Naramachi 奈良町

Naramachi, Nara, Kansai, Japan.
Naramachi, Nara

Naramachi, in central Nara, is the tangle of narrow streets that makes up the merchant quarter of the city, and grew up during the Edo Period. Many of the buildings preserved as cafes, shops and museums are wooden machiya merchant homes, similar to those in Kyoto.

Naramachi is directly south of Kintetsu Nara Station and Kofukuji Temple. The district is bounded by the east-west Naramachi Odori street to the north and JR Kyobate Station to the south.

Naramachi is now full of small museums, souvenir stores, art and craft shops and a number of temples and shrines, the most important of which is the historic, UNESCO World Heritage Listed, Gangoji Temple.

Naramachi is particularly atmospheric at night when most of the traffic and tourists have dispersed and the lanterns of the restaurants are being lit. You can imagine yourself transported back to the Edo Period as you stroll these traditionally Japanese streets.

Naramachi, Nara, Kansai, Japan.
Naramachi Museum (Naramachi Shiryokan)
Naramachi, Nara, Kansai, Japan.
Edo Period Naramachi machiya townhouse

Naramachi Museums

Naramachi is home to a number of mostly small, often quirky, museums. The Naramachi Information Center on the south side of Naramachi Odori, to the west of the entrance to Gangoji Temple, is a good place to start. Nara is an easy city to get lost in, so be sure to pick up the useful "Naramachi Walking Map" from the Center and, if you like, hire a bicycle here. (Check out the Nara map at the bottom of this page as a start.)

To get to Naramachi walk south through the Higashimuki and Mochiido-no-Center-gai covered arcades (shotengai) until you reach Naramachi Odori. The Nara Crafts Museum should be to your right and the Naramachi Information Center and Gangoji to your left.

Nara Crafts Museum

Nara Crafts Museum, Naramachi.

The Nara Crafts Museum (なら工藝館; Nara Kogeikan) showcases Nara's ancient arts and crafts and holds workshops and demonstrations on its second floor on how to make them. On display are ceramics, traditional calligraphy brushes, inks, glassware, statues and masks. High quality brushes, ink and inkstones hark bark to the scribes who toiled away in the offices of what is now the Nara Palace Site way back in the Nara Period. Look out for a couple of autographed dishes on display by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.
Nara Crafts Museum, 1-1 Azemame-cho, Nara
Tel: 0742 27 0033
Hours: 10am-6pm; closed on Monday unless Monday is a public holiday.
Admission: Free

Sugioka Kason Museum of Calligraphy

Sugioka Kason Museum of Calligraphy, Naramachi.

The Sugioka Kason Museum of Calligraphy (奈良市杉岡華邨書道美術館) displays the work of Sugioka Kason (1913-2012) who was born in Nara Prefecture and became a famous calligrapher, author and teacher. The museum opened in 2000 and puts on special exhibitions of calligraphy and holds lectures.
Sugioka Kason Museum of Calligraphy
Wakido-cho, Nara, 630-8337
Tel: 0742 24 4111
Hours: 10am-5pm; closed on Monday unless Monday is a public holiday.
Admission: 300 yen

Nara City Museum of Historical Resources

The Nara City Museum of Historical Resources (奈良市史料保存館) is next door to the Sugioka Kason Museum of Calligraphy and is housed in a restored and preserved machiya merchant town house. The museum displays Edo Period manuscripts and historical documents behind glass panels and hosts special exhibitions on the theme of Nara.
Nara City Museum of Historical Resources
Wakido-cho 1-1, Nara, 630-8337
Tel: 0742 27 0169
Hours: 9.30am-5pm; closed on Monday unless Monday is a public holiday.
Admission: Free

Nara City Museum of Historical Resources, Kansai, Japan.
Nara City Museum of Historical Resources
Koshi-no-ie, Nara, Kansai, Japan.
Koshi-no-ie Residence, Naramachi

