Aoyama Kogen is a hill dividing Iga and Tsu and its highest peak is 756 meters in elevation. It is one of the most popular segments of Tokai Nature Trail, 1500-kilometers-long hiking trail between Mt. Takao and Mt. Minoo. Today the hill area has some wind turbine towers.
The park, one of the most popular cherry viewing sites in Mie, started as the garden and villa of Takayki Todo, 11th lord of Tsu castle around 1855-60. After the Meiji Restoration the area became a public park. When I visited there about 20 years ago there used to have a small prefectrural museum but it was closed in 2007 and will be reopened in Isshinden area in 2013.
Originally built in 1571 this castle is best known as one of the major renovation works by Takatora Todo in early 17th century. Donjon of the castle was burned down in 1662 and never have been rebuilt since then. Stone wall structure and three-storied tower rebuilt in 1958 are the main features of the castle ruins. It's entirely free of charge to enter the castle area.
"Takatora was born in the village of Todo, Inugami gun, Ominokuni (later renamed Zaishi, now Kora-cho, Shiga-ken) in the second year of the Koji period (1556) and went into the service of Lord Asai at the age of fifteen. After having won his first battle in the Anegawa Wars, he fought in various battles and was given the fortune of 300 koku (one koku was equivalent to one bushel of rice and was a basic measure of wealth) by Hidenaga Kinoshita (Hidenaga Toyotomi) at the age of 21 in the fourth year of the Tensho period (1576). In the thirteenth year of the Tensho period (1585), he became the first feudal lord of Kokawa Kishu (Kokawa-cho, Wakayama-ken) to have a stipend of 10.000 koku.
After that he served Hideyoshi Toyotomi and was given 70.000 koku by him at Uwajima Iyo (Uwajima-shi, Ehime-ken) and twice took part in military expeditions to Korea. After the death of Hideyoshi, he became associated with Ieyasu Tokugawa and won battles as his ally at Sekigahara, and was made the first lord of Imabari Iyo (Imabari-shi, Ehime-ken) to receive a stipend of 200.000 koku.
In the third year of the Keicho period (1608) he was posted to Ise Iga, which was a strategically important position, as it was a vital link in the Tokugawa land surrounding the territory controlled by the still-powerful Toyotomi family. His fortune was increased to 224.000 koku. After the Battle of Osaka, this was further increased to 323.000 koku, making him one of the greatest feudal lords.
He built Itajima Castle (Uwajima Castle) and Imabari Castle for his residences and repaired Tsu Castle, Igaueno Castle and built towns around these castles. He also built and repaired Jurakudai, Zeze Castle, Fushimi Castle, Edo Castle, Sasayama Castle, Tanbakameyama Castle, Osaka Castle, and Nijo Castle.
Takatora's lif was filled with repeated participation in war. He was so busy that he was never living in the same place for very long. As well as being a great warrior, he was said to be a person who was thoughtful of his subjects and to have belived in communicating with people."
A visit to Takada Honzan Senso-ji temple, the main tourist attraction of Tsu.
It's the biggest Buddhist temple in the province: two huge wooden buildings side by side (the picture shows one) and surroundings. The gates are impressive too. It's a very peaceful place, except during the festivals.