The historic towns and districts in Japan are areas that have been preserved to maintain the traditional buildings that have survived the many fires,
earthquakes, wars, and modernization of the country. These sites are reviewed by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and if the place is qualified then it will
be designated a Cultural Property. The preservation of these sites came about during the Meiji Restoration, when at the time the feudal era came to an
abrupt end. In 1871, the Meiji Government seized lands and temples that were symbolic of the feudal age. Within the same year the Department of
State issued a decree based on the recommendation from universities to protect the antiquities. Then in 1897 the Ancient Temples and Shrines
Preservation Law was passed. Ito Chuta, an architect and architectural historian, provided the necessary guidance to formulate the 20 articles to set up
the system to preserve the sites. Since then many laws were passed to further preserve anything of historical value both intangible and tangible.
The categories for the historic towns and districts to fall under depend heavily on their focus. There are former samurai and merchant districts that are known for their relation to prior owners of the structures. Post Towns refers to towns built along the former major highways in Japan. A small number of them have been able to maintain their Edo Period appearance, but with modern accommodations. In the Geisha Districts there are still Geisha performing in traditional teahouses, buildings, and restaurants. Other types of towns that have been preserved are pilgrimage, farming, and port towns. Then there is the very unique Ryukyu Village, which was influenced by an independent kingdom until it became part of Okinawa.
The major cities in Japan usually started out as castle towns that developed over time. Castle towns consisted the residence of the local feudal lord, which was the castle located in the center of the town. Surrounding the castle his retainers, the samurai, lived in homes ready to protect their master. This area was called the bukeyashiki.
Tohoku | Aomori | Hirosaki
Hirosaki Samurai District
The Hirosaki Samurai District consists of four samurai houses that served the Tsugaru Clan long ago during the Edo period.
Kyushu | Oita | Usuki
Usuki Samurai District
A well preserved samurai district with Edo period architecture close to the ruins of Usuki Castle located in Usuki, Oita Prefecture.
Tohoku | Akita | Kakunodate
Kakunodate Samurai District
The Kakunodate Samurai District has been around since 1620 when Yoshikatsu Ashina became the lord of the area.
Tohoku | Fukushima | Aizu Wakamatsu
Aizu Bukeyashiki was a samurai residence that once belonged to a powerful member of the Aizu Clan until it was burned down and eventually restored.
Chugoku | Yamaguchi | Hagi
Hagi Former Castle Town
A former castle town ruled by the Mori Clan and hometown to Hagiyaki Pottery located at Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.
Chubu | Ishikawa | Kanazawa
Nagamachi Samurai District
Nagamachi Samurai District is located at the foot of Kanazawa Castle and preserves a traditional atmosphere.
Kyushu | Kagoshima | Satsuma Peninsula
Chiran Samurai District
A well preserved Samurai District featuring 7 traditional gardens located in Kagoshima Prefecture, known as the little Kyoto of Kagoshima.
During the Edo Period merchants were considered the lowest of the four social castes. However, many of the merchants became very wealthy when the Edo Period came to an end. Merchant districts can identified by the kura (warehouse) buildings and shops lining the streets.
Chubu | Nagano | Matsumoto
Nakamachi District is a well preserved merchant area where the warehouses have been converted to various shops.
Chugoku | Okayama | Kurashiki
Kurashiki Canal Area
Kurashiki Canal Area was an important part of distributing rice in large quantities and is also known as the Bikan Historical Quarter.
Kanto | Saitama | Kawagoe
Kawagoe Warehouse District
Kawagoe Warehouse District features clay walled warehouse styled buildings known as kurazukuri.
Kanto | Chiba | Narita
Sawara is known as “Little Edo” because of its small district of preserved residences from the Edo Period.
Post Towns in Japan can be found on the former major highways like Tokaido and Nakasendo. These towns catered to travelers going in and out of Edo (modern day Tokyo). There is a small number of towns that have preserved their Edo Period appearance, but still has modern accommodations.
Tohoku | Fukushima | Ouchijuku
Ouchijuku Post Town
Ouchijuku was a post town in the Edo Period when high ranking officials had to travel to the capital every other year.
Chubu | Nagano | Kiso
Tsumago Post Town
Tsumago is one of the best preserved post towns on the old highway known as Nakasendo.