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Azuchi Castle (1579-1582)

Azuchi Castle (Azuchi-jō) was one of the primary castles of Oda Nobunaga located in ŌmihachimanShiga Prefecture built from 1576 to 1579 on Mt. Azuchi.

In the summer of 1582, just after Nobunaga's death at Honnō-ji, the castle was taken over by the forces of Akechi Mitsuhide, Nobunaga's betrayer. The castle was set aflame a week or so later. Unlike earlier castles and fortresses, Azuchi was not intended to be a military structure alone. Nobunaga intended it as a mansion that would impress and intimidate his rivals not only with its defenses, but also with its lavish apartments and decorations, flourishing town, and religious life. Azuchi castle is believed to be the first castle to have so-called Tenshu, a seven-story building containing audience halls, private chambers, offices, and a treasury. All seven stories were decorated by Kanō Eitoku. There are no visual records of the castle exist except copies of Phillips van Winghe's two drawings. 

Historical References

The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga Book 9, Episode 1: The Construction of a Castle at and Transfer to Azuchi [First month, Tenshō 4 (1576)]

From the middle of the First month, Niwa Nagahide was ordered to start construction on Azuchiyama in Ōmi province. On the 23rd day of the Second month, Nobunaga reached Azuchi and his seat was transferred [there]. The early construction and [Nobunaga’s] designs aligned [and so] as a reward [Nobunaga] gave a famed object, a Shukō tea bowl182 to Nagahide. Nagahide was accordingly grateful. To the Horse Guards, individual estates at the base of the mountain were given and each was instructed to build [a residence there]. From the first day of the Fourth month, Nobunaga determined that on this mountain ishigaki be built up with large stones in the area of the enclosure and furthermore that a tenshu be built therein. Samurai of Owari, Mino, Ise, Mikawa, Echizen, Wakasa, and Kinai as well as carpenters and various craftsmen from Kyoto, Nara, and Sakai were summoned and put into service at Azuchi; a roof tile-maker and Chinese Ikkan was with them. They were ordered to [make the tenshu] of a Chinese-style.183 From Kannonjiyama, Chokōjiyama, Ibayama, here and there large stones were brought down. For each [stone], a thousand, two thousand, three thousand men were made to bring it up Mt. Azuchi.   The magistrates in charge of this gathering of stones were: Nishio Yoshitsugu, Osawa Rokurosanro, Yoshida Heiuchi, [and] Ōnishi They selected the large stones and the small stones were rejected. Then, Oda Nobuzumi brought one large stone as far as the base of the mountain, but this famed stone called Jaiishi (E: Snake Stone), because it surpassed [all other] large stones, it could not be brought up the mountain in one piece. This being the case, the trio of Hashiba Hideyoshi, Takikawa Kazumasu and Niwa Nagahide lent support with over 10,000 men. In three days and nights, it was brought up. Owing to Nobunaga’s ingenuity, materials were easily brought up to the tenshu. Day and night, the mountains and valleys ceaselessly moved with activity. Nobunaga thought that he ought construct a mansion in Kyoto as well. Regarding matters of the construction works at Azuchi, he told the particulars to his heir Oda Nobutada  

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga Book 13, Episode 4: Presenting Estates Beneath Azuchi [Third month, sixteenth day of Tenshō 8 (1580)]

