Once an independent township but now part of Maniwa City, Katsuyama Town is distinct for its old Japan charm. Surrounded by mountains and set along the Asahi River, it is described as a historical Edo town due to the period architecture that is so well preserved in the area.
Katsuyama has been designated as a place of cultural significance and therefore has received protected status. It has been pristinely preserved and offers visitors a view into the Edo era. The town is notable for its latticework storehouses, traditional Japanese homes, shops, and a working sake brewery. All of this is highlighted by the colorful “noren”, or Japanese-style shop curtains, which hang like subtle works of art. Katsuyama is so stunning that it received The Beautiful Townscape Award in 2009.
There are two historically significant homes that invite visitors to take a step back in time. The first is a house that was once the residence of the Watanabe samurai clan; it is open to the public, and many of the family’s possessions are on display, including warrior regalia. The other is the splendid former residence of the Miura family. Visitors can get a good idea of the important political role the town played in the region from the splendor of the residences of these once powerful families.
When you walk along the main street you will notice two eye catching features. The first are the tracks that run above the shopping street and in the center of this you see a structure that holds a taiko drum. The second feature are the over 100 noren, traditional fabric shop curtains that hang in front of places of business. Each individual noren symbolizes a special meaning for the building that it hangs on.
All the noren are handmade by local artist Yoko Kano. She creates each original design to communicate the heart and spirit of the people who live in the house. The noren are changed each season, so people visiting throughout the year can enjoy the designs, colors, and art of this old craft. Yoko Kano sells her noren as well as other crafts she produces. For those wanting to create their own designs to take home, workshops are offered. Reservations are needed at least one week in advance.
Apart from its lovely architecture, Katsuyama is blessed with a natural environment that is highlighted by Kanba Falls. This 110 meter high waterfall is listed as one of the top 100 in Japan. The presence of Japanese macaques in the area making their way through the mist-covered greenery adds to the exotic nature of the landscape.
Access: Take the Tsuyama Line from JR Okayama Station to JR Tsuyama Station. Transfer to the Kishin Line. Take the Kishin Line from JR Tsuyama Station to JR Chugoku-Katsuyama Station
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