Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ninja-dera in Kanazawa

Secret Strategy of the Kaga Clan
Four Stories, Seven Layers, 29 Stairs and Many Trick Contraptions
Ninja-dera (a.k.a Myoryuji temple) is architecturally complex. In the Edo period, the Tokugawa Shogunate prohibited the construction of buildings higher than three stories. Viewed from the outside, the temple appears to be a two-story building, but actually it is a four-story buildingwith seven-layer internal structure. In addition, it is very strong and durable enough to withstand typhoons and heavy snow. This building has a complicated structure which includes a middle floor and middle-middle floor, and contains 23 rooms and 29 staircase.
The lookout on the top affords a view of the surrounding area. The temple also has a large well that is said to have been used to access a tunnel to Kanazawa castle. Although this temple has many tricks in it, as indicated by the name Ninja-dera, it was not constructed for Ninjas. The many tricks and traps were devised to fox shogunate spies and enemies to allow a sudden escapes.

Rigid Construction
Magnificent beams used in many places have enabled the building to withstand strong wind and heavy snow over the years. These beams disperse the weight of the snow on the roof.

Trap Stairs
These stairs lead to a secret passage and are accessed by removing a floor board. The passage leads to a guardsmen's room that was used as a hiding place.

This is one of the temple's features, At the top of the building, there was a lookout with a stained glass (now glass) window. From this lookout light signals were transmitted to Kanazawa Castle. Enemies' movements as far away as the Kaga plain could be observed from here.

Light Stairs
When enemies stepped on these stairs, guards hiding underneath speared their feet judging by the shadows cast on the shoji windows.

Tricky Offertory Box
The offertory box embedded in the center of the main building was also used as trap against enemies.

Hidden Stairs behind the Sanctuary
If the board under the sliding door is removed, there are stairs that lead to a secret room. These stairs were used to escape from enemy. Closing the door behind making it locks automatically.

Constructed under the Shogunate's Strict Building Regulations
The third lord Maeda Toshitsune had Myoryuji Temple moved from its former location near Kanazawa Castle in 1643. In the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate demote local lords and integrated them unreasonably in order to unify the nation. In the Kaga clan, Toshitsune married a daughter of the Tokugawa family and sent his mother to the Edo castle as a hostage in order to maintain good relations with the shogunate. Meanwhile, he constructed many temples around the castle so that many soldiers would be able to standby for battles. This temple, located in the center of this group of temples, was a lookout point from which to observe enemies. The temple has hidden rooms, seppuku ritual suicide chamber, high rood and lookout. It was subsequently moved to its present location by the thir lord Toshitsune. Myoryuji temple has braved the elements for more than three hundred and fifty years and survived World War II.

Other Information
Entrance fee is 800 yen for adults and 600 yen for kids.
A tour of the temple requires booking; explanation is in Japanese but English information book can be requested upon booking.

Contact details
Kanazawa Myoryuji
1-2-12 Nomachi, Kanazawa 921-8639
ph. 076-241-0888 (in Japanese only, pictures taken from this website)

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