A Historical Walking Tour in Aichi Prefecture
It was just another day when I came to Japan for my Aichi Prefecture tour. It was already our third day in Aichi before I knew it. Time flew as fast as the chilly autumn wind that accompanied us in our tours.
We started our third day in Aichi earlier than the previous two days. We had to visit the two cities of Okazaki and Tokoname, and we had to maximize the whole day.
The bus ride to Okazaki was peaceful, and I was able to see the Rising Sun brighten up the sky from the bus window.
Our first stop for the day was Okazaki Park on the Okazaki Castle grounds. The castle was built in 1455 and afterwards rebuilt in 1531 as a fortress to symbolize Okazaki City. Although it is a popular tourist spot, there were only a few people because we arrived earlier than expected. Our group was just silently heading to the Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum when suddenly… a pair of samurais greeted us with a spectacular battle performance!
The samurais are part of the group called “The Great Ieyasu Aoi Busho Tai.” They were clad with full armor and very authentic-looking swords. Their battle reminded me of the one I saw in Nagoya Castle before, but I found this one much more intimate and entertaining because there were very few people around. As a man who grew up with action anime series, this experience truly fascinated me. My childhood screamed “Banzai!” as I watched the pair.
After the performance, we headed to the Ieyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum. The museum was built in honor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, and in honor of the Mikawa Bushi warriors of the Matsudaira clan that once ruled over Aichi Prefecture before the present day. The museum is housed in a very traditional Japanese building. The area was very well-kept, perhaps symbolizing the discipline of the samurais that once roamed the land.
We also explored most floors of the Okazaki Castle itself. The castle was almost like a museum, with each floor telling a story of the past. There were telescopes on the top floor, but even without looking through the lens, the view was beautiful enough for us to get a glimpse of the city.
After a while, we left the castle grounds (we had to use the stairs from top to bottom floor. Cardio exercise for me!) and proceeded to the Maruya Hatcho Miso Factory nearby.
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from soybeans and is frequently used to make sauces, spreads, and most especially, a nice, hot bowl of miso soup. The Maruya Hatcho Miso Factory in Aichi is the oldest hatcho miso maker in Japan, with its operation starting in 1337 and continuing today!
We had a short tour of the factory and observed how miso is made. It’s just a tiny factory and gave off an aura that will probably remind you of your grandmother’s bedroom: very cozy and faded with time.
Another centuries-old building that we went to afterwards is the Shinpuku-Ji Temple. The Buddhist temple is the oldest in Aichi and is one of the oldest in the entire country: it was built in 594. And indeed, stepping inside the temple grounds felt like being brought back in time in the 6th century.
There’s a massive flight of stairs leading to the Shinpuku-Ji Temple, which is a common characteristic for Japanese temples (again, that’s a whole lot of cardio exercise for me!). Reaching the top of the stairs wasn’t too hard, however. The soft wind made by the surrounding grove of bamboos made everything very relaxing. We also saw a statue of Ikkyuu-san at the top of the stars, a Buddhist monk whom the Japanese pray to for wisdom. There is a red metal bridge at one side of the temple grounds. It’s connected to restrooms and a small souvenir shop (called omiyage shop in Japanese).
We had our lunch in the nearby restaurant that served bamboo-shoot cuisine. I imagined that they harvested the bamboos from the temple if that’s allowed. Our lunch included tempura, a variety of boiled and pickled vegetables, and a tender helping of bamboo shoots.
After lunch, we headed to the second city for the day, Tokoname. Tokoname is famous for its pottery and ceramics. The city, however, is more known for one thing: the Maneki-Neko, or the ceramic lucky cats. If you’re from the Philippines, you would have probably seen a golden, battery-powered cat that waves its paw at you when you enter a local shop. A Maneki-Neko looks precisely like that.
Our first stop for the afternoon was Pottery Path Toko-Nyan, the heart of the Maneki-Neko. The Pottery Path is a hilly, 1.8-kilometer trail that passes along an elegantly quaint pottery village. We passed by the Dokan Zaka, a wall lined with pots and other earthenware. We also walked past the Maneki-Neko street, that is, from the name, a road with hundreds of Maneki-Neko, all adorably wishing me good luck!
Overlooking the Maneki-Neko street is the massive white Toko-nyan, which I imagined was the mother of all the Maneki-Neko.
It was a perfect and short afternoon walk. We saw many cafés and pot galleries on our way, where we bought our authentic Tokoname earthenware souvenirs.
Our next stop was the INAX Live Museum, which showcased more of Tokoname’s earthenware and ceramic artworks. Our group visited Terracotta Park, which showed us a creative way of using terracotta and ceramic tiles for decorative purposes. We also checked out the Tile Museum, which showcased hundreds of gorgeous decorative ceramic tiles. There was an entire room whose walls were covered with textured tiles. Clay Works was another part of the museum that we visited. They offer packages that let visitors decorate clay balls.
Before leaving the museum, we did another batch of earthenware shopping from the souvenir shop. That was a perfect way to wrap up our Historical Walking Tour.
The sun had already set when we traveled to Nagoya City to rest for the day. We checked in at Castle Plaza Hotel Nagoya. After leaving our baggage, our group immediately proceeded to Sekai No Yamachan for dinner.
Sekai no Yamachan is an izakaya, a sort of gastropub. We had an excellent time while recounting our experiences for the day. We had fried chicken wings which are crispy, juicy, and greyed with salt and pepper. Also on our plates was doteni, pork intestine marinated in miso, which reminded us of our little tour earlier. They also served Japanese alcoholic drinks.
The casual atmosphere of the place was very relaxing, and our meal fully satisfied us for a good night’s sleep back at the hotel. We had a few more days to explore Aichi Prefecture.