Isawa Village in the Aomori Prefecture of Japan is home to one of the few remaining samurai villages left in Japan. The place has a beautiful temple and museum that are well worth visiting if you’re ever nearby.
The Samurai were known for their love of nature, so many would plant trees when they farmed or participate in tea ceremonies that involved writing poetry about it. They also loved archery, horseback riding, and sword fighting, which later became part of martial arts training.
Unfortunately, very few original documents from that period have survived, so not all homes claiming to be samurai houses today can be verified as true ones. But there are still some ancient villages out there that have been preserved as samurai theme parks.
Do you have any ancient villages in your region? Let us know about them! And if one of the places listed below looks cool, check it out on a map before visiting; sometimes, these places are located inside modern cities and not where they used to be hundreds of years ago.
What is a Samurai Village?
A samurai village is similar to a farm village and has been the home of many samurai families for generations.
In most cases, they are traditional Japanese-style homes designed for living in modern society while maintaining the lifestyle and traditions of a samurai warrior from hundreds of years ago. Many such villages do not have electricity or running water.
However, the villages are still inhabited by the families that live there. They have a small meeting hall for special occasions and functions such as weddings or funerals; sometimes, a Japanese tea house is available.
Why are they essential to Japan’s history?
The Samurai were, at one time, the bodyguard of the emperor of Japan. The highest-ranking Samurai were the daimyo, which means “great name,” and the lowest was a ronin or masterless Samurai.
As such, they were nobility in their own right. They would often conflict with other clans (local lords) over territory and honor.
Most of the time, these feuds were settled by the individual Samurai rather than the emperor. The legend of the 47 Ronin is an example of a solved conflict in this way.
The Samurai also served the emperor in other ways, such as leading an army against invading armies if necessary. They were most noted for their bravery and discipline while on the battlefield.
Are there still Samurai Villages in Japan?
To date, there are still many samurai villages in Japan. Some of these are tourist attractions, while others have become private residences or have even been turned into museums.
Most samurai families did not hold title to their land, as they were essential “rent-a-landowners,” The abolition of feudalism after 1867 meant that most Samurai lost their land.
This meant that many of them became ronin or masterless Samurai and often turned to become merchants, writers, priests, artists, etc. However, some families still exist in the same village as they have for generations.
Which samurai villages are preserved?
Some areas of Japan still have original village structures as they were hundreds of years ago. Tourists curious about how the Samurai lived during that time can visit many of these sites.
Below are some areas in Japan with preserved samurai villages:
- Daigo, Aichi prefecture
- Kumamoto-jo, Kumamoto Prefecture
- Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
- Ogi, Akita prefecture
- Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture (also has a samurai museum within the castle grounds)
- Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture
- Isawa Village in Aomori prefecture. This village is known as the “Samurai Village” as its residents are direct descendants of Samurai. They have preserved their old village, and the homes look like they did hundreds of years ago.
- Nihonbashi, Tokyo (daimyo were initially from this area)
- Iga Ueno, Mie Prefecture
- Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture (the birthplace of the Japanese sword)
Japan is also home to many samurai museums, some found on sites with samurai villages. Some locations listed above also have these attractions and landmarks related to Japanese history and culture.
How can you visit one today?
Many villages have signs at the entrance indicating whether they are open to visitors. If you are unsure, it is always polite to inquire inside before entering a samurai village.
Unfortunately, very few of the original documents from that period have survived. Many homes that claim to be samurai houses today are built based on research into their history and legend rather than fact.
A List of Samurai Villages In Japan
- Aomori Prefecture: Isawa Village (Nakayama Clan), Sakkawayama Town, Tohoku Region.
- Fukushima Prefecture: Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture.
- Gifu Prefecture: Tomioka Town, Gifu Prefecture, YAMANASHI (Yoshii Clan).
- Gunma Prefecture: Saku City, Gunma Prefecture.
- Miyazaki Prefecture: Urasoe City, Miyazaki Prefecture.
- Nagano Prefecture: Narai Town, Minamimaki District, Nagano Prefecture.
- TOCHIGI Prefecture: TOCHIGI City, Tochigi Prefecture, KOBAYASHI Clan.
- Saga Prefecture: ISE (Kakizaki Town), Saga Prefecture, TAKAHASHI Clan.
- Osaka Prefecture: Awaji City, Hyogo Prefecture (Higashi Village).
- Okayama Prefecture: Tamano City, Okayama Prefecture (Koga Clan).
- Hokkaido: Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture.
Where did most Samurai live in Japan?
The Samurai were concentrated primarily in the agricultural landscapes of rural Japan.
There are no longer any samurai villages left, but some do exist. One town is located in Yokosuka, known as Kakunodate Kannai Kakunodate.
It has a lovely Temple and a small museum teaching the samurai lifestyle.
Why are there no samurai anymore?
As part of the abolition of feudalism in 1867, the Samurai were stripped of their right to be armed. Many had already turned to other professions, but those who continued as Samurai became ronin or masterless swordsmen.
During World War II, the last official samurai battle between two factions within the Japanese military was the Imperial Way Faction and the Imphal Declaration Faction. However, many ronin still exist today in Japan.
Emperor Meiji supported modernization and enacted many reforms that changed Japan into an industrial power. Some samurai families were brought along with this process, but most were not because they did not fit into modern society.
Japanese tea houses are designed for Japanese culture, but they can sometimes meet with friends or even have business meetings. They may still be found in some samurai villages and usually consist of many tatamis (woven reed mats) where guests sit around the hearth fire pit in the middle of the room.
After abolishing feudalism, many Samurai returned to their former occupations as farmers or business people because there was no longer a need for sworders.
Others became tea house owners or merchants, carrying on traditions in those professions. The Samurai are sometimes called “archers” since they were known for their archery abilities before using a sword.
Since the abolition of feudalism, many Samurai turned to other professions to continue their lifestyle. Some became tea house owners or merchants, while others became writers, priests, and artists.
The depiction of a samurai with his sword is used on everything from teacups to traditional Japanese-style furniture that is still made today. These designs are called “katana-yasuri” or “samurai work.”
Many Samurai turned to farm after abolishing feudalism since they had lost all their land. While some did this to continue living in the same village with their families, others moved to other areas.
The abolition of feudalism in 1867 meant that Samurai no longer had any land or title under the emperor’s rule.
The Samurai became known as “masters” or “senseis,” Even the shogun was known to have fought in these martial arts competitions.
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The recommended book about Samurai Homes.
If you want to know more about the Samurai and their homes, I recommend purchasing a copy of Inazo Nitobe’s Bushido: The Soul of Japan.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Nitobe, Inazo (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
Last update on 2023-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
In this book, Mr. Nitobe describes in layman’s terms the development and implementation of Bushido or “the way of the warrior” during feudal times in Japan.
Bushido was the moral code by which the Samurai lived and died, and it also includes advice for modern Japan.
Recommended Video About Samurai Homes
I also suggest you watch the documentary film “Samurai – The Real History,” directed by filmmaker T. Asakawa and produced by FUJI TV in Japan.