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The spatial structure of castle towns

Over two-and-a-half centuries of Tokugawa rule Japanese cities grew and changed enormously, and urban structure changed along with urban size. These changes were driven partly by military considerations of defensibility, partly by evolving ideas about the spatial segregation of samurai and commoners within the castle towns, and partly by the sheer pressure of enormous population growth and physical expansion. At the

Keeping that qualification in mind, the two dominant ideas of castle town design were the spatial separation of the feudal classes, and the priority placed on defence and control. Castles were designed with a view both to defence from external invaders and from commoner mobs, and in the special case of Edo, from the potentially rebellious daimyo as well (Smith 1979: 64). These various security concerns were the basis of the planning of each castle town with its lord’s castle in the centre, his samurai vassals occupying spacious estates surrounding it, the common people – including artisans, merchants and the poor – crowded into their own districts, and another concentrated area of temples near the urban fringe (Fujioka 1980). In contrast to European fortifications which encircled large residential quarters, in Japanese castle towns only the central keep was fortified, and no attempt was made to surround the settlement with walls, the outer perimeter defences being formed by lower samurai residences and temple compounds. The outer commoner, temple and samurai areas were conceived as a part of castle defences, not as something to defend.