Imai Town (今井町)

Imai Town is a town located in Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture. It is known for still having the appearance of the Edo period.

History

Being a private estate of the Kofuku-ji Temple in olden times, the town developed from a medieval village surrounded by a moat.

In the late Muromachi period, the town evolved into a jinai-cho (a town within the precincts of a temple) around Shonen-ji Temple (Kashihara City) of Jodo Shinshu sect (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism), and six districts of East, West, South, North, Shinmachi, and Imamachi were established within the town.

The town stood on the side of Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple in Ishiyama War to fight against Nobunaga ODA, and developed into a fortified city with a moat, earthworks, diagonally crossed roads to hinder the view, etc.

After surrendering to Nobunaga ODA in 1575, the town flourished as an autonomous city, ranking with Sakai City which faces Osaka Bay.
In the Edo period, the town was referred to by such sayings as 'you could find 70 percent of all Yamato Province's money in Imai' and 'they air the money even at the entrance.'

In the late Edo period, the town started to decline due to the oppressive tax, and as it opposed the construction of a railway station proposed in its neighborhood in the Meiji period, it could avoid being urbanized (the station was opened as Unebi Station.)
Therefore, much of the town still remains as it was in the Edo period, and most of the houses are being used for actual dwelling. Some buildings, however, were abandoned and left untouched, and measures for such empty houses are needed.

12 buildings of 9 places are registered as Important Cultural Properties, 11 buildings of 3 places and 4 buildings of 4 places are registered as prefectural and municipal cultural properties respectively. The town is designated as a Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings.

Data for the Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings

District name: Imai town, Kashihara City
Type: Jinai-cho, autonomous city
Selection date: December 8, 1993
Selection criterion: A group of traditional buildings presenting excellent design as a whole
Area: 17.4 ha

Sights, historic spots, and facilities

Imanishi Residence (Important Cultural Property): Imanishi family served as the head of sodoshiyori (officers who worked under the town magistrate) of Imai town for generations. The Imanishi family originated from the Tochi clan, former local ruling family of southern Yamato Province. Tokatsu TOCHI defected to Imai to escape from suppression by Junkei TSUTSUI in 1566, followed by Sukeemonnojo Masaharu KAWAI moving to the town with his family and retainers. As the family settled in the western ("nishi" in Japanese) end of Imai Town, it followed the advice of Tadaakira MATSUDAIRA, the lord of Koriyama Castle and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA's grandson, and used "Imanishi" as a family name. With the autonomy delegated by the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), the family contributed to ruling by a feudal lord and local governors over people in the town. The structure of the Imanishi Residence, which gives an impression of a castle rather than a private residence, is called 'yatsumune' style (complicated roof style with multiple ridges and bargeboards). Inside the house, there remains a court of law and a room for locking up criminals (ibushiro jail). The residence is open to the public for one month in spring and autumn. Built in 1650, it still has a ridge plaque. This building is so valuable that it is referred to as a 'milestone' in architectural history of Japanese private residence. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property on June 18, 1957 (together with a ridge plaque).

Toyoda Residence (Important Cultural Property): Once owned by the Makimura family which ran a lumber business, it was called 'Nishinokiya.'
This merchant family was very wealthy, made loans to daimyo (Japanese territorial lord), and took charge of accounts in clan's warehouse, but after the Meiji Restoration, the family was forced to leave Imai because Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures) caused the freezing of loans. Obaian, a teahouse in Daisen-koen Park in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, is associated with Sokyu IMAI, and before being moved to the current location, it was owned by the Makimura family.
The teahouse was built when Lord Hideyoshi visited Mt. Yoshino to enjoy cherry blossoms, and came to be called 'Sokyu Teahouse.'
The residence was constructed in 1662, making it the second oldest building in Imai Town after the Imanishi Residence. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property on May 15, 1972.

Shonen-ji Temple (Kashihara City): The temple belongs to Jodo Shinshu sect Hongan-ji school and is a branch of Hongan-ji Temple (Imaisan). Imai Town had developed as a jinai-cho around the Shonen-ji Temple, but after Nobunaga ODA disarmed the town, it enjoyed prosperity as an autonomous city, along with Sakai, until the end of the Edo period. When the Emperor Meiji took 'Yamato gyoko' (imperial trip to the Yamato Province), the temple was used as Imai anzaisho (provisional palace for Emperor's going out) on February 10 and 11, 1877. The main hall of the temple was rebuilt in the early modern period and designated as a national Important Cultural Property on May 23, 2002. Taikoro (drum tower) and other buildings are also designated as cultural properties by Kashihara City.