From the sixteenth day of the Third month, the trio of Sugatani Nagayori, Hori Hidemasa, and Hasegawa Hidekazu, in charge as magistrates, were made to dig up an inlet south of the enclosures of [Mount] Azuchi and north of a new road. Fields were buried and an estate bestowed to the Jesuits. Around this time, Fuse Kinyasu of Gamo Kanehide’s household, was called to join the Horse Guards. In conjunction, an inlet was filled in and he was bestowed an estate. Fuse was full of gratitude for this ultimate of honors. The Horse Guards and pages were ordered to do construction work. An inlet below Toriuchi was filled in and a city block was raised [thereupon]. On the entrance to the lake to the northwest, numerous spots for boats to dock were made to be dug out. Trees and bamboo were made to be grown to each side of those areas that underwent [this construction]. Furthermore, inlet and ditches were made to be filled. Estates were given out to the lot of them.   Personnel [who received estates were]: Inaba Gyōbu, Takayama Ugon, Hineno Rokurōzaemon, Hineno Hirotsugu, Hineno  Bansaemon, Hineno Kan’emon, Hineno Goemon, Mizuno Kenmotsu, Nakanishi Gonbei,  Yogo Katsunao, Hiramatsu Sukejuro, Nonomura Mondo, and Kawajiri Hidetaka. 

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga Book 14, Episode 1: The Construction of Stables Below Azuchi [First month, first day of Tenshō 9 (1581)]

On the first day of the First month, those of the other provinces were exempted from having to present themselves in attendance. Nobunaga decreed that only those Horse Guards who were in Azuchi traverse from the West Gate to the East Gate and need be seen. They got ready, but from the middle of the night until the hour of the snake (9-11 a.m.) rain fell and so there was no presentation. North of Azuchi’s enclosure, west of the Matsuhara ward, and approaching the lakeshore, Nobunaga ordered a stable to be constructed. With Sugatani Nagayori, Hori Hidemasa, and Nagatani Kawahide as magistrates in charge, construction began from New Year’s Day. 

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga Book 15, Episode 1: New Year’s Attendance [First month, first day of Tenshō 10 (1582)]

On the first day of the First month, the major and minor lords of the neighboring provinces and the retinues of fraternal elites were all in Azuchi to present themselves. From the Dodo Bridge, they ascended to Sōkenji. Because so many crowded there, the constructed walling that had been piled up the mountain collapsed under their steps. Stones and people merged as one, tumbling down. There were deaths and countless numbers of people wounded. Groups of youths lost their swords and those who were troubled were many. First, in the lead, were those [members] of the Oda clan. Second were those [lords] of other provinces, Third was those [vassals who live] in Azuchi.  On this occasion, the major and minor lords alike were told to bring a gratuity of 100 coins each; Hori Hidemasa and Hasegawa Hidekazu carried official notice. The [lords] saw the Bishamon Hall stage,[then] went from the front gate and into the third gate, below the tenshu, up to the o-shirasu to pay their respects. Here, each was addressed [by Nobunaga]. Like the previously noted order, [first were] Oda Nobutada, Oda Nobukatsu, Oda Nagamasa, and thereupon those notables of the Oda family. Thereafter, those of the other provinces. Each ascended the stairs and were called into an o-zashiki, and then they were graciously permitted to view the Imperial Visitation Chamber. The Horse Guards, the Kōka group, and others were called to the o-shirasu. Just as they had had to wait for a short while, they were instructed, “You in the o-shirasu all must be freezing, come up the Southern Palace and see the Kōunji Palace.” And so they had this viewing. The o-zashiki were [decorated] all in gold and in each room, Kanō Eitoku had been commissioned to exhaust his brush painting everywhere in multiple variations and modes. On top of this were landscapes in all directions: mountains and lakes, seas, rice fields and gardens, hamlets and villages, ineffable fascinating vistas immeasurable in speech. “From here, continue down this corridor. It is all right for you to see the Imperial Visitation Chamber,” they were commanded. Graciously, they were called up to the Palace of the Seat of the Universal Sovereign and Master of Ten Thousand Chariots. For this viewing, they were grateful as truly this was something they would remember all their lives. From the corridor to the Imperial Visitation Chamber, it was, of course, roofed with cypress bark shingles and the metal fittings all glittered in the daylight. Inside the palace everything was golden; everywhere, in every direction it waspasted and elsewhere upon the gold, paints were thickly applied. The metal fittings were commissioned to be done in gold, with an karakusa pattern carved out of a nanako foundation. The ceiling was latticed. The top of the hall glittered and the bottom, too, glittered, that mind and words, too, fell short. The tatami, their surface made in Bingo, were a suburb eton blue; kōraiberi and ungenberi [decorative trim was used].Two bays in from the front, within the interior was a chamber, thought the Emperor’s Chamber, [as it was] a splendid place with a raised area within bamboo blinds, burnished gold that sparkled in the light, and perfume of purity permeating throughout. Continuing to the east, o-zashiki were innumerable. Here, gold leaf was pasted and atop all the gold, polychrome paints were executed using various modes. After seeing the Imperial Visitation Chamber, from the o-shirasu they first visited, they descended to a place where Nobunaga ordered, “To the Kitchen entrance!” They were made to stand at the stable entrances where Nobunaga graciously received from each the ten coin courtesy fee directly into his hand before throwing the coins behind him. The lords of the other provinces presented him with gold, silver, Chinese items, and various novel goods to be inspected. It would be an understatement to say that this was a magnificent affair.

