Originally known as warriors, samurai later belonged to the highest-ranking social caste during Japan’s Edo Period. Although the number of samurai was actually less than ten percent, they nonetheless contributed greatly to Japanese culture as well as to the development of many martial arts. To channel your inner samurai and learn more about these warriors, you’ll want to visit a few of the following Japanese historical locations.
Kakunodate Samurai District, Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture
This district originally housed approximately 80 families, and is held up as a primary example of samurai architecture. It includes six houses that are open to the public, two of which are considered very noteworthy due to their size and special features. One is the Aoyagi House, which is much like a museum and contains samurai collections and displays on their traditions. The second is Ishiguro House, which is still inhabited but offers tours of certain sections. In addition to its displays of samurai armor and clothing, Ishiguro House also offers several anatomical drawings for public viewing.
Hagi Castle Town, Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture
During the Edo Period, Hagi was a thriving castle town, which was basically an extension of a castle’s defense system. Only the ruins of Hagi Castle are still standing; however, the town nonetheless has some beautifully-preserved streets that are lined with white walls that have been standing since the Middle Ages. Former samurai mansions along with several museums and temples are also open for you to browse at your leisure.
Bitchu-Takahashi Old Town, Bitchu-Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture
Located at the base of Matsyama Castle, this old town consists of several period merchant and craftsman buildings that are open to the public. Two samurai homes have also been immaculately conserved, and are open to the public. You may access the city by train from Nimi in the north or Okayama to the south, stopping at the Bitchu Takahashi Station. There you may purchase a combination ticket that will provide you access to Raikyuhi Temple, the samurai houses, Takahashi Folk Museum, and Takahashi Historical Museum. Many of the historic streets very close to the castle have been meticulously maintained to make traveling to and from these attractions as easy as possible.
Seisonkaku Villa, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Built during the end of the Edo Period, Seisonkaku Villa is one of the most carefully-preserved villas of its kind. Actually a very large structure, it features a number of tatami rooms, which are traditional Japanese-style areas that feature tatami mats as flooring. Seisonkaku is best known for its expensive roof, which covers the garden viewing deck and is void of any supports that would hinder one’s view.
These Japanese historical locations are both fun and educational to visit, allowing you to take a step back in time and pretend that you are actually an ancient samurai. They will also give you a greater appreciation for Japanese culture and tradition, including those used in modern day martial arts. Make plans to visit one or more of them during your next visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.