Archive for the 'Okazaki City' Category

Okazaki City

Miso Factory Museum

Okazaki is a mid-size city located in the Aichi Prefecture, 30 minutes from Nagoya. The city has a population of approximately 350,000 people. My first impression of the city was a rather funny one because the first landmark I encountered was actually a Denny’s restaurant. It’s not exactly the kind of building that one associates with Japan. But since I was hungry and was too afraid of entering other restaurants, I went to Denny’s and ordered a Flower-topped hamburger (just because I’ve always wanted to try it – Thanks, Rozen Maiden!) and a dessert containing Nata De Coco.

Next to Denny’s there is a 100-yen shop called ‘Daiso’. I would eventually peruse this store many times to buy several things from notebooks to buckets because everything was so cheap (generally only costs 100 Yen). Looking back, I really miss these two places. I often went to these places with my friends either by bike or by walking from the student accommodation. We often stayed until late or came really late at night (1 am) just to study at Denny’s. The place was open until 4am so if we felt hungry, we could always order something there.

My first major trip within the city was a visit to the Miso Factory. Apart from fireworks, Okazaki is also known for its Hatcho-Miso. There is actually a Miso factory not far from the Okazaki Castle. So one day, my friends and I decided to give the place a ring and see if we can take a look at the factory/museum. It was quite memorable for me because it was the first time many of us knew each other. It was quite awkward at first but we really had fun cycling together and tasting some unusual Miso products such as Miso Ice cream (it was really good actually).

Denny'sFruit IceGyoza restaurant
Japanese houseMini ShrineRainy day

I also like some of the houses that we got to see in the city. These houses are not exactly traditional houses but they retain some of the Japanese characteristics that made them look different from houses in other countries. For example, I often encountered this small mini shrine in front of a house. I’m not exactly sure about the function of the shrine but it’s really beautiful to look at. I noticed similar shrine in front of the Miso Factory and in some other places. So maybe they serve as some kind of protection for the place.

When we’re not busy studying at the school, we often went out and explored the city. Some of the unusual building we encountered includes a place called ‘Wedding Plaza’. Apparently it’s a plaza where people go to shop for their entire wedding needs. I thought it was quite amusing because here’s this one big plaza and it sells nothing but wedding supplies. There is also a church next to the plaza and at one point I did see a wedding took place inside the church. So all in all, the area is one handy location for people who want to get married.

Okazaki also has some small temples scattered all around the city. The nicest one, in my opinion, is this small one located not far from Okazaki Castle/Park. I accidentally stumbled upon it while I was looking for Okazaki Castle. It’s such a small and quiet temple. At a glance, it looks deserted but the temple was in a rather good condition so I think it’s simply not used that often. But other than that, it is quite functional. I tried to take a panoramic shot of the temple and you can check it out below after I stitched them using photo manipulation program.

Wedding PlazaTempleFunny Car

I have so many memorable moments of this city. One of the moments was this one rainy night where we all went to an all-you-can-eat restaurant to bid farewell to two friends who were leaving earlier than the rest of us. It was a nightmare walking to the restaurant in such heavy rain. But we all had good fun even though the event itself was a reminder that many of us would soon leave the city as well. I also still remember going to Karaoke with these guys or going on a 5+ hours bike ride to somewhere outside the city.

These days, I can’t help but missing the city every now and then. Every time I open my Japanese textbook, for some reason I’m being reminded of the time I spent together with the friends that I made in that city. I actually try not to remember it as much because doing so makes me a bit depressed. I know that none of us who came to this city will ever have a similar experience like the one we had a few months ago. All of us are now living in a different country and doing different things. I even wonder if some of my friends still remember about it.

I often think it’d be nice if we can see each other again. But even if we plan some kind of a reunion, the chances that all of us can make it to the city within the same time frame is quite small. I mean some of my friends are now busy studying at University while others are interested in going to other countries to do working holiday. Oh well, I think it was one of those rare experiences that most of us don’t get to experience more than once and besides, I’m still in contact with some of those friends. I do want to go back this city again one day just to relive it all over again.

17/7/08 Addendum: I just read the whole article through again and realized how sappy the whole article sounds. Having said that, it really was one of the best times in my life and I was lucky to have had the chance to experience it. It’s hard to believe that 3 years have passed since I last spent my time there.


Night Stalls

Night Stalls

I’m sorry that I haven’t updated this blog for a while. Along with my promise not to publish articles without carefully checking their legibility, there have been some unexpected development here in Japan. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I didn’t expect my study workload to be this heavy. In addition to attending school from 9am to 2.30pm, we are expected to learn many new vocabularies and finish our homework every day. It feels like high school all over again – only far more fun, I think.

On top of this, I also didn’t expect to make new friends while I’m here. But that’s exactly what happened. Back in my country, I barely had the time to socialize with other people since I work from 9 to 5. I do have some friends that I sometimes spend time with. But since all of us have a job, we don’t get together that often. This is why I had quite a lot of time to blog back then. When I first arrived here in Japan, I thought I’ll be using most of my time to study and the rest of the time to blog. However, it wasn’t long before I met some really nice people here.

