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Okazaki City Guide

The collapse of the shogunate following the civil war that brought the Meiji restoration of 1868 ended Okazaki's role as a post town and as the seat of the Mikawa daimyo. Japan embarked on a period of massive and rapid modernization. The Meiji government demolished the castle in 1873 (with unseemly haste in the opinion of many of the locals), industry was encouraged, and Okazaki developed a thriving textile industry, metal working factories, and other manufacturing industries. Agriculture was modernized, and land reform transformed the rural areas and villages. Traditional industries continued, but gradually the construction of new roads, and in particular the arrival of railroads meant that from being a major post town, traffic increasingly bypassed the city. The rivers ceased to be a major route for transportation, and deforestation of parts of northern Okazaki, the construction of dams, pumping of water for increased agricultural production and the spread of the urban area caused some siltation, accelerating the demise of the riverboats. Water wheel powered textile mills continued to use the rivers, but by and large the focus switched from river boats to the iron horse.

A visitor to Okazaki may be surprised to find that the main JR railway station is located quite a distance from the castle and the old town center. Part of the reason behind this was the conservatism of the population and local officials. The city eventually accepted the inevitable and a railway was built through areas closer to Okazaki (the "Higashi Okazaki station of the Aichi Electric Railway - now called Meitetsu) albeit at a safe distance on the south side of the Sugo river. The result though is that the old part of Okazaki has retained some of its flavor, something that would not have been possible had a major station been built in the old part of the town. The other result was that instead of developing into a major metropolis like Nagoya, the town remained a regional center, not being designated a city until 1916, when the textile industry was booming due to the demand created by the First World War. The geographic and commercial center of the city has been gradually shifting southwards ever since, with rapid development in the last 30 years of the area between Higashi Okazaki and JR Okazaki stations.

From 1926 Japan entered the Showa period. As an urban center, Okazaki was badly affected by the worldwide great depression beginning in 1929, as tariffs reduced income from exports and domestic demand also slumped. Industry began to consolidate, with several large factories being established, but this period also coincided with the rise of military rule and a long period of war, firstly on the Asian mainland, and later in the Pacific. Conscription was extended to almost all able bodied men, and women and children were also delegated jobs and other war related duties. As the war in the Pacific continued, mounting casualties, the submarine blockade, and the bombing of railways and ports induced grief, food shortages and suffering amongst the populace. On the 20th of July in 1945, B29 bombers raided Okazaki, targetting the railway junctions. It was only time the war came to Okazaki, killing 230 citizens, and destroying 7312 buildings. Fortunately, most of the historic areas of the city escaped destruction. Less than 3 weeks later, Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, and the subsequent surrender spared Okazakifrom further damage.

As Japan recovered from World War Two, the reconstruction of the economy,a steadily growing population, and the changes in the social and political structure transformed the city. The historic streetscape began to give way to modern architecture, though even today some parts remain, particularly on Tenma road, where old shops built in during the reign of the Tokugawa such as Nagataya and Itoso remain as testimony to Okazaki's role as a Tokaido post town.

Temples that had been unable to carry out much needed maintenance during the war when funds had been diverted were carefully restored. And in 1959, the symbol of the city was rebuilt. The walls and moats of the castle had stood silent since 1868, but the reconstruction of the donjon, an exact replica of that torn down by the Meiji Government, returned the castle to its pride of place. This is where the Ieyasu Gyoretsu ends its procession from Iga Hachimangu shrine each April, and where Okazaki's massive fireworks festival takes place on the 1st Saturday of August each year.

In the postwar era Okazaki became a satellite city of Nagoya. Close enough to be within commuting distance, far enough away to maintain its own identity. Instead of booming, Okazaki grew at a manageable pace. The majority of the manufacturing plants are located away from the city's old town center, preserving a quiet and residential feel. Service industries have flourished, and the city has a high standard of living and livability. Traditional arts and crafts continue to be passed down from generation to generation, but at the same time the city has excellent research centers, high tech industry and sophisticated services.
The result is that Okazaki has been able to retain much its heritage, and the people a strong sense of the link between the vibrant culture of today and the vibrancy of Okazaki's past. While you are in Okazaki, we hope you can take a bit of time out to share the richness of our history.

©Declan Murphy / Frontia Corporation - All rights reserved
1-2-1 Hanehigashi-machi, Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, JAPAN 444-0832
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