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  • Writer's pictureOlivier

Japan: Nagahama Castle on the Shores of Lake Biwa

Updated: Feb 14

The Nagahama Castle, located in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, is an important historical site reflecting the region's military and cultural history. Although its current structure is a reconstruction, the original castle, built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, played a key role in the history of feudal Japan. A modest-sized masterpiece, it is particularly interesting for night photography.


Japan: The Nagahama Castle on the Shores of Lake Biwa

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


I have a personal fondness for this small castle located just a few meters from the lake's shore. Having photographed it several times, it's in the evening that I enjoy observing it the most. The lighting is particularly well done, and the contrasts are strong.


If you visit in winter, you can also benefit from the snow protection structures set up on the pine trees (Yukizuri), as seen in the photo above.


The park surrounding the castle, which extends to the lake, is also interesting. Open day and night without restrictions, the walking path along the lake is equipped with stone lanterns and ancient pines. There are numerous views of the castle from the park through the branches, which leaves room for your photographic creativity.


Equipment: URTH. High-definition filters for night photography.

Equipment: URTH. High-definition filters for night photography.


Brief History of Nagahama Castle

Nagahama Castle was originally built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a daimyo (feudal lord) who would become one of Japan's most significant unifiers. Construction began in 1573 and was completed in 1575. Hideyoshi chose this strategic location due to its proximity to Lake Biwa, an important means of transportation and commerce at the time.


Located on the shore of Lake Biwa, the castle served as a strategic military post to control traffic and trade on the lake, as well as to monitor the movements of enemy armies.


During the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1600), marked by conflicts and shifting alliances among warlords, the castle played a crucial role in Hideyoshi's military strategies.


Japan: The Nagahama Castle on the Shores of Lake Biwa

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


Destruction and Reconstruction

After Hideyoshi's death, Nagahama Castle changed hands several times, coming under the control of various feudal lords.


Like many castles in Japan, Nagahama Castle was destroyed in 1615 due to the "One Country, One Castle" decree issued by the Tokugawa Shogunate, aimed at reducing the power of the daimyos.


The current keep of Nagahama Castle is a modern reconstruction completed in 1983. It was rebuilt using traditional techniques and modern materials to preserve its historical appearance. The design of the castle reflects the typical architecture of castles from the Azuchi-Momoyama period, with a central keep (tenshu) surrounded by stone walls and moats.


Equipment: GITZO Carbon 5-section Monopod. Compact, lightweight, and sturdy for travel.

Equipment: GITZO Carbon 5-section Monopod. Compact, lightweight, and sturdy for travel.


The reconstruction aimed to house a museum that presents the history of the castle and the region, as well as the life and achievements of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The museum, located inside the keep, exhibits historical artifacts, armor, weapons, and documents related to the history of the castle and the Sengoku period.


Events

The annual Nagahama Hikiyama Festival held in April is famous for its traditional Kabuki theatre performances by children. The festival takes place near the castle and is one of the city's most important cultural events.


Nagahama Castle is a popular site for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in the spring, attracting many visitors to admire the flowers and the historic landscape.


My library: The Gardens of Japan.

My library: The Gardens of Japan.


What to remember

Nagahama Castle, with its rich historical past and modern reconstruction, offers visitors a glimpse into the era of samurai warriors and the history of feudal Japan. It symbolizes the rise and fall of warlords, the political and cultural changes of the time, and serves as a tangible link between the past and the present.


The castle is not only a historical monument but also a place of learning and celebration of Japanese culture, through its exhibitions, festivals, and events. It is a must-visit in all seasons, especially in the evening, when the contrast of the illuminated castle against the dark backdrop of the lake makes for interesting night photography.

 
 
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