Monday, January 17, 2022

A town, quaint and nostalgic

Nara-machi is the place where visitors can see and feel good, old Nara. Narrow streets have remained unchanged and many of the houses and businesses still reflect their original 18th century architecture with traditional design.  

Most of the photos are from my past walks before the pandemic.
Soba, buckwheat noodle shop

Nara-machi has developed centering Gangoji Temple (World Heritage), which was moved to the current site from Asuka when capital was relocated to Nara in the 8th century. It has been through repeated ups ad downs in its long history. Much of Nara-machi was inside the grounds of Gango-ji during the temple's heyday. 

Nara-machi is a unique town of Koshin faith.  Monkeys made of red cloth are hung from the eaves of each house as substitute monkeys. They protect families inside from diseases and disasters. Red color is a lucky color to ward off evil spirits. The number of the red monkeys show how many people inside they protect.  In the ongoing outbreak of the new corona, I'd like to hang them on the eves of my house.

Drum is rung before praying.

Nara-machi features traditional wooden lattice doors and white washed houses with a mezzanine story.  The slate wooden lattice-work covering the window functions like modern blinds. People can maintain privacy while keeping eyes on the street outside.

Another feature is the structure’s narrow frontage and long depth. The reason for this long rectangular design is due to the land taxes assessed on the width of a house’s façade.

Several shops share the depth of the old structure

In Edo period (1603-1868), this place was the regional commercial center. Some old pictorial shop-name boards are preserved at the Naramachi Museum.

Sorry to see the Guardian God suffering from stomachache.
ULUUS (ウルユス) is mild laxative released in 1811, the first drug with non-Japanese name.

Nara-machi Nigiwai no Ie was built in 1917 and was renovated thoroughly for future generation. It was originally the house of a wealthy merchant.

Shimenawa, an ornament made with rice sticks, ferns, a mandarine and dried persimmons
 for the New Year, is hung at the entrance.

Adapting traditional buildings for a modern lifestyle and leaving a well-maintained old town for future generation is the way of preservation of this town.  When the city had a plan to widen the streets, it was townspeople to have decided to keep the old narrow ones. I've been amazed how people are good at cornering and parking with many turning back.  Some old structures are remodeled and repurposed  as history museums, handicraft shops, cafes or restaurants, and so on.  There is a place where a tea master holds Tea Ceremony only for you or your groups.

Irina from Russia, 2016. With her permission.

How about getting dressed in rental kimono for photography as well as 
exploring the area?

Tourists from Canada, 2008.

In this small laid-back town of tourism, there are so many to see and to do 
before or after exploring around Nara Park.

The road leading up to Nara Park area via Nara Hotel

I'm always a late starter in blogging as I enjoy the slow pace of the beginning of the New Year. I'll keep blogging slow but steady this year, too. Keep tuned!  

A Post about Gangoji in Nara-machi:  


  1. Always interesting learning about traditions in foreign countries.
    Yours is full of beauties, old and new...
    Thanks for sharing.
    Have a lovely week !

  2. 一枚目のお蕎麦屋さんの暖簾は好きで私も何枚か撮ったことあるのですが、他の奈良町の写真はとても新鮮に映っています。やっぱり奈良町には風情が残されているんだなあと改めて感じています。守護神のはらいたの薬には笑ってしまった。私もマイペースでゆっくり続けていきます。気楽に自分自身の日記のように。

  3. Dear Yoko - I know that I would love Nara from your photos. There is so much there that would continually be catching and exciting my eye, but with you as a guide it would make everything come alive.
    Regardless of whether or not you too hang red monkeys during the current outbreak of the omnicon variant in your eves, I do hope that you and all of your family stay safe and keep well.

  4. Dear Yoko, you’ve made this post really special. For one reason, it portrays the old town, centro storico in Italian, of beautiful Nara city, and somehow it sounds symbolic at the beginning of the new year. And then this post enabled us to repeat that special day, cherished in our memory. Please, do hang red monkeys outside your house, Yoko. Let them protect your family from all viruses and disasters. Keep safe. I keep tuned!

  5. The tea ceremony looks wonderful. I, too, am wishing for lots of red monkeys around your house. :) Interestingly, some legends say the three wise monkeys (came to be known as see, hear and say no evil) originated from Japanese Koshin’s belief. The preservation of historic towns is a feature throughout the world and will, hopefully, remain as a strategy for all time since such places give meaning, depth and contrast to the present day.


  6. ·.
    Good pictures.
    It is very interesting what you tell in words and photos. The red color is my favourite.
    Little by little I am learning things about your country.
    Hugs Yoko

    LaMiradaAusente · & · CristalRasgado

  7. Me gustó esta entrada Yoko. Así conocemos costumbres de otros lugares. También me gustó ver a Irina. Que el color rojo traiga suerte y proteja.
    Buena semana.
    Un abrazo.

  8. Yoko - how wonderful that the town decided to preserve its character, including the narrow streets. This is so important. Without such preservation, every part of the world starts to look the same. Fascinating about the land taxes and the impact on architecture. We saw the same thing when we worked in Mexico - if your house was "unfinished", you paid less taxes. So every house had wire rebar sticking up from the roof!

  9. Hi Yoko,
    What a splendid place. Thank you for this wonderful virtual tour through your precious photos. I loved on my visit to japan to see the ladies dressed in a traditional way, they look so beautiful and elegant.

  10. I love walking the old town of Nara-matchi with you as seen through your photos. So many details to admire. Preservation is so important. I admire the roof details and the old wood.

  11. Hello Yoko,
    What a lovely tour of the town. I like the tradition of hanging the red monkeys to protect you and your family. Wonderful post and photos. Take care, have a great weekend!

  12. old place always have unique fascination to me dear Yoko and i loved the old town preserved so beautifully !

    how nice that common people are allowed to decide for what look of the place they choose to sustain .
    thank you again for wonderful insight into your stunning culture my friend .
    hope all is amazing at your corner and you and family are enjoying the health ,peace and prosperity in new year .
    best wishes and more blessings!

  13. This post certainly brings back precious memories of Nara. I have visited only once and enjoyed exploring the old streets and Nara Park. I remember all those friendly deers that came begging for food.


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