Imai-cho for Japanese Architecture
During the Edo Period (1603-1868), when Nara was known as Yamato Province, Imai-cho, in Kashihara, was such a prosperous merchant town, a saying developed: “Seventy percent of Yamato’s gold can be found within Imai.”
Today, Imai-cho’s streets are still lined with more than 500 wooden traditional-style Japanese buildings, making it the largest architectural preservation district in Japan. A beautiful townscape to explore, with cafes, restaurants and stores also housed in renovated buildings, it is so authentic that it has been used as a location for Japanese television period dramas.
Originally a temple town built around Shonenji Temple in the 16th century, Imai-cho was fortified with a moat and enclosing walls during Japan’s period of civil war. When the warlord Oda Nobunaga sought to depose the power of Buddhist institutions, Imai-cho was spared destruction after its surrender in 1575. Instead, it was granted autonomy, allowing it to flourish as a merchant town.
Historical buildings open to the public today include townhouses that once belonged to wealthy merchants and governors, as well as a sake brewery and soy sauce factory, both of which are still in business.
40 minutes by train from Nara Station to Kintetsu Yagi-nishiguchi Station, then 5 minutes walk.
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