Aichi, Home of the Warlords
Aichi Prefecture, nestled in the heart of Japan, holds a significant place in the history of the samurai era. This region witnessed pivotal battles and served as the birthplace of renowned samurai figures, notably Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, revered as the Three Unifiers, who played instrumental roles in shaping Japan's destiny.
Aichi is steeped in the legends and tales of these samurai warriors, as they fought their way to prominence in the country. Immerse yourself in their stories and witness firsthand the land that molded these warlords.
To commemorate your visit to the castle...
To commemorate your visit to the castles, we recommend collecting Gojoin—a special type of seal offered at various castle sites. These unique seals bear the castle's name and the emblem or seal of the ruling lord, imprinted on traditional Japanese writing paper. Collecting Gojoin serves as a cherished memento, etching the memory of your castle visit deep into your heart.
Oda Nobunaga, a renowned samurai born in Aichi, holds a special place in Japanese history and culture.
His captivating story has inspired numerous comics and movies, captivating the interest of the Japanese people more than any other historical figure.
What sets Nobunaga apart and makes him so appealing is his ability to defy common norms and usher in a new era.
He revolutionized the concept of castles, moving beyond their traditional defensive function and transforming them into symbols of power. Nobunaga introduced the iconic design of castles with towering stone walls and an exclusive top floor reserved for nobles. These architectural innovations allowed him to showcase his authority as the ruler of Japan and establish a strong presence across the land. Additionally, Nobunaga's vision extended beyond the castles themselves. He developed thriving towns around his castles and implemented policies to stimulate economic growth, showcasing his exceptional leadership skills and ushering in a new era of progress.
In battle, Nobunaga displayed ingenious tactics and often found himself blessed with remarkable luck.
One such instance is the Battle of Okehazama in 1560 when Nobunaga, then only 27 years old and leading a small province, faced the renowned warlord Imagawa Yoshimoto, who commanded an army several times larger.
Despite being pushed to the brink by the enemy's initial victories, Nobunaga seized a moment of opportunity during a heavy downpour. With strategic precision, he launched a surprise attack on the enemy's main camp, catching Yoshimoto off guard and securing a resounding victory.
Throughout his exploits, Nobunaga demonstrated unwavering composure and strategic acumen in the face of adversity. His remarkable achievements and legendary status have made him a revered hero in Japanese history, admired for his bravery, leadership, and ability to shape the course of the nation.
The life of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582)
Oda Nobunaga, a notable daimyo in feudal Japan, dedicated his efforts to the unification of the country, ultimately establishing his rule over a significant portion of Honshu, the main island, in the latter half of the 16th century.
Like many extraordinary individuals, such as Edison and Newton, Nobunaga exhibited a nonconformist nature and often surprised those around him with his unconventional behavior during his youth, earning him the nickname "Owari no outsuke" or the "fool of Owari." However, it is said that his father, Nobuhide, recognized his exceptional qualities even at a young age.
Nobunaga achieved numerous victories in battle, steadily increasing his power and influence. However, just as he stood on the brink of unifying Japan entirely, he faced betrayal from one of his retainers, Akechi Mitsuhide. In a sudden attack at Honno-ji Temple in Kyoto, Nobunaga was forced to take his own life. For a long time, historical accounts portrayed Nobunaga as a ruthless and eccentric figure. However, recent studies suggest that he displayed traits of politeness, kindness, and chivalry, offering a more nuanced understanding of his character.
Historical spots associated with Nobunaga
Kiyosu, an integral location in Nobunaga's story, holds great significance as a formerly thriving industrial city. Nobunaga ruled over Kiyosu Castle from the age of 21 to 30, successfully unifying Owari Province during his reign.
The castle building in Kiyosu was reconstructed in 1989 and now houses numerous exhibits that provide a glimpse into the lives of both the town and the samurai during that era.
Inside the castle, visitors have the exciting opportunity to try on the armor worn by samurai during their battles. This immersive experience is highly popular among tourists, and the best part is that it's free of charge (admission to the castle is required). You can don the armor over your own clothes, complete with a helmet, strike a pose, and capture memorable souvenir photos of your time as a samurai warrior.
Available at Kiyosu Furusato no Yakata, located northwest of the castle across the Gojo River (¥300)
[AichiNow] Kiyosu Castle
Komakiyama Castle, built by Oda Nobunaga, stands as a testament to his ambition to conquer the neighboring province of Mino. What sets this castle apart is its revolutionary construction using stone, a departure from the traditional earthen castles of that time. As the first stone castle in the region, Komakiyama Castle has become a fascinating attraction for history enthusiasts, drawing attention to its historical significance and architectural innovation.
