It looks like a cloud of smoke
But as I come closer
To the old house
In this ancient village
I see it is billowing willow.
Farmers made up the majority of Japan’s population into the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Different farmhouse construction styles developed according to widely varying weather patterns. However, architectural similarities can be seen between dwellings across the country, such as the wooden facades, thatched roofs, sunken hearths (irori), earth floors for stable and kitchen, and living spaces on elevated wooden floors that may have included some tatami rooms in case of the more well-off families.
Farmhouses were the most numerous among the old buildings but were rarely preserved, and thus the remaining ones that we see today tend to be the more prestigious ones, such as those that belonged to village heads or those in remote locations such as Shirakawago and Miyama where entire villages have been preserved to a certain degree. Open air museums are also good places to see regional styles of farmhouses.
Besides shrines and temples, many old buildings can be seen quite naturally in Kyoto. They have survived through a venerable long history of Kyoto.
The Minzoku Shiryokan (Folk Museum) is a symbol of northern Miyama, designated by the national government as an important building group preservation district. Exhibited here are some 200 items, including tools and implements traditionally used by the local people, including farming tools. In the main building there is an exhibit of tools and implements used in everyday life, including old-fashioned lanterns and box pillows. The museum was destroyed by fire in 2000, but was rebuilt in 2002.
Fukuchiyama Castle was originally a fortress of the powerful Yokoyama family who lived in this area. Akechi Mitsuhide, who subjugated Tamba, collected frames from the original construction to rebuild the castle. The castle tower was dismantled under the law abolishing castles enacted during the Meiji Period. In 1986, it was rebuilt as a folk museum to exhibit historical materials relating to the castle and Fukuchiyama, from ancient to modern times.
Gekkeikan Okura Museum, which presents the history of Fushimi sake, is located in an old sake warehouse. Exhibited here are utensils used for making sake, old documents, products from past ages, posters used for advertising and other related items. After taking in the exhibit, visitors can try some sake. Reservations required to view the exhibit.
Founded in 1832 this is a famous sake brewery of long standing. At ‘Ama no Kura’ seasonal local sakes can be tried, such as the distillery’s famous ‘Hakurei’, ‘Shutendoji’, ‘Kouden’ made in vats and buildings dating back to Tenpo-era, as well as those made in a 100,000 litre modern production facility (Showa Period Distillery). While learning about the sakes you can also try your hand at making some. (For groups over 10 booking is necessary)
(also called Kansetsu Hashimoto Museum), located near Ginkaku – ji Temple, was built by the Japanese painter Kansetsu Hashimoto in 1916 as his residence. Particularly wonderful is the tranquil stroll-style landscape garden with Mt. Daimonji in the background. This garden is designated by the national government as a place of scenic beauty. There is a big collection of Kansetsu’s work on display in the gallery at one corner of the garden. The garden is divided into five distinctive themes.
Oda Nobunaga is said to have been a descendant of the Inaba clan of Mino He became extremely wealthy though malt dealing and cargo shipping businesses. At the end of the Meiji Period he increased his fortune through business in metals. The 13th generation Inaba built the Kumihama to Toyooka railway. The thatched roofed main house is registered as a National Cultural Property. At times of celebration local people share the local specialty of ‘Botamochi’ (rice dumpling covered with bean jam) with visitors. In the workshop, located in the restored rice store, it is possible to try pottery and incense making. (Sat, Sun and Public Holidays only. Booking necessary)
Miyama-cho, dotted with 250 thatched-roof houses (as of 2005) near the pure waters of the Yura River flowing through the green mountains, is famous throughout Japan as the quintessential ancestral hometown. In the northern part of the town are some fifty houses lining an area which measures 600 meters east and west by 300 meters north and south. About half of these house have thatched roofs. There is a higher residual ratio of these houses here than anywhere else in Japan. In December 1993, this area was designated by the national government as an Important Traditional Building Preservation District.
