Strolling through the quiet streets of Imaicho is like stepping into an open air museum. Imaicho is preserved historic districts in Japan where the entire town retains the atmosphere of an Edo-period merchant town. There are over 500 traditional buildings that have been impeccably preserved by locals who go about their daily lives amongst a wealth of national cultural properties.
The Imai Machinami Exchange Center is a good starting point offering informative resources such as multi-lingual pamphlets, model houses and cultural exhibits. Like most attractions and eateries in Imaicho, the center is closed on Mondays- a good thing to keep in mind when planning your trip. Walk for through the narrow alleys of Imaicho to reach the Imai Machiya Museum and experience a traditional Machiya (townhouse). From the wooden beams on the ceiling to the elevated servants room, the building has been impeccably restored and visitors can enter free of charge.
Other spots in which to experience a semblance of Edo-life in Imaicho are three Imaicho residences, the most famous being Imanishi Residence that belonged to the powerful Imanishi family who ran the town's administration in the mid-1600s. The Kawai residence is another building considered important Cultural Property for being the sake brewery (that is still in operation)!
Machiyachaya Furuion is a charming cafe at the heart of Imaicho and a perfect place to stop for a light lunch or afternoon tea. Keeping to the time-honored atmosphere of Imaicho, Machiyachaya Furuion is set in a traditional house that built in 1702. In warmer months, the large central courtyard is a pleasant place to have afternoon tea or munch on local specialities like kakinoha (persimmon leaf sushi) and nyumen (hot soup with somen noodles).
According to word of mouth, Imaicho was renown for housing 70% of Yamato's gold as this merchant town prospered as a key trading post between Osaka and Sakai. In the Azuchi- Momoyama Period, citizens were wealthy enough to have tiled roofs as seen when strolling or cycling around the town. Although Imaicho gained recognition as a merchant town, Imaicho was originally founded as a temple town centered around the Shonenji Temple.
Located just outside the northern borders of Asuka district, Imaicho is just a 15 minute cycle north of Kashiharajingu-mae or 5 minute walk from the Kintetsu Yagi Nishi-guchi station and definitely worth a visit when in the Asuka area. Whether explored on two wheels or on foot, Imaicho stands in a time of its own as an open-air museum that still functions as a modern day Japanese town.