Nakahashi Residence (Important Cultural Property): The Nakahashi family ran a rice store under the trade name of 'Yonehiko.'
It is not known when the residence was built, but given the fact that it appears on a pictorial map drawn in 1748, it had already been established around that time. The family served as a head of South District in 1761. The residence was designated as an Important Cultural Property on May 15, 1972.

Ueda Residence (Important Cultural Property): The Ueda family traded under the name of 'Tsuboya,' and worked as sodoshiyori along with the Imanishi and Ozaki families. There remains a flag of sodoshiyori. An ofuda talisman dated 1744 was found, which shows the residence was constructed around that time. The residence is built in the irimoya style (half-hipped roof style), and an exposed gable of okabe style (a style in which structural members are hidden inside a wall) adds a heavy feel to its appearance. The entrance is on the western side, which is uncommon. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property on May 15, 1972.

Otomura Residence (Important Cultural Property): The Otomura family once acted as a hardware wholesale merchant under the trade name of 'Hosoku.'
The residence is estimated to have been built in the late 17th century. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property on May 15, 1972.

Former Kometani Residence (Important Cultural Property): The Kometani family was a fittings and fertilizer merchant for generations, with the trade name of 'Yonetada.'
This private residence is built in a farmhouse style, and is estimated to date back to the mid 18th century. The inside of the residence is open to the public for free. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property on May 15, 1972.

Kawai Residence (Important Cultural Property): The Kawai family bore the trade name 'Jobonjiya' and moved from Jobonji village (Jobonji-cho, Kashihara City) in the Kanei era. Documents owned by the family suggest that the family had already been brewing sake in 1772, and it is still engaged in sake brewing business. The residence was built in the late 18th century. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property on May 20, 1976.

Takagi Residence (Important Cultural Property): The Takagi family was involved in sake brewing business under the trade name of 'Daito no Shijoya.'
This two-story house is built in kirizuma (an architectural style with a gabled roof) and hongawarabuki (a style of tile roofing in which round and square tiles are laid down alternately) styles, which displays the characteristics of a private residence of people in the upper class in the end of the Edo period. The residence was built in the end of the Edo period (Bunsei to Tenpo eras). It was designated as an Important Cultural Property on May 15, 1972.

Yoshimura Residence (prefectural cultural property): This residence was formerly owned by the Ueda family which acted as a fertilizer merchant under the trade name of 'Tsuboya.'
The main building is believed to have been rebuilt in 1805, and other buildings are thought to be about 50 years older than the main building.

Yamao Residence (prefectural cultural property): The Yamao family moved from Shindo village, Toichi County, thus bearing the trade name 'Shindoya,' and served as machi-doshiyori (ward head) in the end of the Edo period.

Imai Machinami Exchange Center 'Hanairaka' (prefectural cultural property): Materials on Imai town are exhibited. No admission fee is required. It is closed on Mondays. The center functions as a tourist information center of Imai Town.
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Imai Machizukuri Center (Imai Town Planning Center): The Imai Town Preservation Society is based in this center. It is closed on Mondays.

Imai Machiyakan: It is a machiya (a traditional townhouse) building built in the early 18th century around the middle of Honmachi-suji Street. After being reconstructed for preservation, it is open to the public for free. It is closed on Mondays.

Kannon-do Hall (a hall dedicated to Kannon) of former Jofuku-ji Temple (municipal cultural property): It was built in 1613. It is within the precincts of Kasuga-jinja Shrine at 162, 3-chome, Imai-cho, Kashihara City.

Front gate of former Jofuku-ji Temple (municipal cultural property)
Front gate of Junmyo-ji Temple (municipal cultural property)
Kasuga-jinja Shrine: There still remains chozubachi (a water basin used to rinse the hands or as a decorative element in gardens) donated by a powerful merchant in Sakai. Danjiri (decorative portable shrine) festival which dates back to the Edo period is still held livelily in autumn today.

Imai urban greening: It refers to the southwestern corner of Imai Town, in part of which the moat is still left.

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Others

Power lines are put underground in the center of the town (Honmachi-suji Street) for aesthetic purposes.

Access
Three-minute walk toward southwest from Yagi-nishiguchi Station, Kintetsu Kashihara Line.