Kozuya Bridge, which connects Yawata City to the town of Kumiyama, is 356.5 meters long, the longest wooden bridge in Japan. This bridge is not fastened at the bottom. Instead, it is known as the “Nagare Bashi” (flowing bridge), because its foot planks come away when the water level in the river rises. The girders are divided into eight parts connected by wire.
Kyoto Imperial Palace, which was the residence of the Imperial family until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1869, is located in Kyoto Gyoen park. Within the Imperial Palace grounds, which are enclosed by a roofed earthen wall, are the Seiryo-den (Palace Hall) and the Kogosho (Minor Palace) – reminiscent of the dynastic age.
Other than five days during spring and fall when the Imperial Palace is open to the general public, you must apply in advance to receive permission to view the palace.
The Imperial Household Agency, located inside the walled park surrounding the palace, controls entry to the Palace. Permission is usually granted on same-day only for the people joining guided tour held by Agency. To make a reservation for the tour you have to fill out an application form in person and show your passport. Guided tours in English are given at 10am and 2pm from Monday to Friday and at 10am on the third Saturday of the month. Once get permission, you should arrive at meeting point 20 minutes before tour time.
Kyoto Imperial palace park, where the residences of the Imperial family and court nobles once stood, is located near the center of the Kyoto city. After the capital was moved to Tokyo, the palace was turned into a park and made open to the general public. With its wide gravel streets and abundant and beautiful green trees and lawns, this park is known as an urban oasis for birds.
This spacious park is under controll of Ministry of Environment, except Imperial Palace buildings.
Should you have any inquiry about Imperial Palace, make a contact to the Imperial Household Agency.
In recollection of the great drainage project of Lake Biwa during the Meiji Period, Biwako Sosui Kinenkan(the Lake Biwa Canal Museum of Kyoto) was created in hopes that the great achievements of our predecessors who revived Kyoto will help people in future undertakings. On display are model inclines and materials from the drainage project. Also here is Japan’s first hydroelectric plant.
This house belonged to Mikami – a prominent Edo merchant in the town surrounding Miyazu Castle. He prospered in sake making, shipping and as a thread wholesaler. The house is comprised of six buildings: the main house, the sake store, the sake rice boiling house, the appliance store, the tool room, and front gate. Following a fire in 1783 the wooden pillars that cover the building exterior were coated to prevent fire, and a earthen door installed. In 2003 this villa was designated an important national cultural asset. The house’s tatami and tea rooms are available for public use. (Fee Necessary)
The Miyama Kayabuki Art Museum is made from a thatched house moved to its present location. The art museum exhibits paintings mostly of a Miyama theme. In the Local Museum are displays of old folk tools and implements and related documents ranging from the Edo Period to early Showa. Included are many folk and farming tools and implements, as well as things used in everyday life, providing visitors with a look at mountain village life.
In 1885 a foreign missionary society in Paris sent a missionary Father to Japan. He began his mission in 1888, continuing in Miyazu for fifty years. He consecrated this church in 1896. It is the second oldest Catholic church in Japan, after Oura Cathedral in Nagasaki. The exterior of the building is French Romanesque. The interior, with its tatami floor, is Japanese style. The entire structure was the work of Japanese carpenters. The colorful stained glass dates back to the founding of the church.
This is the former villa of a politician in the Meiji period. Its garden, which includes a pond, is well known for its sophisticated design. Have a relaxing time with a cup of macha (powdered green tea) while enjoying the view.
Myokian, a Zen temple of the Rinzai Sect, was established during the Muromachi Period. The Taian teahouse, one of only three in Japan designated as National Treasures, is the oldest in Japan. Said to be the creation of Sen no Rikyu, the interior of the tea room measures two tatami mats in size. Advance reservations are required to view the teahouse.