[Mark Erdman:Azuchi Castle 2016]

Gnecchi-Soldo Organtino (1530-1609) “Regarding A [Letter] from Father Organtino from Miyako [Kyoto], 1577” published in Cartas 1598.

Nobunaga is making a fortress73 that is possibly the most magnificent thing in Christendom, and in the middle of it rises one tower that is 20 mats74 square [42.4 m²] and 15 in height [31.8 m] : it has five orders of roofs, on top of all they put a slender76 one. They say it will cost as much as the Daibutsu [Great Buddha] of Nara. 

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

Lourenço Mexia (1533-1609), “Letter of Father Lourenço Mexia, for the Father General of the Company of Jesus, from Japan in the year of 1580” included in the section “Regarding the Houses and Residences of the Miyako [Kyoto]” dated as “[written in] Bungo, October 20, 1580” published in Cartas 1598

But, above all things that gave great luster and great name to our affairs such that it was felt across Japan was the opinion Nobunaga had of the priests, [and] giving him [Organtino] a very large and very good place in his main fortress where he [Nobunaga] ordinarily resides with his court; [this fortress] is called Azuchiyama, [and] lies in the same kingdom of Ōmi. Nobunaga wanting to leave a memory of himself, among other things, he ordered to make in this city of Azuchiyama the strongest and richest and most renowned thing that there was in Japan. [This] making [of] a fortress on the highest part of a hill, surrounded by stones with very noble and large houses, it is written and said so many things, that it cannot be believed or told until it is seen with one’s eyes, but it is sure to be a very noble thing. Since this work is greatly prized and esteemed by Nobunaga, all of his main lords, his servants and vassals wishing to please his will, they vied for who could first build there their own noble and large houses.   This year, Nobunaga having finished everything and wanting to show the glory and sumptuousness of his mansions he ordered an announcement to be spread throughout all those kingdoms, allowing anyone who wished to see his work to come, and that a place would be given to him to see everything. For this, an infinity of people were of the same mind [to visit] and amongst them, the priests and brothers found themselves there with Father Organtino, not so much to see his residences, as much to show him that they were held in high esteem, and to try and see if they could with this occasion, obtain there a place to make a house and church for it mattered greatly to the honor of our law and of the Company that it could be heard across Japan that Nobunaga had ordered to build a church and house for the priests in Azuchiyama; because with this [church], there would not be anyone who would assume to try and throw us out of their lands knowing that Nobunaga had us in Azuchiyama.


