Kiyosu City, The Key to Japan’s Unification

Kiyosu with its castle is just minutes from Nagoya Station, and yet it is one of those places generally never mentioned in guidebooks or travel magazines.

In fact, I know many people in Nagoya who have never heard of Kiyosu Castle, and even I (Elly) heard about it for the first time after living in Nagoya for more than 10 years and researching castles in the Aichi area! 

So I decided to dedicate a complete article to Kiyosu Castle and its surroundings and share with you one of the hidden gems that had a huge impact on how the history of Japan unfolded.

Kiyosu Was Once One of the Most Strategic Sites During Japan’s Warring States Period.

Warring States Period
Samurai warriors during the Warring States Period

It is not known exactly when Kiyosu Castle was built, but it is said that it was between 1394 and 1427 by Yoshishige Shiba, the head of the Shiba clan and the governor of Owari, Echizen, and Totomi Provinces (current western Shizuoka Prefecture). The main role of Kiyosu Castle was to protect the strategic junction of Ise Kaido’s and Nakasendo highways that connected Kyoto to Kamakura. 

With the castle at its center, the whole Kiyosu city was one of the most historically significant areas of the Warring States period or Sengoku Period (1467 – 1600), a period in the history of Japan marked by social upheaval, political intrigue, and constant military conflict.

The warrior and local hero, Oda Nobunaga, took control of Kiyosu Castle in 1555 and used it as a base for military operations. During this period, the city of Kiyosu prospered as an economic and cultural center of the Owari region. 

Kiyosu Castle was a huge asset for the unification of Japan, the dream of Oda Nobunaga, and was an important historical base in his war of conquest, where he gathered his forces for the battle of Okehazama, a battle in which Oda Nobunaga established himself as one of the main leaders of the country.

In 1610, Tokugawa Ieyasu built Nagoya Castle. Due to this fact, many local castles were destroyed in favor of the new Nagoya Castle, and Kiyosu Castle was no exception. A great part of the stones of the Kiyosu Castle walls, as well as the wood of multiple structures, were used in the construction of Nagoya Castle. The main fortress was dismantled and rebuilt as a tower, overlooking the moat, in the northwest corner of Nagoya Castle.

From the Grounds Up, a Closer Look at Kiyosu Castle

Kiyosu Castle
Kiyosu Castle

Kiyosu Castle was rebuilt in 1989, based on the appearance and scale of the original.

The original Kiyosu Castle was located on the other side of the Gojo river, where today the souvenir shop is located.

With the recent renovation of the interior of the castle, audiovisual exhibits detailing the history surrounding the castle have been added, as well as a collection of clothing worn by actors and actresses representing important historical figures of the time in historical television dramas. Let’s take a closer look at the castle.

The Zen Garden

Kiyosu castle zen garden
Kiyosu Castle and the Zen garden

Once inside the front gate and before the castle entrance, you will be greeted by a beautiful zen-style Japanese garden with big stones, making the castle extremely photogenic from here!

1st Floor: Prologue to Kiyosu

Kiyosu castle 1st floor
Kiyosu castle 1st floor. Image via Kiyosu Tourism official website

The ground floor displays Samurai armor and visual material of Kiyosu’s history from ancient times of the Asahi Ruins to the period when Kiyosu was the capital of Owari Province.

2nd Floor: Kiyosu, the Warring States Capital

Kiyosu castle 2nd floor
Kiyosu castle 2nd floor. Image via Kiyosu Tourism official website

This floor provides an overview of the urban functions of the Kiyosu Castle town, which was known as the “Great Eastern City”. You can see the progression of Kiyosu in the old days, from the bustle of Kiyosu Castle town during the Warring States Period to the daily lifestyle of Samurai under the command of Nobunaga.

3rd Floor: The Roots of the Conquerors

Kiyosu castle 3rd floor
Kiyosu castle 3rd floor. Image via Kiyosu Tourism official website

This floor focuses on the military exploits of Oda Nobunaga, and you will have a deeper look into the historical role and achievement of Kiyosu city and the roots of other famous Samurai down the command line of Oda Nobunaga, like Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. 

4th Floor: The Conquest

Kiyosu castle view from the top of the castle
View from the top of the Kiyosu castle

This floor is the very top of the castle tower. You will be able to feel the dreams of power from the former military leaders while gazing upon the beautiful views of Kiyosu.

The Tea Room and the Armor Workshop

Kiyosu Armor Workshop
Kiyosu Armor Workshop

Right next to the castle is a tea room where you can experience a tea ceremony while you savor Matcha green tea and traditional Japanese sweets.

There is also a small armor workshop, run by local volunteers, where visitors can try on Samurai armor, take pictures at the tea room or at the Zen garden, and even receive a “Samurai Certificate”, a simple souvenir of your time spent at Kiyosu Castle. Check here for more information.

* The armor workshop is open only Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Souvenir Shop Kiyosu Furusato no Yakata

Souvenir Shop Kiyosu Furusato no Yakata
Souvenir Shop Kiyosu Furusato no Yakata

On the other side of the castle, crossing the red bridge (Otebashi Bridge) a small rest area and a souvenir shop called “Kiyosu Furusato no Yakata ” can be found.

The shop has a wide selection of local products such as locally produced Hatcho Miso, Nagoya sweets, and goods related to the Warring States period warlords such as Oda Nobunaga. You can also buy your commemorating stamp for climbing up the castle. 

