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Okazaki Castle: The Birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu

When speaking of Okazaki Castle, it is known as the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

However, Ieyasu himself was sent away as a hostage at the age of 6 and, although he returned to Okazaki Castle at the age of 19, he moved his base to Hamamatsu Castle ten years later, meaning he did not spend a long time at Okazaki Castle.

AliasKijoh (mean. Dragon Castle)
Castle TypeHilltop Castle
Tenshu (Main Keep)Restored Exterior Tenshu
Tenshu StyleWatchtower type,with attached tower and well tower, constructed of reinforced concrete
Number of Floors in TenshuThree stories five floors
First Builder of the CastleSaigo Seikai
First Construction PeriodAround 1455

The current Okazaki Castle was renovated into a modern castle fortress in the middle of the 17th century. There is almost no historical record of what Okazaki Castle looked like during Ieyasu’s time, so it is not well understood.

The Charm of Okazaki Castle Based on my Judgement and Bias

  • The castle where the divine lord Tokugawa Ieyasu was born
  • Tanaka Yoshimasa renovated the castle into a modern castle.
  • Accessibility: Located near National Route 1 and close to the station
  • Abundant dining options
  • The Great Lord Ieyasu’s “Aoi” Samurai Troupe is entertaining

*I beg to differ.

In this article, we will introduce the highlights of Okazaki Castle, as well as its castle seals and stamps.

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Structure and highlights of Okazaki Castle

Okazaki Castle park Map
Okazaki Castle park Map

Okazaki Castle in the early modern period was fortified with a comprehensive enclosure, encompassing the castle town with moats and earthen walls.

However, due to urbanization, the moats have been filled in, and the earthen walls have been leveled, leaving only their remnants as variations in the city’s elevation.

Features such as the Kita Kuruwa (North Bailey), the Sannomaru (Third Bailey), and the Mikadukibori (Crescent Moat) no longer exist due to urban development.

Strategic Location

The strategic location of Okazaki Castle is on the tip of a peninsula formed by the confluence of the former Aoki River to the west and the Sugo River to the south.

To the west lies a marshland, and to the east lies the floodplain of the Sugo River.

The Dairinji kuruwa is situated in the valley between Ryuto Mountain and Tenjin Mountain, making it a castle built on a hill within a marshland.

Shichikenmon (Seven-Ken-Gate)

Ken is a unit of length used in Japan since ancient times: 1 ken is approximately 1.82 m, i.e. 7 ken is approximately 8.82 m. The name Shichiken Gate comes from the fact that the front of the gate was seven ken wide.

Maingate, Schichken-gate

The main gate of the Nonimaru (Second Bailey ).

The Shichikenmon once had a Umadashi, but its remains are now buried under National Route 1.

Instead of a masugata, a trapezoidal earthen structure used for defense, the umadashi served as an alternative means of fortification.

Ninomaru (Second Bailey)

Beyond the Shichikenmon lies the Ninomaru.

Mikawa Bushi Museum: Ieyasu-kan

At the Mikawa Bushi Museum, the vassals who supported Ieyasu’s unification of the country are introduced.

Replica of Kindami-Gusoku Armor

The authentic Kindami-Gusoku worn by Ieyasu is housed in the Kunozan Toshogu Museum.

The Kindami-Gusoku Armor displayed here is a replica made to coincide with the construction of the Mikawa Bushi Museum. Okazaki City spent 10 million yen at the time to create it just like the original.

Museum Staff

Since it was made to be identical to the original, it also weighs 20 kg. It’s not been used, so it’s cleaner than the original.

Kindami-gusoku (Armer)

Armor of Tokugawa Ieyasu and the Three Great Generals of Tokugawa

Armor belonging to Ieyasu, as well as armor (of course, replicas) of the three great generals who played significant roles from Ieyasu’s relocation to the Kanto region to the Battle of Sekigahara, are displayed near the exit.

In addition to a life-sized replica of the famous Tonbogiri spear said to have been used by Honda Tadakatsu, and there are helmets available for try-on experiences.

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Visitors can experience the substantial weight of these helmets firsthand.

Mechanical Clock

Every hour at 00 and 30 minutes, the doors open and a mechanical doll of Lord Ieyasu a Noh dances.

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The samurai troup’s demonstration, starting at 14:00, begins after the mechanical doll stops moving.

Moats

While the moat surrounding the Honmaru (main bailey) still exists, many of the other moats have been filled in and no longer remain.

Seikaibori

The Seikaibori, surrounding the honmaru, is the oldest part of Okazaki Castle. The “Seikai” in Seikaibori comes from Saigo Seikai, the builder of Okazaki Castle.

The very early Okazaki Castle was confined to a narrow area cut off by the Seikaibori.

A picturesque Rohkabashi (corridor bridge), connecting the Jibutsudo kuruwa and the Honmaru, spans the moat.

A Rohkabashi that directly leads to the tenshu almost invites enemies to attack. Such a facility could not possibly exist during the turbulent Sengoku period, and was built during the peaceful Edo period.

It is now a stone bridge, but was originally a wooden bridge with a roof.

Currently, the corridor bridge is closed and cannot be crossed.

