When you’re the Japanese city that produces 99% of your country’s gold leaf, is security fairly important to you? I imagine it would be and it seems that the residents of Kanazawa felt the same way. I have no hard facts to back me up on this, but I do have first-hand imaginary evidence. When I say first hand I mean I was there and when I say imaginary I mean that while I’m not necessarily making the following stuff up; I may be letting my mind construe connections that might be more coincidental than actually factual…
I’d want to protect things like this.
Naturally, Kanazawa has a district which was historically the neighbourhood of the Samurai. A small, beautifully maintained and designed series of streets where I could easily imagine sighting a noble Samurai strolling casually along the cobblestone lane, the sun beginning to set while he made his way to wherever it was that he was headed. If you’re having trouble imagining the kind of place I’m describing – here’s a photo:
Nagamachi – Samurai Territory
And so, the population of Kanazawa felt a little safer knowing that there were enough Samurai in town to warrant a neighbourhood. However, the Maeda lords of the Edo period were a little more security conscious (or possibly just more paranoid, I’m not judging) and, in addition to their Samurai, built one of the most intriguing and interesting (not to mention potentially fatal) temples that the country had ever seen! Officially named Myoryuji but commonly referred to as Ninjadera (“Ninja Temple”), this sightseeing must-do was an experience I recommend to anyone who gets the chance.
Externally, the temple appears to be just another place of worship and peace. Everything seems to be in order and there is certainly no hint of any architectural funny business. This, however, is all a ruse designed as a first line of defense against an attack. Fortunately (for the residents of the temple), the building is in actuality a labyrinth of pitfalls, hidden stairways, passages and killzones; providing escape or combat advantage should the temple come under assault.
It’s just an unassuming temple…
Tours of the temple are run daily and are extremely popular and even though the tour guides speak only Japanese, handbooks are provided in multiple languages so that the tour can be informative. I’ve never been one to spend a lot of time considering the tactics of combat and defense but I certainly respect those who do. I may not agree with the politics and reasoning behind needing to come up with ways to incapacitate, injure or even kill another person but as someone who seeks knowledge and understanding, sometimes these are the roads we must wander. Hopefully the biggest thing that will come of seeing places like Myoryuji will be fanciful renovation ideas like the ones that flooded my Dad’s brain upon our leaving.
Really though – who wouldn’t love to have a house full of secret passages and hidden stairways? I know I would; would you?