Jouka-machi is a town developed and established around the residential castle of the local lord.
Jouka-machi is believed to have been established during the Sengoku period (from the middle to the end of 16th century). It resulted from the policy of Oda Nobunaga, in which warriors were separated from farmers and established into a full-time warrior-army. Oda Nobunaga made the warriors live at the foot of his castle and he brought in commerce and industry to develop the town commercially.
In the basic structure of jouka-machi the main road leads to the foot of the castle. As people settled there and business developed, a town was born.
In many cases, such castle towns had various devices to protect the residents and the castle, such as the effective use of rivers and building gates, as well as houses built so close to each other that they effectively concealed the castle. The town itself became a gigantic fortress.
The residential area was zoned according to the social status of the samurai warriors. The higher the status, the closer to the castle they lived. Other residents, as well as temples and shrines radiated out further from the castle as the town grew.
Even now, some towns preserve the feel and look of the old castle towns. Though modernized, some towns still keep the old names such as ban-chou, oote-machi and gofuku-machi that evoke olden times.
Daishoji is located in today's Kaga city in Ishikawa Prefecture. This was once a thriving castle town within the highly productive million-koku branch domain of the Kaga Domain.
Daishoji is a place where history and tradition live. The streets still retain a mellow and relaxed atmosphere evocative of the Edo period. At the base of the Kinjo mountain castle are the old Zen and Nichiren Buddhist temples standing side by side. Visitors come all year round to see the historical sites here.
Among the temples, Jisshouin is famous throughout Japan for its beautiful wisteria. The gilt-painted shoji screens are also magnificent. Choryu-Tei pavilion and garden, located in the grounds of the Enuma Shrine and once part of the mansion of Daishoji's 3rd lord, seem to imitate the Kenrokuen garden. Here the elaborate and detailed drawing room and tea room are interesting. This garden is designated as an important national asset.
Yanagawa handballs are traditional Japanese handball made in Yanagawa City, Fukuoka Pref. It is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by the prefecture. In Yanagawa area, three is a custom to present “Sagemon” to a girl on her first girls’ Sekku day (March 3). Sagemon is a kind of mobile with a large handball set in the center of the ring and many small balls and handmade staffed-dolls, mostly lucky items such as a crane, attached alternately to the strings that are hung from the ring. Traditionally, Yanagawa handballs are used for this ornament. In making of Yanagawa balls, a wadded cotton cloth is covered with a sheet of cotton, which is shaped into a ball with basting yarn. Then the ball is whipped up with cotton thread that is dyed with Kusaki-zome technique or modern colored thread of synthetic fiber. It is said that Yanagawa handballs were first made by the waiting maids working at the residence of the domain lord of Yanagawa Province and then the technique spread among the townspeople in the castle town. The making of Yanagawa handballs has been handed down as a cultural property of the castle town.
Kameyama-juku was the 46th of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1686). It was in the eastern part of current Kameyama City in Mie Prefecture. The town thrived as a post town and a castle town as well. There are a lot of historic sites such as the ruins of Kameyama Castle including the ruins of Edoguchi-mon Gate and Kyoguchi-mon Gate and the site where the Ishii brothers gained revenge.
In Ando Hiroshige’s “Kameyama” of his “The 53 Post Stations of the Tokaido Road,” he depicted a procession of a feudal lord ascending a steep hillside, under deep snow among the trees, to the entrance to Kameyama Castle. The brightness of snow is wonderfully expressed in this monochromatic ink painting, but at the same time we can’t help realizing keenly how hard it was to make a journey in those days.
Presently, there are many historic constructions remaining in the town. These remnants of an ancient castle town include a temple, which used to be a part of the castle compound, old samurai houses, and the right-angled streets.
Lantern Festival is held in the area around Maizuru Park in Takanabe Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, on around October 15 every year under the theme “To foster the moral principal,” which was the motto of “Meirindo,” the official school of the Takanabe domain established by the 3rd lord of the domain, Akizuki Nobutane, in the late 17th century.
About 1,500 stone and bamboo lanterns place in the main festival site as well as in many places in the town are lit at the same time, which fantastically illuminate this old castle town. Among them are unique paper lanterns made by elementary and junior high school students. Including the volunteers who light lanterns, all the townspeople cooperate with one another to make the festival successful.
On the festival day, various events such as the jazz concert “Horidoko no Utage” and the local product fair are held everywhere in the park.
Kenryuji Temple is in Wakuya Town in Miyagi Prefecture, known as a castle town at the foot of Wakuya Castle, where the Wakuya Date clan resided. It is said that the principal image of worship, the statue of Nyoirin Kanzeon, was carved by a Buddhist sculptor, Ankei.
In 1591, when Watari Shigemune became the ruler of the area, he invited the priest Ryogan of Myoshinji Temple in Kyoto and restored the deserted temple, naming it Endoji Temple. In 1671, upon the death of Date Muneshige, the 4th generation of the Wakuya Date clan, it was renamed the present name after his Buddhist name.
In the precinct is the mausoleum of Muneshige, Kenryubyo, built in 1673. Surrounded with white clay walls, the building is made of zelkova wood and has Kohai (a step canopy) and a copper roof in Hogyo-zukuri (a pyramid style). It is a prefecturally designated important cultural property. The mausoleums of the 5th and the 6th lords and the graves of other generations of head of the clan surround the Kenryubyo mausoleum.
Morioka Autumn Festival serves as the annual festival of Morioka Hachimangu Shrine in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture. It is held for 3 days from September 14 to 16 every year, and the festival eve events are performed on the 13th.
Morioka Hachimangu was founded about 800 years ago by the Nanbu clan as the guardian god of their castle town of Morioka. The festival dates back to 1709, when a parade of floats was performed to celebrate the completion of all the 23 sub-towns of the castle town. It is said that the parade was composed of 23 floats made by each town.
The float parade has been performed since then and it is now designated as a city’s intangible cultural property. In the Hachiman-kudari parade, all the floats start parading from Hachiman Shrine in the afternoon and go through the town. And in the Dashi-Daiemaki parade in the evening, the gorgeously lit up floats parade through the town again. Also, traditional Yabusame (horseback archery) is held in the shrine precinct.
The front approach of the shrine is lined with night stalls including “yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles),” which is a must for a Japanese “omatsuri.” Listening to Nanbu’s distinctive “Ondo” music played by children on the floats and eating yakisoba; it’s a fantastic way to spend your holiday.
Uesugu Festival is held annually in the castle town of Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture. This large-scale spring festival is sponsored by Uesugi Shrine, which enshrines the founder of the Uesugi clan, Kenshin Uesugi, and Matsugasaki Shrine, which enshrines the 2nd generation Kagekatsu Uesugi and 10th generation Youzan Uesugi.
Each year from April 29 to May 3, Matsugasaki Park, the site of the festival, is lined with stalls and overflows with visitors. Wives from every household work diligently yet cheerfully in the kitchen preparing a feast, gathering aralia nuts and cooking sea bream according to traditional custom. A group of dancers numbering no less than one thousand dressed in an array of colorful costumes dance the Hanagasa-odori across the city.
On the final day the famous Battle of Kawanakajima is reenacted with more than 700 men and horses participating in the fight between the Uesugi and Takeda armies, acting as if it is a real battle.