Monday, October 4, 2010

Nagoya Castle & the Tokugawa Art Museum

From Japan
Our first excursion, arranged by the center overseeing us study abroad students, took us to the Tokugawa Art Museum and the Nagoya Castle. Both are strongly linked, so by seeing both in one go we were able to draw stronger connections to what we were experiencing.

Nagoya Castle took the place of a smaller castle at the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the most prominent figures in Japanese history. Nagoya had been chosen by Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa’s leader, as the area capital (then called Owari).

From Japan
The top peak of the castle prominently features two golden statues of a fishlike creature called a grampus, often explained as an orca or tiger-headed dolphin.

The Tokugawas resided in the castle for generations up until the beginning of the Meiji Restoration period. The original castle was burned to the ground during WWII and has since been reconstructed and serves as a museum.

From Japan
The top floor of the restored castle serves as an observation deck overlooking the Greater Nagoya area. If you didn’t believe me how densely compact Nagoya is before, just check out these pictures. There’s more Nagoya beyond the visible range.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Tokugawa family is still strongly represented in Nagoya, and they operate the Tokugawa Art Museum on the site of one of Ieyasu’s residences. The museum houses many salvaged artifacts from the castle, palace, and more. It’s less of an art museum as much as it is an artifact museum, but Japanese artifacts are pretty artsy. As you might guess, pictures were not allowed.

This past weekend a few of us returned to the castle grounds for some Yuru Kyara (Yuru Character) festival. We missed the opening parade, but we began to understand exactly what the festival was as we explored many booths. Many regions in Japan have created mascots, and they gather for festivals to encourage tourism to their area. The mascots come to life in costume, and they attract visitors to the booths where people pass out flyers and pamphlets on what their area has to offer. The mascots also play a big role in branding the area as well, and mascot merchandise was a popular offering at many booths (for a price). If what I caught a glance of on a flier is true, the mascots also participate in Character Cup competitions.
Overall, I definitely think it is a brilliant idea, but there are definitely a lot of factors to consider. From mascot to design to the quality of information shared at the booths. Some definitely had it right, while some just left us confused.

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