|Historical Townscape Where Houses from
the Edo Period Remain
Surrounded by three rivers, the Innaigawa, the Hinokinaigawa, and the Tamagawa, in the middle of Akita Prefecture lies the town of Kakunodate. Located in the enchanting Snow Country, it is a castle town that is famous for its townscape of Edo Period (1603-1868) samurai residences, its weeping cherry trees that have been designated a Natural Monument, and for the cherry trees lining the banks of the Hinokinaigawa. Today you can still see the streets of Kakunodate that were built in 1620. The town follows a road aligned on a north-south axis that goes through the mansion of the lord of the castle. Seven hundred meters (2,297 feet) south there is a boundary that divided the classes: the samurai quarter lay to the north of the boundary, while the commoners lived to the south. This zoning continued virtually unchanged until the end of the Edo Period.
At present, the former samurai quarter has been designated a Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. This area was mainly a residential quarter for upper and middle class samurai. Although there has been some adjustment to the zoning, little has changed except for the construction of a school. There is a gate to expansive properties, surrounded by board fences, thicket hedges or ordinary hedges. Inside, extending down to a thatched main house at the far end of each compound are a number of annexes. The scenes inside have hardly changed over the generations.
The feudal-period residences are normally open to the public, so visitors can enter the premises and see how people used to live from the style of architecture, the tools of daily life, among others. Not to mention the townscape and buildings of Kakunodate, the thickly planted rows of trees that line the roads are also beautiful. As an inseparable part of the townscape, they are preserved as well as the buildings.
Photos: (top) The gate of the Ishiguro residence (the weeping-cherry blossoms in spring and green leaves in summer); (middle) the Iwahashi residence. (Kakunodate Town)
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