Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Slice of Ancient Japan: Naramachi

Day 5 in Nara: Deer Park - Todaiji Temple in Nara - Yoshikien Garden - Kofukuji Temple - NARAMACHI

One of the best ways to discover the ancient town of Nara is to walk through the narrow streets of Naramachi - the former merchant district of Nara - that helps you step back in time.

Lined with little cafes and stores, old buildings, merchant houses and ancient temples – the streets of Naramachi in Nara are filled with structures that have simply refused to change over the years. These are structures that reveal layers of ancient traditions, culture and history ardently preserved over ages for all the generations to come. It's a place that keeps it's promise of letting you peep into the past, by taking you along through alleys of time.

So let's discover the beauty brimming in the quietude, old worldliness and time-honored antiques by browsing through some pictures which I took while walking through Naramachi in the wonderful company of snowwhite and Redrose, the resident bloggers of Nara.

Walking Through Nara-Machi: A Photo Tour

Streets:

Naramachi streets, Nara - Japan
Naramachi streets, Japan
The streets, lined with houses and cafes
A house in Naramachi

Ancient cafes and shops along the Naramachi streets, Japan
Ancient cafes and shops along the Naramachi streets, Japan
Doors of ancient cafes and shops along the streets

An apparel shop in Naramachi street - Japan
A tea shop in Naramachi street - Japan
Inside the shops: Lots of items like tea and apparel on sale

Symbols along the way:

1) Monkeys - A lot of these red stuffed monkeys, known as Migawari Saru or 'substitute monkeys' can be seen hanging at the entrances - of shops, cafes, houses and temples. A symbolic deity of a local temple (the Koshin-do Temple), they are good luck charms believed to ward off evil and bring good fortune.

Brightly colored red and white hanging monkeys (migawari-zaru)
commonly seen in Naramachi doorways.

Three monkeys at the entrance to a shrine

2) Besides... -
A symbol carved at the top of a house

The House, The Museum and The Temples:

1) Naramachi Koshi-no-ie or the Lattice House -
Complete with rooms, ceiling, kitchen, inner garden, storage, etc., this traditional merchant house gives a fascinating glimpse of how life was back in the 18th century.

Entrance to the Naramachi Koshi-no-ie or the Lattice House
The entrance with a unique latticed door pattern

Tea room of the Naramachi Koshi-no-ie or the Lattice House
Inside the house: The tea room

The kitchen stove of the Naramachi Koshi-no-ie or the Lattice House
The kitchen stove

(Note: Timings - 9:00-17:00; Closed: Monday (Open if Mon. is a national holiday); No Admission fee.)

2) Naramachi museum - This is Mushiko Mado literally translated as 'insect cage window' because of its special type of windows but what fascinated me more about it was this huge monkey, it was also the largest that I saw in Naramachi.

Mushiko Mado, the Naramachi museum - Japan
Mushiko Mado, the Naramachi museum

3) The Temples:

Entrance to the Gangoji Temple - Naramachi street, Japan
Entrance to the Gangoji Temple, a UNESCO World heritage site

Entrance to the Goryo Shrine, Naramachi street, Japan
Entrance to the Goryo Shrine - The deity of good matchmaking,
also the main deity of Naramachi. 

From here and there:

Naramachi street, Japan
Plenty of wooded work all around to catch your eye

Food in Naramachi street, Japan
Dough being kneaded -- in style!

(Sweet rice ball after pounding mochi: Rice cake)


How to Reach:

Naramachi is about a ten minute walk south from Kinetsu Nara Station.

Previous Posts from the Japan Trip -

1. Planning for Japan: Visa, Flight Bookings, Hotel Reservations, etc.
2. Sunrise pictures from the flight to Japan

3. Entire Day 1 of Japan (includes Review of Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi, Tokyo, Expedia Japan Office Meet: An Afternoon to Remember)
4. Entire Day 2 of Japan (includes SensoJi temple: Asakusa - Tokyo, Nakamise Dori Shopping Arcade in Tokyo, Sumida River Cruise, Tokyo, A Stroll in the Hibiya Gardens, Imperial Palace and East Gardens, The Tokyo Tower, Japan)
9. A Walk in the Yoshikien Garden


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69 comments:

  1. Arti, the posts on Japan have now become a treasure trove of information. Thank you:)

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  2. Wow! Fascinating! The ancient cafes, stuffed monkeys which is believed to bring good luck, the museums and temples.. Very fascinating journey. I may have missed a few posts in the Japan edition but always such a pleasure reliving the journey with you, Arti. :)

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  3. It was a very good photo tour! You took us along with you through these set well sequenced photos! And it is nice to see that the people there keep the old things in its originality.

