Aichi Prefecture was at the heart of the Sengoku, or Warring States period of Japanese history. This is where the samurai lived and died! Aichi is located in the centre of Japan. It is a mostly flat region, perfect for growing rice, (ie, money) with a rich fishing coast to the south, irrigated by three rivers and a major highway hub, and so for that reason, it was a land dotted with castles,….in fact there are over 3,600 castles and castle sites in Aichi alone!
One of the biggest, best-designed castles is Nagoya Castle, in Aichi’s capital, Nagoya City. Built at the height of a national castle building boom following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Nagoya Castle was constructed in 1610.
Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered 20 of the nations daimyo war-lords, the ones he didn’t trust, to take part in the construction of Nagoya. Anybody refusing to participate would have been destroyed, and so they all rushed to complete their tasks. They sent laborers to dig the moats and build the stone walls, and supplied rocks for the walls, and timber for the buildings, a very expensive process. That was part of Ieyasu’s plan, keep your enemies close and under control, and make them spend their money so they can’t afford weapons, or to raise armies. Great way of keeping the peace, right!?
With 20 various daimyo and thousands of their men hard at work on building Ieyasu’s greatest castle, you’d think they’d then know the fortresses strengths and weaknesses. That too was part of Ieyasu’s master plan. Once all the daimyo and samurai knew how well designed Nagoya Castle was, they wouldn’t dare attack it! Nagoya’s greatest defense was its reputation!
Other major castles in Aichi include Inuyama Castle, only a small castle as Japanese castles go, but it is the oldest remaining castle keep, and one of just five castles designated as National Treasures. The current keep dates from 1573,and saw its fair share of action.
Kiyosu Castle, was the war-lord Oda Nobunaga’s main base for many years, and the launch pad for a number of major battles, including Okehazama, Nagashino, and the battles of Gifu and Sekigahara.
Okazaki Castle, birthplace of the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was one of the biggest and most important castles of the Edo Period. Today it contains a fine museum dedicated to Ieyasu and the Tokugawa clan. Nagashino Castle was the site of the Battle of Nagashino, (1575) in which Oda Nobunaga used a rotation of matchlock guns to maintain a volley of fire against the attacking Takeda army, effectively wiping them out!
Asuke Castle, is a tiny castle, and one of the best examples of a reconstructed Warring States period outpost castle. This castle has seen a lot of action, attacked and counter attacked many times!
Yoshida Castle was immortalized in the series of woodblock prints depicting the Tokaido Highway, that ran from the Shogun’s castle in Edo (Tokyo) through Aichi Prefecture to the Emperor’s palace in Kyoto, and although just one watchtower and the stone walls remain, it gives you an idea of castle construction during the height of samurai warfare.
Aichi Prefecture was central to the biggest samurai battles of the Sengoku, Warring States period, and so if you want to see the castles of the samurai, you’ll want to see Aichi Prefecture!
Chris Glenn is a bilingual radio DJ, TV presenter, producer, narrator, MC, copywriter, author and columnist, and Japanese historian, specializing in samurai castles, battles, armor and weapons. He is an inbound tourism advisor, and is often called upon as a lecturer and speaker on Japanese history and topics. He was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1968, and has spent over half his life in Japan, most of that time in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Chris is dedicated to promoting and preserving Japans’ long history, deep culture, traditions, arts and crafts.