In some shrines, the position of the head priest has been a hereditary position – the same family provided the new head priest and other officials or servants generation after generation. Until the early Meiji period, this has been common practice in Japan. But due to misuse of authority and nepotism, the Grand Council of State stopped this practice in 1872. These families have often lived close to the Shrine, and an entire quarter full of Shake has grown over time. In 1872 the houses were officially separated from the shrines, but the families continued to live in them.
In Kyoto, the Kamigamo shrine (上賀茂神社) in the northeast of the town has such a quarter called Shake-machi (社家町). The area southeast of the Kamigamo shrine is very picturesque: A small clear creek flows next to the street, and narrow stone bridges lead to the entrances_of each house. All Shake houses are smaller than the big torii (鳥居 – vermillion Shinto shrine entrance gate) of the Kamigamo Shrine. Behind earthen walls (土塀 – dobei), trees and tall shrubs suggest old, peaceful gardens. There used to be more_than 300 houses here during the Edo period, now there are only 40 left. Only Nishimura-Ke (西村家) is open to the public on a regular basis. It has been designated a place of scenic beauty.
- Nishimura Residence
- Plants in the Garden
- Umetsuji Residence
- Architectural features of the Umetsuji Residence
- How to get there
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Take the city bus number 9 or 4 from Kyoto station. Bus no.9 stops at Kamigamo-Misono-bashi (上賀茂御薗橋). If you take bus 4 or 46, get off at the last stop Kamigamo-jinja-mae (上賀茂神社前). Walk in eastern direction, following the small river. The Nishimura residence will be on your right hand side. For the Umetsuji residence, go straight ahead, when the river makes a right turn (at the 500 year old tree).
Opening times Nishimura-Ke
The villa is open from March 15th through December 8th every day between 9:30am and 4:30 pm.
Opening times Umetsuji residence
The villa is opening two times a year. The special opening times are announced in the Kyoto newspaper. Please ask your hotel to call in advance if you plan to visit!