[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016] 

Giovanni Francesco Stephanoni (1540-1603), “Letter of Father Joáo Fráncisco, [who] wrote from Miyako on the First of September, 1580” published in Cartas 1598

It has been one month since Nobunaga finished his fortress in Azuchiyama, and it as it is sumptuous, and a thing in which he determined to show his magnificence, he ordered to spread the notice that all those who wished to see it, they could do so, for he would allow entry to all, with which many people were of the same mind [to visit]. It seemed fit to us to go there as well, not so much to see its sumptuousness as to show that we cared for his things, because since the conversion of these parts depends so much on this lord, it is proper to keep him benevolent. He received us with many compliments and courtesies, and so that we could further attract him, Father Organtino told him that if his highness would allow us, we greatly wished to make one house, and church in that noble city of his. 

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

Giovanni Francesco Stephanoni (1540-1603), “Letter of Father Joáo Fráncisco, [who] wrote from Miyako on the First of September, 1580” published in Cartas 1598

It has been one month since Nobunaga finished his fortress in Azuchiyama, and it as it is sumptuous, and a thing in which he determined to show his magnificence, he ordered to spread the notice that all those who wished to see it, they could do so, for he would allow entry to all, with which many people were of the same mind [to visit]. It seemed fit to us to go there as well, not so much to see its sumptuousness as to show that we cared for his things, because since the conversion of these parts depends so much on this lord, it is proper to keep him benevolent. He received us with many compliments and courtesies, and so that we could further attract him, Father Organtino told him that if his highness would allow us, we greatly wished to make one house, and church in that noble city of his. ....This fortress of Nobunaga is placed on a very high hill, towards which we climb through about 300 steps, by which a horse can climb, although with difficulty. Around this hill are the houses of his vassal lords, one separated from the other, and each one by itself surrounded with a strong wall in a way that each one of them is a fortress. The summit of the hill is surrounded with a much larger and stronger wall, inside which is established the main fortress, which is the one of Nobunaga, or to better put it, his mansion; it has seven floors, and the chambers within it are so many that Nobunaga claimed that not so long ago, he had gotten lost in them, and that the markers used for guessing the [right] path towards them, are several figures, of which everything is filled with, all of them so beautiful, and perfect, that it is astounding, nor could it be less, for Nobunaga suffers great ills with any imperfection, and for this [purpose], from all parts are fetched the finest artisans there are in all of Japan. The wooden floors, by which we put our feet, are clean, and brightly polished just like the ceilings, all the doors and windows varnished, in such a way that a person can see himself in them as in mirrors. The walls on the outside are of the purest white, except that from the last floor towards above, they are all painted in gold, and blue, that with the reverberation of the sun creates an amazing brilliance, the roof tiles are as large as the ones in Portugal, but of such craft that who sees them from the outside they appear to be roses or fully gilded flowers; next to this hill arrives a grand lagoon, in length it would have 15 or 20 leagues [66 km or 88 km].

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

Gaspar Coelho (1530-1590), “The Annual Letter from Japan which was written by Gaspar Coelho from Nagasaki on February 15 in the year 1582 for the Father General of the Company of Jesus,” included in the section titled “The Houses and Residences of Azuchiyama” published in Cartas 1598

