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7-10-2015, 15:34

Bridge to the Modern

The dawn of the seventeenth century is a good place to end a book on Kyoto’s premodern history. By 1600, Hideyoshi’s great urban reconstruction had laid the foundations of the modern city, and political centralization under the succeeding Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868) would soon bring in sweeping material, social, and political changes that moved Japan decisively into its early modern era. Just as important, with the military regime choosing Edo as its headquarters, Kyoto lost its status as the political center of the country, and by about 1630 ceased being Japan’s largest city. To stop the narrative here, therefore, makes sense for both historical and historiographical reasons. Doing so, however, would be unfortunate in light of the lack of scholarship on the major buildings and urban projects of the Tokugawa period. Still visible in the city today, many stand as monuments to early modern advances in technology, changing architectural sensibilities, and, not least, warrior authority. This epilogue briefly introduces several of the most important of these, including Nijo Castle, the Kyoto Noble Village, and the Takase Canal. In closing, there is also consideration of the social and infrastructural factors that contributed to urbanization east of the Kamo River.

Nijo Castle

Tokugawa leyasu’s 1600 victory in the Battle of Sekigahara essentially eviscerated the Toyotomi clan’s political viability and paved the way for leyasu himself to become shogun. Whereas he, like several of his predecessors, had remained largely aloof of Kyoto and its institutions up to that time, hegemony meant engagement. A capital residence, even one that might be temporary or largely symbolic, was necessary to take part in the public pageantry expected of someone seeking imperial

Investiture and the trappings of formal legitimacy. Knowing this, leyasu began by ordering the removal of four to five thousand homes for the construction of a residential palace in the fifth month of 1601.1 Six months later, local daimyo were ordered to begin sending financial contributions and corvee laborers to the capital for the construction of what began appearing in documents as “Nijo Castle” (Nijo-jo).2

The decision to call leyasu’s official Kyoto residence “Nijo” could have been related to several factors. First, a similar name had been applied to the former compound of the late shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki. Perhaps leyasu simply sought to mimic his predecessor. The other, and probably more likely, reason relates to simple topography. The new compound was built on a site that straddled and opened onto Nijo Road facing east (see Figure 8.4). As we have seen throughout this study, in premodern Kyoto, the names of people and buildings were frequently tied to their locations. While leyasu never adopted the toponym to become “Lord of Nijo”—presumably because he never actually lived there—his castle nonetheless did. Incidentally, the way the front gate opened directly onto Nijo Road might have had symbolic significance. Nijo, it will be recalled, was Heian-kyo’s widest east-west thoroughfare and the southern boundary of the Daidairi imperial enclosure. As such, it was among the city’s most important parade routes, second only to the great Suzaku Road. With Suzaku long gone, leyasu might have sought to leverage Nijo’s historical association with the classical city. Having done so, each time he approached his Kyoto domicile, invariably traveling in a grand procession, the shogun would bolster his credentials as servant of the throne by evoking traditional modes of public pageantry.

Anyone looking at a map of Kyoto will notice that the fortress’s silhouette sits slightly askew of the rest of the urban grid (see Figure 8.4). To be exact, it is tilted about three degrees clockwise. The reason for this misalignment long puzzled historians, and only recently has a possible explanation been proposed. Noticing that the castle’s orientation corresponds closely to the location of magnetic north at about the time of construction, geographers have suggested that Nijo’s planners used magnetic compasses in the initial planning stages.3 Arriving from Europe with missionaries, sailors, and merchants in the late sixteenth century, the new technology was widely hailed by the Japanese of the day for its convenience and apparent reliability. Nijo’s glaring skew shows that it was used for even the most important projects. It also shows, however, that the introduction of new technologies can be fraught with pitfalls. The urban grid laid out eight centuries earlier was noticeably more true to geographic north.

The first stage of Nijo’s construction was completed in the third month of 1603, just in time to host a ritual celebration (haiga) by which Ieyasu publicly marked his appointment as shogun.4 Corresponding roughly to the eastern half of the current castle’s grounds, an area now called Ninomaru, the complex was composed entirely of structures built in the shoin style (see Figure 8.1).5 The complete absence of shinden-style buildings at Nijo did not necessarily indicate an abandonment of classical, Ritsuryo rituals. The holding of a haiga there confirms this. Rather, it was probably more related to the fruition of a widespread trend that had, since the late fifteenth century, seen the usefulness of walls and dedicated rooms gradually trump the symbolic importance of ritual space.

