One of my 15 best tourist visits of Aichi is undoubtedly Inuyama.
Located in the northwest of Aichi prefecture, Inuyama is a city rich in cultural assets, with deep historical roots that transport you to ancient Japan.
If you are a history lover, Inuyama will catch you right away as it has different scenarios that show the history and tradition of Japan. From the Sengoku period, long period of civil wars, until the time of the modernization of Japan with the Meiji period.
Inuyama Downtown (下町)
Only a 10-minute walk from Inuyama Station is the old town. This is the starting point that I recommend you to visit first. Along its streets you can find traditional restaurants, clothing stores and craft accessories and old houses that you can visit for free.
Don’t miss Showa Yokocho, an alley that recreates the nostalgic Shōwa era. This is one of the perfect places to try local food, such as Gohei mochi (rice skewer coated with sweet miso sauce) or mochi balls skewer coated with walnut sauce. Or, you can try the fashionable candy of the moment.
On both sides of the main street of the old town, there is a wide variety of delicious skewers that you can try while walking towards the castle.
If you are an ice cream fan or you like challenges, don’t hesitate to try the ice cream “Moriguchi-zuke” (守口付け), a pickled radish ice cream that you can buy in the Tsukedokoro Juhyoya pickle shop.
You can also try seasonal flavor ice creams such as Sweet Potato or Chestnut during Autumn. Here also you can find the most “kawaii” ice cream of the moment, always protagonist of the Japanese instagram.
Sankō-Inari Jinja (三光稲荷神社)
At the end of the main street of the old town are the picturesque Shinto shrines Haritsuna Jinja and Sankō-Inari Jinja. These sanctuaries were visited for centuries by the guardians of Inuyama Castle. Sankō-Inari Jinja has a tunnel of toriis (red doors) where visitors usually take pictures under them and ask for a wish of good luck in love or money.
Inuyama Castle (犬山城)
After passing the sanctuaries, on the top of a small mountain and right next to the Kiso River, stands up Inuyama Castle, one of four castles designated as National Treasures.
The castle was built in its current location in 1537 by Oda Yojiro Nobuyasu, uncle of Oda Nobunaga (powerful feudal lord of the sixteenth century). And he became the first lord of the castle.
The castle was a key strategic point during the wars of the Sengoku period. Clan after clan succeeded it’s possession until 1617. When the Naruse family, vassals of the Tokugawa clan, took over the castle. The castle was passed, as private property, from generation to generation until 2004, when the family handed over the property to the Inuyama Prefecture.
It’s true that the architecture of the castles in Japan is very similar. One might be tempted to overlook the visit to the castle despite being a National Treasure. But it would be a pity not to visit it since it was rebuilt precisely respecting the original architecture. There is no elevator, no electricity, no museum inside, just a small scale version of the castle and some photos and images. This allows us to better appreciate what the real castle was like during its use.
Possibly it’s a somewhat small castle but it has impressive 360 degree views of the surrounding area for hundreds of kilometers around, the Kiso River, mountains and even the Nagoya skyscrapers can be seen.
|Inuyama Yuen Station (11 minutes)
9:00 to 17:00
|Admission:||adults 550 yen, elementary/junior high school students 110 yen|
|Closed:||December 29th to 31st|
Urakuen Garden (有楽園)
In this beautiful and peaceful Japanese garden is the famous Tea House Jō-an. Following the stone paths you will reach other buildings of interest such as the Tea Houses Genan and Koan where you can enjoy the tea ceremony and savor a traditional Japanese sweet. These tea houses are open throughout the year.
|Hours:||9:00 to 17:00|
|Admission:||adults 1000 yen, elementary/junior high school students 600 yen|
Jō-an Tea House (如庵)
Jō-an was designed by Oda Uraku, younger brother of the feudal lord Oda Nobunaga. Jō-an is one of the three best tea houses in Japan. It was built in 1816 in Kyoto and later moved to Inuyama. The Jō-an Tea House was registered as a National Treasure in 1936.
It has low ceilings made of wooden tiles and bamboo lattice work covered in clay. Inside you can see several sliding “fusuma” paper doors, as well as an ancient lunar calendar. Their style and design is harmonious, elegant and surprisingly simple. Jō-an is considered by many to be a masterpiece of teahouse architecture.
Kiso River (木曽川)
Compared by the Japanese to the Rhin River, the Kiso River flows through the prefectures of Mie, Aichi, Gifu and Nagano, ending at the Bay of Ise. In the Kiso River, cormorant fishing (from May to October) is carried out every year, a traditional Japanese fishing method, which is now an attraction in the city. If you have time, stay till the afternoon to enjoy this show.
Momotaro Jinja (桃太郎神社)
The Momotaro shrine attracts visitors from all over the world. It is dedicated to the protagonist of one of the oldest traditional stories in Japan. In the surroundings of the sanctuary you can see the statues of the different characters that appear in the story.
The main street of the old town is not 100% pedestrian, cars also pass by. Be very careful when you go from one side of the street to the other.
Yukata in summer and kimono in autumn.
Summer and Autumn are two of my favorite stations to walk around the city in yukata or kimono. Before arriving at the old town there is a shop where you can rent a yukata or kimono. This is a good opportunity and a unique experience with which you can also get discounts at different tourist spots in the city and you can even have free tea in a tea house.
On spring you can enjoy a wonderful walk around the Castle and observe the majestic sakura trees or even go on a picnic.
Started in 1625, Inuyama Matsuri is one of the best and biggest festivals in the city. The Inuyama Festival was registered by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage. In this festival there are different old floats up to 25 meters high. On top of each float, a karakuri ningyō (puppets) is placed. At night these floats are illuminated with hundreds of lanterns creating a magical atmosphere. This festival is celebrated the first weekend of April. There is also a reduced version of the event on the fourth Saturday of October.
Take the Meitetsu train line to Inuyama station (25 min approx). You can also get off at the next station, Inuyama Yuen (30 min approx.).