Samurai District (“Samurai House Avenue”)
The Kakunodate Samurai District once housed about 80 samurai families, and is the best example of samurai architecture and housing in Japan. It boasted the widest avenue in the country during the Edo period aside from the one in Edo. The reason for its great width remains unknown. Of the samurai houses that remain intact, six are open to the public and offer visitors the opportunity to see how samurai families lived. From south to north, these are the Odano, Matsumoto, Iwahashi, Aoyagi, Ishiguro, and Onozaki houses. The Hirafuku Memorial Museum of Fine Arts is located next to the Onozaki house.
Kakunodate is also renowned for its artisanal cherry bark crafts. In the midst of Samurai House Avenue stands the Kakunodate Cherry Bark Craft Museum. The bourgeois town extended to the south of the Samurai District, which is now the commercial district of Kakunodate Town.
In the Samurai District, signboards denote the “Kakunodate Conservation Area of Traditional Buildings,” which read:
“The landscape of traditional villages and towns, which pass on the historical environment to the present day, constitute a precious cultural heritage indispensable to our understanding of our country’s history and culture.
The landscape of samurai houses in Omotemach and Higashikatsurakucho was designated as a “conservation area of important traditional buildings” in 1976.
National Agency of Culture, Akita Prefecture, and Semboku City”
The Samurai District is famous for the cherry blossom trees planted along the avenue. A small signboard reads:
“Project for the Conservation of Kakunodate Weeping Cherry Trees, a State-Designated Natural Treasure
In October 1974, the weeping cherry trees of Kakunodate, which provide special allure for the Samurai District, were designated by the State as a natural treasure.
To revitalize the weeping cherry trees, from fiscal year 1999 to 2007, we conducted research on them, established a conservation plan, and implemented measures to improve their condition.
Enough sunlight and soil that enables their roots to grow well are needed. We implemented the six measures below to improve the environment for the weeping cherry trees, considering the condition of each.
1.To protect the roots and help their growth: 1) Improvement of the soil, 2) guidance for roots, 3) aired the earth, 4) removed mounds, and 5) installed protective barriers
2. To ensure enough sunlight: Pruned nearby trees
National Agency of Culture, Akita Prefectural Board of Education, and Semboku City Board of Education.”
The signboard on Samurai Avenue across the Hirafuku Memorial Museum of Art outlines the history of the Kakunodate Weeping Cherry Trees as follows.
“The 162 Weeping Cherry Trees of Kakunodate: A State-Designated Natural Treasure
– Designated on October 9, 1974
– Additional designation on February 12, 2009
In spring, Kakunodate is colored by the gracious blooms of the weeping cherry trees against the background of various other trees of the tranquil samurai residences.
The weeping cherry trees were brought from Kyoto and planted here during the reign of Yoshichika Satake, who was appointed lord of Kakunodate in 1656, and that of his son, Yoshiaki Satae.
They are the weeping variant of the Edohigan Cherry (Prunus Pendula), and produce blossoms in two colors: white and faint red.
The weeping cherry trees were planted at the samurai residences of the Omotemachi and Higashikatsurakucho areas. Among 200 trees, some of which are as old as 300 years, 162 are designated as natural treasures. This is the only case in Japan where such a large number of cherry trees remain from older times.
National Agency of Culture, Akita Prefectural Board of Education, and Semboku City Board of Education”