Inuyama Castle 犬山城
Inuyama's best guard dog
Inuyama literally means "Dog Mountain" in Japanese: a name fit for this impressive castle that still stands guard over its city.
Located in the outskirts of Nagoya, Inuyama Castle is one of the few original Japanese castles. Founded by the terrible Oda, it still dominates the town from its stunning position.
It was long believed that Inuyama Castle was the oldest of Japan. This is not the case, but still its foundation dates back to 1440. In its present form it was built in 1537 during the wars of the Sengoku Jidai with Oda Nobuyasu, uncle of the terrifying warlord Oda Nobunaga. In its day the castle was monitoring the border between the provinces of Owari and Mino and was at the heart of bitter civil wars.
The castle was for many years the private property of the Naruse clan, who were the lords during the seventeenth century up until 2004, when the management of the castle was entrusted to a public body.
Authenticity in each stone
Inuyama Castle sets itself apart, first of all by its name, but also by its age, as everything is authentic. The Tenshu, or keep, built entirely of wood and stone tells the exciting story of the Japanese samurai.
Its four floors contain armories, stock room of the lords and various defense systems. At the top of its steep stairs you will be able to go out and walk (carefully of course) on its ramparts overlooking the entire valley and the Kiso River. This one view alone is worth the trip.
If part of the castle disappeared into the vagaries of history, most of its towers and ramparts, as well as the dungeon are still intact. Many Shinto shrines, such as Haritsuna Jinja, are spread over the slopes of the low hill to the castle and help to give it a special atmosphere.
The town under the castle
Around Inuyama Castle grew cities which Inuyama still keeps traces of. Honmachi street was once the main street of the city, where you can still find merchant houses from the Edo period, including the Jo-an tea room near Urakuen garden. This elegant room was built by Nobunaga's brother who forsook the family tradition of blood and fury for the peaceful way of tea.
During the first weekend of April, the city comes alive for local matsuri and its parade of floats decorate Honmachi Street. These floats are on display in a local museum. Another, in the castle, display weapons and armors from the civil wars of the sixteenth century.
Visiting Inuyama and its castle, listed as a national treasure, is like excavating the history of Nagoya, and a great way to discover the history of the Oda clan and their influence on current Japan.