We saw the Inuyama castle today. It’s one of only 12 of the original castles left. There are others but they’ve had to be rebuilt. It is also the oldest castle in Japan. The day was dripping with humidity and after the twenty minute walk there, I felt like I had just walked out of a shower. The closer you got to the castle, the more traditional the buildings.

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Not many shops were open. Whether that was due to the time of day, the season, or the slight drizzle I’m not sure.

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Many shops had Inuyama’s mascot: a small dog dressed in traditional Japanese garb. Alaina was kind enough to point him out on the way. It was nice to have someone who knew what they were doing and to ask our inane questions to.

DSCN1000Cat Census: 9. (6 from Jalala Cat Cafe + 3 from Inuyama.)DSCN0990

DSCN0991Allen and Alaina; Allen upon discovering I’m taking pictures of him. DSCN1020

Before the castle were two different shrines. We entered through one and left through the other. I really loved the green overgrown magic of the place.

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DSCN1028The first shrine. I believe it’s Shinto since it had horse statues enshrined and wooden wishing plaques. Its hard to tell though since Buddhism and Shintoism have become very intertwined. DSCN1031

DSCN1037Horse statues were often donated to the shrines as horses were seen as “vehicles of the gods”. It was supposed to make the gods more amenable to hearing wishes. The wooden plaques or ema are purchased from the temple, then your wish is inscribed on them, and the ema is hung waiting for the gods to grant your wish.

DSCN1038View from the shrine. We’re getting kinda high up. And what is that thing on the right? Art? A fancy clothes line?DSCN1032Looking down at the path we just climbed to get to Inuyama Castle. DSCN1042

At the top, we came to the castle. It’s situated on a small mountain (large hill?) with several sides overlooking the surrounding river. A good strategic location. Before you enter, you have to remove your shoes. They’re placed in a provided plastic bag that you then carry around.

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DSCN1180The stairs you take up to the first floor of Inuyama Castle.DSCN1055

The width of the castle or floor space is pretty small, but there are 5 levels. The stairs in between each level is ruggedly steep. Alaina had the worst of it being pregnant. There was a cute group of elementary school kids touring the place. Sometimes the stairs were half their body size so it was kind of fun to watch them try to bound up them.

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The further up you went, the cooler it became and nice cross breezes fluttered through windows. I’m convinced this is why they really built the castle.

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DSCN1103All the rulers of Inuyama Castle:DSCN1134

The view from the top was truly breathtaking. There was an outside walkway around the entire top most level. The mist curling around the mountains and the marshy river below transported you back in time.

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DSCN1156Allen silhouetted in the doorway. It reminds me a bit of Champion Mode from Eternal Duel of Wits. (Shameless name dropping I know. Go here to play Allen’s game: Eternal Duel of Wits.)DSCN1170Alaina on the top floor of Inuyama Castle. DSCN1174

Back outside the castle once more. Some pics of the castle grounds. DSCN1043

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We exited through the small Inari shrine.DSCN1213

DSCN1223One of Inari’s sacred fox messengers and a woman selling temple charms behind. DSCN1226

DSCN1227Purification fountain used before praying.DSCN1232

DSCN1233Looking out from the shrine entrance.DSCN1234

Back on the streets heading to Inuyama’s train station. One of the more traditional houses lining the street:DSCN1250A super creepy picture I accidentally took of myself. (Incidentally it ended up being the only picture I took of myself that day. You sort of forget when you’re behind the camera.)DSCN1240The more modern streets of Inuyama along with a happy bus!DSCN1252

DSCN1257Of course you all know the strange humanoid elephant pharmaceutical mascot Stumpy! …Okay I made up that name. 
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After the castle, we leisurely made our way to lunch (a pasta place) and Nagoya. There we window shopped a bit and then participated in the almost bizarre purikura. Okay, it’s a dramatic change from the beauties of Inuyama castle so prepare yourself. They are photo booths but these photo booths automatically transform your face in fascinating and terrifying ways. It’s like an instant photoshop into an anime character. The major things it seems to do is slim your face, make your mouth smaller, give you lipstick, and then, of course, enlarge the eyes. Each one had different themes and distorted you in slightly different ways. I tried to pick what I thought was the most natural looking one. Ha ha ha. I think my already tiny eyes and glasses shielded me from the worst of the blast but poor Allen…

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It was crazy how popular these were. I mean I knew they were but I underestimated the lengths people go to set up for this. There were actually beauty stations with plugs where girls were putting on make-up and even curling their hair! Alaina had a scrapbook dedicated to these pictures. I think you could also, for a monthly fee, subscribe to them so it would send you a digital copy of the pictures. After taking the pictures, you get to stamp them, add make-up, and choose the picture format.

Girls using the styling areas to get ready.DSCN1258Girls lining up for the different style booths. (One girl has a ‘Little My’ bag. Cute!)DSCN1260

That night, Alaina and her husband Nao took us to an izakaya, basically like a gastropub. It was amazing. The fried chicken was spiced in a way that I’d never had before and was probably one of my favorites. We also made sure to order some Nagoya specials: miso flavored pork on a stick, rice balls with shrimp tempura, and sauteed chicken intestines with vegetables. I don’t think we got pictures of it all because it kept coming out at different times and were starving. (The concept of serving all the food at once seems nonexistent in Japan. It just comes out when it’s ready.) Nao ordered so much food. There were rounds upon rounds for us to eat. It’s really too bad it’s only a Nagoya chain. I would’ve liked to eat there again.

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Tomorrow we’re heading out at 6:20AM to take our bus to Kyoto. (Ugh, so early.) Alaina’s coming with us the next few days to Kyoto and Nara. (Unfortunately, Nao can’t come because he has work.) So that was it for Nagoya, but onward to the ancient capital!