Are you a fan of Japanese castles? Do you make it a point to visit these historical fortresses while in Japan? Are you fascinated by these beautiful structures which have withstood the test of time and continue standing tall and proud to this day? If you like castles and want to see them in one go in a single location or learn more about them, you should definitely check out the Oshiro EXPO 2016 (お城EXPO 2016) i.e. Castles EXPO 2016 which is taking place this December in Yokohama (横浜)!
The Oshiro EXPO 2016 is an event organized with the intentions of promoting the development of castles in areas such as maintenance and restoration, boosting tourism in the regions where castles are located, and offering an opportunity for supporters and lovers of castles to gather and interact. This 2016, the event will be held at PACIFICO Yokohama’s Conference Center (パシフィコ横浜 会議センター) which consists of five floors of exhibition space dedicated to showcasing all you need to know about castles and how to appreciate them. The opening hours will be from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (last entry at 5:30 pm) between 23 December and 25 December 2016.
As the advance sales were concluded on 21 October, the standard entry tickets are now selling for 1,500 yen each for adults and 800 yen each for children in primary school and junior high. Children who have not yet started primary school can enter for free.
If you would like to participate in the special events which will differ depending on the day of your visit, you can buy the premium entry tickets which are selling at 3,000 yen each and valid only for one day. There is an entry limit of 1,000 people per day for those holding premium entry tickets so you may find that there are certain days wherein such tickets had been completely snagged during the advance sales period. Note that for children in primary school and junior high, the premium ticket price is the same as an adult. However, children who are below the age of 7 are discouraged from attending such events.
Here is a list of the places and websites that you can visit to get your tickets:
- 7-Eleven (セブン-イレブン)
- Circle K Sunkus (サークルKサンクス)
- Pia (ぴあ)
- Lawson (ローソン)
- Ministop (ミニストップ)
- FamilyMart (ファミリーマート)
- JTB branches
In case you are wondering what is there to do and see at the Oshiro EXPO, read on to find out more about the exhibits and activities on offer:
Joukaku no Ukiyoeten (城郭の浮世絵展)
This exhibition features 10 ukiyo-e paintings of castles and samurai warriors in the collection of Nihon Joukaku Kyoukai (⽇本城郭協会) i.e. Japan Castle Foundation. These paintings were drawn by ukiyo-e artists, Hashimoto Sadahide (橋本貞秀), Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞), Utagawa Yoshitora (歌川芳虎), and Kuniyuki (国雪), who were active during the Edo (江戸), Bunsei, Bakumatsu, and Meiji (明治) eras. The above photo shows some of the paintings which will be exhibited during the EXPO.
Oshiro no Diorama Mokeiten (お城のジオラマ模型展)
Given that there are so many castles to see in Japan, it can be challenging to make arrangements to see all of them, especially since some may be located at relatively inaccessible or far-flung areas. At the EXPO, you can see diorama models of 40 Japanese castles along with their surrounding sceneries such as the one featured in the above photo.
Before you go see the real thing, you can check out the diorama models first to decide which ones you wish to prioritize on your must-see list. Here are the names of the castles which will be showcased in the exhibition and their respective locations:
- Goryoukaku (五稜郭) in Hakodate, Hokkaido (北海道函館市)
