Houses over 100 years old, refurbished with modern conveniences: Make your stay into a special experience
The serpentine Ono River runs through the district gently adorned with rows of willow trees planted along the river bank. Merchant houses and storehouses over 100 years old stand in a row along the river bank, allowing you to glimpse of the town’s history, which once flourished as a commercial hub that even surpassed Edo (currently Tokyo).
Sawara Merchant Town Hotel NIPPONIA proposes a new way to travel. It preserved the historic appearance of the historic houses while carrying out refurbishment work to transform them into modern, luxurious accommodations. Each aspect of the accommodations, from the fixtures to the lighting, allows you to step back in time and visualize the original buildings constructed hundreds of years ago.
The most notable house is called AOI. From this building formerly used as a high-end Japanese restaurant, watch the four-meter-high dashi (festival floats) pass by in succession to the sound of ohayashi (festival music) in front of the building during the Grand Festival held in July and October. This special seat allows you to closely enjoy the Grand Festival to your heart’s content, which is registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, and imagine the life of a plutocrat in ancient times.
Recommended walking route for those who wish to immerse themselves in Edo culture: River banks, iris park and Katori Shrine
After checking in, step outside to see the row of establishments, which date back to the Edo period, along the Ono River, including sake breweries (visitors welcome), soy sauce stores, general stores that sell goods made of bamboo and wood, soba restaurants, eel restaurants and shops that sell desserts made from sweet potatoes. Enjoy strolling around the area while seeking out your favorite establishment, or ride on a traditional gondola steered by boatmen and admire the street views from the water.
Visit Suigo Sawara Ayame Park (iris park) between May and June, when irises are at their peak. It is 16 minutes by bus from JR Sawara Station. Simply take in the majestic view of 400 types of 1.5 million blooming irises. There are also a wide variety of aquatic plants in the park from around the world, making it an ideal destination for families even when irises are not in season.
Katori Shrine is also recommended. Located to the east, a 10-minute taxi ride from Sawara, it is one of the highest-ranking shrines (ichinomiya), renowned for bringing luck to those who pray for victory. Kaname-ishi, a pinning rock, which is said to have been placed to subdue the giant catfish dwelling underground and responsible for triggering earthquakes, is a unique object that is worth seeing.