The Hida region around Takayama was once prized for its valuable timber resources, so it was only natural for the powerful Tokugawa Shogunate to dispatch officials to oversee things at the place. To cater to this, a local government office was built, which is the Takayama Jinya we see today.
As the only building of its kind to be preserved from the Edo era, the Takayama Jinya has been declared a historical asset and national treasure. For over 177 years, Tokugawa samurai have been dispatched from Edo as administrators, tax officers and policemen. During the Meiji Restoration, the building continued to be used by local government officials, right up til 1969. Now home to a museum, visitors can experience life as it was for ruling samurai in the Edo era.
The spacious compound is decorated with ripple-like sand patterns, which is an emblem of the Tokugawa family that represents the sea.
The main building has numerous tatami-mat rooms and sliding doors, which allowed for plenty of natural light to filter in. ‘Employees’ sat on the floor and worked at low tables. The rooms contrasted starkly to old buildings I have visited in Europe, which were often elaborate and covered in detailing. Here, the aesthetic is simple and Zen-like, the furniture minimal.
It may not look like it from the outside, but the place was massive! Long corridors and passageways opened up into new buildings, interspersed with beautifully landscaped gardens. The living quarters were a bit more cheerful, with more furniture, as well as decorative scrolls and paintings hung up on the walls.
Kitchen area where meals would be prepared by servants. The servants quarters were also located nearby.
The Takayama Jinya also had an interrogation room where they would keep prisoners (!) accused of various crimes.
Next to the main building is a rice storehouse built in the 1600s, which now houses belongings and documents of past feudal lords, town blueprints as well as old maps of the region.
Opening hours: 845AM – 5PM (430PM from November to February, until 6PM in August)
The Jinya is a 10-minute walk from Takayama Station.