- Fukuyama-jo (福山城) in Fukuyama, Hiroshima (広島県福山市)
- Hirosaki-jo (弘前城) in Hirosaki, Aomori (青森県弘前市)
- Tsuruga-jo (鶴ケ城), also known as Aizu-Wakamatsu-jo (会津若松城), in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima (福島県会津若松市)
- Mito-jo (水戸城) in Mito, Ibaraki (茨城県水戸市)
- Tatebayashi-jo (館林城) in Tatebayashi, Gunma (群馬県館林市)
- Odawara-jo (小田原城) in Odawara, Kanagawa (神奈川県小田原市)
- Ishigakiyama-jo (石垣山城) in Odawara, Kanagawa (神奈川県小田原市)
- Matsumoto-jo (松本城) in Matsumoto, Nagano (長野県松本市)
- Tsutsujigasaki-yakata (躑躅ケ崎館) in Kofu, Yamanashi (山梨県甲府市)
- Sunpu-jo (駿府城) in Shizuoka, Shizuoka (静岡県静岡市)
- Kakegawa-jo (掛川城) in Kakegawa, Shizuoka (静岡県掛川市)
- Hamamatsu-jo (浜松城) in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka (静岡県浜松市)
- Iinoya-jo (井伊谷城) in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka (静岡県浜松市)
- Okazaki-jo (岡崎城) in Okazaki, Aichi (愛知県岡崎市)
- Shoubata-jo (勝幡城) in Aisai, Aichi (愛知県愛西市)
- Gifu-jo (岐阜城) in Gifu, Gifu (岐阜県岐阜市)
- Naegi-jo (苗木城) in Nakatsugawa, Gifu (岐阜県中津川市)
- Hida Takayama-jo (飛騨高山城) in Takayama, Gifu (岐阜県高山市)
- Maruoka-jo (丸岡城) in Sakai, Fukui (福井県坂井市)
- Tsuruga-jo (敦賀城) in Tsuruga, Fukui (福井県敦賀市)
- Hikone-jo (彦根城) in Hikone, Shiga (滋賀県彦根市)
- Azuchi-jo (安土城) in Omihachiman, Shiga (滋賀県近江八幡市)
- Odani-jo (小谷城) in Nagahama, Shiga (滋賀県長浜市)
- Osaka-jo (大坂城) in Osaka, Osaka (大阪府大阪市)
- Kishiwada-jo (岸和田城) in Kishiwada, Osaka (大阪府岸和田市)
- Kooriyama-jo (郡山城) in Yamatokoriyama, Nara (奈良県大和郡山市)
- Takatori-jo (高取城) in Takatori, Nara (奈良県高市郡高取町)
- Wakayama-jo (和歌山城) in Wakayama, Wakayama (和歌山県和歌山市)
- Amagasaki-jo (尼崎城) in Amagasaki, Hyogo (兵庫県尼崎市)
- Takeda-jo (竹田城) in Asago, Hyogo (兵庫県朝来市)
- Bichuu Takamatsu-jo (備中高松城) in Okayama, Okayama (岡山県岡山市)
- Hagi-jo (萩城) in Hagi, Yamaguchi (山口県萩市)
- Takamatsu-jo (高松城) in Takamatsu, Kagawa (香川県高松市)
- Matsuyama-jo (松山城) in Matsuyama, Ehime (愛媛県松山市)
- Uwajima-jo (宇和島城) in Uwajima, Ehime (愛媛県宇和島市)
- Imabari-jo (今治城) in Imabari, Ehime (愛媛県今治市)
- Kurushima-jo (来島城) in Imabari, Ehime (愛媛県今治市)
- Kochi-jo (高知城) in Kochi, Kochi (高知県高知市)
- Fukuoka-jo (福岡城) in Fukuoka, Fukuoka (福岡県福岡市)
Genzon Juuni Tenshu Mokeiten (現存十二天守模型展)
Among all the castles still standing in Japan today, only 12 of them have their original keeps which were built before the Edo era. In this exhibition focusing on these 12 “original” castles, miniature models of their castle keeps will be displayed. The 12 castles are Hirosaki-jo, Matsumoto-jo, Maruoka-jo, Inuyama-jo (犬山城), Hikone-jo, Matsue-jo (松江城), Matsuyama-jo, Himeji-jo (姫路城), Marugame-jo (丸亀城), Matsuyama-jo, Uwajima-jo, and Kochi-jo. Odawara-jo will also be featured in this exhibition.
Gensen Shiro Ezuten (厳選城絵図展)
In this exhibition, 8 paintings (some are replicas) of castles that are under the custody of the Japan Castle Foundation have been handpicked to be featured. Besides the map showing the distribution of Japanese castles within the country, there are pictures of castles and its surrounding towns e.g. Edo-jo (江戸城), Shiroishi-jo (白石城), and Himeji-jo.
Nihon 100 Meijo Shashinten (日本100名城写真展)
Here, you can see photos of the top 100 famous castles of Japan as selected by the Japan Castle Foundation at one go. You might want to check if your favorite castle is on this list!
Shiromeguri Kankou Jouhou Zone (城めぐり観光情報ゾーン)
This area is occupied by representatives from the organizations that are involved in the promotion of tourism in the top 100 castles and their surrounding areas. As such, if you are looking for guidance or information to plan your trips to see the castles, this is the place you mustn’t miss. Local produce and merchandise such as wine, poker cards, original clear folders, tenugui handkerchiefs, and eco bags are also sold here.
