I got a message from a Couchsurfing friend about a free tour happening in Inuyama the other weekend, so I took a day trip to go check it out. Inuyama is about a half hour from Nagoya by train. It’s famous for it’s castle, but there was actually a ton of stuff there that I NEVER would have found by myself if I had just gone alone.
We got there at about 1pm and the weather was kind of cold and rainy. It wasn’t bad though, it actually made the day really calm because a lot of people decided to stay in. We met two of our guides, Sumiko and Aya, and the lady who organized the tour, Motoko, and made our way through the city.
First we stopped at a museum that holds large floats for the yearly parade through town. The floats are three stories tall and maintained by the city’s taxes. The details and beauty of them is amazing and even the cloth that covered them was beautifully embroidered.
When the floats are pulled through town, men sit above and give puppet shows and play music for the crowds below. The floats are also pulled by humans and not a Ford Explorer – a sure sign that I’m not in America.
We stepped into a few places that were really amazing: The first was a house that had belonged to one of the city’s more famous merchants. He was extremely wealthy and ran a kimono shop out of the house. According to our guide, property taxes were determined by the size of the facade of the house. The result of this is that houses were often only a few meters wide but would run back from the front door for almost a hundred feet! In that space was the house, garden, common room, and a vault, where important products and family pieces were stored. The second thing we stopped at was a shop where men still made authentic samurai armor. Since our guides knew the men well, they offered to dress us up in Samurai gear! We got to wear a helmet and chest plate. It was so cool!
We stopped into a museum where the “karakuri” wooden puppets were shown. It was pretty impressive to see small robots made of wood that could act on their own machinery and metal springs. The museum was small, but interesting. Finally, we ended up at the castle, which has been maintained from it’s original state. The stairs were worn smooth from thousands of stocking feet.
After the Castle we had to hurry over to the Tea House before it closed. The tea house in Inuyama is one of three in Japan that had been designated a national treasure. We were led to a tea house in the garden where we were served tea and a small dessert. We sat and listened to the rain fall on the roof and looked out over an incredibly green and rich Japanese Garden. I could have sat there forever, it was so relaxing. The tea houses are designed to be simple. The rooms are empty, with a place to sit and a lamp and only a plant or hanging scroll of Japanese calligraphy for decoration. They are silent, warm, and dark, and incredibly peaceful.
When we left the tea house we could see Inuyama all lit up in the distance, it was really a perfect ending to the day. We gave our guide a donation and she told us to call her whenever we wanted a tour in Aichi. I’m definitely going to take her up on it.