Tatsukibori

Tatsuki Moat

View of Tatsukibori, the fountain, and the bridge seen on the way from the Inkyo-Kuruwa to the Sugo-Kuruwa.

On the right side of the red bridge (Kamibashi) is a small bailey called Furoya kuruwa, accessible through steep Furoyamon leading to honmaru.

On the left is the Sugo kuruwa, where the “Tea Room Aoisouan” is located.

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Visitors can enjoy a cup of tea while admiring the picturesque moat.

Honmaru (Main Bailey)

Tatsuki Shrine
Tatsuki Shrine

Within Honmaru (main bailey) stands Tatsuki Shrine, built in 1876.

Tenshu (Japanese style Keep)

Inside Okazaki Castle’s Tenshu is a museum displaying the history of Okazaki Castle, starting with its construction by the Saigo family.

The first tenshu built by Tanaka Yoshimasa collapsed during the Tensho earthquake (1586). In 1616, Honda Yasushige rebuilt it, expanding the base of the tenshu and adding an attached tower.

However, that tenshu was also destroyed by fire during the world war II.

The tenshu of Okazaki Castle was reconstructed in reinforced concrete during the tenshu reconstruction boom of the 1950s, after the then-mayor presented a restoration plan to the city council, which was approved.

Tenshu was designed on the basis of old photographs, which fortunately still exist. However, it is not a correct restration.

The current surroundings at Okazaki Castle are not shown in the old photographs. It was installed at that time for tourism purposes.

The veranda added to make Okazaki Castle’s tenshu usable for tourism is essential for a tenshu serving as a viewing plattform for tourists, and its construction in reinforced concrete was in response to citizens’ demands, thinking,

It burned because it was wooden. If it were made of reinforced concrete, it surely wouldn’t have burned. Let’s build an unburnable tenshu as a symbol of the city this time.

Although a reinforced concrete tenshu may seem disappointing, understanding its background makes it acceptable.

Thanks to the reinforced concrete with circular veranda, visitors can now enjoy panoramic views of Okazaki City from above.

Relying on landmark signs for guidance, one might find themselves wondering,

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Where is Daiju Temple?!

Conversely, I wonder

Well of Lord Ieyasu’s birthing water

The Ieyasu-ko Ubuyu-Ido is located in the Sakatani-Kuruwa on the west side of the Honmaru (Main Bailey).

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The Sakayatani Kuruwa is quiet, because few people.

It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu was born in the Sakatani residence located in the Sakatani Kuruwa, but details of the residence are unknown.

In the Sakatani Kuruwa, there is a placenta mound and the Sakatani Mon, which served as the west gate. Past the Sakatani Mon, there used to be a circular umadashi, and further on, the Hakusan Kuruwa existed. But now there is no trace of them, just a residential area.

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Let’s use our imagination.

Official Web Site

Okazaki Castle’s Samurai Troupe “Great Lord Ieyasu ‘Aoi’ Samurai Troupe”

At Okazaki Castle, the Okazaki Tourism PR Samurai Troupe, the Great Lord Ieyasu ‘Aoi’ Samurai Troupe, entertains visitors. If the timing is right, you can meet the samurai and enjoy their performances.

The samurai troupe of Okazaki Castle sings and dances.

Their performances start at 11:00 and 14:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, lasting about 30 minutes per show.

Their performances are not only visually stunning but also infused with humor, leaving you captivated and entertained.

Official Web Site of Great Lord Ieyasu ‘Aoi’ Samurai Troupe

Okazaki Castle’s Gojohin and Stamp

The Gojohin and stamp of Okazaki Castle are located to the side of the entrance of the tenshu.

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It’s a good idea to stop by after climbing the tenshu.

Gojohin Book and Gojohin of Okazaki Castle

Gojoin Book of Okazaki Castle
Gojoin Book of Okazaki Castle

There are two colors (red and dark brown) for Okazaki Castle’s gojohin book. Since I had purchased a red gojohin book of Hamamatsu Castle, I bought a dark brown one of Okazaki Castle this time.

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It’s called “dark brown,” but due to the lighting, it looks almost “black.”

Unlike the one purchased from Hamamatsu Castle, the Okazaki version comes with a plastic cover. The cover’s reverse side features Ieyasu’s oriflamme with the inscription “Onri Edoi Gongu Jodo” and the Aoi crest.

The front of the gojoin book features Okazaki Castle’s alias “Tatsuki (Dragon Castle)” with image of the castle and a dragon. The back has the crests of the families who became lords of Okazaki Castle.

The dragon illustration and the family crests are cool!

There were two types of gojoin for sale when I visited: a regular version and a summer version for the Mikawa Fireworks.

Stamp of Okazaki Castle

Next to the table where the gojoin are sold, there are stamps of Okazaki Castle.

Tew type stamp
Commemorative stamp and 100 famous castles

I wanted to stamp the 100 Great Castles stamp, but don’t know that there were two types of stamps,

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I inadvertently chose the wrong one!!

I had no choice but to stamp the correct one on the last blank page of my stamp book.

Stamp Book of 100 Great Castles in Japan

著:公益財団法人日本城郭協会
¥1,100 (2024/04/17 14:28時点 | Amazon調べ)

Access to Okazaki Castle

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