Samurai – Nagamachi Samurai District – Kanazawa a ‘Green City’

A house of the Samurai - Nagamachi Samurai  District

A house of the Samurai – Nagamachi Samurai District

Samurai – feudal times under the Kaga Clan

I guess we have all read about the Samurai and seen movies over the years. The stories of the Samurai has a special attraction for different people of  all different ages, a period of  intrigue and drama in such a different culture. I was most  interested to visit this district of Kanazawa where the Samurai lived.

Nagayamon gates (row house gates)-Nagamachi Samurai House District - Kanazawa

Nagayamon gates (row house gates)-Nagamachi Samurai House District – Kanazawa

Nagamachi District – home to important Samurai members

Kanazawa was a castle town of the Kaga Clan governed by the Maeda family from around 1583 until 1868, a period of over 280 years.  The residences of two of the eight Chief Retainers of the Kaga Clan are in Nagamachi district. An area where top and middle-class samurai, members of a powerful feudal military class lived.

Samurai House - solid timber doors - Nagamachi Samurai House area

Samurai House – solid timber doors – Nagamachi Samurai House area

The Samurai houses are built of solid timber and have huge timber entrance gates.  I could  imagine a Samurai living behind the solid timber gates of this house.

Samurai-3

The Samurai – courtesy of JiMmIyZ

The interior of the home, made from strong timber beams to  support the structure, a room almost  bare of furniture, just tatami mats on the timber floor. A traditional ‘Irori’ or sunken hearth and ‘Jizai-kagi’ hanging above the Irori  in the family room. The use of slender  latticework (known as Konushi) also evident in the interior of the homes. Perhaps imagine the Samurai striding down the  cobbled lane-ways, past  ochre- colored mud walls and row houses either side.

The mud walls of Nagayamon gates (row house gates) Samurai House District

The mud walls of Nagayamon gates (row house gates) Samurai House District

Mud Walls of Samurai district

Modern times have bought  a few changes to the district, however, the mud walls of Nagayamon gates (row house gates) remain the same. The mud walls made of a mix of stones and mud, then put into a mold and hardened. The roof covered in thin wooden plates. The remaining mud walls of the Samurai house district, over a century old, restored as necessary to keep the traditional character of the area. Kanazawa experiences heavy snow falls in winter,  followed by the spring thaw when the heavy snow begins to melt and budding plum blossoms emerge. During the thaw the mud walls are covered with straw mats known as “komo”  to protect them from water damage and erosion.

Nomura Samurai family house - Nagamachi  Samurai house district

Nomura Samurai family house – Nagamachi Samurai house district

Nomura Samurai family house

The Nomura  family, a Samurai  family holding an important position for generations under the rule of the Maeda family. The house of the Nomura family offers an insight into the way of life of the Samurai during the Edo period. Interesting features are a coffered ceiling of Japanese cypress, and paintings on sliding-door panels, known as fusuma-e. The Japanese Cypress is a traditional timber used in houses in Japan for centuries. The beautiful Japanese garden has a Japanese Bayberry tree over 400 years old. It looked very ancient and is grown for its fruit, a deep red color with a knobby surface. Many ancient rocks adorn the pretty green banks of a small stream that meanders through the garden among attractive dark green  shrubbery. An interesting house to visit in the samurai district, it really gives you a feeling of how the Samurai lived.

Street Sign - Nagamachi - Samurai House District

Street Sign – Nagamachi – Samurai House District

Onosho Canal – an important waterway to the Samurai

The Onosho canal  is one of the oldest canals of Kanazawa, an important waterway at the time of the Samurai, carrying  goods from the harbor to the castle town. Tatsumi Canal, brings water down from the Saigawa River to the Kanazawa castle and keeps Kenrokuen Gardens  beautiful and green.

Onosho_Canal_01 (1)

The Onosho Canal in Nagamachi Buke Yashiki District (Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan) –  Courtesy – Saigawasakurabash

Abundant water – Kanazawa becomes known as a ‘green city’ 

The Kuratsuki and Onosho Canals draw water from the Sai river and flow through the city and the Nagamachi Samurai district. The canals give the city an abundant water supply. Many other lush green gardens created in the grounds of Samurai and wealthy merchants of that time, provided open green garden spaces throughout the  city. These gardens and the two water canals prevented fires spreading through the town, as they had done in past years; timber homes always a fire hazard. Kanazawa became known as a ‘green city.’

Next on our itinerary, a visit to the Tea house of the Geisha or ‘Ochaya Shima’ in the Higashi Kuruwa district of Kanazawa.


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