Japan City Guides: Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture
Okazaki Castle is located in Okazaki Park, a 15-minute walk west from Higashi Okazaki Meitetsu station over the Otogawa River. The Otemon Gate (pictured above), was the main gate to the castle and stood near to the old Tokaido highway. Otemon Gate was rebuilt using local stone in 1993.
Okazaki Park is a lovely, wooded area to stroll among the fern-covered walls and moats of the old castle. The park is also famous for its cherry blossoms in spring especially at night.
Other attractions in or near Okazaki Park include the Iyeyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum (Tel: 0564 24 2204) which showcases the history of Ieyasu Tokugawa and his struggle to unite Japan. On display are original weapons, helmets and documents from the times as well as video installations and dioramas detailing the numerous battles Ieyasu fought.
Ieyasu's Well is one of the many wells in the park and the future warlord's first bath was drawn here. The many monuments to Ieyasu in Okazaki Castle Park include a bronze statue of the man and a stone stele inscribed with his "teachings on the conduct of life." The park has a Noh theater, a flower clock, two traditional teahouses, Kishoan and Jonantei and the Karakuri Tokeito, from which a model of Ieyasu dressed in Noh costume appears every 30 minutes to perform a Noh dance accompanied by music. The historic Gomangoku Wisteria Terrace is in full bloom in early May near the Igagawa River.
Okazakai Castle Environs & Miso Factory
Okazaki was located on the important Tokaido highway connecting Kyoto and Edo and a number of local Edo Period industries and crafts have continued to thrive in the city. These include delicious tofu, fireworks, sake brewing, woodwork and stonework, tea and Okazaki's famous Hatcho miso and Nukata miso - fermented soya bean paste used in miso soup, a mainstay of Japanese cuisine.
The Hatcho miso factory near Naka Okazaki Station on the Aichi Loop Line (Aikan), a 15-minute walk west of Okazaki Castle offers free, short tours of the traditional miso-making process, where the soy beans are pressed in huge cedar barrels using an array of large stones. There's a free miso sweet at the end of the fun tour and a shop to buy souvenirs.
Okazakai Castle Donjon
Okazaki has a number of temples and shrines worth visiting including the Rinzai zen temple of Tenonji, which is connected with the life of Ieyasu and located east of the center along the Otogawa River. The temple grounds contain an ancient cedar tree.
Nearer Higashi Okazaki Station is the pleasant Ryukai-in Temple. East of Okazaki Castle in Monzen-cho is Zuienji Temple, a short walk from Okazaki Tenmangu Shrine, which is connected to the famous Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto.
North of Okazaki Park are the closely spaced Shouoji Temple, Nomi Shinmeigu Shrine and Iga Hachimangu Shrine, dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war, where Ieyasu would pray for the success of his campaigns.
Pleasant parks in Okazaki include Higashi Park, noted for its ornamental ponds, iris garden in early May and maple leaves in autumn. The Okazaki City Museum (Tel: 0564 285000) is in the adjacent Okazaki Chuo Sogo Park. South of the city center is Minami Park with its plum trees and a children's amusement area. The City History Museum is just off Route 1 heading east out of town. The wooden Meiji-era building is the former Nukata public hall and classified as an Important National Treasure.
Okazaki has a number of festivals throughout the year not surprisingly some of them are dedicated to Ieyasu Tokugawa. The Iyeyasu Parade with participants in samurai costume takes place in April. Also on the Sunday closest to April 14th is the Spring Festival at Suga Shrine involving a procession of five, large decorated floats or dashi.
The Okazaki Summer Festival on the first Saturday in August features a spectacular fireworks display on the Otogawa River. The Oni Festival at Takisanji Temple takes place in February and is a fire festival to pray for a good harvest in the coming year. The Takisan Toshogu shrine, virtually next door, is dedicated to Ieyasu. The Natsuyama Fire Festival takes place in October at rural Natsuyama Hachimangu Shrine, north east of the city center.
Stele Celebrating Ieyasu Tokugawa; Ieyasu Statue
Okazakai Castle Grounds & Stone Walls
Take a Meitetsu Express train to Higashi Okazaki Station from Nagoya Station (28 mins) or from Toyohashi (20 mins). The nearest station to Okazaki Park is actually Okazaki Koen-mae one stop west on a local Meitetsu train or Naka Okazaki on the Aichi Loop Line.
From Higashi Okazaki Station take the north exit and turn left, then take the right at the first traffic light and walk over the Tono Bridge, then take the first left and walk along the river to the entrance to Okazaki Park just past the Okazaki New Grand Hotel (Tel: 0564 21 5111).
The main JR Okazaki Station is a distance south of the downtown area so change to the JR Aichi Loop Line and take a local train two stops north to Naka Okazaki for the Hatcho Miso Factory.
By car exit the Tomei Expressway at Okazaki Interchange or take National Highway Route 1.
Okazakai Station & Downtown Okazaki City