Kakunodate is an old castle town located on the northern part of the Senboku Plain. Located along the banks of the Tamagawa and Hinokinaigawa Rivers and cradled on three sides by mountains, this town is known both for its historic samurai mansions and the beautiful blossoming cherry trees that line the streets. Popular with tourists from all over the world, it has an atmosphere truly appropriate to its nickname of“’the Little Kyoto”.
The town layout we know today was established in 1620 by the Ashina family. With a plaza known as ‘the firebreak’ at its center, the town was divided into northern and southern sections. To the north, named the Uchimachi or Inner Town, the samurai built their houses. Townsfolk and merchants lived in the Tomachi or Outer Town, to the south.
In the 390-odd years since it was established, this town layout has remained essentially unchanged. The Inner Town continues to be a district of samurai mansions side-by-side, their black fences draped about by weeping cherry trees. Japan has designated the street these mansions face as a Historically Significant Traditional Buildings Preseveration Area, and they are protected as cultural artifacts.
The Outer Town, in stark contrast to the stately elegance of the Inner Town, is a bustling merchant house district, but the sense of history remains. Many old buildings and storehouses remain to this day, and the townsfolk treasure these spaces even as they used them as shops and restaurants.