Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Cherry Blossoms at Okazaki Castle

Last weekend we visited the Okazaki Castle. It was yet another Castle visit, something that we have been doing a lot since moving to Nagoya. But this time the main purpose of the visit was to enjoy the Sakura. 
Okazaki castle is a castle in the city of Okazaki, less than an hour's drive from Nagoya. The castle was first constructed by Saigo Tsugiyori in 1455 and was captured by Matsudaira Kiyoyasu in 1524. 
The castle is important in Japanese history as the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the person credited with unifying Japan. The castle is regarded as the cradle of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
A bronze statue dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu stands in the castle complex. 

Tokugawa Ieyasu was born in the secondary citadel of the Okazaki castle on 26th December 1542. After birth he was named Matsudaira Motoyasu, the grandson of the powerful feudal lord Matsudaira Kiyoyasu. His initial years were very difficult since he almost lived the life of a hostage after the Okazaki castle was lost in battle to the Imogawa clan. Perhaps the difficulties faced during his early childhood made him the powerful hero that he went on to become in later years. Beginning with his victory in the Sekigahara battle, he won many battles and succeeded in unifying the whole country and became Japan's first Shogun. The Shogunate founded by him lasted about 300 years. He succeeded in capturing the castle in 1560 and lived here till 1570 when he moved to Hamamatsu, leaving his son Nobuyasu incharge. With the movement of the capital to Edo (present day Tokyo), Nobuyasu left the castle in 1590, handing it over to the Tanaka clan. During the Edo period, the castle town thrived owing to its location along the Tokaido Highway, the major road connecting Kyoto and Edo. The  castle changed hands between the Honda, Matsudaira and Mizuno clans till it was taken over by the Meiji Government in 1869. In1873, the castle was demolished and land was sold off. 
The  current castle was constructed in1959 to boost tourism.It was reconstructed in 1982. It is considered to be one of the 100 Fine Castles of Japan.
The current castle, the Donjon, is a ferro-concrete structure which has three roofs and is five storied. Original artifacts, armour and weapons are exhibited inside the castle.

A Tablet dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu near the castle entrance.
The shrine adjacent to the castle's main keep, the Donjon.
The area surrounding the castle is now a park, the Okazaki Park which is famous for its Cherry Blossoms and Autumn Foliage. 

Wisteria and Azaleas in the park also attract large crowds.

Many things associated with Tokugawa Ieyasu's life and early childhood can be seen in the castle complex. For instance this well which is located on the castle grounds. 
It is said that water from this well was drawn for Tokugawa Ieyasu's first bath after birth. 
This is the "Enazuka", the burial mound for the umbilical cord of Tokugawa Ieyasu. 
This was relocated to its current location from elsewhere on the castle ground. 

Red bridge across the moat surrounding the castle.
A small clock tower also stands in the castle park. 
The Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi (warrior) Museum in the castle complex.
Statues in the Castle complex.

A Noh theater and teahouse also stand in the castle park. 

A rock garden and waterfall in the castle complex.
A Karakuri mechanical puppet show also takes place at specific times.  

A special song and dance show was being held on the day we visited.

The programme featured a group of people from the age group preschoolers to senior citizens who gave spectacular performances of Japanese music and dances. 

A floral clock in the Okazaki park.
This weekend, was the first weekend of the Cherry Blossom season of 2014. The sight of the blossoms was breathtaking.

The castle and its surrounding riverbanks were crowded with locals and visitors enjoying the Hanami. 
Food stalls and shops selling toys and local products gave the area a typical "matsuri" look. 
"Funa asobi" is traditional boating in rivers or canals bordered by Sakura trees and few people were also enjoying boating in the river. 
Some were enjoying picnics or having barbecue parties with families and friends. Overall the entire area had a festive look.

Website: http://okazakipark.com/

Address: 444-0052, Aichi Prefecture, Okazaki shi, Kosei-cho, Okazaki Koen

Phone: 0564-22-2122

Admission Fees: Castle : Adult- 200 yen, Children-100 yen
                           Museum: Adult 350 yen, Children- 200 yen
                           Castle and Museum: Adult 500 yen; Children 270 yen
                          (Group discount available) 
Opening Hours: 9:00 - 17:00 hrs

Closing days: 29th December to 1st January.

Parking: Paid parking available.

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