NARA Travelers Guide

Visit Nagato Yamaguchi Japan

Feature02Stroll Around Naramachi (Town of Nara)

History of Naramachi

Naramachi means the area centering the former premises of Gangoji Temple, a World Heritage Site. Back in 710, when the capital was relocated in ancient Nara called Heijokyo, Hokoji Temple (Asukaji Temple) in Asuka is said to have been moved to Heijokyo as Gangoji Temple. Naramachi, the “Outer Capital” of Heijokyo, is a town having a long history, which developed along the streets of the ancient capital. Since the relocation in Heijokyo, Naramachi has developed through its repeated ups and downs against a long historical backdrop. Originating in a town of shrines and temples called Nanto (South Capital), Naramachi developed as a town of commerce, and then as a town of tourism. Its townscape of old merchant houses called machiyabuilt from the late Edo period to the Meiji period offers visitors comfort and ease, sometimes making them feel some nostalgia for good old days.

Townscape of Naramachi

Naramachi has unique characters. Please walk slowly to find out all such features.

Frontage

間口
Merchant housing in Naramachi is characterized as its narrow width and long depth. It is said that this is because tax was imposed according to its width at that time, and merchants preferred to face main streets for their business.

Latticework

格子
Lattice sliding doors are attached to the front of the machiyahousing so as to control the sunlight and airflow. The latticework also helps avoid eye gaze from the outside.

Earthen Walls

土塀
Around Takabatake facing a road leading to “Takisaka no Michi(Road)” of the former Yagyu Highroad, you can see a sober townscape surrounded by stately earthen walls. Many of them are simple soil walls, not finished in white plaster.

Stairs Using a Chest of Drawers

箱階段
In the parlor, you can see stairs using a chest of drawers. Over a long period of history, people learned to make a full use of their limited land and space.

Scapegoat Monkeys

身代わり申
In Naramachi, you often see a red fabric ornament hanging from the eaves. This is a charm representing a monkey messenger of “Koshin-san.” The monkey suffers calamities in your place, so it is called a “Scapegoat Monkey.” Hanging such monkeys from the eaves of private and mercantile houses now becomes a tradition of Naramachi.