Although Nobunaga was the lord of Miyako and the Tenka (which is what the Japanese call the Monarchy of Japan) still he ordinarily resides in the kingdom of Ōmi, in the city of Azuchiyama which is 14 leagues [62 km]87 away from Miyako, and he chose to reside there after having conquered Miyako, and from there he ruled the Monarchy of Japan for 12 or 13 years until now.88 On this city, Nobunaga constructed another new city on a fortress, which is now the noblest thing there is in Japan, and succeeding all [others] in its location, verdure, the nobility of the dwellers, and richness of the buildings.   This city is situated on a flat field, which has in one part a large and fresh lake of 24 leagues [105.6 km] at length, and 26 at large [114.4 km],89 that enters the city through many parts: in the other part, it has some very large fields, which are being sown. The city is situated at the foothill of a large mount, that by its own divisions splits into three small hills, which are quite fresh due to the fresh grove, of which [the hills] are populated, and covered with green foliage. Around these hills runs the lake, leaving the place very beautiful, and strong. In the highest hill amongst the three, Nobunaga determined to show his glory and magnificence by making a very rich, beautiful and inexpugnable fortress, because at the bottom of the mount the city is constructed up for the people to live, with its very wide and straight streets, that make it very beautiful, in which there would be until now up to 5 or 6,000 neighbors.   Through the other part in the foothill of the mount, that through one arm of the lake is kept apart from the city, he ordered that the lords and noblemen would make their houses, and since everyone wished to please him, the lords of the kingdoms that are subjected to him, quickly constructed them into being very noble and rich, in a way that all the houses are placed with their stone fences very well made, and of great height with their parapets on top, in a way that each house has become a good fortress. In this way the houses go climbing up the mount, surrounding the highest hill through all of its parts, on top of which is the fortress of Nobunaga, that in wealth and rigor, and in its work of architecture can be compared with the most noble and sumptuous of Europe, because besides the fence that it has [made] of stone, being very strong and well made, having more than 50 palms [11 m] in height, it [also] has inside very large, beautiful, and very rich houses baked in gold, so clean, and well made, as far as human skill can allow it. In the middle there is a sort of tower (given that in its figure it is more superb and noble than our towers), which has seven floors, and on the inside, and outside it is filled with wonderful architecture, because the figures on the inside are all [painted] in gold and fine colors, which are very skillfully settled, on the outside it has each floor painted with diverse colors, some in white with their windows varnished in black as it is used in Japan, which is a very fresh and pleasurable thing, others in red, and blue, and the highest of them all is gilded, and so this tower as all the other houses are covered with a blue tile, the strongest, seems to me, that is used in the world: and in the borders they all have some round heads covered in gold, and in the roofs some superb mascarons, which greatly beautify and ennoble the building, in such a way that all is left into a rich and superb work, and although all of it is made of wood, neither from the outside or inside it appears to be anything other than a work of strong stone and plaster. Finally this work is such that it can be compared with the most sumptuous buildings in Europe. In this city, which keeps growing each day, Father Organtino greatly wished to have some place, because by being there the main lords of all Japan, and there being a continuous movement of noblemen, and ambassadors, who from diverse places come to visit Nobunaga, and conduct their affairs with him, it seemed to [Organtino] a very appropriate place for the law of God to manifest itself in it, and in brief time to be spread all throughout Japan, and the Company in all of it to become known to everyone. Besides this, if the Company were to have their home among so many lords in the main fortress of Nobunaga, it would collect great credit, and authority among the Japanese, for the same purpose of honoring God. Nevertheless this undertaking seemed to the priest to be of great difficulty, not only because Nobunaga did not grant a place to any bonze for building houses there, but also because if by any chance a place were given to us, it would be necessary to build in it a very noble building not just to please Nobunaga, but also to be able to stand [out] among such noble houses as all the lords have there. 

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

Excerpt from Luis Fróis (1532-1597), Historia de Japam Volume 2, Chapter 84, “Other Things That Nobunaga Made Progress On In His Government”

