One of the biggest tourist attractions in northern Aichi prefecture is the Inuyama Castle and especially the castle town beneath it. I visited in on a weekday off-season but for most people that visit in the peak season or during the weekends I can imagine it being crowded place. The old castle town is full of preserved buildings, the classic machiya with their narrow fronts, shops and long garden in the back. A few of these machiya are open to the public and you can even check out the traditional bath tubs that were often heated by simply lighting a fire beneath (hence the wooden flooring so you wouldn’t burn yourself too badly). They also had an interesting piece of sidewalk in front of an old stables building with horse shoes embedded in the pavement.
Like most traditional towns though there are a few eye sores in the form of modern buildings, parking lots etc., but I got the feeling they are doing their best to get rid of those. There are quite a few traditional castle towns left in Japan and the one in Inuyama is probably one of the most famous. Most people who visit here also take a boat ride on the Kiso river.
One of Japan’s most famous castle is in Inuyama City, right on the border between Aichi and Gifu prefectures. It was started in 1441 and is unique in that it was privately owned, by a continuos line of the noble family Naruse, until 2004. Like almost all original Japanese castles Inuyama Castle is built with a timber frame base, and there a great model showing the timber skeleton of the castle inside. Many of the trees used in the construction of this castle must have been many hundreds of years even at the time of construction. Like most castles in Japan it is surprisingly small once you get up close, it must have been very crowded in times of war! Inuyama Castle is an easy day trip away from the prefecture capital of Nagoya and easily one of the most visited tourist attractions in Aichi prefecture.
Inuyama Castle is heavily fortified and there are a number of traps built into the walls, like the opening in the wall visible in the third picture from the bottom, where defenders could drop rocks or burning oil onto attackers crammed into a narrow accessway beneath. There were many more traps but I didn’t get decent photos of them all, maybe next time!
A few months ago I visited Aichi prefecture and the city of Inuyama, famous for its beautiful castle and turbulent history. To get there from Tokyo most people pass through Nagoya and head north to Inuyama station, but I wanted to get the most of the beautiful day so I continued on the train for one more station up to Inuyamayuen, just on the edge of the Kiso river that separates Aichi and Gifu prefectures. You can see Gifu prefecture on the other side of the river in these photos! Leaving the station I also found this really funky looking restaurant building with two very colorful dogs outside. Seeing the castle from the river side is one of the best ways to view it I think. More photos of the castle to come!
Bear with me as I use an example of a tiny and absolutely unremarkable little seaside park in Aichi prefecture to wax philosophical for a little while. As you might have noticed, there was a big election here in Tokyo today. One of the main subjects of discussion in this election was the future of nuclear energy in this country. Some parties ran on the promise that they would close down all the nuclear power plants by the year 2030. Of course the question of how this is supposed to happen aren’t really explained, but one of the ways would probably be to invest in alternative energy sources, like these two plants at the Shinmaiko Marine Park in Chita City (知多市), Aichi prefecture. Made by a Danish company, these two plants generate about 3 million kilowatt hours per year, enough to power about 850 households. Although this is just a tiny slice of the energy needs of the city it is a good start I think, and absolutely necessary if the country is ever going to have a chance to retire the nuclear power plants.
The second theme of this post is about the Japanese view of the ocean. If you have visited any of Japan’s large cities it is easy to forget that they are actually often port cities with huge terminals, industry and trade taking up what would in other countries be very attractive real estate next to the ocean. Since most people in Japan are separated from the ocean by a wide stretch of industry zoning, the government has started developing many marine parks and recreation areas nestled among the factories and terminals, to allow people a green corridor to the ocean. Most of them are popular with fishing enthusiasts, couples and families looking for a good barbecue spot in the summer. I live in Tokyo, one of the greatest port cities in the world but I see the ocean about a couple of times a month, at best! In cities like Nagoya and Chita it is even worse, but small parks like this is making it slightly easier to get access to the ocean. Most maritime cultures or cultures that live in close contact with the ocean have developed a “sensibility” to the ocean, but not Japan. For Danes, New Zealanders and Britons for example, the ocean is often the subject of art, poetry and music, but I find that Japanese have much less refined sensibilities towards the ocean, with most of the religion, the myths, the songs and poetry being focused more inwards, inland. Without making too much of a big deal about it, I think it is an interesting subject that is often overlooked in discussions about the Japanese national character.
If you are ever in Nagoya, and feel like seeing the ocean, Shinmaiko Marine Park is one of the most accessible spots. Just hop on the Limited Express on the Meitetsu Tokoname Line (名鉄常滑線), getting off at Shinmaiko Station (新舞子駅) and then taking the ten minutes walk west. Or, if you are living in Nagoya, chances are you have a car. If you’ve been to this park (I’d be very surprised if any readers have!) or if you know any other good “pocket parks” near the ocean in Japan, just let us know in the comments!