Imaicho: Ancient Japanese Architecture Town
In Japan there are neighborhoods where old Japanese buildings are preserved together with the atmosphere of Japan before the Meiji Period and Westernization. However, it is rare to find a whole town which is preserved with old Japanese-styled architecture; Imaicho is an exception.
It is located in Nara, in Kashihara City. Imaicho is away from the popular tourist destinations of Nara, such as Todai-ji, Nara Park or Kasuga Taisha. This lets visitors enjoy the atmosphere of the traditional Japanese town without big crowds of people, which makes the town of Imaicho appealing.
Imaicho was first built as a temple town around the Shonen-ji Temple. However as time passed, the town became a luxury merchant town.
During the Azuchi-Momoyama period, Imaicho was opposed to the famous samurai feudal lord: Oda Nobunaga. That is because Oda Nobunaga wanted to limit the power of large temples. However, due to successful negotiations and the connections that Imaicho had, the town was saved from being destroyed by the powerful feudal lord.
Particularly in the Edo Period, Imaicho was highly engaged in trade with other towns around it, such as with Osaka, which made the town very wealthy. There was a saying, “seven-tenths of Yamato's gold is in Imai,” because it used to exist during the town’s wealthy period.
Residences and Architecture
What makes Imaicho significant is the preservation of Edo style architecture and residences in the town. Not all residences are open to the public. However, some residences are available to be visited by tourists. Near to the station and at the entrance of Imaicho, is an information center called the Hanairaka Information Center. There, visitors are able to get information about the town and ask for what is good to be seen on that particular day. It is highly suggested that visitors visit the Hanairaka Information Center before starting their visit at Imaicho.
As Imaicho is said to be at its peak of wealth during the Edo Period, many of the residences remain in their form from the Edo Period. Due to the town’s wealth, all buildings were able to have tiled roofs and architecture of high standards.
Houses in Imaicho are important cultural properties. Residences such as the Imainishi Residence, Imai Machiya-kan and Yonetani Residence are open for visitors to see. However, for detailed information it is best to visit the Hanairaka Information Center where they will provide visitors with a map of Imaicho with the location of each residence.
The nearest stations for Imaicho are Kintetsu Yaginishi-guchi and Kintestu Yamato-yagi. Both stations can be accessed from Kintetsu Nara Station. Imaicho is a short walk away from the nearest stations.