Although Komakiyama Castle was abandoned after only four years, its significance continued during the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute when Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyoshi clashed. Ieyasu chose this area as his headquarters, utilizing the strategic location of the castle. In the Edo period, the Owari Tokugawa family, with their ties to Ieyasu, protected the site. Entry into the mountain was forbidden and ensured the preservation of the moats and embankments, turning them into invaluable artifacts for researching Japanese castle architecture.
Today, the Komaki City History Museum, modeled after the castle keep, is located at the top of the mountain, providing a panoramic view of the city from the top floor. As you explore the mountain, immerse yourself in the beauty of nature that surrounds you, taking in the sights and sounds of this serene setting.
Available at Komaki Ekimae Tourist Information Center (¥300)
[AichiNow] Komakiyama Castle
National Treasure Inuyama Castle
Inuyama Castle, a National Treasure, stands proudly as a testament to history. Constructed in 1537 by Oda Nobunaga's uncle, Oda Nobuyasu, its castle keep showcasing one of the oldest architectural styles found in Japan today. While retaining its military functions for defense and retaliation, the castle's inner chambers are open for visitors to explore and appreciate its beauty. Ascend to the top floor of the keep and be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the majestic Kiso River and the charming townscape below. Surrounding the castle, the preserved old town streets exude an atmosphere reminiscent of the samurai era, adding to the enchantment of the experience.
Available at Inuyama Castle Tourist Information (¥300)
[AichiNow] Inuyama Castle
Atsuta Jingu Shrine
Atsuta Jingu Shrine holds a position of great reverence, standing alongside Ise Jingu Shrine as one of the most esteemed shrines in Japan. It was a place of significance for Nobunaga, who sought divine intervention and prayed for victory before engaging in major battles. Grateful for his triumph, he constructed the Nobunaga Wall, a remarkable structure composed of stacked kawara roof tiles, which remains intact to this day, a testament to his devotion and the enduring legacy of his connection to the shrine.
The serene surroundings of Atsuta Jingu Shrine, adorned with lush greenery, offer a refreshing escape and pristine air. As you approach the main shrine, you will be captivated by its majestic presence. To engage in prayer, place money in the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap twice, make your prayer, and bow one last time. It is in this tranquil setting that one may feel a deep connection to the shrine's mysterious and intangible power.
[AichiNow] Atsuta Jingu Shrine
Tokugawa Ieyasu created an era of peace without war
The Edo period, spanning from 1603 to 1868, marked the final phase of the enduring samurai era, lasting for approximately 300 years. This period saw the formation of a feudal society in which the shogun ruled with absolute power. The daimyo lords, under the close control of the shogunate, were placed in different areas and put in charge of various domains. This system aimed to minimize conflicts and cultivate an era of relative tranquility, known for its prolonged period of peace.
It was during this era that ukiyo-e, the vibrant world of kabuki, and the culinary art of sushi developed. The Edo period stands as a significant chapter in Japan's history, giving birth to numerous cultural elements that have endured through the centuries.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, a remarkable samurai hailing from Aichi, played a pivotal role in shaping the era of peace and prosperity in Japan. As one of the Three Unifiers, alongside Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Ieyasu's strategic brilliance and leadership skills propelled him to prominence. Following Hideyoshi's reign, Ieyasu seized the opportunity to ascend to power and successfully unified the entire nation of Japan under his rule.
The life of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616)
Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shogun of the Edo shogunate, which ruled Japan from 1603 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Growing up in a time of chaotic military conflict, Ieyasu left his parents at the age to fulfill political promises made by his family and lived as a hostage for eleven years. It was during this time that he formed his patient and cautious personality. Nobunaga and Hideyoshi soon noticed his abilities, allied with him, and made him their vassal.
After Hideyoshi's death, a power struggle erupted between the daimyo, leading to a decisive confrontation between Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari, the leader of the Toyotomi government's defenders. This conflict led to the Battle of Sekigahara, in which the Eastern Army led by Ieyasu clashed with the Western Army led by Mitsunari. Ieyasu won and was appointed shogun by the Imperial Court in 1603, beginning the Edo shogunate.
Historical spots associated with Ieyasu
Okazaki Castle and Okazaki Park
Okazaki Castle is the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The castle keep was restored in 1959, faithfully reflects its appearance from the samurai era, and now serves as a historical museum open to all. Visitors can explore the Mikawa Bushi and Ieyasu Museum in Okazaki Park to learn more about the samurai of that time. They can also try on helmets worn by samurai and hold katana, feeling their weight for themselves and touching real artifacts used in battle during the samurai era.
*Okazaki Castle is currently closed for renovations until early January 2023. In addition, it will be covered by scaffolding from early July to the end of October (scheduled), making it impossible to see the exterior of the castle keep during that period.
