Sawara, the Little Edo where films and TV dramas appear
Located in northern Chiba Prefecture, Sawara flourished from the old days as a riverside town. Old merchant houses line the streets along the Katori Highway and the Ono River which runs from north to south through the town, and it is a place that overflows with Japanese spirit with so many movies and dramas being filmed there. It is also an area that is connected to Tadataka Ino who created Japan’s first actual survey map. With this legacy of historical scenery and the pursuit of building a town to bring this legacy alive, it was selected as an Important Preservation District for a Group of Traditional Buildings for the first time in the Kanto region. There are many merchant houses whose family-run businesses have been passed down from long ago, and the area has been praised as a “living townscape”.
Its culture and history preserved by the local residents
There has been a movement to make the town of Sawara into a virtual museum under the management of the Sawara Wives’ Association created from the wives of merchant houses. It comes off as a “whole town museum”. The 42 shops display the old tools, lifestyles, traditional tastes and techniques, collections and the proud treasures of all the families to impress visitors. Besides the permanent displays that are shown all year long, there is the Hina Meguri doll festival in March, the Gogatsu Ningyo Meguri festival in May and the Oshogatsu Kazari festival during New Year’s. There is the Sawara Grand Festival which is designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. A huge festival backed by 300 years of history, it occurs twice a year as a summer festival in July and as an autumn festival in October. On the gorgeous dashi floats in the event that is one of the three big float festivals in the Kanto region, there are profound sculptures and large dolls 4m in height decorating them. The spiritual and rhythmical melody that differs from anything played by an ordinary Japanese orchestra is handled by the Sawara Bayashi, one of Japan’s 3 great musical bands.