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Walking through Edo Castle with the Illustrations by KORA Family

By Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library Special colloctions Room

The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library has stored a lot of materials related to the building of Edo Castle which passed down in the KORA Family who worked as Great Masters (a position of coordinating master carpenters) for generations. Among them, 646 pieces of "Materials related to the construction of Edo Castle" were designated as National Important Properties.

Sakuji-kata of the TOKUGAWA shogunate was a government office which took charge of the architectural department. As far as Edo Castle was concerned, the department was in charge of building Honmaru, Omote and Nakaoku of Nishinomaru, without Ooku. Therefore, this possession of Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library are mostly the illustrations of the center of Honmaru Goten, Omote and Nakaoku of Nishinomaru Goten where the retired shogun and the heir-apparent resided.

It is well known that fire broke out frequently in Edo. Edo Castle was repeatedly burned down and reconstructed over and over. The possession of the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library is a series of architectural illustration at the time of reconstruction in 1860.

Among them, we would like to introduce three illustrations here, hoping these will be of some help you to get a clear image of Edo Castle.

1. Edo Onshiro no Ezu (Illustration of Edo Castle)

This is an overall illustration showing most of the entrenchments for Edo Castle except for Fukiage.

The areas of Honmaru, Ninomaru and San-nomaru seem to have been located in that of the current Imperial Palace. The current topography here has hardly changed from that of the Edo period. It is found with surprise that many place names and buildings still remain here and there to this day.


'Edo Oshiro no Ezu'
"Materials related to the construction of Edo Castle" Tokyo Metropolitan Central library

2. Edo-jo Gohonmaru On'omote On'nakaoku On'ooku Soezu
(Overall Illustration of the Inner Citadel, Front, Central and Inner Palaces of Edo Castle)

Honmaru Goten was a main building of Edo Castle, where the political affairs for the TOKUGAWA administration took place and the reigning shogun spent a daily life as well. An orange part of the illustration is Omote and Nakaoku area and a pink part is around the Ooku area. From the left to the right, in other words, from the south to the north, the total length was said to be about 500 meters. This illustration was a drawing depicting the whole Edo Castle which was rebuilt after the destruction by the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657. There was no Tenshu which had existed before the Great Fire, with only Tenshudai (donjon base) was included.

This Honmaru was also burned down in 1863 soon after the reconstruction of 1860, but the TOKUGAWA government was not financially secure enough to reconstruct it any longer, and used Nishinomaru as a replacement for the state of affairs until the end of TOKUGAWA administration.


'Edo-jo Gohonmaru On'omote On'nakaoku On'ooku Soezu', Manji era
"Materials related to the construction of Edo Castle" Tokyo Metropolitan Central library

3. Edo-Onshiro Godenshu Shomen no Ezu
(Illustration of the Palace Facade of Donjon)

The period of when Tenshu (Donjon) of Edo Castle soared was only 51 years from 1607 originally built by TOKUGAWA Ieyasu until 1638 burned down by the Great Fire of Meireki. During the period, Tenshu was reconstructed twice by the second shogun TOKUGAWA Hidetada in 1623 and by the third shogun TOKUGAWA Iemitsu in 1638. It is said that this was an illustration of the 4th plans for reconstruction led by the Confucian scholar ARAI Hakuseki after the Great Fire of Meireki. The outside structure had five stories, while the inside structure had six stories including a cellar (basement), with the height of 44.8 meters to become the highest Tenshu in Japan at the time. Unfortunately, these reconstruction plans had never been realized before the TOKUGAWA administration came to the end.

∗ Note: All "the materials related to the construction of Edo Castle" are available in "TOKYO Archives" on the website of Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library.


'Edo-Oshiro Gotenshu Shomen no Ezu', Shotoku era
"Materials related to the construction of Edo Castle"
Tokyo Metropolitan Central library


Edojo Ato (Data Provission : Chiyoda City Office of Education)