For those who are really keen to know more about the castles, there are books on topics such as the castles that can be seen along the Shinkansen rail lines, the famous castles during the Warring era, and even a visual encyclopedia featuring 1,000 castles of Japan!
The yuru-charas from the castles and their local areas such as Hikonyan from Hikone-jo, Higomaru from Kumamoto-jo, Kumamon from Kumamoto Prefecture, Sanomaru from Sano City in Tochigi Prefecture, and Wanmaru-kun from Inuyama City in Aichi Prefecture will also perform on stage to entertain the visitors and promote the castles within their areas in a fun way!
Kumamoto-jo Fukkou Shien Corner (熊本城復興支援コーナー)
As you will probably remember, Kumamoto-jo was badly damaged by the strong earthquakes which struck Kumamoto City in April 2016. In a bid to support restoration efforts to the castle and spread awareness, this corner features the past and present states of Kumamoto-jo and how the restoration works have progressed so far.
Oshiro Theatre (お城シアター)
As the name suggests, there will be films about Japanese castles which will be screened exclusively at the EXPO. A total of 4 films will be screened once per day during the 3-day event. Besides featuring the castles themselves, related information such as the attack and defense tactics deployed in the past, the know-how needed and the underlying reasons for building castles on mountains, and how the castles were utilized in famous historical battles will also be revealed to the viewers. Be sure to keep a lookout for the screening times which will be announced just before the EXPO!
For those who would like to have some hands-on experience with making things related to the castles, the workshops to be held during the event will allow you to learn how to make models of the castles or take beautiful photos when you visit them in person. The schedule is expected to be released soon so please check their official website for more details.
Nihon Jokaku Kentei (日本城郭検定)
Do you know that there is an exam in Japan where you can test your knowledge of Japanese castles? The Japan Castle Foundation started the Nihon Jokaku Kentei back in 2011 which measures the level of knowledge about the castles and awards certificates of different ranks i.e. bronze, silver, and gold to those who pass it.
In conjunction with the Oshiro EXPO, a special edition of this exam entitled “Oshiro EXPO Kentei 2016 (お城EXPO検定2016)” will be held on 23 December which is the first day of the event. Only those who signed up online (Japanese only) for the exam before 17 November are eligible to participate and enjoy free entry to the EXPO on the day of the exam. However, if the participants intend to take part in the special programs during the EXPO, they would have to buy the premium tickets.
The exam fee for adults and students in senior high school and above costs 5,500 yen each, while for primary and junior high school students, it costs 4,000 yen each (all prices inclusive of tax). Those who manage to pass the exam will get a discount of 200 yen off their exam fee.
The scope of this exam will be on the 12 castles which have original keeps. A total of 100 multiple choice questions with 4 options will be given. In order to earn the bronze certificate, you would need to get 50 to 65 questions correct; while for the silver certificate, you need a score of 66 to 80. To achieve the gold ranking, you should get 81 marks and above. Gold certificate holders will also get a set of 12 cards with pictures of the 12 castles as a present. Results of the test will be announced at the end of January 2017.
Although you may not be in time to sign up for the Nihon Jokaku Kentei this time, you can keep a lookout on Japan Castle Foundation’s website (Japanese only) for the future editions of this exam.
Oshiro EXPO Photo Contest (お城EXPOフォトコンテスト)
If you are an avid photographer or have taken some very nice photos of Japanese castles during your travels, why not join the Oshiro EXPO Photo Contest? Besides being able to showcase your works to the visitors at the EXPO, you also stand to be one of the 16 winners to receive prizes such as cash, vouchers for hotel stays at InterContinental Yokohama Grand, free 1-year subscriptions to the Asahi Camera magazine, and certificates. The winners will be announced on the last day of the event i.e. 25 December and their works will be displayed during an exhibition to be held at PACIFICO Yokohama in February 2017.
Selected programs (厳選プログラム)
A series of talk shows, forums, and lectures are lined up for the 3-day EXPO which are opened only to those holding premium entry tickets. Experts in Japanese castles will be there to share their expertise and knowledge to the visitors so this is a rare opportunity to meet them. For the full schedule, please visit the official website for the times and topics for the individual sessions.
After reading all about Oshiro EXPO 2016, are you interested to find out more about Japanese castles which you may not be able to know during your travels as a tourist? Do swing by Yokohama this December 2016 to check out this unique event which promises to be entertaining and educational at the same time!
Oshiro EXPO Website *Japanese only