Naramachi (a preservation district of historic buildings in Nara City, Nara Prefecture) (ならまち)

Naramachi is a preservation district having groups of historic buildings that extends over the south of the present urban area of Nara City, Nara Prefecture. Streets in this area are lined with machiya (merchant's house) built in the Edo, Meiji, and the early Showa period.

Summary

Naramachi originally developed as an extension of Nara Capital Heijo-kyo where numerous temples and shrines were located. After the transfer of the national capital to Nagaoka-kyo, there were times that Naramachi fell into a decline but, subsequently, it gradually became a booming area being the temple town of Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. In the Edo period, various businesses (such as making brushes, ink, mosquito nets, bleached cotton cloth, futon (Japanese-style bedding), swords, sake liquor and soy sauce) developed on the premises of Gango-ji Temple which is now registered as the world heritage. This area consequently evolved into a city of commerce and industry representative of the Edo period. According to the survey performed by ongoku-bugyo (the collective name of the magistrates placed at important areas directly controlled by the government in the Edo period) at the end of the 17th century, the population of Naramachi was 35,000.

Having escaped the air raid during the World War II, Naramachi flourished as the former urban district of Nara City after the war and, in April 1990, the area was designated as 'the Naramachi Urban Landscape Formation Area' (approximately 48.1ha) in accordance with the Nara City Landscape Conservation Regulation.

In the latter half of the 20th century, efforts to conserve machiya buildings became active and, in 1984, Nara Machizukuri Center (NMC) was established. Restaurants and general stores that were the refurbished machiya to offer modern features while maintaining their original form, public cultural facilities, temples and shrines began to dot various areas of the town. Naramachi consequently started to attract attention as a new tourist area in Nara and, nowadays, its labyrinth of narrow alleys are busy with visitors who enjoy the historical ambience of the town. The Urban Development Think Tank consisting mainly of the area residents was the first of its kind in Japan, being the groundbreaking case to set a precedent for the subsequent urban development movement in various regions.

'Naramachi,' incidentally, is a common name of the area and there is no administrative district under that name.

Since the Edo period, it has been sometimes said that residents in this area are early risers. It was based on the background that, back in those days, if a deer, which was regarded as a divine messenger, was found dead in front of someone's house by officials, it constituted an offense whereby they would face a serious charge or be punished by a fine of three mon (an old currency unit in Japan). The area residents consequently came to get up early to check to see if there was no dead deer in front of their houses before the officials began to make the rounds of the town. It is said that the proverbial phrase saying, 'Early risers stand to gain three mon' originated from this matter.

Alluring Factors

Attraction of Naramachi is that lifestyle and cultural tradition of its residents have been ingrained in the character of the locality for generations and the livelihood of ordinary people that remain vibrant today. As a result, there are numerous neighborhoods with rich and pleasant ambience which resonates in one's heart whereby attracting the deep-seated popularity of admirers who appreciate the restfulness emanating from the things of the past that were marked with the spirit of the communities of Naramachi.

Main Points of Interest

Gokuraku-bo (paradise temple) of Gango-ji Temple: The world heritage
The site of the tower of Gango-ji Temple
Gangoji Cultural Property Research Center
Naramachi Shiryokan (Street Museum)
Naramachi Monogatari-kan (Story Telling House)
Naramachi Onjo-kan Hall
Nara Machiya Bunkakan (The Consultation Center for Renewal and Use of Machiya)
Naramachi Promotion Center
Nara City Historical Materials Preservation House
Konjaku Craft Museum
Nara Kogei-kan (Nara Craft Museum): Received a visit of Charles, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Nara Orient-kan (Nara City FM Communications Satellite Studio)
Naramachi Koshino-ie (House of Lattice Windows)
Tokino Shiryokan (Museum of Time)
Naya-kobo Craft Center
Imanishike Shoin (the Imanishi family's residence in Shoin-zukuri style [a traditional Japanese style of residential architecture that includes an alcove])
The Fujioka-ke Residence (the Fujioka family's residence): An important cultural property
Nara City Kason Sugioka Museum of Calligraphy: Kason SUGIOKA is an Order of Culture honoree
Koshin-do Hall (Nara)
Uzuraya Club Coffee Shop
Jurin-in Temple
The Center for Consultation on Buddhism
Goryo-jinja Shrine
Fukuchi-in Temple
Zuto Tower
Ashibi no Sato Restaurant
TEN.TEN.CAFE (under the management of the wife Eigo KAWASHIMA, a singer)
Kai (a mall)

Kana Kana (a coffee shop)

Nara Kidera Post Office

Temple associated with Chujo Hime (Princess Chujo)
Korin-ji Temple
Tanjo-ji Temple (Nara City)
Tokuyu-ji Temple (Nara City)

Area Information

Nara-koen Park
Nara Kitamachi
Nara Hotel
The Gardens of the Former Daijo-in Temple (sub-temple).
Irie Taikichi Memorial Museum of Photography Nara City

Access

15 to 20 minute walk to the east from Nara Station, JR West. 10 to 15 minute walk to the south from Kintetsu Nara Station. Take the local bus from either of the above-mentioned stations and get off at 'Tanaka-cho' or 'Kitakyobatecho' and head north.