4 Best Sights in Kakunodate, Tohoku

Ando House

A visit to this miso and soy sauce business, still located in the historic home of the Ando merchant family, is a treat for both the eyes and the taste buds. Beautiful seasonal flower arrangements and artifacts decorate the tatami rooms, while the unusual redbrick storehouse houses some fine painted screens. And don't miss the inner storehouse, where you can find free miso soup and pickles.

Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum


Several well-preserved samurai houses date from the founding of Kakunodate. The most renowned is Aoyagi-ke, which functions as a museum and even a bit of a shopping center (there are many restaurants and gift shops located here). The house displays an extensive collection of swords, armor, guns, and silk kimono wedding gowns as well as all kinds of historical artifacts to pore over, such as farm implements and household items. There are even some weapons and feel their weight. It also exhibits a large number of war documents, photos, and uniforms from the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) to the Pacific War (1941–45). History buffs will love it, especially when you can see how much wealth these feudal bureaucrats could accumulate. The museum is a 15-minute walk northwest from JR Kakunodate Station.

Ishiguro Samurai House


Direct descendents of the Ishiguro family open part of their residence to let people in to observe the oldest samurai house in Kakunodate. They lead tours around the house explaining the ornamented doors and the vestibule. The family's 12th-generation successor, Naonobu, explains them with English handouts. In the rear, the armory and historical documents, such as a German text on anatomy, are exhibited. The beautiful cherry tree in the garden is nearly three centuries old. This place can draw fairly dense crowds.

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Kakunodate Cherry Bark Work Museum


A hall in front of a cluster of samurai houses serves as a museum and a workshop for the local cherry-bark veneer handicrafts that became the new source of income for samurai when they suddenly found themselves unemployed. Don't be put off by the imposing exterior of the Densho House—go right on in and watch a master craftsman at work. You can buy the products—often one of a kind—here, rather than from the shops on the street. The Satake-Kita family armor and heavily Kyoto-influenced ancient heirlooms are exhibited in adjacent parts of the building. You can also learn about life in old-time winters, with displays of plaited-maple sleighs and some truly inventive and adaptive tools and togs for coping with snow.