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Five Japanese cities are about to embark on a new form of town development that aims to preserve their traditional townscapes. The five are Kameyama (Mie Prefecture), Hikone (Shiga Prefecture), Takayama (Gifu Prefecture), Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture) and Hagi (Yamaguchi Prefecture). The projects result from a new law enforced last November to provide financial and legal support to municipalities’ efforts to preserve historic landscapes in specific quarters.
As I am based in the Kansai, the two Kansai projects are of particular interest to me.
The Tokaido may be the best known, but it was not the only highway that passed through this town. Two other commonly traveled roads, the Yamato Kaido (connecting Nara and Sakai) and the Isebetsu Kaido (from Sekijuku to Edobashi in Tsu), also lead through Kameyama, making the town an important juncture where the cultures of eastern and western Japan converged.
Kameyama plans to facelift a 19.5-km stretch along the old Tokaido highway, centering on the old Kameyama Castle, as a priority area. It includes rows of historic houses in the Sekijuku district (one of the 53 stations on the Tokaido), the Tamon-yagura castle watch-house, and the Suzuka mountain path used by packhorse drivers who sang a famous local song while working.
The town is especially famous for its castle, one of the few original Edo period castles remaining in Japan (many others are concrete replicas). A small area south of the castle, called Yumekyobashi has fused modern construction with traditional looks in an attempt to preserve Hakone’s traditional culture.
Hikone will designate as a priority area a tract of some 400 ha, including the castle and vicinity, and repair and preserve historic buildings such as the Nagaya Gate of the old Ikeda samurai compound.
For inquiries, contact:
Town Development Promotion Office, Kameyama City. Phone: 0595-84-5126.
City Planning Division, Urban Development & Construction Department, Hikone City. Phone: 0749-22-1411.