Japanese Castle Explorer

by Daniel O'Grady

       
Castles of the Samurai: Power and Beauty The Baur Collection: Japanese Sword-Fittings and Associated Metalwork

Namako Walls

海鼠壁
The Namako kabe is a common sight when visiting older sections of many of Japan's cities & towns. Certainly they are stylish but they also serve a practical purpose. The tiles and plaster-filled interstices help protect the wall by allowing it to better shed moisture.

The wall gets its name from the sea cucumber (Namako - 海鼠), presumably due to the similarly-contoured, plaster ridges that border the tiles. Either that or the sausage-like sea creatures were forced to work as labourers in their construction. You decide.

Sea cucumber walls were first built in the early Edo period (1603 - 1868), and were predominantly found in western Japan. The early styles were of square tiles arranged horizontally. As time progressed, and as this type of wall construction spread to other areas of Japan, more and more variations in design and technique were developed.