Koshi-no-Ie Residence

The Koshi-no-ie Residence (ならまち格子の家) is a wonderfully preserved machiya complete with kamado stove, an inner garden (naka-niwa), box staircase (hako-kaidan) and skylight (akari-tori). These long, narrow, merchant houses had the shop at the front of the house and the living space in the rear. The slatted, wooden lattice work at the front (koshi) gives the house its present name and allowed the residents to look out without been seen.
Koshi-no-ie Residence
Gangoji-cho 44, Nara, 630-8332
Tel: 0742 23 4820
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed on Monday unless Monday is a public holiday.
Admission: Free

Naramachi Shiryokan

Naramachi Shiryokan, Naramachi.

The Naramachi Shiryokan (奈良町資料館) has information on the distinctive red and white, cloth, hanging, monkey dolls (migawari-zaru) seen around Naramachi as well as diverse collections of Edo Period signboards from shops, onigawara roof tiles, huge ceramics, Buddhist statues, and quite a lot of other unusual exhibits in a cosy, crowded mishmash. No photos are allowed inside. There is a small shop on the premises to buy Naramachi souvenirs.
Naramachi Shiryokan
Nishinoshinya-cho 14-2, Nara, 630-8334
Tel: 0742 22 5509
Hours: 10am-4pm; open daily.
Admission: Free

Imanishike Shoin Residence

Imanishike Shoin Traditional House, Naramachi.

The Imanishike Shoin Traditional House (今西家住宅) first dates from the 15th century (Muromachi Period) and is designated as an Important Cultural Property. The residence once belonged to officials of the town's governance and includes a Japanese garden, spacious interior with earthen floor and sliding doors and a venue to enjoy Japanese tea plus a traditional accompanying sweet.
Imanishike Shoin Traditional House
3-9-25 Imai-cho, Nara 634-0812
Tel: 0742 25 3388
Hours: 10am-4pm; open April 15-May 15; October 15-November 15.
Admission: 350 yen

Harushika Brewery & Sake Tasting

Harushika Brewery & Sake Tasting, Naramachi.

The Harushika Brewery Shop (春鹿醸造元) is located on the same street as the Imanishike Shoin Traditional House, a little to the east nearer to Fukuchi-in Temple and the main road that runs south from the Nara Hotel. Here you can pay a small fee and then sample a variety of Nara's famous sake along with traditional Japanse tsukemono pickles pickled in sake lees. The sake tasting lasts about an hour and is conducted by English-speaking guides dressed in happi coats, who explain the different grades of sake and try to answer any questions. You will also receive a small Harushika sake cup as a souvenir and can purchase bottles of sake, pickles and sake-flavored ice-cream wafers at the shop. The sake sampling experience has become very popular among both foreigners and Japanese visiting Nara.
Harushika Brewery Shop
24-1 Fukuchiin-cho, Nara 630-8381
Tel: 0742 23 2255
Hours: 8.15am-5.15pm; closed for Obon in August, New Year and around the 11th of the month.
Admission: Free (small fee for the sake sampling)

Naramachi Karakuri Toy Museum

Naramachi Karakuri Toy Museum, Nara.

The Naramachi Karakuri Toy Museum (奈良町からくりおもちゃ館) occupies another machiya merchant's house and is dedicated to karakuri mechanical toys from the Edo Period. Made from wood, bamboo, washi paper and other natural materials, karakuri are toys meant to surprise or trick. These fun toys have been recreated using drawings and documents from the past. Visitors are encouraged to try out the toys during their visit.
Naramachi Karakuri Toy Museum
7 Inyo-cho, Nara 630-8338
Tel: 0742 26 5656
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed on Wednesday.
Admission: Free

Hosokawa & Mori Residences

Hosokawa Residence, Nara.