From the beginning of the Edo period this was a renowned lodging place. Built in 1660, this house in the Sukiya-style has many rooms. To prevent fire the walls are plastered, and should a guest come under attack there are various ingenious devices to assist with escape, such as hiding places in the ceilings, stepladders, and drop-down staircases. It has been designated as an important national cultural property. Bookings should be made in advance in Japanese/through an interpreter.
This garden was the lifelong passion of a famous actor from the early Showa period. He put most of the money he made from acting into creating this garden, and the result of his devotion is a widely lauded masterpiece. It truly is a perfect garden, incorporating the surrounding landscape of the Arashiyama Mountains.
This old building is the former house of a Haiku poet from the Edo period. Located in tranquil surroundings, this place tells us how the poet worked and lived his life.
In olden times this was a flourishing town with inns and chaya (geisha houses) where travelers could stay or rest, and arrange for horses. The town still has old mortar walls, boarded fences and latticed houses and inns. Many old folk performances and historical sites can also be seen here.
This is a typical ‘machiya’ (Kyoto traditional townhouse), that is designated as an architectural heritage by the city. The building was one of the largest ‘machiya’ rebuilt in the Meiji period.
The Sumiya Motenashi Art Museum is the only extant ageya in Kyoto. An ageya was an elegant restaurant where banquets and dinner parties were held accompanied by the entertainment of Geiko and Taiyu [premiere geiko], who performed tea ceremonies, sang and danced. In 1952 the building was designated by the national government as an Important Cultural Property and is now used as a museum. Being able to see this ageya as was in the Edo period is a real rarity in Japan.
Sakamoto Ryoma, a samurai who helped to change the course of Japanese history, used to be a patron of this famous inn. Historical features associated with him are well preserved, including the room in which he stayed, as well as a sword cut on a pillar.
The Chirimen (Crepe Silk) Road was completed by the Azuchi Momoyama Period ruler of Kaya Valley and master of Yasuyoshi Castle – Ariyoshi. In 1722 the region’s Tegomeya Kouemon, taking a secret silk making skill from Kyoto’s Nishijin developed Tango’s silk industry. The road has been designated a cultural asset by Kyoto Prefecture. It is possible to tour the Old Bito Residence from the factory where merchants made silk, to the hospital, bank and the atmosphere of former times can be felt today. Visiting times are(9:00am -5:00pm, Closed Mondays and Day following a Public Holiday)Admission: 200 yen, Tel: 0772-43-1166
From the Edo(1603- 1867) era to the period of Meiji/Taisho/early Showa(1926-1989) era, the Chirimen (Silk Crape)street of Kaya had row of modernized houses along a city street district through crape industry; not only the production center of the Tango crape, but also prospered as a foothold of the distribution to link Kyoto to Tango. The Bitos of Kaya acted as village officials since the Edo era and ran a raw silk crape wholesale dealer from generation to generation. The current old Bito house is located in the center of the course, and was completed in June, the first year of Keio (1865). Later the house was enlarged with a storehouse and rooms in Meiji Taisho period and 11th Shozo Bito who acted as the Kaya town mayor built the rare western-style building as a detached room in 1993. The old Bito house, the oriental and western style building was specified as Kyoto cultural asset.
Located in northern part of Ohno dam, this is the oldest existing private house, which clearly shows the generation. Built in 1650, it was designated as an important cultural property in 1972. Ishidas acted as the village headman of the group of Sonobe clan Kashiwara Murakami, settled as the highest position in the Ohara Shrine group, and it is thought that it was the class of village officials from early days of Edo (Earliest 16th Century). This is the most valuable private house, which kept the oldest form as Kitayama model house distributed over the eastern part of Tamba around former Kitakuwada-gun. It is opened for internal visit on weekends throughout spring to fall. There are furnace and old tools, which you can observe the old life in Japan.
This house, built on this spot in the early Meiji Period, has been repaired and maintained for public viewing. The building and interior themselves are the exhibits. Visitors can get a direct feel for the traditional buildings of Okusaga.