Stepping Back to the Time of Samurais in Kakunodate

enjoying cha in Kakunadate

[11th in a series of posts about a recent trip to Japan]

I was a little nervous about our train schedule for the day, with one of the connections a mere eight minutes for transfer, but Sakata was very small and we had no problem transferring. Akita, our next stop, was much larger, but we still had no trouble catching the train to Kakunodate.

At 12:46 precisely we pulled into Kakunodate, where we planned to visit the samurai quarter. The visitor center, right next to the train station, happily provided a map in English and even offered to store visitors’ bags. Hungry, we stopped in an atmospheric soba and ramen noodle establishment in the samurai quarter next to the Samurai House Museum. The noodle shop was beautifully finished in dark wood, with burnished wood paneled walls and black lacquer ware table decorations. Although our soba was expensive by Japanese standards (about $10), all of our meals were delicious.

We then proceeded up the shady street to the Aoyagi Samurai manor house – a compound, really, consisting of a main house and several outbuildings including an armory that looked like a bank vault. These quadruple thick walls were used both to prevent fires as well as for security. The house is considered a fine example of a high-ranking samurai’s home. After being outlawed in the Meiji era, when the feudal system was replaced by a constitutional monarchy, samurais in this area created a craft called kabazaiku, a technique for laminating cherry bark veneer onto objects. Thom was especially impressed with the Aoyagi collection of samurai armor, as well as their collection of 19th and early 20th century western antiques.

Just up the street at the Ishiguro Samurai house, a 12th generation family member guided through the house with a bilingual brochure.

Next: An Onsen and Hiking Odyssey in the Mountains

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