Model Route "Tour Sakai Old Town on a rental bicycle"

Sakai has a dazzling history, functioning as the largest trading city in Japan 500 years ago and then going on to develop into a major commercial center.
The stage for all of this was the Old Town Area, spreading to the north and south of the line along which the so-called "Chin Chin Densha" currently runs. Even after being ravaged by the fires of war, a variety of buildings still remain today that tell of that period in Sakai's history. A range of traditional culture has also been passed down since that time, including everything from construction and traditional crafts to cuisine.
One of the best ways to discover the appeal of this area for yourself is to take a tour on a rented bicycle. Starting from the Kishu Road, Sakai offers wide and relaxed roadways that are perfect for cycling.

 
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Route Guide

1. Sakai Station Tourist Information Center
Start!

2. Sakai Municipal Machiya Historical Museum Yamaguchi Residence

Sakai Station Tourist Information Center

->Sakai Municipal Machiya Historical Museum Yamaguchi Residence
Approximately 1.8km, 10 minute

3. Shichido Area

Sakai Municipal Machiya Historical Museum Yamaguchi Residence

->Shichido Area
Approximately 0.5km, 3 minutes

4. Honganji Sakai Betusuin
Shichido Area->Honganji Sakai Betusuin
Approximately 1.1km, 7 minutes

5. SAKAINOMA cafe
Honganji Sakai Betusuin
->SAKAINOMA cafe
Approximately 1.1km, 7 minutes

6. Sakai-Tohji Knife Museum

SAKAINOMA cafe
->Sakai-Tohji Knife Museum
Approximately 1km, 5 minutes

7. Saryo Tsuboichi Seicha Main Store

Sakai-Tohji Knife Museum
->Saryo Tsuboichi Seicha Main Store
Approximately 0.1km, 1 minute

8. Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum
Saryo Tsuboichi Seicha Main Store
->Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum
Approximately 0.5km, 3 minutes

9. Sakai Station Tourist Information Center
Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum->Sakai Station Tourist Information Center
Approximately 1.1km, 7 minutes
Goal!

~ Stretch your legs and head to the Mozu Tumuli Cluster ~

After taking a tour of the Sakai Old Town, it is also recommended to stretch your legs by visiting the Mozu Tumuli Cluster.
If you are using an electric assisted bicycle then you can reach the prayer place at the Nintoku-Tenno-Ryo Tumulus, the latest keyhole-shaped tumulus in Japan, in around 20 minutes from Sakai Station. 

 

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Start!1. Sakai Station Tourist Information Center

Offers both rental bicycles and plenty of tourism information

 

Start by renting your bicycle from the Sakai Station Tourist Information Office, which is connected directly to the west exit of Nankai Sakai Station. Not only is the rental process exceedingly simple, but you will also find all sorts of useful sightseeing information here, including maps and pamphlets. There are volunteer staff permanently posted here who know all about the culture and the city of Sakai, and can provide the best places to see at each time of year and details on sightseeing routes.

Renal bicycles for 1 day: regular bicycle 300 yen, electric assist bicycle 500 yen
Reception times: 9:00 - 16:30
Use requires presentation of identification, such as a driver's license or passport.

Bicycles can also be returned to the Daisen Park Tourist Information Center. Let them known when completing the rental procedure.
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An electric assist bicycle will make short work of long distances and hills! Now, off we go!
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Required Time: Approximately 1.8km, 10 minute ->


 

2. Sakai Municipal Machiya Historical Museum Yamaguchi Residence

View the mansion of a Sakai merchant, with no expense spared.

This is the entryway. Tourism volunteers will also provide a detailed explanation.
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A fantastic wooden construction, and one of the best sights of the Old Town. In the past, when Sakai flourished for trade and commerce, the people always spent a lot of money on their homes. The Sakai Municipal Machiya Historical Museum Yamaguchi Residence is the ultimate example of this, with grounds that cover 840㎡. It is a rare example of Machiya construction from the start of the 17th century, and is a nationally designated Important Cultural Asset. "Machiya" itself refers to a style of building in which a commercial space, such as a shop, and a residential space are combined together, and they are also characterized by a wide entryway. The ceilings with their thick rafters in a lattice pattern have to be seen to be believed! Deeper inside the building, you'll find a living room facing out onto a beautiful garden.

 

 

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The old kitchen. The five cooking ranges speak to how many servants there must have been here in the heyday of the house.

The living room is decorated with details called "Ranman," openwork screens above the sliding doors that let additional light and air into the room.

