|Before I go on to my entry on Toyama, I just want to wish everyone back home a happy Fourth of July! I hope you enjoy the fireworks and the strawberry shortcake.
I also wanted to tell kind of a funny story from my work before I get to the actual entry. I teach a class of five year old kids at one of my schools and they can be pretty energetic at times. One kid in my class named Haruto likes to ask when he gets to go home. He asks this question every class to both me and the Japanese teacher Shiho. I told him he would get to go home in twenty minutes. Another boy named Taiyo turned to me once I answered the question and asked, “When do I get to go home?” I couldn't help but laugh at that. It was just such a kid question to ask.
Anyway, last month on the twenty-first and twenty-second, I was sent to Toyama to cover for a teacher who had recently left. I was given a hotel room to stay at for the night since it's normally over a three hour trip to get to Toyama. Fortunately, the company gave me express tickets, so it didn't take too long. Since I got there early, I decided to tour the city and see what I could find.
The first thing I noticed when I was walking around was an Ichiro poster on the windows of one of the stores. I've seen a lot of Ichiro posters around, so I thought I'd take a picture of them. As I continued wandering around the city, I noticed that the manhole cover had a different design on it from the one in Fukui. I'm starting to wonder if all the manhole covers are different depending upon which city you're in.
After I got past some of the buildings, I found a small park in the middle of the city that had some statues in it. I took some pictures of those and moved on. When I was about to head back towards the station, I ended up seeing a giant white castle building from the distance. I got closer and read that it was Toyama castle. I went around to the front of the building and saw that the castle had been turned into the Toyama Municipal Folk Museum. The admission was only two hundred yen and I would have gone in then, but I needed to get to my school. I decided I would return there the next day before classes started.
Once I got done with classes at 9:45pm, I checked into my hotel and dropped off my things. By then, I was pretty hungry, so I decided to go out and get some food. On the way down to the ground floor, (my room was on the seventh floor), I noticed that there was a sign on the elevator wall for a Chinese restaurant in the hotel. The sign said, “Drink sticks to this meal.” Surprisingly, I decided not to go there and found myself a decent little restaurant near the hotel. I ended up getting a strawberry parfait there that looked absolutely wonderful.
The next day, I checked out of my hotel and went back to Toyama castle to go see the exhibit. The woman at the front desk asked me where I was from and I told her I was from America. When I said I was from Seattle, she asked me if I liked Ichiro and I told her I did. She was a big Ichiro fan and she explained that he was just so skilled at his batting stroke and he was so fast. I told her that lots of Japanese people go to see Ichiro play and that she should go sometime because Safeco Field is very beautiful. She also asked me if I liked Hideki Matsui and I said I did (although not anywhere near as much as Ichiro). She then asked me how old I was and I told her I was twenty-three. The woman said that she had guessed that I was twenty. I responded that it was okay since my kids seem to think I'm thirty (no joke). She laughed and said that all adults look the same to kids. She said I was good at Japanese, apologized for the long conversation (I said it was no problem) and I headed upstairs.
The first thing I saw was a piece of the old castle roof, which had been preserved as part of the exhibit. It was well carved and interesting to look at. Inside the actual exhibit, they had a lot of pictures of how the castle had grown and evolved since it was first built. There were also a lot of pictures of the rulers of the castle scattered throughout the room. In the middle of the first part of the exhibit, there was a slide show that played a time line of Toyama's history and the development of the area. It was very interesting to watch, but I admit I didn't exactly follow what was going on. I got that there was a very big battle at the beginning and that the side that one took a lot more land for the Toyama region.
Anyway, here's what I do understand of the history of the Toyama castle. The castle was built in 1543 and was first inhabited by Jimbo Nagamoto, who was the one who built it. He lived there for twenty-five years, until he was kicked out by Uesugi Family, who were the rulers of Echigo. Once they were established in the castle, Uesugi Kenshin took over and began his invasion of the Etchuu region, now known as Toyama.
A rival of Kenshin named Takeda Shingen, the ruler of the Kai, decided to form an alliance with Ikko-ikki (what a name) to try to get rid of Kenshin. However, Ikko-ikki took over the castle instead of Takeda in 1572 and was intent on having it under their rule. Kenshin recaptured the castle the next year and took control of the Etchuu region.
Once Kenshin died in 1578, the castle was left to Oda Nobunaga who appointed himself the lord of Toyama castle in 1582. However, Nobunga was forced to commit suicide and the castle came under the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi demolished the castle in 1585.
In 1595, Hideyoshi turned over the rule of the Etchuu region to the Maeda family. The first Maeda to rule the castle was Maeda Toshinaga, who renovated Toyama castle in 1605. The renovation didn't last very long, since the castle burned down four years later. Years later, Maeda Toshitsugu entered Toyama castle in 1639 and he renovated the castle once again. The Maeda family would rule over Toyama for two hundred years.
Their rule at the castle lasted until 1873 when the Meiji government ordered it to be closed. The castle building was taken down and newer buildings were built around it to act as the political and economic centers of the region. After WWII, a lot of damage had been done to the Toyama region. In 1954, the Toyama Industry Exhibition was held as a memorial to all the hard work that had been done to rebuild Toyama and the castle tower (Tenshukaku) was also built as a memorial to it.
It wasn't a very big exhibit overall, but it had some interesting pieces in it. They had a model in the very back that changed colors to show how the city had expanded and grown over time. They also had a giant spear weapon inside, which I assume was the weapon used by the ruler of the castle. I went to the top of the castle and took some pictures of the balcony. Once I was finished inside, I left and headed back to the train station.
Once I was done with my classes, I made the long trip back home. Fortunately, the trip to Toyama was pretty fun and I did enjoy myself. I am heading back to Toyama this month, but I don't know if I'll be put in a hotel or not. It's also a different school, so I don't know where exactly it is in Toyama. I guess I'll find out when it gets closer to the time.