...[Nobunaga] made in the Kingdom of Ōmi, 14 leagues [62 km]99 from the city of Miyako [Kyoto] a new city, fortress,100 and mansions101 in the mountain range called Azuchiyama, with seven floors, the most superb and lustrous thing that never before his time, they say, had been done in Japan, all built over very high and large walls of loose stone, among which there were some that in order to take them to the highest buildings 4 and 5,000 men were needed, and one [stone] in particular was carried by 6 or 7,000, and they claim that a slight drop of it down the hill took under itself more than 150 men, whom it immediately crushed and turned into pulp.102 The walls of buildings and walls of fortifications, being of such great height, were made with such accommodated skill that, given that they were of loose stone, they were so firm and in sight so shiny, that they almost did not diverge from what our works of ashlar show from the outside, made of stone and lime. The richness of the mansions and chambers, the beauty103 of the windows, the gold that shone from the inside, the number of wooden columns covered with red lacquer and others all gilded, the grandness of the warehouses for supplies, the invention and freshness of the gardens with a great diversity of tiny trees, rough stones greatly esteemed among them, tanks, some with fish, and some with birds, the doors lacquered in black and covered with iron, the roof tiles of all these contrivances and houses gilded at their edges, the number of surrounding bulwarks encircling with their bells for the watchtowers,104 the invention of new and wealthy mansions, (which he made for the Emperor [Ōgimachi]105 next to his own, along with its houses of recreation), and the great number of gilded paintings throughout the chambers. The freshness and extremely long spaces as far as the eye can see, one part over that great lagoon that stands next to [Azuchiyama], continuously navigated by a diversity of ships, and the other, fields and rice paddies in a vista mingled with fortresses and many places and villages, and above all, the unexpected cleanliness in all that enceinte. The city as well, that in less than three years was constructed from new, and always kept increasing itself, already surpassed one league [4.8 km] in length. The houses of the princes and lords had, almost all of them, some portals of singular wood with their sentry-boxes on top, and the walls all whitened on the inside, instead of tapestry, which they do not have, with their golden byōbu [folding screens] put in place; the stables filled with many prized horses, and they were so clean that surely they could serve as chambers of recreation. The very long streets, spacious and wide, swept two and three times each day; the roar and rumble of the people, the affluence of noblemen, whom from several kingdoms were gathering in that Court, the frequency of men and women incognito that due to the fame and nobility of these buildings, they came from faraway places to see them, the ordinary number of present people that every day and even in the night congregated there, the hawks and goshawks that were sent to him from the kingdoms of Saikoku, which are the ones in the southern part, and the excellent horses that were brought to him from Bandō, the people that came each day carried [goods] towards that city, the good treatment and cleanliness of its footmen and servants, the roar and noise from the workshops surrounding that hill, it seems that for Japan it was a thing that could not cease to cause great admiration in those who saw it.  

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

Luis Fróis, Historia de Japam Volume 3, Chapter 31, “Of How The Visiting Father Went To The Capital to Visit Nobunaga, And From There Went To See Azuchiyama Again”