The garden that the rear room faces onto is also worth seeing. Sitting on the tatami mats or veranda provides a moment of well-spent relaxation.

The exterior is also a beautiful sight worth appreciating, with white stucco, wood sliding walls, and overlapping titled roofs. "Tasteful" barely scratches the surface!

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Required Time: Approximately 0.5km, 3 minutes ->


 

 

3. Shichido Area

Take a trip back to streets where time seems to pass more slowly.

Long-standing senko incense sticks stores are dotted within walking distance of the Gunsmith's Home.
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Head a little north from the Yamaguchi Residence to reach the Shichido area, where many historical Machiya buildings still remain. Due to all the gunsmiths who lived here during more recent times, it is also still known as "Gun Town," and a Gunsmith's Home from that period still stands here. The neighborhood includes long standing senko incense stores, knife stores, thrift stores that only open on the weekends, and interior stores, allowing you to encounter a multitude of hints about both new and old lifestyles in the area. It is recommended to stop your bicycle nearby and talk a leisurely stroll.

 

Left: There is a sign here with details of famous sightseeing spots; refer to it to help plan your stroll.
Right: The Sakai Municipal Machiya Historical Museum Seigakuin. Originally a temple, in more modern times this building was also used as a private school to teach the local children. (Can be toured)
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Spot Information

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Required Time: Approximately 1.1km, 7 minutes ->


 

4. Honganji Sakai Betusuin

The main temple is the largest wooden structure in the city. The sliding screens are also gorgeous!

A sliding screen showing overseas trade during the middle ages (right side).
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The next stop is a temple of the Shinshu Honganjiha branch of Buddhism, founded in the 14th century. The main temple was rebuilt in 1825, and is famous as the largest wooden structure in Sakai. The bold interior features gold leaf and richly colored carvings, like a depiction of paradise itself. The sliding screens on the left and right depict trading with foreigners in Sakai during the middle ages, giving a clear picture of how the city flourished. As modernization proceeded, Sakai actually became a Prefecture for a brief period, and for the 10 years from 1871 this temple was also used as the Sakai Prefectural Office.

 

*The grounds can be viewed freely. If you wish to see the main temple, a prior reservation is required.

 

 

 

The interior decorations enshrining the principle object of worship here are especially impressive. Through the work of skilled craftspeople they are decorated with gold leaf and brilliant colors.

The splendid sliding screens were newly made in 1999 to commemorate the 500th memorial service for the passing of Rennyo, the restorer of the sect.

The corridors in the main temple, which was rebuilt in 1825, are wide and spacious. There is also plenty to see with all the detailed carvings.

A statue of Rennyo standing in the grounds. Big enough that you'll have to look upward, it also faces a statue of the founder of the sect, Shinran.

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Required Time: Approximately 1.1km, 7 minutes ->


 

⑤SAKAINOMA cafe

An homely old café in a private house, which also serves as a place for local communication and interaction.

The interior of the café, which is a renovation of an old private home.
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An old private house that has stood for 60 years, now renovated into a cafe and lodging facility, it makes the perfect spot for lunch or to take an afternoon break.
The menu includes everything from meals, such as handmade bagel sandwiches using locally produced ingredients and chicken curry, to sweets featuring seasonal fruit and drinks.
As both locals and travelers gather here, it is also the perfect place for collecting information, and the blackboard in the corridor is always packed with the details of recommended spots and the latest hot news. The staff also all love Sakai, so be sure to ask for any tips they have on tucked-away spots that only locals are likely to know about.

 

 

A set of the roast vegetables chicken curry, made with the famous Sakai curry roux, and an ice tea for 1,350 yen (including tax).
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Required Time: Approximately 1km, 5 minutes ->


 

6. Sakai-Tohji Knife Museum

Touch upon both the history and modern day circumstances of the world-renowned Sakai knives

The 7th president of the Izumi Cutlery Seisakusho, Keizo Shinoda, a veritable font of information about knives.
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Making knives and blades is one of the traditional industries of Sakai, boasting an estimated history of around 600 years. The quality created by the skills of veteran craftspeople is the highest level found anywhere in Japan, and boasts a 98% share of the market of knives used by professional Japanese chefs. This museum allows you to learn in detail about the history and production methods of these Sakai knives, while taking in a rich selection of exhibited materials. It is operated by the long-standing knife store known as Sakai-Tohji, which was founded in 1805. Another appealing point is that knife craftspeople themselves will guide you, providing both rich detail and ease of understanding. You also can't miss the exhibit of the bayonets and matchlocks that formed the basis of the technology for cooking knife production. There is also a shop located next to the museum, where you can actually purchase professional knives.

