okazaki

Okazaki, Aichi

is a city located in Aichi Prefecture on the main island of Japan.

Language

While the local Mikawa dialect is considered to be generally indistinguishable from what is considered modern standard Japanese, there are very subtle and distinctive differences. Mikawa dialect has substantial differences when compared to the dialect of Nagoya and western areas of Aichi, where the Nagoya dialect (also known as Owari-ben, Owari being the traditional name for the Nagoya region) is the traditional dialect. Cognitively Mikawa-ben and modern contemporary Japanese are extremely close, in part due to the influence of the Tokugawa Shogunate and accidents of history. In recent decades the large number of people moving into Okazaki and the surrounding cities (particularly to work in the motor vehicle industry) and the influence of mass media has had an impact on the local dialect, with the result that more people are using standard Japanese only in day to day life.

Demographics

As of May 1, 2006, the city government estimates the population at 368,201. The city remains young, with 139,233 households (2.64 residents per household). The population comprises 185,651 males and 182,550 females, reflecting the number of young men who move to Okazaki to work in the manufacturing sector. This fast population growth reflects the low unemployment rate, as well as affordable housing close to Nagoya. In April 2006 there were 263 births and 199 deaths, for a natural increase of 64 people. While for the same month 2,197 people moved into Okazaki, and 1,910 left, for a net increase of 287 people. Overall density has fallen to 950.83 persons per km² following the annexation by Okazaki of the neighboring town of Nukata, which in December 2004, had an estimated population of 9,508, and a density of just 59.32 persons per km². The Nukata area and the hilly forested areas of Okazaki's northeast remain sparsely populated.

Of the total population, 10,760 are foreign nationals (2.92% of total, compared with the nationwide average of 1.55%). There are 5,427 foreign males, and 5,333 foreign females. Including those registered as stateless, the foreign population comes from 71 nationalities, though more than half are from Brazil. As of April 2006, there were 5,573 registered Brazilians (3,042 males, 2,531 females), comprising 51.79% of the foreign population. Other significant foreign communities include Koreans (17.43%), Chinese (10.89%) and Filipinos (8.88%). There are very few Westerners in general (less than 3%), and the number of registered foreigners from countries where the majority of citizens are native English speakers is less than 200.

Transportation

Okazaki is located on the Tōkaidō Main Line; it can also be reached by the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line. The Tōkaidō Main Line services JR Nishi Okazaki station and JR Okazaki station, which is the main transportation hub for the southern parts of the city. The Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line services 8 stations from Meitetsu Uto to Meitetsu Motojuku, including Higashi Okazaki which is the main transportation hub for the center and northern parts of the city.

A third railroad called the Aichi Loop Line starts from JR Okazaki Station and connects with the Meitetsu Line at Okazaki Kōen-mae station before proceeding on to Toyota and Seto. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen passes through Okazaki‘s city limits but does not stop. The nearest shinkansen stations are Toyohashi, Mikawa-Anjō and at Nagoya.

Okazaki is of course also accessible by a number of roads including the Tōmei Expressway and Route 1, both of which run east/west through the city. The main north/south arterial routes are Route 248 and 26. Driving/traffic conditions are comparable to that of an average urban/sub-urban American city; not at all as cumbersome as driving in Tōkyō, though Route 248 is increasingly congested.

Art and Culture

Okazaki has a wide variety of historical sites, museums and festivals.

Okazaki Castle

Okazaki Castle was originally built in 1455 by a warrior named Saigo Tsugiyori. Captured by the Matsudaira family in 1524 (and probably relocated from the other side of the river), the castle remains associated with Tokugawa Iyeyasu, even though the latter transferred to Edo in 1590. During the Edo period it served as the seat of the daimyo of the Mikawa province and dominated the city until the new Meiji Government came into power, which ordered obsolescent castle-buildings demolished. The main donjon was destroyed in order to earn foreign exchange from scrap metals. In 1959 the donjon was reconstructed to its original style and specifications, the walls are the same as those reconstructed in 1620 by Lord Honda.

Fireworks

Aside from Tokugawa Iyeyasu, Okazaki is also well-known, and perhaps most famous for, its fireworks. The Tokugawa Shogunate restricted production of gunpowder outside of its immediate region (with few exceptions), and even today, more than seventy percent (70%) of Japan's fireworks are designed and manufactured here. A large fireworks festival, which people from all over Japan come to see, is held annually on the first Saturday in August in the area surrounding Okazaki Castle.

Hatchō Miso

Hatchō Miso is a dark miso paste made using a process of steaming soybeans (instead of boiling them) followed by maturation in cedar barrels under the weight of 3 tons of carefully stacked river stones for at least 2 years. Located 8 chō (Hatchō, or approximately 900m) west of Okazaki Castle near the Yahagi river, the old tiled buildings are heritage listed and one company (Kaku) has been a family business for 18 generations. It is one of the most famous miso producers in Japan, supplying the Emperor by appointment, and popular as a health food. The 2006 NHK morning drama serial, Junjo Kirari (Sparkling Innocence) was largely filmed in and around the Hatchō Miso grounds. Tours are available every 30 minutes and free samples are provided. Hatchō Miso's health properties are so great that it was donated to Chernobyl's citizens following the disaster, to help prevent and treat radiation sickness.

Takisan

The temple of Takisanji (7th century) includes several important cultural properties. The main hall is from the Kamakura period and is the location of a fire festival held each February on the closest Saturday to the lunar calendar New Year. The distinctive Sanmon gate and the Goddess of Mercy are designated as important cultural properties. Adjoining the temple is Takisan Toshogu, a shrine built in 1646 by Tokugawa Iemitsu and dedicated to his grandfather Ieyasu. It is considered to be one of the top 3 Toshogu shrines in Japan, together with Nikko and Kunozan.

Educational facilities

Universities

Sister cities

External links

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