Kakunodate in Akita, for a Stroll in a Castle Town from the Edo Period
Kakunodate area, located in Senboku City Akita Prefecture, flourished during the Edo Period as a castle town of Satake-Hokke clan. Buke-yashiki (samurai residence) still lines the streets today and its history is securely preserved. It is a very popular, refined tourist destination with beautiful rows of cherry trees in the spring.
Highlights of Kakunodate Castle Town
The town preserves its layout without changing from the Edo Period. It consists of two areas with an open space called “Hiyoke (literally translated means Evading Fire)” in the center of the town. The north side is “Uchimachi(Inner City)” where samurai residences stand, and the south side is “Tomachi(Outer City)”, where townsfolk and merchants lived. It is said that the open space “Hiyoke” was established so that fires started in the Tomachi would not expand to the Uchimachi, the buke-yashiki area. In addition, the Kidomon (wooden gate) was reportedly closed at night in order to prevent intrusion of suspicious persons.
Wooden fences of buke-yashiki extend on the side of a wide street, with weeping cherry trees and tall fir trees in the gardens. Many manors on this street firmly preserve characteristics of samurai residence structure, in main buildings, gates, as well as kura storage buildings.
Senior and intermediate-level samurai residences are located in the middle of Uchimachi, and they are open to the public. Some parts of the residences are open to the public for a fee, as a museum or an exhibition room, including Aoyagi Residence and Ishiguro Residence.
Aoyagi Residence, flickr.com
A large ground of 9700 square meters is surrounded by wooden fences and a gate with a thatched roof. It contains 6 museums to exhibit armors, weapons, and works of art, etc., which have been passed down from generation to generation (some charges apply).
Onozaki Residence, flickr.com
This building is located at the northern most point of the Buke-yashiki Dori, and it was a residence of a senior level samurai family with wooden fence and a fine gate. It is utilized as a community house of the area and a martial arts hall today.
The residence is a small building with a thatched roof, surrounded by brushwood fence, but you can strongly feel the atmosphere of the Edo Period in this place. From spring to fall, demonstrations of a traditional wooden craft of this area, “Itaya-zaiku” are shown.
A View of Tomachi Lined with Stores, flickr.com
Tomachi, where merchants and townsfolk have once lived, still has many restaurants and stores today that utilize old buildings and kura warehouses. The highlights of Tomachi include Ando Residence, where the family used to produce miso and soy sauce; Ota Residence whose clan used to be a large landowner; Goi Residence, which once housed a wealthy merchant clan with their sake cellar still existent today; Tatetsu exhibits their former household furniture and everyday wares to the public for free in “Tomachi Museum Tatetsu”; and Sakamoto Residence, where the family still operates a pharmacy in the same store, just like the old days.
#3 Best Locations to Enjoy Cherry Blossoms
Spectacular Cherry Trees along the River, flickr.com
Kakunodate is also famous for cherry blossoms. “Sakura Matsuri Festival” is held every year from April 20 to May 5, and over 1.2 million people visit the area to view the beautiful weeping cherries along the Buke-yashiki Dori and cherry blossoms along the river.
Recommended Experience in Kakunodate Castle Town
Rickshaws once ran through the town as a means of transportation during the Edo Period. Riding a rickshaw and going around the Kakunodate area is likely to add a great memory to your trip. A 15 minute rickshaw tour for a two-person ride around the senior-level samurai residences at 3000 yen will make you feel as if you transported through time to the Edo Period.
<“Kakunodate Jinriki-sha” (Kakunodate Rickshaw Corp.)>
Open: 9AM to 5PM
Open 365 days (By reservation only between December and March)
Let’s wear antique kimono with dressing help and take a stroll with your friends through samurai residences, feeling as if you were townsfolk of the old days. Men’s kimono is also available, so a couple can change into kimono and enjoy taking photos posing at various spots of the town.
Dressing help and kimono rental at 4000 yen (including all necessary goods)
Open: 10 AM to 5 PM
Phone exclusively for reservation: 0187-63-6751
Dressing Location: “Tatetsu-ya”
Inaniwa Udon Noodles
Please try it when you feel a little hungry after exploring the historic area of Kakunodate.
Inaniwa udon noodle is one of Japan’s three major udon noodles. It is hand-made dried udon noodle, produced in the southern part of Akita Prefecture. It has been a local cuisine in this area well over 300 years, and it is a little thinner, flat udon that goes smoothly down your throat. An order of chilled goma-dare (sesame sauce) udon at 1050 yen came with “iburigakko”, which is smoked “takuan”, a famous Akita local recipe made of pickled dried daikon radish (in the bottom right of the photo).
How did you like it? Kakunodate, which preserves streets and houses from the era of samurai to date, is a miniature town of Edo city. You can experience Japan of the past, getting a glimpse of samurai’s life, dressing in kimono and riding in a rickshaw. And you can enjoy many local dishes loved by people in the region since a long time ago.
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