Walls

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Walls / 塀

This is a subtype of Features

Dobei are the white walls you commonly see at castles. They are the simplest and most inexpensive defenses available. Dobei originally lined the top of most moats, stone walls and encircled most of the baileys linking together gates and yagura. Many castles had at least one kilometer of walls and Edo Castle had more than 10km. Despite the fact that there were so many such walls during the Edo Period, if you added up all the extant walls today you would only find a little over a kilometer. The majority of extant walls are at Himeji Castle and the longest single extant section is the Nagabei at Kumamoto Castle. These walls evolved from simple structures of wooden planks nailed to a fence. The walls were strengthened and thickened to prevent arrows from piercing them, to prevent fire and later to prevent bullets from easily passing through.

Matsuyama22.jpg Marugame2.jpg Kanazawa29.jpg Sakasai15.jpg


Structure

Dobei walls are built by erecting pillars approximately 1.5 meters apart. In between the pillars is a lattice of bamboo or wood strips. Mud and clay were then layered over this lattice up to about 20cm thick. The clay was often mixed with some strong Japanese grass (wara) for added strength and to prevent cracks. Earlier forms of these walls were not covered in plaster which gave them a sandy yellow color. In the picture above from Sakasai Castle you can see a wall with no plaster that shows this yellow color and you can also make out some grasses embedded in the clay. Edo Period dobei were usually covered in hard white plaster which increased their strength and helped prevent weathering. Atop the wall they had tile roofs and often had loopholes for firing arrows or guns. Walls also frequently had support posts behind them to increase their strength especially for walls along the top of stone walls or other places where the foundation was not as solid. Some walls also contained strategically placed rock chutes to drop rocks on attackers. Click the pictures below to enlarge these displays of wall construction.

Utsunomiya8.jpg Utsunomiya9.jpg Odawara17.jpg Kanazawa56.jpg Kanazawa57.jpg


Variations

There are some extant variations of these walls that can be divided into neribei and tuijibei. Neither of these have the kind of wooden pillars or interior framework of the usual walls. Neribei are constructed from dried clay bricks or old tiles that are mortared together with clay and covered with a layer of hard plaster. Neribei were employed at Himeji and Bitchu Matsuyama castles to quickly build some walls.

Tuijibei are made from pounding a mixture sand and clay in 3-5 cm layers. They are about 1 meter thick and up to 3 meters tall. They have a distinctive wooden framework on the outside and are topped with a tile roof. These are very strong walls, but their thickness makes it impossible to build in loopholes and they are very time and labor intensive to build. For these reasons they were not commonly used at castles. There is a small section by the Mizu no Ichi gate at Himeji Castle and the Ninomaru of Nijo Castle is surrounded by impressive Tsuijibei.

Himeji34.jpg Himeji7.jpg Nijo17.jpg Shiwa15.jpg


Loopholes / Sama (狭間)

Loopholes were holes built into the walls for firing arrows or guns. Loopholes designed for arrows were generally tall rectangles and those for firearms were circles, triangles, or squares. Some loopholes were hidden by a door or plug that matched the surface on the outside to prevent detection by attackers. These are called kakushizama as you see in the last two photos below.

Himeji33.jpg Himeji35.jpg Hikone19.jpg Ozu53.jpg

Castles with Walls

  1. Aizu Wakamatsu Castle
  2. Akashi Castle
  3. Akita Castle
  4. Akizuki Castle
  5. Ako Castle
  6. Amagajo
  7. Amagasaki Castle
  8. Aoyagi Castle
  9. Asuke Castle
  10. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
  11. Echizen Katsuyama Castle
  12. Edo Castle
  13. Fukuchiyama Castle
  14. Fukui Castle
  15. Fukuyama Castle
  16. Funai Castle
  17. Fushimi Castle
  18. Ganjaku Castle
  19. Gujo Hachiman Castle
  20. Hachigata Castle
  21. Hagi Castle
  22. Hanamaki Castle
  23. Hikone Castle
  24. Himeji Castle
  25. Hirosaki Castle
  26. Hiroshima Castle
  27. Hotta no Saku
  28. Ichijodani Castle
  29. Iga Ueno Castle
  30. Ikeda Castle
  31. Imabari Castle
  32. Iwamura Castle
  33. Iyo Matsuyama Castle
  34. Izushi Castle
  35. Kakegawa Castle
  36. Kaminoyama Castle
  37. Kamioka Castle
  38. Kanazawa Castle
  39. Kawahara Castle
  40. Kishiwada Castle
  41. Kiyosu Castle
  42. Kofu Castle
  43. Kokura Castle
  44. Kumamoto Castle
  45. Marugame Castle
  46. Maruoka Castle
  47. Matsue Castle
  48. Matsumae Castle
  49. Matsumoto Castle
  50. Matsushiro Castle
  51. Minakuchi Castle
  52. Nagoya Castle
  53. Nakatsu Castle


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