Inuyama City in Aichi is a place that owns 2 of national treasures of Japan.
One is the famous INUYAMA Castle built on a hill by the Kiso River. The castle keep is the oldest keep in Japan and designated as a national treasure. The place is always busy with people climbing up to the keep since you get to see a great view of the city and the river on the top of the castle. The castle is also known for the magnificent cherry trees. In Spring, people come see the cherry blossoms in full bloom and enjoy the very Japan-like picture of the cherry blossoms and the castle.
The other national treasure in the city is the Japanese garden, Urakuen nearby the castle. It’s actually in the area of Meitesu Inuyama Hotel where Japanese emperor and empress had have stayed at.
Urakuen is a Japanese garden with a total of 4 tea houses. One is Johan, which designated as a National Treasure of Japan, old Shōdenin-Shoin designated as an Important Cultural Properties and other 2 houses, Gen-an and Kō-an. Those tea houses are currently used for various tea parties throughout the year. A beautiful garden with trees that change its colors every season is perfect for a seasonal tea party. Among all of the tea rooms, what you want to pay attention to the most must be the tea house,
Johan is one of the existing three national treasure tea houses in Japan. It’s a tea room with only 3 tatami mats. (2 other National treasure tea houses and 2 other seats are Mittan in Daitokuji Ryukoin, Taian in Myōkian, Kyoto)
Johan was built by Oda Uraku in 1618. Oda Uraku is the younger brother of Oda Nobunaga, the famous historical commander in Japan. Johan was first built in Kenninji, Kyoto then moved to Tokyo by the Mitsui family. When World War II ended, Meitetsu acquired it and moved to the city of Inuyama in 1972. The tea house, Johan followed a stormy life as Uraku did.
Although Uraku was Nobunaga’s younger brother, he was the eleventh son of the Oda family so he rarely appears in history, unlike his brother who succeeded in the family title. After the Honnōji Incident, forced suicide of commander his brother Nobunaga, he followed another commander Toyotomi Hideyoshi, then worked for Tokugawa Ieyasu, also a commander. Uraku learned chanoyu under Sen-no-rikyū and was counted as one of the seven men of Sen-no-rikyū.
You can usually only peek through a small hole inside Johan. Johan is only open a few times a year for special tea gatherings. Maintaining a limit to use the tea room is necessary to protect such historical objects to avoid further damage.
There was such a cute miniature on display at the other tea house in the garden, Shodenin Shoin where you can have matcha and a local Japanese sweet, Wagashi.
Since there were only a few people in the garden that day, I had a private volunteer guide who walked around the park with me. With his detailed explanation of the garden, I enjoyed the garden much more.
After a stroll in the garden, I took a break at another tea house in the garden, the old Sh ōdenin-Shoin. This tea seat may not be praised so much, but this is also designated as an important cultural property! You don’t come across many chances to take a break with matcha and sweet.
There is only one tourist from France at the tea house. I thought of the long history of the house and the garden for a while in the sound of crows and wind, and the sound of leaves rubbing. I felt the time was very special.
Urakuen is closed due to the construction of the hotel and will be open in the Fall of 2021.