After-dark events light up Japan’s castles

Courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Images are projected on Osaka Castle and a wave-like stage during the musical show “Sengoku the Real at Osaka Castle.”

By Jin Kiyokawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterWhen picturing famous Japanese castles, people often have in mind vivid cherry blossoms or clear-blue skies in the background. Recently, however, castles are becoming more attractive at night through efforts such as projection mapping technology.

Events to view images projected on castle keeps or other parts of famed castles are spreading around the nation. In 2016, Matsumae Castle in Hokkaido, Odawara Castle in Kanagawa Prefecture, Kokura Castle in Fukuoka Prefecture, Karatsu Castle in Saga Prefecture and some other castles were awash with brilliant colors.

Simple projection of images are not the limit as various attempts have been launched to create attractive events.

At Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Hyogo Prefecture, an event named “Night Adventure KIRAMEKI” was held from Dec. 2 to 11. “Kirameki” means “glittering.”

The castle held a similar projection mapping event in 2015 at its main keep, but there was confusion at the event as the viewing area became overcrowded partly because admission was free.

Reflecting on that experience, the organizers refrained from conducting the projection mapping at the main keep during the event last year. Instead, the projection mapping was given at several places at the castle so visitors could stroll the castle grounds to see the images.

“It is the first time people were allowed to enter the grounds of the castle at night,” said a Himeji city official.

When I joined a one-hour program at the event, I was able to experience uplifting feelings while exploring the castle, even though each image projected on stone fences and walls was relatively small. I also enjoyed taking a look at the main keep from different angles while it glittered in white from the illuminations.

The climax was a dynamic projection mapping conducted on the two walls of a square-shaped moat named Sangoku-bori. A video image depicting the history of the castle, famous for never being involved in war nor burned down, was projected over a total width of 90 meters. Watching the image reflected on the mirrorlike surface of the moat was also fantastic. The Himeji municipal government plans to conduct similar nighttime events to increase the number of travelers who stay overnight in the city.

USJ’s Osaka Castle show

Meanwhile, a musical show combining images and fireworks has been taking place since December at Osaka Castle. Named “Sengoku the Real at Osaka Castle,” the event is run by Universal Studios Japan, which is the first time the theme park is conducting an event outside its grounds.

When I visited the show at Nishinomaru Garden, a grand stage suddenly appeared before my eyes with the main keep of Osaka Castle in the background. I assumed the stage hinted at the famous outlying castle built by warlord Sanada Yukimura during the Osaka Fuyu no Jin (winter siege of Osaka) in 1614. The shape of the stage is unique — it has a wave-like inclination. Video images are cast on the stage as well as the castle itself.

The motif of the show is the sieges of Osaka, with the Toyotomi army facing off against the Tokugawa army. About 40 performers reenact the battle using the stage and the hanamichi elevated passageway. As I watched closely, the serious faces of each samurai performer tugged at my heartstrings. My emotions grew stronger as I thought about the many people who actually shed blood around this place about 400 years ago.

The highlight of the projection mapping is the scene depicting Osaka Castle being bombarded with cannonballs and going up in flames. Depictions of a part of the castle collapsing and the fire spreading hit me as if it were real.

At the show’s staging area is a food court named Rakuichi Rakuza. Visitors can fill themselves with tasty, attractive food, with some featuring the family crest of the Sanada family or battle flags.

This event will be held through March 12, conducted mainly on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.Speech

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