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Murakami : Discover Japanese Gardens

Japanese garden festival in Murakami

Sponsored by Murakami city
Murakami city, just 3 hours from Tokyo, is stretched across the coast of the Sea of ​​Japan and filled with the traditional atmosphere of ancient times. It’s seasonal flavours and traditional artwork attract many visitors year round, and the city is also home to several rivers known for their clear water and excellent fishing. Arakawa and the Miomote River are two such rivers, and each year fishermen flock to Murakami to fish seasonal fish, such as catfish and salmon, in the crystal water. Salmon is the local specialty of Murakami city. Murakami also boasts many ancient samurai houses and old merchant houses open for viewing.
To show the beauty of Murakami, the local community organizes a free Japanese garden festival  (春の庭 百景めぐり) which lasts throughout May each year, to give visitors a charming new way to discover the city. In total, nearly 70 Japanese gardens in the city are showcased, and multiple shops, restaurants, temples, and private houses participate in the event as well. All participating places have a small green sign with numbers posted at the entrance. These signs correlate to a general map, and allow visitors the opportunity to visit many new places along any route they choose to take. It’s impossible to visit everything because the list is incredibly long, but you will stumble upon beautiful Japanese gardens and  traditional temples scattered throughout the city. Let’s go on a tour!

What to See in Murakami?

The Samurai Street of Kurobei and its surroundings

You can feel the  history of this street with its traditional walls and black wooden houses. In this district, you can also find beautiful temples which definitely deserve a visit.

Charming Alley in Murakami

Traditional Walls in Murakami

Murakami's Alleys and Streets

Murakami Shinkin Bank

Stop by this beautiful house on the famous street Kurobei, it is one of the most prestigious places in Murakami. In front of it, you can see beautiful plants such as the azaleas in the picture below.

Azaeleas and Traditional Gardens in Murakami

Traditional Houses in Murakami

Autumn Colors in Murakami

The Temples in the Heart of the City

Nearby Kurobei street, you should definitely pay a visit to some of the beautiful temples in the area, such as Anzenji, Ganjoji,  Jōnen Ji, Kyooji, Choboji, Saishinji, or Myohoji. Each temple also hosts a very charming Japanese garden for your viewing pleasure.

Japanese Temples in Murakami

Myohoji Temple in Murakami
Myohoji temple

Traditional Wooden Temple in Murakami

Temple roof in Murakami

Temple Gardens in Murakami

Temple Walls in Murakami

Temple interior in Murakami

Garden Features in Murakami

Murakami Cemetary

A White Bouquet, Murakami Gardens

 

Salmon Culture and Local Food in Murakami

Murakami is surrounded by the sea, mountains, and rivers. The city has established a rich food culture through their famous sake and salmon. Cooking salmon is essential to Murakamians; There are nearly 100 different salmon dishes! You can find many restaurants that prepare salmon in numourous delicious ways.

The Kikkawa Salmon Shop

This shop is located in old Choninmachi district, which is home to many town houses used by merchants and residents. The Kikkawa Shop is one of the best known on the street. Over 130 years old, the Kikkawa Shop doubles as a local myth for Murakami citizens because of the story of a Japanese star which once landed in front of the shop. Not only that, but the 15 generation life span of the shop lends to it’s mysterious atmosphere. As soon as you enter, there is a market area where you can purchase salmon products. In the back of the shop, 1000 salmon are hung up to dry, always with a current of fresh air blowing over them, which is necessary to let the fish dry properly. This technique of drying salmon is called shiobiki, and is special to Murakami. The salmon is then preserved, after being salted and hollowed out.

