The 36 Gates of Edo Castle

Edo (Yedo) Castle, constructed in 1457, transformed Tokyo (then called Edo) from a small fishing village into an urban center for trade, culture, and politics. Edo Castle became the official residence of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Upon the shogun’s arrival in 1603, the castle was in shambles, requiring an extensive 40 year reconstruction project. The castle was upgraded to be an appropriate residence for the shogun as well as an administration center for a unified Japan. At the time, it was the biggest castle in the world with a defensive perimeter of over 10 miles comprised of an inner and outer moat. The moats were crossed by 36 gates or watchtowers, each heavily guarded. In 1868 the Tokugawa shogun’s power toppled and the emperor was restored to the supreme ruling position, ending the feudal era and ushering the modernization of Japan. Emperor Meiji resided at the castle from 1868 to 1888 before moving to the newly constructed Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, there is little that remains of the original castle structure today. Much of it had been destroyed due to fires and earthquakes, including most of the gates. The remnants are currently being preserved as historical landmarks.

This extravagant publication at the end of the 19th century tried to capture the magnificence of the gates for tourists and historians alike. Each of the 36 gates is depicted in color with an accompanying historical description.

OTE-GOMON (THE MAIN CASTLE-GATE.) When the Shogun passed the gate, all the people were to be sent away (they being not allowed to take sight of the Shogun), except the Daimyo, who was the master of the guards, his Karo (1st class steward), and Rusui (a Daimyo s deputy keeping a castle or mansion).

Since the disastrous fire, of 1806, which, however, did not destroy the gate or its bridge, the site of the residence of Matsudaira Noto-no-kami was made an open space for protection against fire.

Within this gate, there was a well called Himega-i famous for good water. The lord of the Nabeshima clan used to contribute one to of rice at the end of every year for its maintenance.

The gate was called Hokuto-Kwaku (lit. : polar-star gate). The place outside the gate facing toward Hitotsugi was called Fujimi-Kwaku (probably from its having the view of the Mount Fuji)


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