Okazaki Castle (岡崎城 Okazaki-jō) is located in Okazaki City in Aichi Prefecture and is famous for being the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The current edifice, a hilltop castle, is a reconstruction of the original donjon with its annexe and well-house.
Okazaki Castle was initially constructed in the first half of the fifteenth century in the Myōdaiji area of Okazaki and then moved to its current location in 1531 by Matsudaira Kiyoyasu (松平清康, 1511-1536), the seventh lord of the Matsudaira clan and Ieyasu’s grandfather. The current ferroconcrete reconstruction reflects the size of the original citadel, which was built on a rather small plot of land.
When the Matsudaira were defeated by the Imagawa clan (今川氏 Imagawa-uji) in 1549, Ieyasu was taken a hostage, but recovered the castle after his victory over the Imagawa in 1560, installing his eldest son Matsudaira Nobuyasu (松平信康, 1559-1579) as castellan. Nobuyasu was killed in 1579 on Oda Nobunaga’s orders, leaving the Honda family in charge, until 1590 when Tanaka Yoshimasa (田中吉政, 1548-1609), a Christian convert and loyal retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, received Okazaki Castle, enlarging the castle precinct and surrounding it with moats and other fortifications.
After the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Okazaki domain, Honda Yasuhige (本多康重, 1554-1611), a close retainer of Ieyasu, and later on his son Yasunori took over the castle and constructed the magnificent three-storey donjon in 1617. From 1645 to 1769, the Mizuno and the Matsudaira clans ruled over Okazaki Castle, and in 1769 a branch of the Honda clan was installed. Honda Tadanao, the last daimyo of Okazaki surrendered the castle to the Meiji government in 1869 and became interim governor of Okazaki province. In 1873, the castle was demolished, and the land sold, leaving only the moats and the stone walls intact. In 1959, the three-tiered, five-floor main keep, along with the annexe and the well-house was reconstructed and opened to the public. In the basement of the present donjon is the foundation of the main pillars of the original keep. The park around the castle features the Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum, a statue of Tokugawa Ieyasu and the well said to be used to prepare Ieyasu’s first bath.
The castle houses a museum exhibiting artefacts relating to the history of the former Okazaki domain, such as weapons and armour, the original shachihoko of the castle (mythological creatures placed on the gables of the roof said to protect the building from fire and other disasters), and other items of daily life. The third and the fourth floor depict the daily life of the townspeople and merchants, illustrating their arts and industries in dioramas. Okazaki was famous for its production of fireworks and black powder. The observatory on the fifth floor allows a spectacular panoramic view of the Mikawa Plains.
Visiting hours and admission:
Admission: 200 JPY for adults (500 JPY combined with the Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum), 100 JPY (270 JPY combi ticket) for children aged 6-15; group discounts available.
Opening hours: daily from 09:00 to 17:00 (access to the castle until 16:30); closed between December 29 and January 1.
Okazaki can be reached from Nagoya either with JR Tokai Line (600 JPY, around 30 minutes on a Rapid train) or by Meitetsu Line (1,000 JPY, around 30 minutes to Higashi-Okazaki Sta. on a Rapid-Limited Express).