Located in Katori City 「香取市」, Chiba Prefecture 「千葉県」, Sawara 「佐原」 is a small town which prospered during the Edo Period (1603-1867) as a transport hub for rice shipments into the capital and is known as “Little Edo” due to the preservation of traditional residences, merchant shops and warehouses from the Edo Period.
Sightseeing boats allow visitors to soak in the atmosphere of the historical streets and some boats also ferry passengers from the city and out into the majestic Tone River 「利根川」.
My visit to Sawara was on the day of its festival and most of the streets were closed to traffic, thus I made my way towards the city centre by boat as there were shuttle services along the Ono River 「小野川」.
These are some of the traditionally dressed folk who help to ferry passengers in their boats.
It was early evening but the sky was already pitch black! As the boat made its way along the Ono River, it felt like we were travelling back into the past when the historical buildings came into sight.
Here is one of the carefully preserved buildings which is called Shojou and used to be a shop specializing in tsukudani.
Other old buildings can be seen as you wander along the streets of Sawara. According to some tourism officials, they welcome film-makers to their town.
Weeping willows can be seen along the canals and it makes a picturesque sight! Too bad I was only there for the evening so I don’t have any pictures of how the town looks during the day.
As usual, I have a fascination for manhole covers in Japan as they are usually decorated with some motifs of the city.
The town is also known for its festival, the Sawara Taisai Festival, where floats topped by giant dolls, representing mythological Japanese warriors and heroes, are wheeled through the streets and this was the purpose of my visit – i.e. to attend the festival (click on the link to read more about the festival).
Sawara is located about 20 kilometres northeast of Narita Airport. It can be reached from Narita Station by train along the JR Narita Line (30 minutes, 1-2 trains per hour). The historic town centre is about a 10-15 minute walk from the station.
By express bus: Tokyo Station – Sawara Station; about 1 hour 30 minutes
By train: Tokyo Station – Sawara Station; about 1 hour 20 minutes (express)