The townscape of old time Japan is preserved in Kurayoshi City, Tottori Prefecture. Storage houses of sake brewers and soybean sauce makers built from the Edo to Meiji periods stand along the Tamagawa River in the city. They remind us of the former splendor back to the days when Kurayoshi flourished as a commercial town. The building style of these storage houses with white plaster walls, red roofs and baseboard panels made of burned cedar wood is characteristic to this region. Small stone bridges are built across the river to connect the storage houses and the residences. Walking leisurely along the river and viewing this quiet townscape, you be unaware of the passage of time. Presently, most of the storage houses are modified into shops, where you can buy and experience traditional handicraft of this town and take a rest over a cup of coffee.
Kurayoshi is the hometown of Makita Jinemon, who had been the general manager of Yodoya, one of the wealthiest mercantile houses in Osaka in the Edo period. After the fortune of Yodoya was confiscated by the Tokugawa Shogunate, Makita returned to his hometown and resuscitated Yodoya in Kurayoshi. The graveyard of Makita Yodoya family is located at Dairenji Temple in the city.
Oke is the generic name for any cylindrical wooden vessel that has no lid. In the ancient times, oke was made out of a hinoki (Japanese cypress) board, which was curved round, rimmed with cherry or birch bark, and then fitted on a bottom board. In the Muromachi period (1336-1573), Oke began to be made in the present style, in which some pieces of strip board are placed around the bottom board and bound with a hoop. Oke with a lid is called taru (barrel). Taru are made of Japanese cedar, Japanese cypress, or sawara (natural trees in a cypress group). Flat-grained wood is used for a barrel to contain liquid like sake or soy sauce and salty content such as miso. Straight-grained wood is used for barrels to contain other things because straight grain looks more attractive. In the ancient times taga (hoop) was made out of bamboo, but metal has been used since the Meiji period. Oke with a copper hoop was called “Aka-taga (with a red hoop),” which was considered as upmarket.
The Sanshuu-Izutsu-Yashiki is an estate found in Hikita, Higashikagawa-shi, Kagawa Prefecture. The building was a famous old izutsuya store, which brewed soy sauce and sake.
The history of this estate dates back to 1692, when the reputation of the izutsuya stores, which started the soy sauce business, spread as far as the Kanto region. In 1913, the Sanshuu-Izutsuya started to brew sake, and by 1920, was making shouchu (another kind of liquor) as well as mirin (a kind of condiment used in cooking). At their most productive, the Izutsuya was considered the best merchant family in all of Hikita.
Despite the reputation and respect the Izutsuya had gained up until 1989, by 1997, the old Izutsu-yashiki had become vacant. The existence of this historic example of old architecture was in danger, but, thanks to petitioning by local residents, the house was acquired by the town of Hikita. It was renovated and reopened as the Sanshuu-Izutsu-Yashiki.
Currently, the house is at the center of a resort area, and has become an important site revealing something of the history of soy sauce- and sake-making in Japan.
The region around Hikita, Higashikagawa, Kagawa Prefecture, formerly a castle town, was where Hikita castle once stood.
Hikita Castle was built by Ikoma Chikamasa, a general who played an active part during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Today, only the slight remains of the castle walls are evident at the site.
Hikita is known for its manufacturing of soy sauce. The Sano Family's Izutsuya store, the Okada Family's Kamebishiya store and the Kusaka Family's Daishoya store were run by three successful and wealthy merchant families who were called the Hikita Gosanke (Hikita's big three merchants). The estates of these three merchants and private houses from the Edo period still remain. Many kinds of stores can be seen within the renovated kyuu-Izutsu-yashiki. A Kamebishiya, situated to the north of the Izutsu-yashiki, stands out from the rest of the buildings with its tiled roof and red walls. By walking to the south of the town, the majestic gate to the estate of the Hikita family can be seen, and in front of that, is the old Hikita post office. Compared to the long row houses seen in the town, the post office is built in a Taisho modern style, with its distinct octagonal windows positioned in an orderly line.
The scenery and the distinct atmosphere created by the buildings of Hikita help communicate the history of the town without leaving anything behind.