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Author:Nara-ha Jii-san
Nara Walk Event Special

My Experience Participating in a Nara Walk Event

Author:Nara-ha Jii-san
Author:Nara-ha Jii-san

Event Purpose and Overview

The first walk event around the streets of Nara, titled "Asyl Walk," was held and I participated in it. This event is a collaboration between Hotel Asyl Nara in Aburasaka and Suzaku no Kai, a group of volunteer guides in Nara who actively guide students on school excursions.
The first event, a three-hour course titled "Tracing the Footsteps of Nara Magistrate," was held from May 26 to 28 and was designed for people who love Nara and want to explore its deep history.
As I call myself Nara-ha Jii-san ("pro-Nara grandpa"), I was intrigued by this event, so I immediately applied for and participated in it. I have created this article in the hope that more people can learn about the depth of Nara through this experience and become interested in it.

From Meeting to Departure

The meeting/departure spot for the event was at Hotel Asyl at 1:00 p.m. We paid a membership fee of 800 yen to the office at the front desk to complete the check-in. In exchange, we were given a walking route as well as a map of Naramachi with comments from Neifu Kiji, a Diary of Toshiakira Kawaji, a Magistrate of Nara, which I will explain in detail later. In this event, we would be walking in the footsteps of the spots that Toshiakira Kawaji visited in February and March of 1847. We looked at the map and waited for the departure.

The map for the walk
The map for the walk

I had thought that there would not be that many participants due to the slightly geeky theme; however, on the day of the event, about 30 people signed up as they were divided into four groups of about 7 people each according to their order of arrival, departing sequentially a little before 1 o'clock. Looking at the members gathered in the lobby waiting for the departure, it seemed that 20% were men and 80% were women.
Many of the participants were over 60 years old, and the average age of my group seemed to be around 65. Many of them lived in Nara City, and there seemed to be few participants from other prefectures.
Each group was accompanied by a guide from Suzaku no Kai, who guided us around and explained each spot.

The Tokugawa-Affiliated Nenbutsuji Temple

Departing from the meeting place, we headed in the direction of Kintetsu Nara Station and first visited the mountain temple Nenbutsuji, which is not far from the hotel. This temple has a golden crest of a three-leaf hollyhock on its gate, and you could see that it is closely related to the Tokugawa family.
Tokugawa Ieyasu was defeated by Sanada Yukimura's forces in the Osaka Winter Campaign as he fled from his main camp at Chausuyama, and he was also defeated in the Battle of Kizukawaguchi, fleeing to Nara. He escaped from his pursuers by hiding in a coffin near this temple. Legend has it that he hid himself in a coffin near this temple to escape from his pursuers.
After Ieyasu defeated the Toyotomi clan in the Summer Campaign and ruled over the country, his youngest brother Sadakatsu Matsudaira, who was serving as the representative of Fushimi Castle, ordered Taichu Shonin to build the Nenbutsuji temple. In the precincts of the temple, Sadakatsu's tomb was built.

  • The sanmon gate of Nenbutsuji
    The sanmon gate of Nenbutsuji
  • The tomb of Sadakatsu Matsudaira
    The tomb of Sadakatsu Matsudaira

Follow the Map Route to Explore the Spots Visited by Toshiakira Kawaji.

While it is written in the photo of the map earlier, it may be a bit too small to read, so I am going to write Kawaji's comments for each spot on the map in quotes at the beginning, followed by the guide's description and my additional explanations and impressions.

① Kango Shrine

"Here lies an armor display of the Toshogu Shrine… and a resting spot during the Siege of Osaka."

When Tokugawa Ieyasu left for the battle of the Winter Campaign in Osaka, he stopped by Kango Shrine after passing the Nara Magistrate's Office, which he had built the previous year, and dedicated a suit of armor. The actual armor is kept at the Nara National Museum while a replica is kept at this shrine. The replica shows only the armor and the seal on the head of the helmet without the actual helmet. It is said that the helmet was dropped and cracked during the dedication, so it was taken back as it was.

  • Worship hall and main hall of Kango Shrine
    Worship hall and main hall of Kango Shrine
  • Replica of front decoration of armor and helmet dedicated by Ieyasu
    Replica of front decoration of armor and helmet dedicated by Ieyasu

② Kobaien

"I see the ink mill at the house of Kikugoro Matsui in Tsubai Town."

Founded in 1577, Kobaien is the oldest ink manufacturer in Japan and continues to manufacture and sell many types of ink to this day. With several stores and manufacturing facilities, the one we visited was in Tsubai-cho, which is designated as a Tangible Registered Cultural Property.

Present-day Kobaien
Present-day Kobaien

③ Naramachi Museum
We stopped by the Naramachi Museum, where the staff explained in detail about the Nara Magistrate's Office and the Nara Magistrate. Nara City was once under the direct control of the Shogunate during the Edo period, and the Nara Magistrate's Office was established in 1613 at the site where Nara Women's University is now located for the purpose of governing the area. At that time, it was necessary to confront the Toyotomi clan, so the magistrate's office was surrounded by a moat and served as a fortress. The site was vast, measuring 165 meters from east to west and from north to south. A model of the magistrate's office at that time, based on an illustration, is on display to give visitors a sense of its vastness.
The head of this magistrate's office was the Nara Magistrate, and by the Meiji era, 43 generations of magistrates devoted themselves to the administration of the town and large temples, creating the foundation of today's Naramachi. Among these magistrates, the one who was adored by the people as a great magistrate was Toshiakira Kawaji, who served as a magistrate from 1846 to 1851 during the end of the Edo period.