Candied StrawberriesSmall itemsBaked Fish
Fishing gameIkayakiAtmosphere

Anyway, moving on to the actual story, Japanese night stall is something that I never experienced before I went to Japan. The stalls don’t open until around 6pm-ish, if I remember correctly. The products on offer usually are snack foods like Ikayaki (grilled squid on a stick), Takoyaki, Oden, Candied Apple/Strawberries on a stick, Churos, etc. Unfortunately, the price is rather expensive in comparison to almost similar items you can get at a nearby convenience store. Having said that, I think it’s good to buy them just to soak in the atmosphere. In addition to the food stalls, there are also various game stalls where you can pay 300 yen to try a fishing game, for example.

The night stalls that I went to just happened to be set up not far from the Okazaki Castle. And since I went to the Castle a bit late in the day (around 4pm-ish), by the time I finished taking all of the photographs, the stalls were already opened. I saw a lot of high school students visiting the stalls in pair. I supposed, it is a rather romantic place to spend the time together with your loved one. The place was also filled with working mother/father taking their young children so I got the impression that the place attracts different types of people despite the high number of students that filled the area.


Okazaki Castle

Okazaki Castle's bridge

Okay, I’m not even supposed to write this now since I have a conjugation test in the next 2 days and I still haven’t studied for it. But I can’t concentrate anymore, so I thought I’ll write few paragraphs. Anyway, I have to say that I’ve been rather lucky during my trip here in Japan. I think it was a really good decision to go during Spring instead of Summer. Apparently there are many things to see and do almost every season in Japan. It’s just that they are different things to see and do. Having said that, I’ve always wanted to experience Hanami (flower watching) for a long time so I thought it’s better if I go around Spring time.

Anyway, if you do plan to go in Spring, make sure that you arrive between mid March to mid April. You’ll lose a chance to see the Sakura if you go afterwards. This is because the flowers constantly fall within this one month. So by the time it’s the middle of April, you don’t see them anymore. Maybe there will be one or two left in some areas but you’ll be hard-pressed to find it. I was quite lucky that I went to Okazaki Castle while the Sakura were still in full bloom. I’m sure the Castle will still be awesome even without the Sakura but the addition of Sakura all around it makes the Castle looks better.

Sakura-covered streetNight stallsRed Bridge
Okazaki Castle's lakeOkazaki Castle's lakeTurtle statue

Well, I started my trip using the bike that I just rented from a local bike shop. The Castle turned out to be quite far from the place where I stay. On top of this, I also ended up taking a wrong side at one point in the journey. Having said that, I have to say that I really enjoyed riding the bike while Sakura petals were blowing all around me. The photograph that I have here don’t really do any justice to the actual place. After asking some locals for directions, I eventually find the Castle itself. Bikes, however, are not allowed to go around the Castle area so I parked it a couple of meters away from the Castle.

The first few things that I saw around the area (apart from the Cherry Blossoms) are the various merchants trying to set up stalls for the night festival. I will write about this after I completed my exam but right now I just don’t have the time for it. Anyway, a short walk eventually took me to a red bridge that connects the outer area to the inner Castle surrounding itself. Once again, you have to be there to really see how good the view was. Everything in the area (the river, the bridge, the vegetation) seems to be perfect – as in an element nicely complements the other. As a result it wasn’t that difficult to take a good photograph of the place.

VegetationOkazaki Castle

After crossing the bridge, you’ll start to see more Food merchants inside the area as well. They’re selling everything from bite-sized cookies to Takoyaki. The Castle itself sits neatly at the top of the area so I thought it’d be nice to get a good shot of it. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any good angle of the Castle. But if you’re interested to see what the entire Castle looks like, just click on the last image that I placed on this entry. I didn’t take that photograph myself. It was actually an image of the castle taken by someone else and framed inside the castle. I simply took a photo of the picture with my camera. No plagiarism was intended.

I decided to pay 200 Yen to enter the Castle. I am not sure if that was a good decision or not but I have to say that there wasn’t much to see inside the Castle itself. According to the folklore, the Castle was apparently built back in 1455 by the Saigo family. However, during the 16th century, the Saigo family yielded the Castle to Matsudaira Kiyoyasu, the 7th lord of the Matsudaira family, who will eventually become the grandfather of Lord Ieyasu. For 3 centuries, Okazaki Castle were honored as the birthplace of Ieyasu and the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Castle was guarded heavily by hereditary vassal daimyos who wield enormous power during their time.

WishSideCastleDragon statue

During the Meiji Restoration period, the feudal clans were abolished and in 1873-1874, Okazaki Castle itself was demolished, leaving only its moat and stone wall. In 1959, however, the triple-roof, five story Castle, as well as its annex and wellhouse were masterfully reconstructed according to the original model. Today, the castle is simply a museum for local and international visitors. It basically displays the history of the Castle as well as the city. If you’re interested, Okazaki is now known as the producer of fireworks materials. Okazaki is particularly famous of its Hanabi – fireworks (not to be confused with Hanami – which is flower watching) festival.

You can actually go all the way up to the fifth level of the Castle and get a view of the entire city. Unfortunately, there are bars around the area so it’s rather hard to enjoy the view when you feel as if you’re inside a prison. Nevertheless, I was quite happy with what I saw and I don’t think I will ever forget the experience of entering the Castle itself. It may have been refurbished to suit its new purpose as a museum. Having said that, I can still see traces of how the Castle may have been used back in the olden days. And of course, I did manage to snap tens of pictures around the area, which in itself made me quite happy.