The Stepping Stone of Ieyasu Tokugawa’s Ascend
Hamamatsu Castle is a feudal site located close to the eponymous JR Station, in Shizuoka prefecture in Japan. From the former residence of daimyo lord Ieyasu Tokugawa only remains a three-story keep, which was rebuilt in the 1950s and is now used as a panoramic observatory. It is standing in a park that nicely complements the visit.
Originally named Hikuma Castle 🏯, the fortress was built by the Imagawa clan, before Ieyasu Tokugawa seized it in 1570 after a territorial fight. At the times, Ieyasu was only a province governor, but he nonetheless had the place expanded and changed its name for "Hamamatsu Castle." The Castle became his headquarters for seventeen years, from age 29 to 45. During this period, he conducted many important battles, including the Battle of Mikatagahara in 1572, that would open the path for him to unify the country and reach the supreme rank of shogun of Japan in 1603. As it was perceived closely related to Ieyasu’s rise, but also to the achievements of other lords who received important ruling positions, Hamamatsu-jo was nicknamed the "Success Castle."
The restoration of Meiji Emperor in 1868, and the World War II bombings led to the destruction of most of the constructions, and the castle was left in ruins. In 1958 however, the site was partially revitalized with the reconstruction of the main keep on its historical location, with the original stone foundations, of Nozura-zumi style that were still in good condition.
An observation tower over the region
The keep is divided into two parts:
- On the first floors, a museum displays the building’s traditional construction method and a collection of objects dating back to the Tokugawa period. The exhibition includes samples of military feudal equipment with samurai armors, Japanese swords, firearms, and old coins. Nothing exceptional here, except that one can have a very detailed look on well-preserved daily clothes and that visitors are welcomed by a truer than nature wax statue of Ieyasu in a fighting pose.
- The upper level of the building was arranged as an outdoor 360° observation platform, protected by a wire netting. The panoramic view on the city and the surrounding plain is interesting for first-time visitors. Additionally, on clear weather days, Mount Fuji can be spotted from the eastern side of the balcony.
A pleasant Japanese garden
The public park surrounding the castle might be more interesting than the rather classical visit of the keep. As the green lung of Hamamatsu downtown, it is particularly popular in autumn for the contemplation of the vividly red maple leaves 🍁, and in spring 🌸 to enjoy a friendly picnic under the cherry blossoms.
Walking in the park, you will encounter a tiny but glowing Inari shrine, a pond with koi carps, a bronze statue of Ieyasu, but also another reconstruction completed in 2014: the castle’s main gate yagura-mon.
Lastly, in the north of the park, a traditional ochaya house offers a tea ceremony in a space surrounded by vegetation.