Discover Japan’s Historic Districts

08 August, 2019

Nagamachi Samurai District, Kanazawa, Japan

If it is the country’s rich history that draws you to Japan, then no doubt you’ll want to spend some time exploring the historic districts that boast fascinating narratives and well preserved illustrations of a time gone by. Keep an eye out for these areas of interest on your Japan tour itinerary.

Samurai Districts

During the Edo Period (1603 – 1868) in Japan many castle towns saw the samurai take up residence around the central castle, home to the feudal lord, thus forming what is now known as the samurai districts. These are characterised by narrow lanes that will transport you to a bygone era as you meander between earthen walls and below tiled roofs and steadfast entrance gates.   

There are various places where you will find well preserved samurai residences, one standout being the Nagamachi District in Kanazawa. Here you can stroll the streets and along the canals absorbing the atmosphere and truly get a feel for the way of life of the samurai.

Immerse yourself in the district with a visit to Nomura Samurai Family Residence as you soak up the Essence of Japan with Tauck. Stroll through the beautiful gardens and the house itself adorned with carvings and filled with antiques including a samurai suit of armour. Alternatively, if you join the Cherry Blossom Festival itinerary with On The Go, you will also see the delicate pink blooms blanketing the impressive Kenrokuen garden, once that of Kanazawa Castle.

Takayama, Japan

Merchant Districts

A division of social castes in the Edo period saw merchants band together in the ‘merchant districts’ and in these preserved areas you can still find characteristic old buildings, shops and warehouses. Many are still being used to this day and you can shop for customary crafts, break for a delicious meal at one of the transformed restaurants, or simply enjoy wandering the streets lined with tradition.  

Check out the Edo-style streets of Takayama Old Town as you discover the Splendours of Japan with Trafalgar, or visit Nakamachi, the former merchant district of Matsumoto, while exploring Classic Japan with Intrepid. 

Geisha, Kyoto

Geisha Districts

The ancient tradition of geisha entertainment still weaves its way through the modern fabric of Japan, particularly in Kyoto. Geisha perform traditional song and dance and are known for their iconic dress, donning kimonos and oshiroi makeup.

The Gion neighbourhood is known as the principal Geisha district in Kyoto and carries through its historic charm with preserved old buildings and tea houses. Explore this lively district with Luxury Gold on their Majestic Japan itinerary and for a truly immersive experience, enjoy a performance by a Maiko, an apprentice Geisha.

Magome, Nakasendo Trail, Japan

Post Towns

Historic post towns were built to give travellers a place to rest as they made their way along major routes throughout Japan, one of the most well known being that between Tokyo and Kyoto. These hubs provided accommodation and restaurants for visitors so they could rest and refuel for their onward journey, and some continue to do so to this day.

Some of the best preserved post towns can be found in the Kiso Valley, including that of Tsumago and Magome. Both these historic post towns boast buildings and design dating back to the Edo Period, and still offer a place to break the journeys of travellers. You can see both towns as you walk the Nakasendo trail between them, a popular route for walkers and hikers looking to get a taste of the history and scenery of Japan.

Natasha Goncalves
Natasha Goncalves Global Journeys