Just forty kilometers from the city of Nagoya lies a peaceful town called Okazaki. The place is considered to be an old castle town and houses plenty of spectacular sites for tourists to explore.
About Okazaki, Japan
Situated between the cities of Osaka and Tokyo, Okazaki, also referred to as Okazakishi, serves as a great place for foreign travelers to take a break from the bustling metropolitan cities and enjoy the natural beauty of Japan.
Compared to other cities of Japan that feature the same size as Okazaki, the old castle town offers a lot more parks, museums, and religious structures. Since 2006, the town has gradually been shifting to carry a more urban lifestyle, serving as new land for the establishment of production and manufacturing companies such as Mitsubishi (car company) and Makita (machinery company).
Nonetheless, the town makes an effort to preserve its natural beauty as much as possible. In fact, Okazaki stands to be among the most abundant places in Japan in terms of flora and fauna. Other than the typical spring cherry blossoms and autumn maple trees, tourists can also find a wide array of plant species that were introduced after Japan’s Meiji Restoration.
Stunning gardens and thick forests fill different parts of Okazaki including its temples and shrines. As such, tourists with pollen allergies may want to avoid visiting the town during the months of March and April.
Usual Climate and Weather Forecast for Okazaki, Japan
One of the things a lot of tourists from around the world can agree on when it comes to Japan is that its seasonal variations are incredibly distinct. Winter in Okazaki is typically milder than in Kyoto or Tokyo. The town only experiences some occasional snow in January, but foreign travelers coming from countries with a warm climate should make it a point to bring at least a few light winter clothing.
Although the temperatures in Okazaki are rarely measured to be at the extremes, people used to cold weather may want to consider wearing light and loose garments.
The wettest months of Okazaki tend to be June and July which serve as Japan’s tsuyu or rainy season. Come September and October, typhoons and heavy rains usually shower the town.
Spring and autumn serve as the best seasons to visit Okazaki, featuring little rain and pleasantly sunny days.
Guide to Exploring Okazaki, Japan – Map, Access, and Places to Visit
Tourists who will be coming from Tokyo can ride the Shinkansen to Nagoya and simply backtrack to the town of Okazaki through the Tokaido Main Line or the Meitetsu Line.
Those taking the Tokaido Main Line should get off at the JR Okazaki Station, which is situated on the southern side of the town, while those using the Meitetsu Line should get off at Higashi-Okazaki, which serves as the most convenient station for the majority of Okazaki’s popular tourist destinations.
In total, the trip from Tokyo to Okazaki takes about 2.5 to 3 hours of travel time and approximately costs 10,000 yen, one-way.
Okazaki has a pretty extensive bus system that may be a bit challenging for foreign travelers that do not know how to read or speak Japanese. Fortunately, the majority of the town consists of relatively flat terrain are perfect for walking or cycling.
Okazaki Park is just a 15-minute walk away from the Higashi-Okazaki Station of the Meitetsu Line. This place houses the Okazaki Castle which stands as Okazaki’s most popular tourist attraction. Other sites can also be located within the area, which features fern-covered structures and lovely cherry blossom trees.
- Okazaki CastleThe Okazaki
Castle is among the many structures Okazaki takes pride in, particularly because it serves as the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu, an important figure in Japanese history who was among the three individuals responsible for the unification of the country.
It dates back to the year 1452 when it was built by Saigo Tsugiyori. In 1524, the grandfather of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Matsudaira Kiyoyasu, claimed control over the castle.
As with many other structures, the Okazaki Castle also suffered under the Meiji government. The majority of its fittings were sold for scrap and it was ultimately demolished in 1873. Given its long history in Okazaki, the community longed for the castle to be rebuilt because of how it put Okazaki on the map as a charming castle town.
Fortunately, the castle’s donjon was restored to its original design in 1957 and has since served as the Okazaki Castle many tourists now flock to. At night, the structure is especially spectacular, being illuminated by strategically placed lights.
The Otemon Gate served as the main gate of the Okazaki Castle. It was also destroyed during the 1870s but was rebuilt in the year 1993 using stone.
Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum
The Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum is situated on the northwestern side of Okazaki Park. Tokugawa Ieyasu’s life and accomplishments are showcased at this museum. Some of the artifacts housed here include ancient weapons, armory, documents, and dioramas. The museum is open every day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and has an admission fee of 350 yen per person.
Ieyasu’s Well is just one of the many structures tourists can locate within Okazaki Park. According to the town’s history, this well is where Tokugawa Ieyasu had his first bath.
Other monuments to check out include a stone stele where Tokugawa Ieyasu’s beliefs about life are inscribed and a bronze statue of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Kishoan and Jonantei – Traditional Teahouses
There are also a couple of traditional tea houses known as Kishoan and Jonantei situated near the Okazaki Castle. At the Kishoan, visitors are provided with the opportunity to study the ancient art of tea ceremony, with classes that go from three hours to a full day in length.