The Hosokawa Residence (細川家住宅) and Mori Residence (森家住宅) are just around the corner from the Naramachi Karakuri Toy Museum. The Hosokawa Residence is the older of the two and was built in the early 19th century. The Hosokawa family were prosperous makers of traditional Japanese candles. Next door the Mori Residence dates from 1890 and was initially built by the Hosokawas as a family home. Both houses have the lattice frontages typical of Nara machiya.
Hosokawa & Mori Residences
Minamiiyodo-cho, Nara 630-8338
Tel: 0742 34 5369
Hours: 11am-4pm; Open from 21 March-26 June and 23 September-27 November on weekends and public holidays.
Admission: Free

Gangojii Temple, Nara, Japan.
Gangojii Temple, Naramachi, Nara

Naramachi Temples

Gangojii Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the main temple in the Naramachi district but there are several other temples in the area. Many of them were formerly part of Gangoji Temple when it was a much larger complex and have become separate over time. many of them are free to enter but some have admission fees.

Fukuchi-in Temple's Treasure House contains a statue of the Eleven Headed Kannon which is open to public view at certain times of the year and a fee is charged. Otherwise the grounds are free to enter.

Fukuchi-in Temple
46 Fukuchiincho, Nara, 630-8381
Tel: 0742 22 1358

Other temples in Naramachi include Jurin-in, Hotokuji and Kontaiji which are all close together. Near the Mori and Hosokawa Residences are Junenji, Amidaiji and Shogakuji. In the south of Naramachi are another grouping of temples including Shonenji, Korinji, Tanjoji, Tokuyuji, Seikoji and Saiko-in.

Jurin-in (Tel: 0742 26 6635) dates from the Kamakura Period and some parts of the temple have survived the ravages of fire and war. These include a stone image of Jizo, statues of Fudo-myo, the Hondo and Nan-mon Gate. Admission is 400 yen.

Eating Out in Naramachi

Naramachi's narrow streets and historic, wooden buildings offer an atmospheric setting for eating out. Naramachi's restaurants offer a wide variety of Japanese and foreign cuisine ranging from traditional kaiseki to modern French.

  • Kyo Kozuchi (21 Shimomikado-cho 21; Tel: 0742 22 1440) offers "medicinal food" including locally produced vegetables, red rice and so - a type of skimmed milk from the Nara Period.
  • Poku-Poku (23 Shomani-cho 21; Tel: 0742 31 2537) specializes in tonkatsu - breaded pork - served with rice, vegetables and two types of tea.
  • Across the street, Awa (1 Shomani-cho 21; Tel: 0742 24 5699) presents full-course Japanese meals in a traditional setting.
  • Hiyori (26 Nakanoshinya-cho 21; Tel: 0742 24 1470) has Yamato-style kaiseki dishes with locally-grown vegetables complemented with beef and chicken.
  • Salon de Vins Seve (19-1 Nishiterabayashi-cho; Tel: 0742 25 2233) prides itself on its fine French wines and regional French cuisine.
  • Kanna (19-2 Nishiterabayashi-cho; Tel: 0742 25 2150) is a stylish day-time cafe specializing in beautifully presented Japanese sweets served in three-tiered, lacquered bento boxes with powdered green tea - machya.
  • Kashiya (22-23 Chuin-cho; Tel: 0742 22 8899) is a traditional, tatami-mat cafe known for its hand-made, bean-paste sweets eaten with tea or coffee.
  • Tsuruyoshi (22-1 Wakido-cho; Tel: 0742 26 7798) is well-known for its delicious kaiseki meals featuring beautifully-presented seafood.
  • Friponne (22-1 Wakido-cho; Tel: 0742 27 8622) offers French food with an Okinawan twist including gourds, yams and sea grapes (umibudo).

Hotels near Naramachi

There are a number of hotels in and around the Naramachi district. Places to stay include the Toyoko Inn Nara Kintetsu Eki-mae, Tenpyo Ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn, the People's Inn Hanakomichi, the 4-star Kasuga Hotel and the Noborioji Hotel next door, also 4-star.

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Nara Map, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Nara Map

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