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  4. The substitute monkeys are very interesting, they do not really look like monkeys. Why do they not just make something more like a monkey? I love the red entrance to the shrine, and also the writing at the shops.

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  5. I have so enjoyed you series on Japan, Arti! I worked for a Japanese company until I retired and came to have such an admiration for both the people and the culture!! Hope your week has gone well!

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  6. I do love that tea room. Quite beautiful and peaceful.

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  7. I'm totally loving these tours in Japan and learning quite a lot, here. Thank you so very much, Arti.

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  8. Arti, Great to your post. Nice description. Thanks for the beautiful photographs.

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  9. the japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic is evident in those pictures. simple yet beautifu.

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  10. What a fascinating tour of Nara - it really has to be one of the most charming places on earth.

    Lovely shots revealing glimpses of history!

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  11. Hi,Arti,
    I did not notice you clicking so many shutters while walking with snow white and me! Only one thing you missed in this town was that you could not eat a sweet rice ball after pounding mochi:rice cake.
    Hope you try again!
    Have a good day
    Tomoko

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  12. You showed us a beautiful slice of ancient Japan.The shops are attractive, didn't you buy a kimono for yourself..?
    Stunning pics...so neat and tidy the country is!!!! Loved this blog. Thanks for sharing, Arti.:)

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  13. Arti jee Nice log

    Thoroughly enjoyed . Thanks for sharing

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  14. Readable post with beautiful pictures Arti...

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  15. Love the simplicity & charm of this place and in particular your beautiful & eloquent narration !

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  16. Your pictures are so vivid...it's almost like we're walking beside you in those traditional yet modern streets of Japan...they're so full of warmth.. :)

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  17. Oh my goodness, how wonderful, I especially love these shop fronts and whilst I did know monkeys were considered lucky I had no idea they would be so prominent.

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  18. Wow, A slice of lesser known Japan. So authentic and pleasant! .

    Lovely photographs .

    Thanks.

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  19. The place looks so elegant and neat. Nice photographs Arti.

    www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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  20. How wonderful to have two blog friends show you around. These photos are to be treasured, Arti.

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  21. I am so impressed with this post and pictures. Monkeys as good luck charm! well it seems our Vanar Sena is respected in the land of rising sun also.

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  22. I so love this series on your Japan yatra. Wish I could visit all these lovely places someday. That tea ceremony post is one of my most favorite. The monkeys look cute. Great pictures and captivating narration. Thanks for writing this excellent series Arti.

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  23. Hello 'Arti' ....
    I watched with enthusiasm for your images.
    Interesting ...
    Good job.
    Greetings Eko
    Finland / Lapland / Kuusamo
    http://eskoalamaunu.blogspot.fi/
    Thank you for your visit and comment on my blog ...

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  24. beautiful photos
    tea room
    The entrance with a unique latticed door pattern

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  25. A lovely old town (although not so old compared to places in your country, no?) ....but what lovely tour guides you had and how wonderful to meet fellow bloggers in this way.

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  26. You transport me with your photos! I hope it remains unchanged by Western influences for many many years. There is so much charm and history. And I love learning about the symbols and traditions! Thank you!

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  27. Although parts of Japan is quite modern and high-tech, I like the fact the other parts have been held back in time. It is part of the charm. I was not aware that monkeys brought good luck.

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  28. @Red rose: Next time, for sure!

    @Sallie: That is true :)

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  29. Japan is such an elusive place to me. I thank you for taking us along on your visit with such beautiful photos!

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  30. There are many photos in Nara. I enjoyed them very much.
    Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

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  31. Thank you for guiding Naramachi. I don't visit there too much. But I know the sweet mochi very much. They are always tasty.
    Have a lovely weekend!

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  32. Naramachi provides quaint atmosphere even to Japanese eyes because the town looks unusual and old-fashioned. The town is preserved by the local people’s efforts. I usually end my Nara Park walk by eating a sweet rice ball at that shop near the Kintetsu Nara station.

