Hino lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Hino-cho, Gamo-gun, Shiga Prefecture. The craft dates back to 1533, when Gamo Sadahide, the castellan of Hino Castle, planned to build a castle town. He assembled woodcraftsmen and lacquerers working at the foot of Mt. Watamuki and made them live in the specially arranged blocks of Nusi-machi (lacquerers’ town) and Kataji-machi (woodcraftsmen’s town), where the making of Hino lacquered bowls started.
As Sadahide’s grandson Ujisato was transferred to another place in 1584, the making of this craft declined for a short time. However, as Ohmi-Hino merchants were willing to sell Hino bowls as their staple merchandise, the production of Hino bowls started to grow again and its name came to be widely known. Most of the early products that are still existing today are vessels for ceremonial use. They are characterized by the heavy body and thick foot rim.
In 2001, efforts to revive this traditional craft started by volunteers in the town. They are now working on the production of lacquer ware that can be durable for daily use.
The Shibukawa Merchant House comprises into one inn the shops, houses and warehouses of the largest seafood merchants in Aizu. The Shibukawa Merchant House used to be a large shop which sold seafood.
Today, the floors have absolutely no trace of dust anywhere and are always polished till they shine, in order for customers to feel at home. There is a room in the annex named 'Room of Patriotism' where the uncle of the late owner, Zensuke Shibukawa, spent his boyhood. In business since the early Meiji period, in addition to the Shibukawa Family, more than 50 servants lived in the mansion at the height of its prosperity.
Many locations for sightseeing such as the Amida Temple can be found in the vicinity. There are many activities for visitors, such as taking a stroll through the streets that had prospered during the Meiji and Taisho periods. These streets still retain their 'Taisho Roman' atmosphere, allowing visitors to enjoy the feeling of slipping back through time.
The Omi merchants (Omi shonin) were based in Omi, but peddled their merchandise around Japan. The majority of them came from Omi-hachiman, Hino and Gokasho. Merchants from the latter, were known as Gokasho shonin.
Gokasho is known as the origin of the Omi merchants, who became considerably wealthy. Within the city, many mansions and gardens can be seen. The old city has been designated as an important cultural architecture preservation area. Some of the houses are open to visitors. Many of the shops and business enterprises that were founded in the late-Edo to Meiji period are still carrying out business today.
Waka-enoshima is located in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, and is Japan's oldest harbor. The city of Kamakura was utilized as a port during the Kamakura period, and was bustling with merchant ships from all over Japan and China. Yet, due to the shallowness of the port for a considerable distance from shore, many ships found it inconvenient to unload, while some were shipwrecked due to carelessness.
During the first year of the Jyoei era (1232), the monk O-amidabutsu was granted permission by Masatoki Hojo to lay down Izu rocks in the water as a foundation for a man-made harbor island. A temple called the Gokuraku Temple was later built on top of it to manage the harbor. This was the start of the oldest harbor in Japan, Waka-enoshima.
The island was later used as a port during the Edo period, but due to numerous earthquakes and erosion, only a large mound of rocks can be seen during low tide now. Pieces of old ceramic pottery dating back to former trading days, as well as tidal pool sea organisms can be found on the island.
Waka-enoshima is a monument that reminds visitors of the glory of the Kamakura period.
The Tenryohita Doll's Festival takes place each year on 3 March, Girls' Day, in Hita-shi, Oita Prefecture. At this time, dolls and doll-making tools are displayed in about 20 old family houses and reference libraries throughout the town.
During the Edo period, an early spring Ohinasama (doll) festival spread among the general public along with a rise in urban prosperity. This festival became a traditional Japanese event to wish for the health, wholesomeness and happiness of girls. At this time, because Hita was directly governed by the Edo Bakufu, a governor's residence (daikansho) was built. As merchants became wealthier, the Tenryohita became greater and thrived to such an extent that it was called the greatest festival of Kyushu.
The dolls and doll-making tools handed down from generation to generation from the old families of the Edo and Meiji periods, astound us with their extravagance and splendor. The elegant, lustrous and graceful features of the dolls, along with their majestic kimonos and gracious figures, reflect the financial power the wealthy merchants possessed, and the prosperous, cultivated lives they led.
Running from the moat of Hikone Castle to Kyobashi bridge there is a straight road that goes over the old Middle moats within the castle grounds.
This road reflects the tradition of this castle town, with its black latticed windows, wing walls, white walls and eaves. While the area has been carefully protected, the people's lives are not so visible, such as along the area known today as Old New Town, Yumekyobashi Castle Road.
Honmachi, in Hikone, where this street is located, became a castle town in 1603 at the same time as Hikone Castle was completed. The historical town has 6-meter-wide roads, giving a taste of the past.
In 1985, city planners commenced renovation of this road, realising its historical importance. In 1999, renovation and repairs were completed and the Honmachi area was reborn as Yumekyobashi Castle Road.
The road has been decorated with images of Hikone 'karuta' (local playing cards), which lend an extra tasteful element to the road as you walk along it.
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.
Streets featuring 'udatsu' may be seen in the town of Waki, Tokushima. The Agency of Cultural Affairs has designated these streets as Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings in Japan. In addition, The Ministry of Construction has selected these streets to be included among 100 (Famous) Streets of Japan and 100 (Famous) Urban Landscapes.
Udatsu are the white-plastered parts above the first floor of the houses, and were originally built to act as firewalls between each house. However, they slowly took on a more decorative function, becoming increasingly gorgeous. Eventually, roof tiles came to cover the plaster.
Fine udatsu were created for the houses of merchants around the Kansai area. The proverb 'Can’t build up the udatsu' comes from these udatsu.
To preserve these streets, the town of Waki followed national regulations for urban scenery in 1998, which led to Waki's streets being selected as the 28th Urban Landscape of Japan by The Agency of Cultural Affairs.
These streets featuring udatsu have a calm and nostalgic feel that makes you think of everyday life in Edo times.