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Places to Look Out For In Nara! Closing In On The Charms of Naramachi

In Naramachi, where there are many rows of machiya (merchant's houses) constructed since the Edo period, there is more than just temples and shrines. There are also many popular locations, such as fancy cafes and stores. Here are a few such places in Naramachi.

1. Naramachi Koshi no Ie

Quietly nestled in a corner of the nostalgic streets of Naramachi is Koshi No Ie, a building that is modeled after one of many machiya that existed from the end of the Edo period until the Meiji period. The narrow frontage and the deep interior of such houses have earned them the name "Unagi No Nedoko," which roughly translates to "an eel's bed". The main building consists of 3 rooms, "mise no ma" (store front), "naka no ma" (middle room), and "oku no ma" (inner room), lined up in a similar order, and an attic on the second floor (mezzanine). If you walk across the "toriniwa" (passage garden), you will see other parts of the house, such as the "nakaniwa" (courtyard), "hanare" (annex building), and the "kura" (warehouse). All these components of a traditional machiya are perfectly replicated in Naramachi Koshi No Ie, and as you appreciate the amount of effort put into making this machiya as authentic as possible, you can experience for yourself how people of the past used to live their lives in Nara. There are also some facilities, such as a resting space and a walking trail map of Naramachi within the premises, so please visit this place if you ever find yourself around Naramachi.

Opening Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Entrance Fee: Free
Closed on: Mondays (Closed on following day if Monday is a public holiday), the following day of a public holiday, and New Year's Holiday Period (December 29 - January 3)

1. Naramachi Koshi no Ie

44 Gangoji-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

2. Gangoji

Listed as one of Nara's important cultural assets, Gangoji is located in the heart of Naramachi. Originally known as Hokoji (now Asukadera), which was founded by Soga no Umako in the end of the 6th century, this temple was moved to its current location and had its name changed to Gangoji, following the capital relocation to Heijo. Once among the ranks of large temples such as Todaiji and Kofukuji, Gangoji had such a large compound that most of present-day Naramachi would fit into the temple grounds! The south gate is usually designated as the front entrance of temples, but Gangoji's front entrance is the east Gokurakudo Gate, which incidentally is also designated as a national treasure. A special characteristic of this gate is that it faces the pure lands of Paradise, said to be in the west. Also, some rare things to look out for in the architecture are that the place where you can see that the roof is triangular rather than trapezoid shaped is the front, and that there are 6 pillars instead of the usual odd number of pillars in the front side so that there is no pillar in the center. It is also said that some of the roof tiles of Gokurakudo and the meditation room date as far back as the 7th century.

Opening Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Entrance Fee: 500 JPY for adults, 300 JPY for junior and senior high school students, and 100 JPY for elementary school students

2. Gangoji

11 Chuin-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

3. Goryo Shrine

Goryo Shrine, also affectionately known as Goryo-san since ancient times, is a place of worship that has existed for over 1,200 years. Goryo shrines are places of worship that are built in order to pacify the souls of those who died a violent death, and there are many places around Japan that have such shrines. In this particular Goryo Shrine, historical figures such as Princess Inoue, Prince Osabe, Prince Sawara, and Fujiwara no Hirotsugu, who were wrongfully executed in the political war from the 8th century until the start of the 9th century. A total of 8 such figures are enshrined in this shrine. In present day, this shrine is known to bless its visitors with good handwriting and luck with marriage. Every April to May, the cherry blossoms and peonies bloom beautifully, making it an enjoyable destination for many visitors. So, don't be put off by the morbidity of the origins, and come pay your respects at this shrine.

Opening Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Entrance Fee: Free

3. Goryo Shrine

24 Yakushido-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

4. Yu Nakagawa Main Branch

Yu Nakagawa is a street-level store that is operated by Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten, a hemp fabric specialty store that was established in 1716. In this tranquil store, traditional arts and materials are used to create products that look modern and classy, but somehow, something just feels really nostalgic. Try the Hanafukin (756 JPY (incl. tax)), which is a Nara specialty made of mosquito net fabric. There are many uses for Hanafukin, such as a tea towel, and they come in a good variety of colors. There are also many other goods sold here, such as cutely packaged Japanese snacks and tea, or other fabrics with motifs of deer and Buddhas. Why don't you get something as a souvenir from here?

4. Yu Nakagawa Main Branch

31-1 Ganriin-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

5. kanakana

Revamped from a 90-year old traditional Japanese house, kanakana is the most popular cafe in Naramachi. The latticed windows and frosted glass really bring out the nostalgic atmosphere of this cafe. Table seats and tatami mat seats are available. The tatami seats are really spacious and is the perfect place to rest your tired legs after a long day of sightseeing.The most popular item on the menu, kanakana Gohan (1,300 JPY (incl. tax)), comes with a main, several sides, rice, miso soup, and a drink. The Japanese side dishes that are served in kobachi (small bowls) may be simple, but the depth of the flavors and are sure to satisfy both your tummy and your heart!

Opening Hours: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm
Closed on: Mondays (Closed on following day if Monday is a public holiday)

5. kanakana

13 Kunodo-cho, Nara-shi, Nara

Did you like the places above? There are so many charming spots in Naramachi, a place that showcases the good old days of Japan. Please visit Naramachi in order to see for yourself the coexistence of old traditions with modern times!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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