Yes, you read the title correctly. If you have knowledge of Japanese culture and history and you want to get a glimpse into the past when samurai were roaming the streets of the cities and merchants were at every corner filling the air with food you should go and explore the streets of Japan which kept all of the country’s history and the spirit that never dies. These streets are iconic and they scream Japan so take a look of what they have to offer.
Oharai machi from Ise city in the Mie Prefecture earned its name from the Shinto purification ritual known as ‘oharai’. The ritual was performed by pilgrims before entering the tori gate entrance at the end of the main street. For more than 200 years this was one of Japan’s busiest streets as up to four million people visited the shrine every year. The old merchant spirit is still very much alive and the traditional wooden buildings make this street one very picturesque scenery that offers people a glimpse into the past.
Nestled in the mountains of Nagano, Nagiso town is a former post-town, the 42 stop of 69 on the Nakasendo, a travelling route connecting Kyoto and Edo. The street was the first area of the country selected as an important historical building in 1976 and I can imagine why. The atmosphere is everything you imagine Japan to be and the beautiful sakura tree gives the street a very authentic feeling. It’s like time has stopped and you can still feel the presence of past travellers and that is kind of overwhelming.
The village of Shirakawa is one of Japan’s most famous classified as a heritage town and featuring gassho zukuri houses. The village is closed to vehicles so the streets seem more like paths. The village is quite unique to the eye mostly because it does not look like the average Japanese village. Many people recommend visiting during winter when the unique landscape is completed by the night lights that give Shirakawa a very Christmasy feeling.
Kurashiki is another old town that flourished during the Edo period and has been carefully preserved over the years. Kurashiki is known as the ‘Venice of the Orient’ due to the picturesque streets on either side of a long canal. The historical quarter is popular among visitors and is filled with restaurants and stores, small museums and boutiques. If you want to admire the streetscape better you can even take a boat trip on the canal.
300 kilometres away from Okinawa main island, Taketomi Island, part of the Yaeyama island chain, is a well distinctive town for traditional red-roofed houses. The architectural style dates back to a time when the islands were separate from the country. The streets here are quite unique from the rest of the country as they are ‘paved’ with white sand and surrounded by stone walls. If you are up for an unusual ride around the town catch the carriage pulled by a water buffalo. Yes, that’s right!
I bet you feel like exploring Japan on foot now. Am I right?