Inuyamajō is one of only twelve pre-Edo castles in Japan to have survived to the current day, and one of only four of those to be designated a National Treasure. It claims to be the oldest, but the parts of it which are genuinely old are a few years younger than those of Maruoka Castle in Fukui Prefecture.
The original castle was built in 1440, but the two tenshu (keeps) which remain were completed in 1537. They were built by Oda Nobuyasu, uncle of Oda Nobunaga, and the castle became a focal point in the conflict between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu when Toyotomi seized the castle and used it to wage war against Tokugawa, whose forces were spread across Komaki mountain.
Just within the castle walls is a sacred tree. Although dead now, this tree was long believed to have protected Inuyamajō from fire by drawing lightning to itself and thus away from the castle, and remains preserved as a shrine.
ようこそ犬山へ – Welcome to Inuyama! These lanterns line the path toward the castle.
The tenshu was dismantled and fully restored piece by piece between 1961 and 1965.
Alas the rest of the castle’s grounds were destroyed during the Meiji restoration, but these buildings were preserved.
From the tenshu‘s balcony it’s possible to walk around the exterior and view in all four cardinal directions. This view is to the south, taking in the castle’s gate and other buildings.
Inuyamajō sits on the Kiso river, and this view is eastward. Cormorant fishing still takes place on the Kiso, just beyond this bridge, and tour boats are available to take you onto the river so that you can view these skilled fishermen at work with their birds. If you are looking to the west on a clear and sunny day, you can see Gifu castle.
The town of Inuyama is very pleasant, and has its own mascot, wanmaru-kun. As Inuyama means “Dog Mountain,” wanmaru-kun is a happy little dog whose face graces much of the merchandise in omiyage (“obligation gift” – i.e. souvenir) shops across the town.
Take the Meitetsu Inuyama Line from Shin-Unuma or Nagoya to Inuyama-Yuen Station. The castle is a 15-20 minute walk. Click here to see the route in Google Maps.