Inuyama-jo: An Original Castle and a National Treasure

 It was a cool, rainy morning when I headed north from Nagoya for my first stop of the day in September, 2012. Yes, I've been holding these pictures for that long. I had planned my arrival for just a little after opening time, as I had busy plans.
 Inuyama Castle is located about 10-15 minutes from the two nearest train stations, which are about 30 minutes from Nagoya Station. But eventually I reached signs of tourism, including a half-moon arched bridge that was closed to foot traffic.
 The castle is located up a small hill, and coming from the south I first walked through a temple. Here are some new lanterns with scaffolding still up during my visit.
 These wooden cards, called ema, are used for prayers or wishes. The sale of ema helps support the temple, and is based on a tradition where visitors would give a horse to the temple, which then became a picture of a horse.
 The shrine itself has an interesting feature that I'll show you at the end of the post. But now, I head up the hill to get to the temple building.
 Here is a temple building of sorts. This should be Haritsuna Shrine. It's not that exciting but it does mean I'm getting closer to the castle...
 Continuing uphill a little further, the castle's walls and even the top of a building becomes visible. I've finally made it!
 Inuyama is a small castle. The keep is probably only a third of the size of Nagoya Castle, and the grounds are much smaller as well.
 Inuyama is an original castle, though, one of only twelve that have not been reconstructed. There are over 250 castles in Japan, but only 12 remain from Japan's feudal age; the rest are ruins or reconstructions. For your information, those 12 are: Bitchu Matsuyama in Okayama Prefecture, Hikone in Shiga, Himeji in Hyogo, Hirosaki in Aomori, Inuyama in Aichi, Iyo Matsuyama in Ehime, Kochi in Kochi, Marugame in Kagawa, Maruoka in Fukui, Matsue in Shimane, Matsumoto in Nagano, and Uwajima in Ehime.
 As an original, you can get a better understanding of how the castle functions and what it must have been like to live or work in the keep. One thing you'll notice right away are the steep stairs. I'm sure the hand rails probably aren't original, and the stairs and floors may have been replaced a few times, but things are steeper here.
 The floors are all hard wood and are worn from tourists walking across them over the years, but it's possible to see original window style, some artifacts scattered around the rooms, and so on.
 You do take your shoes off before entering the castle (this is the norm at most original buildings in Japan). While I don't have a picture of it, there are some points in the castle where you can see the lookout points and a spot where defenders could throw rocks down at attackers during an invasion. Despite renovations at times, the building still has an authentic feel. Too bad they didn't keep tatami mats though...
 There are a couple tatami mat spaces, but they are off limits. I guess replacing the mats frequently due to wear and tear is not in Inuyama's budget.
 There are four stories and three levels to this castle, plus two underground levels. At the top, you have a great view on one side of the large river across to Gifu prefecture.
 The train tracks are just beyond the road; one station is located on the right side of the photo with the other a bit further down to the right. Inuyama is the town on the right side of the river. Unuma is across the river.
 Original roof tiles!
 From the south side of the castle, you can see the grounds and a few of the original buildings (there are four remaining). Its spot on the top of a hill affords amazing views. Too bad it was rainy during my visit.
Almost heading back down the way I came, I took a small detour at Haritsuna shrine to another shrine at the base of the temple, called Sarutahiko Shrine. If you look at my first picture, you'll see Sarutahiko's red gate on the left, and Haritsuna's grey gate on the right. This row of gates is hidden behind the shrine building, on the approach from the castle.

Inuyama is the first of two original castles I've been in, and due to the weather during this visit, I might make a second trip. There are some cherry trees which should make for nice photos in the spring, but the real beauty at this castle is supposedly in the fall. Note that the castle put up scaffolding for some emergency repairs a few months ago, but it is supposed to be removed this week.

Inuyama Station and Inuyama-Yuen Station are about half an hour north of Nagoya on the Meitetsu Line. JR travel is more difficult and requires a long walk from Unuma or transfering to the Meitetsu Line.

Inuyama-jo is about 15-20 minutes from Inuyama Station, the easiest approach; take the west exit and head west, turning right at the second light (five or six blocks). Follow the one-way street in the direction of travel right up to the entrance of the temples and castle. There are several shops and restaurants along this street as you get closer to the castle, including a fairly large souvenir shop across the street from the temple gates. Some small museums are also in the area.

The castle is open 9:00-17:00, and admission is 500 yen - 1200 yen if you go to Urakuen, an old traditional Japanese tea house where you can have some tea, too. I think the additional 700 yen is a little pricey unless you're a Japanese tea nut. The other major tourist attraction in town is Meiji Mura, an outstanding open-air architectural museum that I'll write about soon.

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