  • Exterior of the Naramachi Museum
    Exterior of the Naramachi Museum/div>
  • Interior of the Naramachi Museum
    Interior of the Naramachi Museum

④ Kikuoka Kampo Yakkyoku
After learning about the Nara Magistrate and the Nara Magistrate's Office at the Naramachi Museum, we headed next to the ruins of the Gengoji Temple.
On the way, we stopped by the Kikuoka Kampo Yakkyoku, the oldest pharmacy in Nara Prefecture founded in the late Heian period, and listen to the owner's story. The store had been located along Sanjo Street for 520 years but was moved to its current location in the Naramachi area in 2002.

Present-day Kikuoka Kanpo Yakkyoku
Present-day Kikuoka Kanpo Yakkyoku

⑤ Ruins of the Five-Story Pagoda of Gengoji Temple

"The pagoda of Gengoji Temple was built by Prince Shotoku in the fourth year of the war, but it had not been destroyed by the fire, so I climbed up to the third floor."

This account shows that when Toshiakira Kawaji visited the five-story pagoda, it was in a majestic display. Unfortunately, the five-story pagoda was lost in 1859, sometime after Kawaji saw it.
Today, only the base and foundation stone remain in a space surrounded by private houses in Naramachi. If it had survived, it would have surpassed the five-story pagoda of Kofukuji Temple and would have been the second tallest, following the five-story pagoda of Toji Temple.
This place is also said to be one of the hidden places in the town for blooming seasonal flowers. I felt that cherry blossoms blooming on the ruins of the pagoda would truly bring back memories of a bygone era.

  • Gate of the pagoda ruins
    Gate of the pagoda ruins
  • Cornerstone of the tower
    Cornerstone of the tower

⑥ Goryo Shrine
This shrine was built by the order of Emperor Kanmu. It is said to be the shrine with the largest ujiko population in Nara City.
Emperor Kanmu, who was doubtful and skeptical due to the power struggle among the Emperor's family at that time, feared the grudge spirits so much that he built the Goryo Shrine to appease the spirits. Our guide gave us an interesting explanation of how the fear of the spirits ultimately led to the relocation of the capital.

  • Torii of Goryo Shrine
    Torii of Goryo Shrine
  • The worship hall of Goryo Shrine
    The worship hall of Goryo Shrine

⑦ Jurin-in Temple

"See the main statue of Jirin-in. which is a stone statue of Jizo Kannon Seishi created by Kukai."

Today, Jurin-in is not just a tourist temple, but a temple with its own danka system. The main hall of this temple is designated as a national treasure. Although we were not able to see the main stone statue of Bodhisattva, our guide showed us a photo of it.

The sanmon gate and main hall of Jurin-in
The sanmon gate and main hall of Jurin-in

⑧ Zuto Pagoda

"Visit the zuto temple, where there is a head tomb of monk Genbo."

Regarding the origin of the term zuto ("head pagoda"), there is a theory that it was based on a legend that the severed head of Genbo was buried there, as Toshiakira Kawaji wrote in his diary, but now an ancient document states that Jitchu, a priest of Todaiji Temple, built a doto ("earthen pagoda") in 767, which is believed to be referring to zuto. It is a common theory that "doto" became "zuto" due to a dialectal change.
The pagoda is open to visitors during the Shoso-in exhibition, and I have actually entered and seen it twice in the past. At the time, it was hidden behind the hotel and could not be seen from the outside, but now the hotel was gone and the land had been cleared, so I was able to view the entire structure from the outside. The present appearance was restored in 1991 after excavation.

Distant view of zuto
Distant view of zuto

⑨ Hashimoto-cho Kosatsuba Notice Board
From the zuto, we passed through Gokurakubo of Motokoji Temple and headed for a visit to the restored kosatsuba notice board in Hashimoto-cho. At Gengoji, our guide told us that it was originally a temple supported by the Soga clan with its decline possibly hastened by the fall of the clan, and received valuable information that tours of the ceiling of the Gokurakubo, a national treasure, are sometimes held.
Our destination, the Hashimoto-cho kosatsuba, is located on Sanjo Street, south of Kofukuji Temple's Nannendo Hall. This is a restored version of a kosatsu on which a notice posted by the Nara Magistrate Office during the Edo period was written.
While I had known of its existence for some time, this was the first time I learned that this was a restoration of an Edo Period kosatsu.

Restored kosatsu notices
Restored kosatsu notices

⑩ Shokuofu no Hi
Toshiakira Kawaji, a famous magistrate who laid the foundation of Naramachi, is also known for planting thousands of cherry trees and maple around Todaiji Temple and along the Saho River, creating the landscape that surrounds Nara Park today, and was nicknamed the "cherry blossom magistrate". The monument in honor of him was built at the east end of Sarusawa Pond on Sanjo Street and is called Shokuofu no Hi ("the monument of planted cherry trees and maple")
Here, our guide told us an anecdote about Toshiakira Kawaji, who was given a farewell gift when he left Nara, but he gratefully accepted only the noshi ornament and declined to accept the item.

Shokuofu no Hi
Shokuofu no Hi


I participated in this Nara walk event and found it very meaningful and informative with an insight into the governance by the Nara Magistrate during the Edo period and the formation of the town of Naramachi.
I felt that this event is for people who are somewhat familiar with Nara's tourist attractions. It was also a bit strenuous, as we had to sit and walk for 3 hours without resting. Nonetheless, we had many people who like to explore history and were used to walking with no one dropped out despite being elderly. We used the free tickets for the café that were given to us with the map and parted ways after discussing our impressions with each other at the café. I would love to visit again at my leisure the spots that I found interesting during the hurried tour.
Incidentally, the second Asyr Walk will be held on August 5-7 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. under the title of "Yokai to Onmyoji."