A few minutes by train from the Nara Park area, Yamato Koriyama is compact, yet offers a wide variety of attractions developed by the samurai classes, from elegant tea ceremony experiences to goldfish cultivation. The narrow shopping streets are also charming and unique.
Jikoin Temple is a special destination: a Buddhist temple dedicated to the art of tea. Founded by tea master Sekishu Katagiri in 1663, the style of ceremony developed there was practiced by the Tokugawa shogunate and common among samurai classes. The temple grounds are known for their precise Zen gardens, perfect for contemplating over a cup of thick matcha tea.
While Jikoin Temple is well-known for its pristine Zen garden, neighbouring Yatadera Temple has a more natural feel, especially from mid-May when thousands of hydrangea bloom in profusion. There is also a pleasant hiking path behind the temple complex, offering a miniature 4.5km version of the famous 88 temple Kobo Daishi pilgrimage of Shikoku.
Another samurai-related pastime is goldfish cultivation, and since the Edo period, Yamato Koriyama has become a centre for all things goldfish. To soak up the town's atmosphere, stroll its narrow streets dotted with traditional wooden houses and shops. Among them you'll find Kochikuya, a souvenir shop where you can try your hand at goldfish scooping: the owner is a master in the art.
Koriyama Castle is also close to the town centre, and though the main castle is currently under restoration, you can walk around the main gate house and the formal gardens, which are particularly beautiful in spring and autumn.
The area also boasts some fine dining opportunities listed in the Michelin Guide. Ogawa, a traditional Japanese inn and restaurant, serves multi-course kaiseki cuisine. For French cuisine prepared using locally grown Yamato Yasai vegetables in a luxurious setting, Le Benkei is most definitely worth a visit.
Experience Yamato Koriyama
Goldfish, or kingyo, have been highly prized since the Edo period, and their cultivation was considered a suitable side-job for samurai. They are inextricably linked with summer in Japan, when children catch them at summer festivals, and they feature on fabric designs, glass wind chimes and even summer sweets.
Yamato Koriyama Castle
Nara’s only remaining castle was built around 1580 in the Sengoku or “Warring States” period by Hidenaga Toyotomi, a powerful warlord. Needing to build it quickly, stones were taken from local temples and shrines, and you can even see stone statues in the defensive walls. Read more about the Sengoku period and Japanese history.
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Good to Know
Best Time to Go
With easy access from Nara City, Yamato Koriyama is a good excursion in any season. From spring through autumn, the area's temples and castle offer views of azalea, hydrangea and other seasonal flowers. There is also a large shopping mall nearby for the odd rainy day in winter.
A combination of bus, taxi and travel on foot is recommended to get around Yamato Koriyama. The castle and shops around Kintetsu-Koriyama Station can be covered on foot. For other sights in the area, buses depart from Kintetsu-Koriyama and Yamato-Koizumi stations, but often run infrequently. Consider taking a taxi from one of the stations to maximize sightseeing time in the area.
As with areas outside of Nara City, shops and restaurants sometimes close irregularly on weekdays and during the off-peak season. Plan accordingly and consult with a tourist information centre before visiting.
Getting to Yamato Koriyama
Yamato Koriyama is served by two stations, Koriyama Station and Kintetsu-Koriyama Station. Although the two stations are within easy walking distance of one another, the quickest route is from JR Nara Station to Koriyama Station, also on the JR Line.