And even though Nobunaga was the lord of Miyako and the Tenka, which is what the Japanese call the Monarchy of Japan, still his ordinary residence was in Azuchiyama in the Kingdom of Ōmi, which is 14 leagues [62 km]115 away from Miyako, which after having conquered it, he chose that place [Azuchiyama] to reside in, and from there he ruled all of those kingdoms for 12 or 13 years. There he built a new city with a fortress, which was then the most noble and principal thing of all Japan, because in terms of place, beauty, richness of the buildings, and the nobility of the dwellers, it greatly exceeded all the other cities in Japan.   That city was situated on a plain which has in one part a great and large lagoon, that is 20 or so leagues [88 km]116 long, and two or three wide [8.8 km or 13.2 km] and in some places four [17.6 km], resembling a large sea that enters through many parts of the same city; and in another part there are lands for sowing rice, very rich and in great quantity. And on the upper part of this city rises a great hill, which is in a certain way divided into three, being quite fresh due to the trees and water that they have, and [these trees] are continuously covered in green foliage; and around these hills goes the aforementioned lake, in a way that the whole place is left very beautiful and strong; the hill which rests in the middle is taller and superior to the others.117   In this place, Nobunaga determined to show all of his glory by making a new city with 
an inexpugnable fortress. And so on that plain which is below the hill was erected the city for the commoners and skilled workers,118 from whom she [the city] would gain sustenance, with its very large and straight streets that, by being so long and well executed, were very beautiful and pleasant to the sight. The cleanliness in them was such that, being so walked upon and trodden with people,119 each day they were swept twice, once during the morning and once during the afternoon; it was already one league [4.4 km] in length and there were, according to what was being told [at the time], 6,000 neighbors.120   In another part, which is separated from the city by one arm of the lagoon, starting from the foothill, he [Nobunaga] ordered that the lords and noblemen build their houses there. And because everyone wished to please his will, the lords of all the kingdoms that were subjected to him made very rich and noble houses surrounding the hill and towards the top in enceintes, all of which have their stone walls very well done and of great height, typically 15 and more palms [3.3 m],121 with their gates and sentry-boxes on top, in a way that each house is turned into a good and reasoned fortress. And in this way the houses pile up, one on top of the other, around the hill, making it even more fresh, pleasant and gracious, a thing of great expense and effort, due to the difficulty of [transporting] the stone that come by carriage from afar.122   On top of the hill which is in the middle, Nobunaga built his palace complex and fortress, which as regards architecture, strength, wealth and apparatus may well be compared with the grandest buildings of Europe; its strong and well-constructed surrounding walls of stone are over 60 palms [13.2 m] in height123 and even higher in many parts; inside [the walls] there are many beautiful and rich houses, all of them baked in gold and so neat and well-fashioned that they could not reach [a state of] further human immaculateness. And in the middle there is a sort of tower which they call a tenshu which has a far more noble and magnificent figure than our towers, and which is [composed] of seven floors; all of them from inside and out were made of a stupendous and marvelous architecture; [this is] because it is filled entirely with figures in gold and diverse colors that are richly painted throughout the walls; and for the outside, each of the floors is painted in various colors, some in white with lacquered windows or black varnish, as used in Japan, that seems extremely beautiful; othersin red, others in blue, and the one on top of them all is entirely gilded. And so this tenshu as well as all the other houses are covered with roof tiles, which are stronger and more beautiful than the ones we know in Europe, and appear to be of blue color; the ones at the front row have rounded, gilded heads,124 and the roofs have magnificent mascarons125 of a very noble and well-crafted design. In this manner, it is a wholly flamboyant, refined and luminous work;126 by being situated on high ground and being very lofty in itself, it looks as if it reaches to the clouds and it can be seen from afar for many leagues; and despite being all made of wood, this is not at all visible from neither the interior nor exterior, for it looks as if it is built of very strong stone and mortar.127   To one side of this fortress Nobunaga built other buildings separate from his own, which were nevertheless arranged in a continuous way by means of corridors, and which were much more refined and excellent than his own, with most refreshing and grandiose gardens which are almost completely different to ours. The richness of the chambers, the rigor and refinement of the workmanship and the exquisite wood, the cleanliness and the artifice of [its] manufacture, the singular and very spacious view commanded by each of these, all this caused great admiration.   The entire fortress is surrounded by towers built on top of those thick stone walls and within each of them are guard bells128 and people on guard day and night. All the principal walls are covered from top to bottom with iron, all done with much skill and cleanliness. It had a stable in the upper area, for his [Nobunaga’s] recreation wherein there were no more than five or six horses; but it was only a stable in name because it was so clean and well kept that it seemed rather to be a fine chamber for the recreation of nobles than a place to lodge horses; four or five young nobles who looked after it went about dressed in silk and carrying daggers in gilt sheaths. He also had 35 men with shaved heads who did no other work save walking around and sweeping with their brooms and cleaning all these houses an hour before daybreak; this they did with as much care and perfection as if each day were a solemn festival, because the thing which pleased them most and to which they always paid great attention was this extreme exterior cleanliness… The carpenters of Japan are so [of a] prime in their works that, while making quite noble and large houses, they make them all in such a way that, when they want to, they can disassemble them into pieces, and carry them from one part [place] to another, as they often do. And therefore they usually carve all the wood first, and then in three or four days they assemble and raise it, building on short notice a house in a flat place, which seems impossible to be built, not even within the space of a year. And in truth they spend the necessary time to plane and prepare the wood, but because later in such a brief time they join and assemble it in a certain way, it seems as if it is done all of a sudden. 

[Mark Erdmann:Azuchi Castle 2016]

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