Imagine if your father was the town magistrate in the Edo period, living in a feudal town of Kishiwada more than two centuries ago. Born into the Sasaki family, you would inherit this position and serve Lord Okabe. The town would revolve around the Castle, and you would have servants living in the nagayamon Gatehouse.
Kishiwada, like Takojizo and Haruki, are places off the tourist trail, yet yields surprises for those wanting a “non touristy” experience. The town magistrate’s house, known as bukeyashiki¸ is still in its original form, called the Sasaki Family Residence, in a little side street.
The best way to begin your stroll is to step off Kishiwada station on the west side, pick up a map from the information center and walk towards the shopping street, or shotengai. You will soon come across the Nishida Clinic, a white wooden building from 1916. It almost looks American in appearance, but with a Japanese transom separating the door from the window above it.
As you wander through the shopping street and the side alleys, you may catch the waft of tea brewers, working in their family owned shop houses that have not changed in decades. There are also family owned grocers and traditional confectioners, their aged patina a window to an earlier, simpler time.
Making your way through the maze of lane ways reminds me of the walkways between Gion and Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, but with very few buildings dressed up, it is like stepping back in time, and with no tourists in sight.
As you continue to head south west, soon you will come across glimpses of the castle behind the old houses and the immaculately trimmed trees. You may encounter a few shrines or churches, and all you will hear is the sound of birds tweeting in the distance, or perhaps the sound of clippers as the residents trim their trees like works of art in their gardens.
Little would you know that Okabe’s presence would pop up again as you read about the history of Kishiwada Church, the fifth oldest church in Osaka Prefecture. Consecrated in 1885, the church came about from the former Lord Nagamoto Okabe, who wrote a letter requesting a missionary by the name of Mr Niijima to start a church in the now thriving port of Kishiwada. He was supported by Tadakata Yamaoka, who founded the Kishiwada Brick Company in 1887. His bricks bore St Andrew’s cross as a motif and were used in Seiwa Hall in Kyoto, forming another link between Kishiwada and Kyoto.
Next to the Castle is the Gofuso Japanese Gardens, the setting for a historic house which now houses the Ganko Japanese Restaurant. This is a great place to stop for lunch before making your way to Takojizo Station, where you can make your way to La Park Kispa at Haruki Station, for some of the best value Karaoke and Ten Pin bowling in Osaka, before buying some gifts like liquor or confectionery in the shopping and entertainment complex.
The old town makes for a peaceful stroll and a quick getaway from the crowds in Osaka City or Kansai International Airport. If you take your time, it would take an hour to stroll or cycle around the old town. With paved and level lane ways, it is an easy walk, but you should bring some good walking shoes.