|Okazaki's history begins in the Jomon period, a mesolithic period that began in Japan around the 11th or 10th century B.C. and ended in northern Honshu around the 10th century AD. The oldest confirmed remains of human settlement date to around 8500 years ago, when hunter gatherers were attracted to the rich hunting grounds. These days the forests that dominated the flora of the flat floodplain are long gone, as this area is now the most urban part of Okazaki.
The main reason behind the richness of the hunting was the rivers flowing through the city from the hills to the north and east. Shell mounds, pit dwellings and other artifacts such as Jomon pottery fragments (the pottery giving the period its name) remain and archealogical research continues. You can see some of the remains of settlements at places such as Murakami Iseki in the eastern Okazaki.
The rivers continued to play a major part in the development of the area as the Jomon period gave way to the Yayoi period (again named from its distinctive pottery) and early agriculture. Along with the mild climate, the occasional flooding of the rivers provided rich alluvial soils, the flat landscape near the rivers made it easy to clear forest for fields, and communication and trade with other communities made for quick dissemination of ideas, seeds and techniques. Agriculture boomed and a small town began to emerge near the junction of the two major rivers. With greater food supply, food source stability and improved storage capacity, a larger population began to emerge that also included iron tools and weapons, and wet rice agriculture.
The success of Okazaki was indicated when the area was selected as the cultivation site for the rice used in the ceremonies conducted at Japan's most important shrine, Ise Jingu (the Grand Shrines of Ise) in what is now Mie prefecture, about 2 hours from Okazaki by train. Apart from the quality of the rice, we can also again see the value of the rivers connecting Okazaki with Mikawa Bay, as the rice would have been transported to the imperial shrines in Ise by boat. Historic temples in Okazaki such as Shinpukuji (6th century AD) and Kichioki (now Takisanji, 7th century AD) date from this time. An indication of the prosperity of the area is the ruins of Kitano-Haiji temple, built during the Asuka period (593-710), and the 49 tumuli tombs discovered in 8 groups north of the Aoki river from 1961 - the large Iwazu tumulus with its three stone chambers being the best representative.
By the 8th century the emerging Japanese state had a permanent capital at first in Nara (Heijo-kyo) in the Kinai plain and then in Kyoto (Heian-kyo), and Buddhism had diffused throughout Japan. The construction of temples was an important part of the nation building, and the social and political system that evolved with a gradually centralized state. The road leading from the Kinai area leading east along the Pacific coast passed through Okazaki, which was now the largest town in the Mikawa region. The old temple of Hozoji (8th century AD) in southeastern linkname near the old route has its origin in this early period.
With the establishment of central rule from Kyoto (Heian-kyo) during the Heian period, the country was ruled through the imperial court. Vast estates were established, and power and wealth correlated with land. Early in the Heian Period (794 to 1185) the actual control of power gradually began to shift from the imperial family to an aristocratic class (principally the Fujiwara family) who appointed the regents and governed in the Emperor's name. The Fujiwara family held onto power for an extended period until they became too dependent upon and were then eclipsed by an emerging military caste. Armies marched through Okazaki as the struggle for power see-sawed between the Taira (Heike) and Minamoto (Genji) clans. With the victory of the later, the Heian period ended and the long rule of Japan by the military caste, the samurai, began. For Okazaki this had an enormous impact. Previously Okazaki was a waystation between Kyoto and the peripheral regions of the Japanese state, still expanding eastwards into the Tohoku region of northern Honshu. With the establishment on a military government (shogunate) by the Minamoto in Kamakura southeast of what is now Tokyo, Okazaki found itself roughly halfway between the imperial capital and the political capital of the country. The road was an important communications and trade route, and Okazaki prospered from the passing traffic. Kichioki temple was rebuilt into Takisanji at this time by a priest named Kanden, an elder cousin of the first Kamakura shogun, Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199). On the first anniversary of Yorimoto's death, Kanden began constructing a Zen temple here and enshrined Yoritomo's hair and teeth inside the womb of the statue of the Goddess of Mercy. These days, the main hall of the temple is famous for its perfection of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) style of architecture - dating from its reconstruction in that style in the year 1222. The beautiful Yanagi-do in Myogenji temple was also built during this time.