Okazaki City is located southeast of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture and prospered in the Edo period (1600-1868) as a castle town and an important post-station along the Tōkaidō Road.
In the Sengoku period (1467-1568), the area of modern-day Aichi Prefecture was controlled by the Matsudaira clan, who would later be known as the Tokugawa and who in 1600 established a shogunate that would control Japan’s fate during the Edo period (1600-1868). The first fortifications were built in 1455 and later moved across the Yahagi River to the current location of Okazaki Castle by the Matsudaira. The castle is usually associated with Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was born there in 1543. Situated along the Tōkaidō Road, which connected Edo (present-day Tokyo) with Kyoto, Okazaki City prospered in the Edo period, developing into a busy castle town and commercial hub with a postal station.
Okazaki was and still is renowned for its production of fireworks. Okazaki Domain was one of the very few regions permitted by the shogunate to produce gunpowder. Another famous local product is miso (fermented bean paste). Nowadays, Okazaki is a satellite town, with many of its residents commuting to Nagoya just some 35 kilometres away.
Tokugawa Ieyasu’s birthplace. Read more about it here.
Hatchō miso (八丁味噌) is a dark and thick variation of miso (fermented bean paste). The soybeans are first steamed, and not boiled, and then for two years fermented in large cedar barrels weighed down by three tons of river stones stacked on top of the barrels. Hatchō (八丁) means “eighth street” or “eighth block” and draws its name from the fact that most miso manufacturers resided in an area situated eight blocks from Okazaki Castle. Hatchō miso is said to have numerous health benefits and is considered medicinal food by many. It contains less salt but more protein than regular miso. Rumour has it that European customers imported 40 tons of hatchō miso after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl to prevent adverse effects of radiation. It is not known if miso consumption has increased in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011.
Several manufacturers (see links below) offer guided tours, free samples and sell various miso-based products in their shops and restaurants. Hatchō is situated a few hundred meters west of the castle and can be easily be reached on foot.
Castle Park and Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum
Okazaki Castle is surrounded by moats that are partly preserved. The park holds “Ieyasu’s well”, from which the water for his first bath had been drawn, a statue of Ieyasu himself as well as the Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum, which exhibits artefacts relating to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s life as well as to the beginning of the Edo Period. Combi tickets for the castle and the museum can be bought at the entrance of the castle.
Takisanji (瀧山寺) is a Buddhist temple close to Okazaki, dating back to the seventh century. The current temple is a reconstruction from the Kamakura Period. Tokugawa Iemitsu erected a shrine next to Takisanji in honour of his grandfather Ieyasu. The main hall and other adjacent buildings are designated National Important Cultural Properties. Takisanji can be reached by car or by taxi within twenty minutes from Okazaki.
Okazaki is still famous for its firework industry. Every year on the first Saturday in August, a large firework festival takes place in the area around Okazaki castle, attracting thousands of people from all over the region.
- Population: 384,056 (August 2016)
- Area: 387.24 square kilometres
- Population density: 991.88 inhabitants per square kilometre
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).
- Okazaki Official Site (in Japanese and English)
- Kakukyu Hatcho Miso (in Japanese and English)
- Maruya Hatcho Miso (in Japanese and English)
- Takisan Temple (in Japanese)