The Kikkawa Salmon Shop
The Kikkawa Salmon Shop

Drying Salmon in Kikkawa Salmon Shop

Drying Salmon in Murakami

Salmon Left to Dry in Murakami Kikkawa Salmon Shop

Washing Bowl in Murakami

Kikkawa Salmon Shop's Garden

And Its Restaurant “Idutsuya”

Not far from the shop, you can find  a restaurant where you can try salmon in a variety of ways.  The restaurant is very stylish, with tatami floors, and also has a nice little garden hidden in the back of the restaurant. I chose a traditional Japanese dish Ochazukegreen tea poured over a bowl of rice. Traditionally, it comes at the end of a meal in the restaurant, or when the hosts have guests. Here it is a little more sophisticated since I could add salmon which had been dried out for more than a month. It goes well with green tea. The local rice of the region is one of the finest delicacies in Murakami, and I highly recommend it. Usually in this restaurant, you should eat the rice first without anything in it, then add the salmon, nori, and other herbs, before pouring green tea over the whole dish.

Idutsuya Restaurant in Murakami

Salmon and Rice at Idutsuya

Ochazuke in Idutsuya

At the Market

A market takes place near the city’s town hall every other month. Locals go there to sell products from the region’s agriculture such as mountain vegetables, fresh fish, flowers, and plants …. Stop by a food stand to try the poppoyaki (small homemade sweets served hot, with red sugar and flour)! A feast!

Poppoyaki

Poppoyaki in Murakami

Murakami's local street food

Garden Vegetables at Murakami's Market

Dried Fish at Murakami's Market

Tea Shops and Salons

Murakami has a lot of tea, and pastry shops. Do not hesitate to stop by when walking around. The shops are always traditional with a small corner of greenery at the entrance.

Fujimien

Fujimien Tea Shop

Fujimien Tea Shop Garden

Fujimien Tea Shop Tatami Room

Kokono-en Tea

This beautiful tea shop has a carefully treated garden in the background, and a room equipped with tatami for guests to enjoy their tea.

Kokonoen Tea Shop

Kokonoen Tea Shop Garden

Sakataya Yajiemon Sweet Shops

Sakataya Sweets Shop

Sakataya Sweets Shop Garden

Art Crafts

Suzuki Lacquer Shop

Every product is made by hand in this adorable shop which is famous for its luxury craftsmanship. The wood carvings are incredibly delicate.

Traditional Crafts in Murakami

Wrought Iron Workshop Magossou Hamono-Kaji

This building acts as a kind of small museum, where you can visit the old workshops of a blacksmith family. The family has run the shop for over seven generations.

Murakami Woodworking Shop

Murakami Wood Working Shop Tools

Traditional Room in Woodworking Shop

The Temples,  A Bit Outside The City Center

All the temples mentioned below are in the same area, if you extend your travel beyond this area, there are many others in the suburbs.Visit the sandstone of your rhythm and your envy. The vegetation and gardens, often behind the main building are all beautiful and well treated. A wonderful area to explore in Murakami!

Kōtoku-ji Temple

Kotokuji Temple

Buddah at Kotokuji Temple

Kotokuji Temple Pathway

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Manpukuji Temple

Manpukuji Temple

Manpukuji Temple Courtyard

Manpukuji Temple Garden

Chorakuji Temple

Chorakuji Temple Buddah

Chorakuji Temple Pathway

Chorakuji Temple Statue

Chorakuji Temple Courtyard

Chorakuji Temple Garden

Ryukouin Temple

The Ryukouin Temple in Murakami

Ryukouin Temple Courtyard

Ryukouin Temple Pond

 

The Pricate Houses

Mr.Kishi’s Residence

This house is located in a residential area just a few minutes from the temples. The garden is incredible.

Flowers at Mr. Kishi's Residence in Murakami

Flowers at Mr. Kishi's Residence in Murakami

Garden at Mr. Kishi's Residence in Murakami

Flowers at Mr. Kishi's Residence in Murakami

Flowers at Mr. Kishi's Residence in Murakami

 

Murakami: General information

From Tokyo it is easy to get to Murakami, only a 3 hour train ride will take you there. Everything is very well explained in this article. Do not hesitate to visit the tourist office’s website for more information. This map is handy too, and this one. For the Japanese Garden Festival, this year’s edition took place from May 1st  to May 31st, it is completely free and a map of the city is published for the occasion.

Original article by : Estelle

Translated by: Aika Ikeda