8.1. NijoCastle's Ninomaru Palace.

Textual sources describing Nijo’s earliest appearance are scarce and sometimes contradictory. Pictorial sources, however, confirm that the complex possessed a tenshu tower (tenshu-kaku), which by this time had become a common fixture at virtually all the many castles then being built around the country.6 Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the tenshu at Nijo is that, beside the moat and a low wall surrounding the property, it was the complex’s only defensive apparatus. Indicative of the era’s peace, Nijo, from the very beginning, was a poorly fortified fortress. Indeed, it was a “castle” in name alone. The tenshus lack of functional importance is underscored by the decision not to rebuild the structure after its loss to fire in 1750.

After his imperial appointment, the new shogun did not linger. At

The end of the fourth month, Nijo was vacated as leyasu traveled first to Fushimi and then further afield to Edo, where he began the task of establishing his military administration. He used the site on only two later occasions. The first was in 1611, when he attended the enthronement of Emperor Gomizunoo (1596-1680), and the second was in 1615 to celebrate victory in the “Winter” and “Summer” campaigns fought at Osaka Castle. In sum, the man who built Nijo Castle used the site only a handful of times and stayed only a few months in total.

Nijo received its first major upgrade in 1620 with the construction of an additional residential compound for leyasu’s granddaughter, Masako (1607-1678).7 To realize a lifelong dream of tying his family to the imperial line through marriage, Ieyasu arranged for Masako, the daughter of Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632), to enter the Imperial Palace as concubine of Emperor Gomizunoo. The new compound at Nijo served as the starting point of a grand and festive procession of civil aristocrats and warrior generals who, in the sixth month of that year, escorted the newly minted princess across town to the Imperial Palace.8 Events such as this highlight the usefulness of building along Nijo Road. By traveling in a more-or-less direct route from the castle to the palace, the shogun and his vassals engaged in a mode of public pageantry unmistakably reminiscent of their classical (and aristocratic) counterparts.

The third Tokugawa shogun, lemitsu (1604-1651), ordered a major expansion and refurbishment of Nijo in 1624. Over the course of two years, the grounds were nearly doubled in size through the creation of an entirely new cluster of connected structures west of the original Ninomaru. This “main keep” (Honmaru) was surrounded by double moats and graced with a newly refurbished (and relocated) tenshu tower. The most celebrated painters and craftsmen of the day were enlisted to fit out the new compound and refurbish the older adjacent structures. Together, they transformed Nijo Castle into what is today widely considered the finest and most sumptuous example of period art and shoin-style architecture.9 Illustrated by a team of painters led by the luminary Kano Tan’yu (1602-1674), the site’s more than three thousand sliding-door paintings (fusuma-e) are now designated Important Cultural Properties (Juyo bunka-zai). Many of the intricately carved and painted wooden moldings and transom grills are equally revered, and the whole of Ninomaru is itself a National Treasure (Kokuho). While much has changed over the years due to damage and successive reconstructions, the current splendor of Nijo Castle is primarily the product of the work carried out by Iemitsu. Incidentally, the pretext for

The upgrade was to host Emperor Gomizunoo for a five-day visit in the late summer of 1626. Carefully choreographed to mimic Emperor Goyozei’s (1571-1617) stay at Jurakudai in 1588, the imperial progress corresponded with Nijo Castle’s zenith.

Following one additional visit by lemitsu in 1634, something quite remarkable happened to the shogunate’s official headquarters in Kyoto: it was virtually abandoned. Save for the presence of a skeleton crew of security guards and administrators charged with upkeep, Nijo Castle was left vacant for the next 230 years. During that long period, a succession of natural disasters took their toll.10 The tenshu tower, for example, was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1750, and the great Tenmei fire of 1788, which also devastated a large portion of the city, claimed most of the Hon-maru and parts of the Ninomaru.11

Nijo was not used in a meaningful way again until the 1860s, by which point it was clear that the military regime was doomed and that governing authority would soon revert to the emperor. Tokugawa lemochi (18461866), the fourteenth shogun, visited from Edo briefly in 1863, followed a year later by his successor, Yoshinobu (1837-1913). It was during that stay that Yoshinobu both received the imperial appointment as shogun and, before the year was out, dissolved the shogunate. Upon Yoshinobu’s retirement and subsequent departure from Kyoto in the last month of 1868, Nijo was converted into the imperial cabinet office. It served as such until 1871, when it became Kyoto’s Prefectural Office. In 1885, ownership of the property was transferred to the Imperial Household Ministry, which turned it into a “detached palace” (Nijo rikyu). The city of Kyoto took possession in 1939, soon after which twenty-four buildings were designated National Treasures. Four more were added to this coveted list in 1944, and in 1950 the rest of the structures gained the designation of Important Cultural Property. In recognition of its value as a “masterpiece of human creative genius” and a cultural artifact of “universal value to humanity,” Nijo Castle was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.12