Walk through castles, see Japan as it looked back in feudal times. Landing at Chubu International Airport in central Japan, the nearby small towns and villages allow visitors to really experience the countries’ culture and traditions. Our starting point, the city of Nagoya (Na-go-ya) is located in Aichi Prefecture along the crossroads of Northern and Southern Japan, and was an important castle town in ancient times with many historical relics. Three Samurai heroes – Oda Nobunaga (1534-82), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-98), and Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542-1616)- were all born in and around Nagoya.
Usually we think of seeing castles in Europe, but the Japanese also built their castles as fortresses during the era of the Warring States. As we arrived at Nagoya Castle, it’s enormous size immediately impressed us. A tall, massive stone wall and wide moat surrounds the grounds. The fortified 154 foot high main tower rises up seven floors and houses a museum of exhibits featuring the life of the Shogun and more of their personal items. One unique antique, a portable carriage, is so small, we cannot believe one person could fit inside. Only members of the Shogun’s family or other important people were allowed to ride while four men carried it. Our guide said, “This was the first Toyota.”
Two golden “Kinshachi-jo” tiger-headed dolphins are perched on the roof as a symbol of good luck and a duplicate sits next to the castle for a “close-up” view. Kin means “gold” and shachi refers to the mythical creatures. Each weighs 2,650 pounds and are adorned with 18 karat-gold scales. I love to take my time following the paths to explore the gardens and courtyards. Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu built the Castle as a present for his ninth son, Yoshinao, in 1612. The most powerful man in Japan, Tokugawa achieved almost unlimited wealth, and in 1603, was appointed Shogun by the emperor and established his government in Edo (Tokyo) ruling Japan for 250 years.
The Castle was partially destroyed during World War 2, leaving most of its original outer stone walls, three turrets, and three gates. Its reconstruction, in 1959, included an elevator. When you are driving around Nagoya, just look up to see the castle’s curved arches. From March- April, their 1,600 cherry trees reach full bloom for the Nagoya Castle’s Cherry Blossom Festival. In August, the Castle hosts the Summer Festival with traditional ancient Noh Plays, booths, food, and games. “Noh” is a Japanese performing art that integrates dancing, stage drama and music, representing the Buke (samurai) culture. The Noh Theater is located in front of Nagoya Castle.
Places To Stay
ANA Hotels, the Grand Court Nagoya Hotel is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal, banquet, and great night’s rest. Just enter the train right at the airport for a half hour ride and you are a few steps from the Grand Court Nagoya Hotel’s entrance. Most of the signs and announcements on the train are in both Japanese and English. www.grandcourt.co.jp/ www.anahotels.com
Yoneko Nozawa, Assistant Director, Nagoya Convention & Visitors Bureau, Tourism Promotion Department, explained, “People have a wide selection of entertainment, shopping centers, gardens, open air concerts, festivals, restaurants, and cultural attractions here. Starting with the invention of mechanical dolls, Nagoya is famous for it’s spirit of making things.”
Nagoya is a modern vibrant city, yet sprinkled with touches of the past. They offer more than 25,000 hotel rooms in 220 establishments from first class hotels and traditional “Ryokan” to affordable hotels and youth hostels. The top hotels are within minutes of conference facilities and prices are more reasonable than Japan’s other big cities. Contact the Nagoya Convention & Visitors Bureau for information about attractions, accommodations, dining, entertainment, conventions, tours.
The main attraction inside Nagashima Spa Land, the world’s most powerful roller coaster, Steel Dragon 2000 is acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records. The park offers 38 types of attractions for visitors of all ages. In the summer, the swimming pool’s selection of waterslides is popular.
For free information, contact the Nagoya Convention & Visitors Bureau: www.ncvb.or.jp