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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Castles that tell the History of a Nation

The iconic castles seen today in many Japanese postcards have a history of their own to tell the world. Their architecture and structures changed, evolved and shaped to suit the needs of the time they were built; yet, they all had a common point–they were majestic and commanding.

Castle foundation
Kin no Sachi, a castle roof decoration
During the turbulent Warring States period (1467–1568) the castles were constructed as fortresses to guard the feudal warlords and their retainers against the enemies. Built on top of mountains (yamajiro) for defence purposes, they were surrounded by a moat and fourfold overlapping stone walls of height of 61 meters/200 feet. The section of the walls placed in front of the gates were angled to confuse the intruders. Should the trespassers overcome this obstacle, then sudden descents and switchbacks on the ground layout, stopped them from finding the entrance of the main keep. Should the entrance be found, however, some areas of the floors of the main keep were partitioned as a maze to trap the invaders. Furthermore, the use of technique of piling disordered stones (ranseki-zumi) to build the foundation, not only added to its security, as it was very hard to climb them, but also allowed for flexibility and movement during an earthquake. These fortifications were considered impregnable.
Nagoya Castle Interior
In the second half of the 16th century, the country was unified, and people lived more peaceful times. Unlike their predecessors, the new castles were built on flatlands (hirajiro) or on small hills in the plains (hirayamajiro), where they served as a region's administrative and military headquarters and a symbol of authority. Usually a small town called jokamachi (castle town) formed around these structures, breeding a lively urban area of vassal dwellings, merchants and artisans.
Once achieving a pinnacle of 5,000, many castles were destroyed voluntarily or involuntarily along the history.
In 1615, the Shogun issued a decree prohibiting the warlords to have more than one castle in their domains and many had to be destroyed.
The Osaka Castle
After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the incoming government issued its own decree on removal of castles, and many more were crashed to the ground.
During the World War II, many were shattered and today, only a dozen original castles, survives.
Yet, several dozen castles were reconstructed over the past decades, bringing them back to their former glory.

The Tokyo Imperial Palace, the official residence of the Imperial Family was the last dwelling of the Shogun, who was deposed in 1868. The capital then moved from Kyoto to Edo, the city known today as Tokyo.

The Tokyo Imperial Palace

The epic saga of the oldest, continuous hereditary monarchy in the world (2600 years) – the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan can be read in my book "The Goddesses of Japan" sold on Amazon.
The royal bloodline is traced back to the Creators of the Country and their descendants – the founders of the legendary Yamato Dynasty.



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Dogs of the Regency and Georgian Periods by Jenna Jaxon

Although dogs were originally domesticated to help men with major tasks like hunting or getting rid of vermin, or herding the cattle, by the early Regency period certain breeds had become very popular as pets. Different dogs went in and out of fashion in the centuries leading up to the 19th and this change in popularity of breeds can be seen in the portraiture of the times.

During the 18th century, the Labrador, the Poodle, the Greyhound, the English Bulldog and the Pug were all favorites with both ladies and gentlemen. All of these had a “working class” background, having been used for such varied employments as retrieving nets and fish, bull and bear baiting, hunting or coursing rabbits, save perhaps the pug, whose “root can be traced to 400 BC China, where the dogs were bred to adorn the laps of Chinese sovereigns during the Shang dynasty.” So pugs have always been ornamental rather than working dogs.

At the dawn of the 19th century, however, most dogs became much better known as house pets than working or hunting companions,
although they still performed those functions as well. But ladies began to dote more especially on the smaller breeds, such as the pug and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

“During Tudor times, Toy Spaniels were quite common as ladies' pets, but it was under the Stuarts that they were given the royal title of King Charles Spaniels.” King Charles was so enamored of the Toy Spaniels that he always had several around him and in various portraits. These small dogs went in and out of fashion, but resurfaced during the Regency to vie with the pug for the most popular dogs.

In my upcoming novel, Much Ado About A Widow, the heroine has a King Charles Spaniel, Lulu, who traces her lineage all the way back to King Charles’ dogs. Lulu is quite as much a character as either the hero or the heroine and first keeps the two apart, only to help, in the end, get them together.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a look at pet dogs in the Regency and Georgian periods and will remember how ladies and gentlemen of the past also loved their furry companions.

“The Pug in Mansfield Park and the 19th Century” from Jane Austen’s World.
“History of the King Charles Spaniel” from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Blog.