Kiyosu Castle Ruins Park 

Kiyosu Castle Ruins Park
Kiyosu Castle Ruins Park: Oda Nobunaga and his wife Lady Noh

Near Kiyosu Castle, is a small park called Kiyosu Park, where the statues of Oda Nobunaga (at age 26) and his wife Lady Noh are located. There is also a small Shinto shrine dedicated to Nobunaga.

NOTE: When you visit the castle, ask at the entrance for a brochure in English. They usually have it inside the office and not exposed along with the brochure in Japanese.

Kiyosu Castle (清州城)
Entry Fee: Adults 300 yen, elementary school children 150 yen
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 14:30
Address: Shiroyashiki-1-1 Asahi, Kiyosu, Aichi 452-0932
Access: Take the JR Tokaido Line two stops north from Nagoya Station to JR Kiyosu Station or the Meitetsu Line eight stops to Shin Kiyosu Station on the Nagoya Main Line. From there, it’s around a 15-minute and  8-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Explore Kiyosu’s Surroundings, Make Friends with Monkeys and Step Even Further Into the Past

In Kiyosu you will also find some other interesting sites that will make for a delightful experience after your visit to the castle.

Hiyoshi Shrine

Hiyoshi Shrine
Hiyoshi Shrine

Hiyoshi Shrine is dedicated to Sanno, the mountain god, and was built for the purpose of eliminating illness and disasters, and has been worshiped as the guardian deity of Kiyosu Castle. 

It is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s mother was able to give birth to the hero of the Warring States period thanks to her prayers at this shrine.

There are many statues of monkeys as they are believed to be messengers of the mountain god to deliver all the messages and prayers from worshippers. That’s why the Hiyoshi shrine is also called the “Monkey Shrine”.

Make sure to look around, because cute monkeys can be found all around on Ema wooden plaquettes, Goshuin temple stamps, and even as paintings on the walls.

Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 16:00
Address: 2272 Kiyosu, Aichi 452-0942
Access: From Nagoya Station, take the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line to Shin Kiyosu Station. From there, it’s an 8-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Kirin Beer Nagoya Factory

Kirin Beer Nagoya Factory
Kirin Beer Nagoya Factory

Kiyosu also happens to be home to the Kirin Beer Factory where they brew one of Japan’s most popular brands of beer. You can take a free factory tour and learn more about the beer brewing process as well as sample a selection of different beers. Perfect for beer lovers!

*Due to renovations of the facilities the factory is currently closed. It will reopen on the 1st of October, 2021.

Kirin Beer Nagoya Factory (キリンビール 名古屋工場)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: 9:30-16:00
Address: Hanagasa-100 Terano, Kiyosu, Aichi 452-8562
Access: From Nagoya Station, take the JR Tokaido Line (Local Gifu) to Biwajima Station. Transfer to Tokai Kotsujigyojohoku Line and get off at Owari-Hoshinomiya station. From there, it’s an 8-minute walk.
Website | Google Maps

Aichi Asahi Ruins Museum

Aichi Asahi Ruins Museum
Aichi Asahi Ruins Museum: Yayoi Period house

From the early Yayoi period (300 BC to 300 AD) through to the early Kofun period (300 AD to 400 AD), the Asahi Site was one of the largest settlements in Japan. Flourishing as a population and cultural center, the settlement played an important role at the crossroads of the Yayoi cultures of eastern and western Japan.

In preparation for road construction in the 1970s, some Yayoi Period pottery and artifacts were discovered so a large-scale archaeological excavation began.

The reconstructed architecture is quite compelling. You will find some great Yayoi Period pottery and artifacts that will give you a picture of how people lived in the period. 

Aichi Asahi Ruins Museum (あいち朝日遺跡ミュージアム)
Entry Fee: adult 300円, children 20 yen
Opening Hours: 9:30 – 17:00; close Mondays
Address: Kaizuka-1, Asahi, Kiyosu, Aichi 452-0932
Access: From Nagoya Station, take the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line to Shin Kiyosu Station. From there, it’s a 22-minute walk.
Website (Japanese Only) | Google Maps

Celebrate Kiyosu and Oda Nobunaga During the Kiyosu Castle Nobunaga Festival

Kiyosu castle
A scene during the Kiyosu Castle Nobunaga Festival

The Kiyosu Nobunaga Festival takes place on Taiiku no Hi (Sports Day) an annual public holiday in early October.

During this festival, many events and activities such as the demonstrations of Japanese firearms called Hinawaju and a parade of Samurai warriors, Samurai performances, and a flea market take place around Kiyosu Castle.

Kiyosu Castle Nobunaga Festival (清洲城信長まつり)
Date: September 10, 2021
2021: Canceled
Location: Kiyosu Castle grounds
Access: Take the JR Tokaido Line two stops north from Nagoya Station to JR Kiyosu Station or the Meitetsu Line eight stops to Shin Kiyosu Station on the Nagoya Main Line. From there, it’s around a 15-minute and  8-minute walk.
Google Maps

How to get to Kiyosu on Public Transport

You have two train options to get to Kiyosu from Nagoya. 

Take the JR Tokaido Line two stops north from Nagoya Station to JR Kiyosu Station (190 yen) or the Meitetsu Line eight stops to Shin Kiyosu Station on the Nagoya Main Line (240 yen).


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About the author

Web and Graphic designer living in Aichi Prefecture for more than 10 years. Trying to do the things that she loves and living the life with passion. She is also a travel-food lover and dance lover: her great passion.

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