When one thinks of Japan what do we think about? Ninjas, anime, comic books, and samurai of course. In modern Japan there isn't much in the way of Samurai anymore. Sure there are the splash of them in pop-culture and video games but they aren't much of anywhere else in my wonderings. Up in Tohoku you find a lot of history along with some pop-culture thrown into the mix.
Kakunodate is the samurai spot in Tohoku. This old castle town has the most well preserved samurai houses that are lined behind beautiful black painted wooden fences. They are mostly free attractions but a couple of the houses, including the oldest and biggest, are pay to enter. They city is also famed for its swinging cherry trees that line the samurai district and along the river bank. During spring the cherry blossoms are out and the trees along the river form a beautiful cherry tunnel to stroll along and enjoy remembering how fleeting life is.
I ended up here on a whim yesterday. I was sitting in my apartment yesterday morning looking for some place to go. As I was going through places I put in Kakunodate into hyperdia and
saw it was only an hour and a half from Sendai by shinkansen. I just said what the heck and headed out to the station. I got in around 2pm and walked the 15 minutes to the samurai district. Kakunodate as a very old layout and while your walking to the district you pass along winding roads that meet up into small shopping streets and weave around the city. It was a hot July day, though it was no where near as hot as NC during the summer.
The samurai houses are all lined behind a long wooden fence where small gates open up into wide gardens and old houses are are left open to the elements and tourists. There was a small trickle of tourists walking around and enjoying soft cream. Many of the houses have been converted into shops or small museums, so there was a lot of places to walk into and explore while you were looking at the more historical houses. One of the houses, Aoyagi-ke, was turned into a bunch of small museums to walk around and enjoy. The museums surrounded a small garden and koi pond. Very relaxing and a great place. There
was a small exhibit of wood prints; which I loved.
Another good house was the Ishiguro-ke. This house is the oldest in Kakunodate and you get a small tour, in Japanese, and more small museums and exhibits to look through. Mostly I enjoyed the lined streets and people watching. People would duck into small gates and poke their heads into small corners trying to see a little more before moving on. The river lined with cherry trees is also a great place. It really is like walking through a tunnel of branches while enjoying the fisherman fly fishing in the water. Small benches with old weathered pictures were a welcome place to sit and enjoy the shade and the slight summer breeze.
On the way back to the station I looked up to see a towering Cannon statue and found a small cemetery. There was a pile of what looked like demolished headstones towards the side. All I could think of was how fitting it is in Japan. The old being moved to bring in the new.
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