Edo Period Experience in Hagi Old Castle Town
Reading stories from the Edo Period can only get you so far. Nothing gets better than actually walking through history itself. This is the experience Hagi Old Castle Town gives you.
Ride the roads of history
A conversation and a ride for one.
Start with a rickshaw ride to taste Hagi City’s Edo period history firsthand. While taking in the white facade of the houses and their sturdy namako walls, you can feel the lingering presence of samurai and wealthy merchants. During the ride, you might notice that the residencies are laid out in grids.
Quick turn here, another turn there.
It is said that the sharp right angles that make up the grid were designed to confuse invading enemies. Hagi warriors could maneuver the well-known layout and corner enemies more easily this way. But don’t let these kaimagari or “bent key” roads throw off your stroll.
As you continue through Hagi’s Old Castle Town, you might come across statues or photos of Japan’s most influential intellectuals and figures during the early Meiji Restoration. For example, Yoshida Shoin, who attempted to board Matthew Perry’s black ships to learn about the ways of the West. Also, Takasugi Shinsaku, the powerful military figure who pushed for Japan’s modernization to prevent Western imperialism. And Japan’s first prime minister and heavily influential figure in Japan’s place in Asia for decades to come, Ito Hirofumi.
Every October, these roads are lit with bamboo candles and filled with locals and travelers alike, donning kimono to honor the understated Kimono Week. The Hagi City Hall Tourism Department graciously provides Kimono Week Passports that allows discounts on renting kimono. This way you can truly feel the atmosphere in the town during the self-reflection of fall.
Feel the Revolution
Immerse yourself inside what was the start of a new era in Japan.
As one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, Hagi City continues to preserve its contributions to the Meiji Restoration. The Hagi Old Castle Town belongs to the serial nominated “Site of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” group. This honor includes 23 sites across 8 prefectures and 11 cities, mostly in the southern island of Kyushu and Hagi’s own Yamaguchi prefecture.
Loved among art enthusiasts, Hagi-yaki pottery changes with color after soaking up tea residue.
As a residential center for the wealthy samurai class and merchants, the Old Castle Town became a political, social and economic center for Hagi. Understandingly, the people of Hagi are keen to share this history. Speaking of, don’t forget to stop by the Hagi Uragami Museum to view the Hagi-yaki pottery. They also make enduring and memorable souvenirs for the history buff in your life.
The peace remains after years of massive change.
To truly experience history, one must breathe the air the locals did. Walk their same streets and visit the places where they created culture. Hagi Old Castle Town provides this type of visceral experience. You gain a new sense of appreciation for historical preservation by walking the original Edo period designed city layout, while taking in the town’s significance to the Meiji Restoration. Here, you can deeply embed yourself inside a place that stood the transition from a peaceful Edo period into a new, open and transformative Meiji Restoration.