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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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