Both teahouses are open for guests who simply want to take a break from exploring the park and enjoy a cup of tea. The Kishoan and Jonantei accept regular customers from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Karakuri Tokeito Clock Tower
The Karakuri Tokeito Clock Tower is another amusing structure situated within Okazaki Park. Every thirty minutes, a model of Tokugawa Ieyasu wearing a traditional Noh costume appears from the tower with music playing in the background.
Gomangoku Wisteria Terrace
The Gomangoku Wisteria Terrace is located at the southwestern side of Okazaki Park. Tourists visiting in early May should make it a point to check out this area to witness the Wisterias in full bloom.
The Higashi Park can be accessed through various bus services at the JR Okazaki Station and Higashi-Okazaki Station. It serves as a free, public facility that features a duck pond, the main zoo, a petting zoo, a learning center, a playground, and several open spaces.
Each section of the Higashi Park offers various activities such as feeding and socializing with the animals for additional fees. Some of the animals tourists can expect to see at the zoo include deer, monkeys, an elephant, llamas, meerkats, miniature horses, and a variety of birds.
As exploring the park can work up an appetite, there are several snack bars situated within the vicinity for tourists to purchase Japanese street food from charming old ladies.
Chuo Sogo Park
Chuo Sogo Park is a relatively new place that covers more than two hundred hectares of land. It serves as a recreational, athletic, and cultural complex where all kinds of tourists can find something to do that matches their preferences.
The park’s recreational zones are perfect for families who want to have a nice picnic under the sun or people who want to go on a photowalk. Plenty of open spaces, walking trails, and hilltops are available for visitors to explore.
The sports zone of the Chuo Sogo Park features a massive gymnasium, a tennis court, a baseball stadium, archery ranges, and a sumo ring, among many other multi-purpose fields.
The cultural zone of the park houses the Mindscape Museum, a beautifully designed structure that dates back to 1996. It blends in well with the natural landscape of the park and features a sloping pond, numerous gardens, wind-power generators, and a mist generator installation.
Minami Park is situated on the southern side of Okazaki. The place is popular for its plum trees that start blooming in March, as well as for its small but fun-filled amusement park. Tourists can also enjoy a lake, beautiful pagodas, a tennis court, a swimming pool, and a baseball ground within the park.
Daimon Park, also known as the Big Gate Park, is located on the northwestern side of the town. It serves as one of the best places in Okazaki for relaxing the day away and features a quieter ambiance than the parks located in central and south Okazaki.
Several fireplaces are available for use in the park but tourists need to bring their own charcoals. There is also a river located right next to the park which offers more room for sports activities such as cycling, baseball, and soccer.
The Hozoji Temple is believed to date back to the year 701 when it was established by Priest Gyoki. It is located near the Motojuku Station, just a bit east of the town’s center. A statue of the goddess of mercy which was also built by Priest Gyoki is enshrined at the temple.
According to records, Tokugawa Ieyasu spent his younger years being educated at the Hozoji Temple. As such, the majority of the artifacts and cultural treasures housed here are related to the famous ruler.
Iga Hachimangu initially served as the Matsudaira clan’s guardian shrine in Mie. It was then relocated to its current location near the Iga River by the grandfather of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Being dedicated to the god of war, Hachiman, the shrine was frequently visited by warriors and lords praying for their respective victories.
Today, the shrine stands as a popular tourist destination for its beautiful architectural design and blooming irises. A lot of its buildings were built by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, and have been designated as national treasures and important cultural properties.
The Daijuji Temple dates back to 1475 and is considered to be an important historical site of Okazaki. It was built by the Matsudaira clan and played an important role in Tokugawa Ieyasu’s life.
Here, Tokugawa Ieyasu almost killed himself after being involved in countless battles with the Ikko sect and only having a handful of faithful followers. The temple’s priest, Toyo, stopped him from committing suicide and encouraged him to keep hoping and fighting.
Some interesting structures within the temple grounds that tourists should take note of include the Taho Tower, the Graveyard of the Matsudaira clan, the Bell Tower, and the Sanmon Gate.
The Rokusho Jinja is where Tokugawa Ieyasu was consecrated when he was a baby. During the reign of the Tokugawa shogunate, only the greatest daimyos, or regional lords, could visit the shrine. At present, the shrine is frequently visited by pregnant women praying for an easy and successful childbirth.
Shinpukuji stands as Aichi’s oldest temple and among the country’s oldest. It dates back to the 6th century and has been renovated throughout the years to better suit its growing popularity as a tourist attraction.
A spectacular forest and a massive Buddha statue can be located within the temple grounds. As for the temple itself, it can be located at the back of the vicinity where it harmoniously blends in with the natural landscape. Visitors will also likely come across a red bridge which leads to the temple’s restroom facilities, shop, and restaurant.
According to local belief, climbing the stairs that lead up to the temple will bring one good health. Upon reaching the statue of Ikkyuu-san, visitors are advised to rub its head with one hand and subsequently use that hand to rub one’s own head for wisdom.