At the ruins of Hinoe Castle, excavation is currently in progress. With the discoveries of gilded roof tiles and Chinese porcelain, the appearance of Hinoe Castle's former glory gradually became clearer, just as it was described in many articles.
Being a daimyo of merely forty thousand koku*, how was Harunobu Arima able to construct the internationally exalted Hinoe Castle? Through the historical background, we are able to see Harunobu's talent for international trade and his close connection to Christianity. (*Koku is a unit used to measure rice. At that time, it is said one person would eat one koku in a year. The number of koku indicated how much power the daimyos had in those days.)
In The Jesuit Annual Report dated October 12th, 1590, Luis Frois described the atmosphere of the castle when Tensho Mission and Valignano returned to Japan and were welcomed into Hinoe Castle. “Everyone was delighted by this beautiful and graceful building. All rooms, big and small, were decorated with golden objects and resplendent and gorgeous paintings. This mansion is located within a brilliantly completed castle that was recently built by Harunobu Arima. Seeing the castle, Lusitanians never thought such a brilliant building would have existed in Japan.”
Frois is a person who was also able to meet Nobunaga Oda at Azuchi Castle. We can imagine how great Hinoe Castle was at that time as it made such a person praise it this much.
Not only from the article that Frois left, but also from excavation in recent years, the appearance of Hinoe Castle in bygone days has become clearer. In addition to the gilded roof tiles mentioned before, according to the research in 2000, the remains of 100-meter-long stairs from the front entrance toward the outer citadel, called Ninomaru, were excavated. At that time, the same structure could only be seen at Nobunaga Oda’s Azuchi Castle, and it was thought to be a state-of-the-art castle.
Moreover, fragments of Chinese porcelain, called Hoka, were also found in the ruins of Hinoe Castle. They are made with a technique which brings out the dark blue and light blue pattern to the surface and green glaze is on the inside. Remarkably, possession of this much-treasured Chinese porcelain at the time is not only a historical record, but also demonstrates the Arima Clan’s talent for international trade.
An extremely beautiful golden cross is kept in Namban Bunkakan in Nakatsu, Osaka. It was excavated from the castle keep ruins of Hara Castle in 1951. Despite its small size, 4.8 centimeters long and 3.2 centimeters wide, it is an elaborate work of artistry and craftsmanship. The origin of the cross was unclear, however, there is an account in The Jesuit Annual Report saying, “The Pope has sent a golden cross to Harunobu Arima through the Tensho Mission.”
The lord of Hinoe Castle, Harunobu Arima, had around his neck the golden cross that had a great presence. From the excavated gilded roof tiles, as well as Frois noting that, “All rooms, big and small, were decorated with golden objects and resplendent and gorgeous paintings.” Hinoe Castle must have been so magnificent that we, present-day people, cannot even imagine its splendor.
In Hinoe Castle, not only gorgeous remains, but also traces of anti-Buddhism were found. As Harunobu tried to spread Christianity quickly, at the same time, he began to destroy Buddhist temples. There is a record indicating that over 40 temples and shrines within the territory were destroyed in just three months while Valignano stayed in Kuchinotsu. On the north side of the 100-meter-long stairs, parts of a destroyed Buddhist pagoda were used, symbolically conveying their antagonism against the power of Buddhism.
When a Buddhist pagoda was excavated, some characters had lacquer work on them. Therefore, there is a possibility that a newly constructed Buddhist pagoda was taken down and was used for the foundation. It is almost as if Harunobu was saying, “You have to step on the stones of a Buddhist pagoda to enter Hinoe Castle.”
Avila Giron, a Spanish trading merchant, wrote about the inside of Hinoe Castle in 1595 as follows...“The sliding doors of the hall consisted of about twenty of them, and further back, was another beautiful hall, and then, an even more beautiful hall appeared.”...It is said that on these sliding doors, gold and light blue rose-like flowers, mountains, eagles, birds and deer were painted in the scenery of summer.
It is reported that after opening the gorgeous sliding doors one after the other, at last, the beautiful scenery of the Sea of Amakusa with its many islands could be seen. This scenery, familiar in Minami Shimabara, was already known to the world 400 years ago.