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Inuyama Castle       Maps     Video

Inuyama Castle is located on the southern side of the Kiso River just downstream from the railway bridge. The site of the castle was initially occupied by the Harigane Shrine, and the shrine was moved to Shirayamadaira so that the castle could be built on the steep hill overlooking the Kiso. Inuyama Castle holds the distinct honor of being the oldest castle in Japan, though the date of its original construction a bit of a debate. In Japan it is always difficult to pinpoint the exact date a castle was concstructed. What with all of the earthquakes, fires, wars, and changing of hands castles rarely if ever were permanant structures. Thus making it rather troublesome to decide whether to call the new bits the founding day since it is really a new castle, or do you just consider the new towers and buildings a bit of redecoration. In any case, some consider 1440 the year that Inuyama was constructed, though at this time it was little more than a fortified house or fort. On the other hand the castle as it stands today was constructed in the year 1537 by Oda Nobuyasu, an uncle of the great warlord Oda Nobunaga.

Battles of Komaki & Nagakute in 1584 - 9 years after Nagashino and Shitagahara - Hideyoshi's headquarters were here. Role of the Nakasendo should be mentioned. Proximity to Gifu castle also should be mentioned.

From the time Oda took up residence here to the present day the castle has changed hands many times. After Hideyoshi took control of Odawara, he placed Ishikawa Sadakiyo in charge of Inuyama Castle. Though Ishikawa's defeat at the Battle of Sekigahara meant he also lost control of the castle to Matsudaira Tadayoshi. He in turn awarded his retainer Ogasawara Yoshitsugu his newly aquired prize. As the year 1616 appoached Ogasawara was replaced by Naruse Masanari, whose family occupied the castle until the Meiji Era. In the year 1872 the government seized control of Inuyama from the Naruse family. In 1891, the Great Nobi Earthquake destroyed much of the castle, leaving only the main keep standing. After that, in 1895, the government decided to return ownership of the castle to the the Naruse family under the condition that the family repair and maintain the castle. The family agreed and today Inuyama is the only privately owned castle in Japan.

Though a privately owned castle you are allowed to tour the grounds and building itself. Being that the castle was built on a 40 meter rise, to give a better view of approaching enemies, the fortress is indeed an impressive sight. Though it appears to only be made up of three levels, the castle actually consists of six floors, four above ground and two below.

From here take a minute to take in the entire scene; the bright white castle shining down from its lofty position is quite regal indeed. In fact, Inuyama Castle is also known as Hakutei Castle (White Emperor Castle). It was so named by Sorai Ogyu, a Confucian scholar, from the Edo Era, who took the name from a well known Chinese poem written by Rihaku.

The most striking feature would have to be the castle's Main Keep, designated a National Treasure in both 1935 and 1952; this second distinction occured because the Cultural Asset Protection Law was rewritten. Interestingly enough this is the portion of the building that is the oldest and was taken from Kanayama Castle but it underwent a period of reconstruction from 1961-1965. (How is it the oldest castle when the old bit was just redone...)
As you make your way through the castle be sure to take in all of the exhibited items (weapons, screens, etc.) all coming from the rich history of the castle. Once you finish gazing into the past it is time to look at the present so head to the observatory on the top floor. From here you have an amazing vista to feast your eyes upon. To the east and northeast respectively are Mount Kiso Ontake, Mount Ena, the expansive Nobi Plain and Mount Komaki to the south, Gifu Castle and Mount Ibuki to the west and the Mino mountains to the north.

North side - across the river is Gifu prefecture. Towards Gifu castle, Ibuki, and the airfield at Kakamigahara. Bombing B29 raids. Inuyama untouched. South side, Nagoya station, Komaki mountain & castle, Tagata Jinja, Marutec (Nagoya TV Tower - small) sakae district, Higashiyama tower. Hongu san. Ise bay not visible due to buildings. Kiso river rapids. Dam. Narita Betuin - monkey park ferris wheel. Area of Meitetsu hotel with famous garden - much of flat area was agricultural or wetland. Prior to the construction of the dam the river level was lower - wide beach. A shot of the damaged railway bridge (Taisho 13) shows extension beach. onsen. cormorant fishing.

Tours - Japan Discovery visits Inuyama.
Click here for more information regarding when Discovery visits this destination.

Photographs and contributions

Ninomaru Palace Garden, Nijo Castle
Ninomaru Palace Garden,
Nijo Castle
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