of topics and authors in an informative but informal manner. We encourage those listeners who want to know more to seek out works by the historians and authors we reference and interview, and to contribute to the conversation. Conversely, we hope scholars can view us as a way to reach a broader, non-specialist audience and raise the bar for general understandings of Japanese history. The Official Podcast of the Samurai Archives Japanese History page.

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Dec 5, 2014

In this episode we talk about the development of castle towns during the medieval period of Japanese history, the whys and hows, and how the structure of castle towns affected urban planning through to the modern era.

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Jay Castle
over nine years ago

Far and away the best castle town to visit is Hagi in Yamaguchi Pref. The problem is just that it is so remote it is not so easy to get to. The castle remains are extensive (mostly stone walls and moats) and you can see how the town builds out from here, with the residences of higher retainers closer. Nicer homes for high ranking samurai and nagaya style apartment homes for the lower ranks or foot soldiers. It also has watchtowers, gates, several samurai/retainer residences and several merchant homes too. It would take a full day or more just to explore the town. The next best is Kakunodate in Akita Pref. it has many homes of different level ranking retainers and in total more homes than Hagi open to the public. The homes and gardens themselves are more in tact than Hagi too which makes the actual homes more interesting to visit in Kakunodate. On the other hand, there is really nothing left of the castle nor do you see any other supporting structures of the castle. Izushi is another one that is quite nice, but only one samurai home. However, the organization of the town, temples and castle together really help you understand the layout of an Edo castle town too. Other honorable mentions go to Tsuwano, Iwamura, Kanazawa, Takayama, and Omi Hachiman,

For a side tidbit I would also add that around Sengoku castles, (particularly in Eastern Japan) you often find the “Negoya” place name surviving until today. It comes from the early settlements that grew up around Sengoku period castles. Although the kanji are different today it’s thought that the Ne comes from Neru (sleep) and koya (hut, shack, impermanent building). It was basically a small settlement around these early castles.