The Moat


In my imagination moats have high walls, filled canals, blue sky reflecting in calm waters. I also see knights, lords, emperors, kings and fair maidens   The vista exquisitely romantic taking us back in time even way before the Z80 chip… However there is more to “that scene”, in bygone times moats were more than pretty decorations they were part of the first line of defence of castles and castle towns.
Japanese castles at times had many moats an outer and inner moat and at times even more circles of stone walls and water. I say water but many times the moats performed as well dry.
Most modern Japanese castles have moats filled with water, but castles in the feudal period commonly had ‘dry moats’ (karahori, 空堀), in other words a wide ditch.

To tramp through muddy, slimy water then climb a steep wall is no easy feat, hence a newly emptied moat can be part of a shrewd  defence plan. In the Lost Castle  the water to the moat is diverted  from the Miyagawa river north of the castle, later to be returned into the same river a few kilometers further south.  The water-level in the moat is set by the moat keeper at the southern end by altering the height of the weir.
By design the outer wall is mostly lower than the wall closer to the castle. The bottom of the moat can have traps in form of a grid like wall system  resembling a waffle this to make it hard to walk over when the moat is emptied. However even a deep and wide moat can be made useless as Tokugawa demonstrated at Osaka when he had the Osaka Castle moat filled and rendered useless with help of his massive army.

In the following images of The  Lost Castle (modelled on Tsuyama Castle) you can get a fair idea of how the moat surrounding this Castle once looked like.


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