 
Left: An exhibit showing the process for a Japanese knife from materials through to completion. Everything is performed by hand.
Right: An exhibit recreating how knives used to be made.
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Required Time: Approximately 0.1km, 1 minute ->


 

7. Saryo Tsuboichi Seicha Main Store

Revel in the perfect tea sweets at a long-standing tea house.

Sit facing the inner garden and tuck in! 
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After learning all about Sakai knives, take a break while enjoying some delicious Japanese tea. Sen no Rikyu, the tea master who did so much to promote the Tea Ceremony, was born in Sakai, and the city itself remains closely tied to this culture, meaning many places handling high quality tea can be found in the city. Tsuboichi Seicha is one such store, with a history of more than 160 years. The wide interior created by renovating a historic Machiya house contains both a tea room and shop.
Popular choices from the menu include the mellow and rich green tea, and the specialty green tea parfait loaded with intense green tea ice cream. The chestnut sweets limited to just fall and winter are delicious too, with warm and fluffy, sweet chestnuts filling your mouth.

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A renovated store making use of the rich character of a large, historic Machiya house. It is filled with the aroma of roasting tea.

The specialty green tea parfait, perfectly combining green tea ice cream and roasted green tea jelly, is 864 yen, while the green tea "Sakai's past" is 594 yen.

The shop is packed with carefully selected Japanese tea. You can also find a delicious roasted green tea latté in a convenient teabag.

The exterior recalls the old-time streets of Sakai. Don't forget to take a commemorative photo here!

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Required Time: Approximately 0.5km, 3 minutes ->


 

8. Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum

Take something handmade from Sakai home as a souvenir. 

The shop "Sakai Ichi" features a collection of specialties from Sakai.
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The best possible end to a tour can only be choosing some souvenirs! This complex brings all the traditional industry of Sakai together in one place. The first floor includes the boutique salon Sakai Ichi, where you can pick up all the famous products produced by the city, including chusen dyed hand towels, konbu seaweed and soy sauce, along with the Square of Craftspeople, which introduces the techniques used by the masters of the eight industries representative of Sakai. During the weekends actual craftspeople perform live knife sharpening and confectionery making, and you can also experience making senko incense sticks. The Knife Museum on the second floor not only includes exhibits but also a store filled with knives and scissors made by veteran craftspeople.

 

 
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The exterior have a motif of a traditional Sakai townhouse. The eaves are so long, it is said that long ago you didn't even need an umbrella.

The second floor Knife Museum also has plenty of exhibits. Polite staff will offer complete support for your selection of a knife.

Inside the Knife Museum. You will also find exhibits introducing how the knives are made and a variety of uses for them.

The Square of Craftspeople introduces the techniques of masters at work in Sakai. The photo shows a rug called a "Dantsu"

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Required Time: Approximately 1.1km, 7 minutes ->


 

Goal! 9. Sakai Station Tourist Information Center

Finally, you return to the starting point Sakai Station, where you will need to return your bicycle by 16:30.

Long ago, materials moved around Sakai on the moats (canals). These still remain all across the city, so why not follow some of them on your way back?

There are also moats to see in front of Sakai Station. Look for the statue!
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~ Stretch your legs and head to the Mozu Tumuli Cluster ~

 


After taking a tour of the Sakai Old Town, it is also recommended to stretch your legs by visiting the Mozu Tumuli Cluster.
If you are using an electric assisted bicycle then you can reach the prayer place at the Nintoku-Tenno-Ryo Tumulus, the latest keyhole-shaped tumulus in Japan, in around 20 minutes from Sakai Station. There are a total of 44 tumuli in the cluster, created between the end of the 4th and 6th century, and a nimble bicycle is ideal for conveniently taking in the tumuli and their surroundings. Bicycles rented at Sakai Station can also be returned at the Daisen Park Tourist Information Center, located close to the Tumuli Cluster, so feel free to also make use of that option (opening hours 9:00 - 16:30).

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Spot Information

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Model: CLAIRE (Anela Model), Chiaki Matsumoto (Sakai Tourism Concierge)

Photography: Yoshinori Yamazaki,Yuki Hamanaka,Keiko Yamaguchi

Report & Text: Noriko Yamaguchi

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