    I’m back to blogosphere for a short while. I’m sorry to hear about your loss. Seeing from your comment on my latest post, the deceased is your grandmother? The pleasures you spent with her will be fully grown when you remember her. It’s so sad but she’ll be always with you in your heart and the spirituality you must have inherited from her would be your treasure.

    Yoko

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  33. Thank you for the scenic tour. So beautiful!

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  34. Love these images of urban Japan. Thank you for sharing Arti! Happy weekend to you!

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  35. It's a lovely place and except for Indians I guess everyone knows how to preserve their heritage. You know, I couldn't figure out the monkeys, it looks more of a shape but then from stone image, I could make out that it's only the outline of the figure they use. Thanks for the virtual trip :)

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  36. How lovely! The red monkeys are really neat. I'd have had to take tons of photos too. It's so neat to "travel" with you.

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  37. oh wow, did not know about the monkey symbolizing good luck, and with lots of them, lots of good luck along the way, love the information you have been sharing to us about japan, Arti, though I still have to set foot there, but it seems I am discovering it also like you do. Happy weekend.

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  38. Happy weekend Arti! Wow, you heve seen so many things in Japan! Love these monkeys here! xox

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  39. Such a nice place.
    I envy we don't have such clean roads and places in our India.
    Also liked where you had placed ur Blog's watermark on the Gangoji Temple pic :)

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  40. i like the style of the shop , unique and simple :). How about the price there?

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  41. Another round of great suggestions, Arti! I love little streets like these filled with shops and unique architecture particularly in Japan. Those stuffed monkeys are very interesting.

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  42. @Mareta: Not too sure of the pricing as we stepped in, into a few shops only but I guess the prices should be on the reasonable side. :)

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  43. This is a beautiful post. Love your description of Naramachi, your photos just illuminated your writing. Thanks for bringing me along on this lovely journey. Do you know how old those buildings are -- they're very well taken care of.

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  44. Your posts are so informative, Arti! I'll use them again if I ever travel to japan. I hope you and your family are doing well.

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  45. Arti - great info and photos in this post. All the signs in Japanese make me wonder how I'd do outside of any English speaking areas in the country.

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  46. @Inside Journeys: Some of them are as old as dating back to the 18th century. The Japanese really know how to preserve their treasures of history.

    I am very humbled to read all your comments, concerns and appreciations. Thank you, everyone :-)

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  47. hey i was just wandering, why are you never there in any of the pics ?

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  48. The narrow streets of Naramachi reminds me of the chawls of Mumbai with 2 basic difference - Naramachi's roads are more cleaner and well maintained :D Also, the tea room looks serene!

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  49. Lot of pics. Nice to see this slice of Japan!

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  50. I doubt I;d hv seen as much if I had actually made the visit, Arti! For me this virtual trip is probably better than the real thing

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  51. Wonderful tour through ancient city.

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  52. thanks for sharing..would like to visit one day.

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  53. Nice pictorial description with very good shots... Thanks for the share.......

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  54. How neat,simple and beautiful life style they adopted in such a small town...!

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  55. Lovely narration with neat shots.

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

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  56. Lovely photo tour - thanks for sharing and yes, agree that the best way to explore a place is to walk through its streets

    Ami @ http://thrillingtravel.blogspot.in/

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  57. Beautiful photo tour Arti..the road looks so neat! Loved the cafes, the heritage temples, museums, the hanging monkeys etc... :)
    Thanks for all the info and the share :)

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  58. This looks really interesting place. Thanks for post.
    http://beautybrainblisss.com/

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  59. enjoyed series of post on japan.

    thanks for sharing.

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  60. Lovely pics, Arti :)
    Interesting info like Monkeys good luck charm :)

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  61. Very interesting photos and writing..all the best.

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  62. Nice to go through this, again. :) It so nice to see the (traditional) architectural features on the buildings.
    The Japanese script by themselves add a lot of charm to those structures.

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  63. Sooo nice to see these pics...u make me miss India more n more Arti :(


    The Orange Fever

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  64. What an informative post :) The hanging monkeys must be quite a sight! Enjoyed this walk through Naramachi through your eyes :)

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