This past weekend we had an outing to Kakunodate in Akita prefecture. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and it was a very warm day! Kakunodate is known both for its historic samurai mansions and the beautiful blossoming cherry trees that line the streets. Popular with tourists from all over the world, it has an atmosphere truly appropriate to its nickname of “ Little Kyoto.”
You can dress up in old fashioned Japanese clothing (like the young girl in the hat) for ¥2,000.
Many of the samurai houses are actually homes to samurai descendants. Others, you can walk through. This particular one is the Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum. It costs ¥500 to enter. The Aoyagi lineage goes back as far as the 16th century. The fouder, Aoyagi Touemon, first became a vassal of Lord Ashina of Hitach (about 350 kilometers southwest of Kakunodate) in 1570. The family moved to Kakunodatefollowing Lord Ashina when the shogun overlord transferred the master to the Akita domain in 1603. The Ashina reign only lasted three generations, and the Aoyagi clan came to serve the second master, Lord Satake-Kita, in 1653. The new lord appointed Aoyagi to the important role of Nanbu Sakaime Yamayaku, or chief of Nanbu-area boundary guards.
In the next two centuries, the family enjoyed a steady growth, both inincome and political importance. Their men climbed up the social ladder and by 1868, when the Edo feudalism collapsed, Aoyagi’s fief had expanded to become the third largest among those managed by the vassals in the domain.