Due to renovations, they are available only through the mail (¥300)
[AichiNow] Okazaki Castle
Nagoya Castle, originally constructed in 1615 under the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu for his ninth son Yoshinao, stands as a symbol of the Owari Tokugawa family's legacy, spanning over 260 years and sixteen generations. Despite being ravaged during an air raid in World War II, the castle was painstakingly reconstructed using steel-reinforced concrete. Additionally, the Hommaru Palace, once the residence of the domain lord and a center of governance, has been faithfully restored to its former grandeur, showcasing its exquisite artistry for visitors to admire since its completion in 2018.
Within the grounds of Nagoya Castle, you have the extraordinary opportunity to encounter resurrected legendary warlords and skilled ninjas from the Warring States period of Owari. These remarkable individuals extend warm hospitality, welcoming visitors, providing guidance, and happily posing for commemorative photos. On Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays, prepare to be enthralled by intense samurai and ninja shows, where acrobatic performances showcase their incredible skills.
Available at the stores near the main gate, in the inner garden, or at the third storehouse (¥300)
[AichiNow] Nagoya Castle
Daiju-ji Temple changed Ieyasu's fate. When he was nineteen years old, he was chased by an enemy and fled to Daiju-ji Temple. About to take his own life in front of his ancestors' graves, the chief priest told him that it was his duty to turn the anarchic world of warring states into a pure land where people could live peacefully. Ieyasu held on to those words as his motto and resolved to fight for a peaceful era.
Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the temple and behold the magnificent gate crafted by Iemitsu, the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu. As you pass through the gate, a breathtaking panorama of the Okazaki landscape unfolds before your eyes, framed perfectly by its arches. And if you gaze intently at the heart of this picturesque frame, you'll be rewarded with a captivating view of Okazaki Castle.
Step inside the main building and explore the sacred mortuary hall, where the hallowed spirits of the Tokugawa shoguns are enshrined. Here, you will encounter a collection of mortuary tablets, meticulously crafted wooden plates bearing the names of the departed, paying tribute to their noble lineage. A fascinating aspect of these tablets is that they stand at the exact height of the Tokugawa shogun they commemorate.
[AichiNow] Daiju-ji Temple
Tokugawa Art Museum
Tokugawa Ieyasu's cultural legacy
The Tokugawa Art Museum stands as a remarkable testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Owari Province. With its vast collection of over 10,000 household items once owned by the ruling lords, which include nine National Treasures and 59 Important Cultural Properties.
The katana are particularly popular among young Japanese people thanks to the popular game Touken Ranbu. Referred to as "token joshi," many female fans of katana are drawn to this museum, eager to explore its displays and immerse themselves in the world of these iconic swords.
[AichiNow] Tokugawa Art Museum
The term Daimyo Garden refers to the exquisite gardens commissioned by the lords of the Edo period, which are now commonly known as Japanese gardens. These gardens typically feature a central body of water surrounded by a winding path, adorned with elements like mounds, islands, bridges, lanterns, and monoliths. Inspired by renowned landscapes such as China's West Lake Gardens, these gardens create a serene and captivating atmosphere.
Tokugawaen Garden exemplifies this style with its undulating terrain, striking rock formations, and strategically arranged trees that showcase the grandeur of samurai society. Moreover, the garden's allure is enhanced by the ever-changing array of flowers that bloom throughout the seasons, each offering its unique charm and visual splendor.
[AichiNow] Tokugawaen Garden
Horaisan Toshogu Shrine
Mt. Horai-ji holds great significance as a sacred mountain and has been designated as a National Natural Monument. According to legend, Ieyasu's mother visited Horai-ji Temple and prayed for the blessing of children, ultimately leading to Ieyasu's birth.
Nestled among the ancient cedar trees that have stood for 370 years, you'll find the vibrant Horaisan Toshogu Shrine, constructed by Ieyasu's grandson. It's a striking sight—a colorful shrine nestled in the serene forest.
If you seek to tap into the mystical energy of this place, consider wearing a special tree spirit amulet, believed to contain a part of the sacred tree's spiritual essence. Additionally, be sure to explore the good-luck ornament known as Tora Doji, which symbolizes resilience in the face of adversity, always rising above challenges.
Horaisan Toshogu Shrine
Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine, Kogetsu-in Temple, Matsudaira-Go
Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine serves as the sacred resting place for Ieyasu's ancestors, the Matsudaira clan. In tribute to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the renowned lacquer craftsman Noriyoshi Ando dedicated two years of his life to creating breathtaking lacquer ceiling paintings. They were installed in 2015 as part of a commemorative project marking the 400th anniversary of Ieyasu's passing. With a total of 108 paintings, each one is a testament to beauty and grandeur.
Approximately 10 kilometers east of Toyota Station, Matsudaira-Go is a place of great historical significance. It is closely associated with Matsudaira Chikauji, the earliest ancestor of the Matsudaira clan. Here, you'll find a cluster of historic sites that include Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine, where Chikauji is enshrined, Kogetsu-in Temple, and the Matsudaira Castle site.
[AichiNow] Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine