Chiran is a small but picturesque hidden gem. Located in a broad valley of Satsuma Peninsula in Kagoshima prefecture, and surrounded by calm currents of a river, it takes you 250 years back to past Japan. The Sata family, the chief samurai retainers of the Shimizu lords, found their home in this little town and built a semi-fortified village. Some of the great samurai houses scattered along a 700-meter-long lane have survived to this date. Undoubtedly, they captivate and lure those who want to experience “the old Japan”.
The samurai dwellings are largely still occupied, thus they are not open for the public. However, the main interest lies in their small but artistic gardens designed by masters from Kyoto, viewed well from the residences and the road. As indicated by English signs, they are open for visitors who can purchase the tickets. Such tickets are available in shops adjacent to parking lots or in the north end of the district.
The gardens resemble Chinese paintings illustrating rock groupings and mountainous scenery; scenes of valleys and tiny waterfalls. Yet, each of them are different in their composition and design. In the best of them, such as Hirayama Katsumi and Hirayama Ryoichi’s, the layout combines a peaceful zen atmosphere with a feeling of nostalgia and nobility.
The heritage of the street is of character intact through stormy past events, an attraction itself. Its ancient stonewalls, evergreen bushy hedges and defensive features of the front wall elevations are a clear picture of Japan’s heritage. Screened entry gates and latrines placed besides the front gate, used by the occupants to eavesdrop on passers-by, create an immersive ambiance of the forgotten samurai life style.
At the end of this journey you can immerse yourself in a serene mood by relaxing in the bukeyashiki (samurai residence) tea house. Its charming traditional interior is a part of an old samurai’s house. Sitting on the veranda, drinking delicious Kagoshima green tea and trying traditional local sweets such as agetenha (a brown sugar confectionery), you are very close to truly appreciating the beauty of Chiran. Alternatively, take a brief stop at Taki-an – a garden restaurant by the east end of Samurai Street. Their specialties are soba and udon, but you can also try another local delicacy: sweet jumbo mochi, a pounded rice on bamboo skewers.
Access: Chiran is easily accessible from Kagoshima city. There are hourly buses from Kagoshima Chuo Station and Yamagata Bus Centre. The bus journey takes 80 minutes and costs around 900 yen. Another option is to rent a car from various local rental car companies.
|Address||6329 Chiranchokori Minamikyushu Kagoshima|
6329 Chiranchokori Minamikyushu Kagoshima
|Price Range||Lunch 1,000-2,000 Yen; Dinner 3,000-4,000 Yen|