Okazaki | Japan

The area around present-day Okazaki has been inhabited for many thousands of years. Archaeologists have found remains from the Japanese Paleolithic period. Numerous remains from the Jōmon period, and especially from the Yayoi and Kofun periods, have been found, including many kofun burial mounds.

During the Sengoku period, the area was controlled by the Matsudaira clan, a branch of which later rose to prominence as the Tokugawa clan, who ruled Japan during the Edo period. During this time, Okazaki Domain, a feudal han was established to rule the immediate area around Okazaki and was entrusted to a daimyō. Several smaller domains were in the present-day city limits, including Fukozu (later Mikawa-Nakajima), Okudono Domain and Nishi-Ohira Domain. The town prospered as a post station on the Tōkaidō connecting Edo with Kyoto.

Following the Meiji Restoration, the modern town of Okazaki was established on October 1, 1889 in Nukata District of Aichi Prefecture. On October 1, 1914, Okazaki annexed neighboring Hirohata Town. Okazaki was proclaimed a city on July 1, 1916.

The city suffered damage in both the 1944 Tōnankai earthquake (which killed 9 people) and the 1945 Mikawa earthquake (which killed 29 people). During World War II, the July 19, 1945 Bombing of Okazaki killed over 200 people and destroyed most of the city center. Although Okazaki was the location of an Imperial Japanese Navy air field, military installations were not damaged in the attack.

In 1955, through a series of mergers and consolidations, the area of Okazaki expanded considerably. The former towns of Iwazu, Fukuoka, and Yahagi, and the villages of Honjuku, Yamanaka, Kawai, Fujikawa and Ryugai were all merged into Okazaki. The 1959 Isewan Typhoon caused considerable damage, and killed 27 residents. On October 15, 1962, Okazaki annexed the neighboring town of Mutsumi.

Okazaki was proclaimed a core city on April 1, 2003 with increased autonomy from the prefectural government. On January 1, 2006, the town of Nukata (from Nukata District) was merged into Okazaki.

Hatchō miso is a dark miso paste made using a process of steaming soybeans (instead of boiling) followed by maturation in cedar barrels under the weight of 3 tons of carefully stacked river stones for at least 2 years. Located 8 chō (hatchō, or approximately 900m) west of Okazaki Castle near the Yahagi river, there are two 8-cho miso companies — Maruya from 1337 and Kakukyu.

The old tiled buildings are heritage listed and Kaku has been a family business for 18 generations. It is one of the most famous miso producers in Japan, supplying the Emperor by appointment, and popular as a health food. The 2006 NHK morning drama serial, Junjo Kirari (Sparkling Innocence) was largely filmed in and around the Hatchō miso grounds. Tours are available every 30 minutes and free samples are provided. Hatchō miso's health properties are so great that it was donated to Chernobyl's citizens following the disaster, to help prevent and treat radiation sickness.

Located near the center of the Japanese main island of Honshu, Aichi Prefecture faces the Ise and Mikawa Bays to the south and borders Shizuoka Prefecture to the east, Nagano Prefecture to the northeast, Gifu Prefecture to the north, and Mie Prefecture to the west. It measures 106 km east to west and 94 km south to north and forms a major portion of the Nōbi Plain. With an area of 5,153.81 km2 it accounts for approximately 1.36% of the total surface area of Japan. The highest spot is Chausuyama at 1,415 m above sea level.

The western part of the prefecture is dominated by Nagoya, Japan's third largest city, and its suburbs, while the eastern part is less densely populated but still contains several major industrial centers. Due to its robust economy, for the period from October 2005 to October 2006, Aichi was the fastest growing prefecture in terms of population, beating Tokyo, at 7.4 per cent.

As of April 1, 2012, 17% of the total land area of the prefecture was designated as Natural Parks, namely the Aichi Kōgen, Hida-Kisogawa, Mikawa Wan, and Tenryū-Okumikawa Quasi-National Parks along with seven Prefectural Natural Parks.

Nagoya has multiple museums, including traditional and modern art, handicrafts to industrial high-tech, natural and scientific museums.

Nagoya Castle's collection is from the Owari Tokugawa era. The main tower is a museum that details the history of the castle and the city. The Honmaru Palace, destroyed in World War II, is slated for reconstruction by 2016 and will again be a prime example of the Shoin-zukuri architecture of the feudal era. Tokugawa Art Museum is a private museum belonging to the Owari Tokugawa, who lived in Nagoya castle for 16 generations. Among other things, it contains 10 designated national Treasures of Japan, including some of the oldest scrolls of The Tale of Genji. The Nagoya Noh Theatre houses various precious objects of Noh theatre. The Nagoya City Museum showcases the history of the town.

Yōki-sō is a villa and gardens located in Chikusa-ku, close to Nittai-ji. It was constructed in the Taishō era for Ito Jirozaemon Suketami XV, the first president of Matsuzakaya.

Paintings and sculpture are exhibited at the Nagoya City Art Museum. Modern art is displayed at the Aichi Arts Center. The Aichi Arts Center also is the venue of rotating exhibitions. The city is also home to the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a sister museum to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which was founded to bring aspects of the MFA's collection to Japan.

The art of porcelain and ceramics can be seen at the Noritake Garden. Toyota has two museums in the city, the Toyota Automobile Museum which shows vintage cars, and the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, which showcases company history, including its start as a textile mill.

The Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum has trams and subway cars, as well as the Nagoya City Science Museum. The SCMaglev and Railway Park opened in March 2011 with various trains from the Central Japan Railway Company.

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