Captain's Run Japan

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The Best of Japan Summer

Aichi tourism ~SHINOBI AND OPULENCE FROM CENTURIES PAST~ Do you want to watch ninja shows at popular Nagoya Castle? The home of the great Tokugawa shogun has so much to offer!


Aichi Prefecture is abundant with historical spots relating to samurai and other cultural attractions. Two of them are Nagoya Castle and the Tokugawa Art Museum.

Actors dressed as ninja prowl the verdant grounds of Nagoya Castle (Official Website), striking a familiar pose of the shinobi — an alternative moniker for Japan’s mercenaries in black.

The two-handed pose triggers a mental state enabling shinobi to function under pressure, explained Sanpei, one of five “ninja” deployed at the castle to revive the ninja legend. In addition to having photos taken with ninja, visitors can try throwing shuriken (throwing stars) and other themed activities (Official Website).

Overseeing the troop at Nagoya Castle was the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, who, in addition to unifying and bringing peace to Japan in the early 17th century, ordered the building of the castle and the establishment of a team of ninja bodyguards.

Upon the castle’s construction in 1615, its main tower, then the largest in Japan, was topped by a pair of kinshachi, mythical firepreventing creatures, which today are made from 88 kilograms of solid gold.

Among the castle buildings, some of which included failsafe panic rooms and secret tunnels, was the lavish Honmaru Palace (Official Website), which ironically suffered the same fate as the original castle when it succumbed to fire during World War II. Recently, a faithful reconstruction was completed thanks to historical records and incorporating over 1,000 items that survived the fire. The restored palace opened to the public in 2018.

The attention to detail is remarkable, from decorative gold fittings and intricately carved ranma decorative panels to quirky screen paintings of tigers, musk cats and other animals unknown to Japanese at the time. All were included for the amusement of guests, who would arrive via palanquin before being guided through variously themed rooms, the most resplendent of which — the Jorakuden — was reserved for shogun visitations.

Some of the surviving regalia of the period, including armor, tea ceremony implements and folding screens, can be found a short distance away at the Tokugawa Art Museum, which houses more than 10,000 pieces handed down through generations of the Tokugawa-Owari family — the largest of the “three honorable houses of Tokugawa”(Official Website).

Among the exhibits are protected treasures, such as 14th century swords, scrolls and an exquisite lacquerware writing box from the extensive bridal trousseau received in 1639 by Princess Chiyohime, the eldest daughter of the third-generation shogun, Iemitsu, upon her marriage at the age of 2.

In 1695, Chiyohime’s husband Mitsutomo, the second Tokugawa-Owari lord, built the lovely Japanese garden Tokugawa-en (Official Website), which lies adjacent to the museum.
Though now one-tenth the size of Mitsutomo’s original 440,000-square-meter indulgence — his retirement residence — the meandering paths and bridge-linked floating islands set against a backdrop of waterfalls, black pines and myriad of other flora surrounding Ryusenko Lake, make for a stimulating stroll. It also offers a sort of treasure hunt.
Keen to impress visitors with his worldly knowledge, Mitsutomo included many elements that reference West Lake in Hangzhou, China, which was considered the jewel of natural landscapes among cultivated people.

Picture Image (Top) : Ninja shows are held at Nagoya Castle. ROB GILHOOLY
Picture Image (Bottom) : The Tokugawa Art Museum in the city of Nagoya is home to more than 10,000 pieces. ROB GILHOOLY



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