Inuyama Castle, also known as `Hakutei Castle, lies on the southern side of the Kiso River. Kiso River runs through Gifu Prefecture and pours into Ise Bay. On a small mountain, just beside the Kiso River, there is a beautiful building standing brilliantly above the trees. This is Inuyama Castle, one of Japan’s national treasures. It is made of wood and is preserved as it was in the Middle Ages. It is also famous because it had been owned not by the public, but by the NARUSE family for a long time.
It was built about 460 years ago, and its Momoyama style donjon, said to be the oldest in Japan, is designated a National Treasure. The donjon’s lookout room commands a fine view of Mt. Kiso Ontake, Mt. Ena, and the vast Nobi plain.
The castle is a four-storied building. Each floor has only one room and even now each room has a wood floor. Visitors should take off their shoes at the entrance. When you step into the building, darkness surrounds you. You can only look out through small windows. There are steep, narrow stairs to climb up to the top, and you feel as if you are in a labyrinth. The first floor is the closet. The second is the storage of arms. Above it is the gable and the top is called the panorama room , which commands a fine view. Down below, you can see the eternal flow of the Kiso River, and in the south, you can see as far as the city of Nagoya. Standing there on the top of the tower, you will find that this castle must have played an important role as a fort.
It was at the very border of Owari (present Aichi pref.) and Mino (Gifu) and a very important base in wartime, so that its owner was changed many times by every war.
In the battle of Komaki/Nagakute, Hideyoshi Toyotomi was based at this castle with 120,000 soldiers, and fought the only battle against Ieyasu Tokugawa in his lifetime.
In the Edo era (1603-1868) the chief retainer of Owari Masanari Naruse owned this castle and in the Meiji revolution in 1868, Aichi prefecture retook the castle from the Naruse family. But in the Noubi earthquake in 1891, Inuyama Castle was half destroyed and the Naruse family regained it with the condition of restoring the castle, and, as a result, it has been the only privately owned castle in Japan until the Naruses transferred its property right to a judicial foundation in 2004.
History of Inuyama Castle
Inuyama Castle was completed on its present site in 1537. The castle’s lord was ODA Yojiro Nobuyasu, the uncle of ODA Nobunaga. Nobuyasu was killed in battle when he attacked SAITO Dosan, the lord of Inabayama Castle in Gifu in 1547, and his son, ODA Jurozaemon Nobukiyo, succeeded to the castle. Control of the castle changed several times after that.
In March of 1584, during the Battles of Komaki and Nagakute, TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi entered Inuyama Castle with a huge army from Osaka. He went on to fight TOKUGAWA Ieyasu, who had spread his forces over Komaki Mountain. In 1595, ISHIKAWA Mitsuyoshi became the lord. In 1618, NARUSE Masanari became the castle’s lord. From that time until the Meiji Era, the descendants controlled the property. By 1871, the castle had been controlled by nine generations of the NARUSE clan, and was the property of NARUSE Masamitsu. In that year, clans were abolished, prefectures were established and the government seized control of all property. As a consequence, most of Inuyama Castle’s surrounding buildings were torn down. Only the castle and its immediate grounds, as you see them today, were left intact.
The Nobi Earthquake in 1891 damaged the southwest and northwest turrets of the tower, as well as the ishiotoshi-no-ma (rooms from which rocks were dropped on intruders attacking the castle), and completely destroyed the second floor. In 1895, ownership went back to the former Inuyama clan lord, NARUSE Masamitsu, with the condition that the building be repaired. Since then, it has been the private property of the Naruse family.
Inuyama Castle is the only designated national treasure in Japan that is privately owned. Emperor Hirohito (the Showa Emperor) visited the castle on November 20, 1927. There are only four castles in Japan which are designated national treasure: Inuyama, Himeji, Matsumoto, and Hikone. Inuyama Castle is the oldest of the four. Because the castle had been damaged over the years by disasters like the Ise Bay Typhoon, work began in April 1961 to reassemble the foundations and repair the tower. By March 20, 1965, the castle had been restored to its former appearance.
Address and Contact National Treasure Inuyama Castle AICHI prefecture, Inuyama-shi, Inuyama city, Kitakoken 65-2 Hours: 9:00-17:00 (no entry after 16:30) Closed: Dec 29-31 Admission: Adults 500 yen/ Junior High School students or younger 100 yen Getting There: 12 min walk from Inuyama Yuen (Meitetsu Inuyama line) TEL: 0568-61-1711 FAX: 0568-61-5611