Takaoka, located in the northwestern part of Toyama Prefecture, is the second largest city in the prefecture.
The casting industry was first established there about 400 years ago, during the Edo period (1603–1868 CE), eventually giving rise to today’s thriving metal manufacturing industry.
Takaoka is home to many historic assets, spanning from the beginning of the 17th century to the present day.
Maeda Toshinaga and Maeda Toshitsune: the Two Lords Who Created the Historic City of Takaoka
Toshinaga, Who Established the Castle Town of Takaoka
In 1609, Lord Maeda Toshinaga, the second-generation head of the Kaga Maeda clan, built a castle on the Sekino plateau, dubbing the plateau Takaoka, and established a town surrounding the castle.
The town grew rapidly as it drew many people, including vassals of Toshinaga.
Toshinaga also invited metal casters to live in Kanayamachi, establishing the casting industry there - even four centuries later, this industry lives on.
Toshitsune, Who Transformed a Castle Town into a City of Merchants
When Toshinaga died, and Takaoka Castle was decommissioned for use as a castle, his successor Toshitsune converted this castle town into a city of merchants, in order to prevent Takaoka from falling into decline.
Indeed, Takaoka flourished, developing a local culture of dazzling festivals, metal casting, lacquerware, and more.
In addition, in honor of the memory of his predecessor Toshinaga, Toshitsune built Zuiryuji Temple and the grave of Maeda Toshinaga.
He also undertook efforts to protect shrines and temples.
National Historic Site: Takaoka Castle Ruins
In 1609, Maeda Toshinaga took advantage of the natural features of the Sekino plateau, digging huge moats, building earthworks and stone walls, and erecting this castle through a major construction effort.
Toshinaga died in 1614, and Takaoka Castle was decommissioned for use as a castle in 1615, when an edict was passed limiting each feudal domain to a single castle.
However, as part of the revival policy for former castle towns of the Kaga Domain, rice and salt storehouses were built where the castle once stood, with the moats and earthworks of the vast castle grounds left intact.
In 1870, the prefecture sold off the ruins of Takaoka Castle to the private sector and ordered their development, but preservation efforts by the local community led to the vast 210,000-square-meter grounds being officially designated as a park in 1875.
Even today, the former site of Takaoka Castle is beloved by locals, known as Kojo Park - literally,“old castle park.”
A Townscape with a Focus on Fire Safety
Yamacho-suji Street(Nationally Designated Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings)
Yamacho-suji Street, which runs 600 m through Takaoka, was first established by Lord Maeda Toshinaga of the Kaga Domain in the early 17th century as a place for merchants to live.
The storehouse-style buildings seen there today were erected following the Great Fire of Takaoka in 1900: after the fire, the wealthy merchants of Yamacho-suji immediately rebuilt their homes in the storehouse style, which has excellent fire-resistant properties.
As a result, the street is lined with storehouse-style buildings featuring thick plastered exterior walls, brick fire walls to prevent fires from spreading, cast iron pillars with a decorative touch, and other functional fire safety measures with modern, Western designs.
This neighborhood is also home to the floats used in the Takaoka Mikurumayama Festival, which are ceremonial floats based on an imperial carriage presented by Toshinaga to the townspeople.
Sugano Residence (National Important Cultural Property)
The Sugano Residence is regarded as a quintessential example of the beauty of storehouse-style architecture.
The exterior is finished with black plaster, considered the most technically difficult and most expensive finish, with the eaves and pillars featuring ornate decorations.
The interior features delicate, precise architecture reminiscent of a tea ceremony room, built using precious woods.
Former Takaoka Kyoritsu Bank Headquarters
The former Takaoka Kyoritsu Bank headquarters was built in 1914, adopting a pseudo-Renaissance style overseen by the architect Kingo Tatsuno, who is perhaps best known for the design of Tokyo Station.
The bank has a stately presence, standing amid an old-fashioned townscape of storehouse-style architecture.
Kanayamachi(Nationally Designated Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings)
When Maeda Toshinaga established Takaoka as a castle town at the beginning of the 17th century, he provided residences to seven metal casters here, where they were to do their metal casting work.
Ever since, metal casting and the buildings associated with it, as well as the townscape itself, have been handed down from generation to generation here.
The homes consist of a main building facing the road, with a back courtyard leading to a storehouse, behind which there is a workshop.
The storehouses also serve as a fire wall to prevent fires from spreading, should one break out at a workshop.
A Vast and Sacred Space - Zuiryuji Temple: a National Treasure -
Lord Maeda Toshitsune commissioned the construction of Zuiryuji Temple, as well as a gravesite, to honor the spirit of his predecessor and the founder of Takaoka, Maeda Toshinaga.
Zuiryuji Temple and the grave are connected by the Hatcho-michi road, which is lined with large stone lanterns, giving the area a sacred feel.
Zuiryuji Temple was built over a twenty-year period, starting in 1645, to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the death of Maeda Toshinaga.
The grounds cover a total of 120,000 square meters, with many smaller temples built in the vicinity.
The main gate, temple gate, Buddha hall, and lecture hall all form a straight line, with the zendo meditation hall and the large kitchen-residence positioned symmetrically off to the sides, and surrounding corridors serving to connect the buildings.
The result is an archetypal Zen-style temple complex, with a spectacularly grand design.
Shokoji Temple: an Important Cultural Property
Shokoji Temple dates back to 1471, and has flourished ever since as an important adjunct to the head temple in Kyoto.
During the Warring States period, the temple served as a base for a Buddhist uprising, but it was destroyed in a fire, in 1584, the temple was rebuilt at its current location.
The temple went on to develop stronger ties to the Kaga Domain, and flourished as the main temple for the region.
The vast grounds are surrounded by moats and earthworks suggestive of a castle’s fortifications, appropriately, the temple building itself is very large and grand.
Many of the buildings here date back to the late 17th century through the 19th century.
Shokoji Temple is a valuable heritage site, featuring a large Jodo Shinshu temple in its original state, and twelve of the buildings here have been designated as national important cultural properties.
Originally built in 1769, the karamon gate was brought here by two ships in 1893, having been relocated from Koshoji Temple in Kyoto.
This large gate features undulating gables, and the carvings and colored patterns are characteristic of its era.
VR Tours of Gokayama
Cultural Heritage Sites in Early Modern Takaoka
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