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Omi Hachiman

Located in the center of the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, the old district of Ohmi-Hachiman has kept traditional aspects. It is one of the "hundred places to visit in one's life" and it was a city under the authority of the feudal castle built in 1585. It was also a distribution center with its moat, called Hachiman-bori. This district was animated by shopkeepers called Ohmi-shonin or Hachiman-shonin. The Lord had exempt them from income tax to ease trade. While the castle was destroyed ten years after the founding of the Old Town, the old district has kept its original appearance.

From the top of Mount Hachiman, that you can access by a cable, you have a wonderful view of the Lake Biwa and the city. The castle raised on this mountain for ten years. Nowadays, Zuiryu-ji temple replaces it.

Located in the foothills of the mountain, in the past, the moat protected the castle but were also used for the transport of people. The scenery is very romantic and several shootings of historical films were done there. The film released in summer 2012, Rurouni Kenshin, was also shot in this district.

The houses of Ohmi-Hachiman were run by shopkeepers and are very similar to the machiya of Kyoto. Indeed, the city is on the main road connecting Kyoto and Edo (nowadays Tokyo) and people, fascinated by the city of Kyoto, reproduced their homes. The visit of houses open to the public will help you better understand the traditional life in those days.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the city was placed under the direct control of the Tokugawa shogunate and shopkeepers were accredited by this clan. They could easily cross the border town and travel across the country to make business. Some of them managed to open their store in Edo.

The shopkeepers of Ohmi-Hachiman introduced their own philosophy of business: be modest, thrifty and studious. They prefered an austere life. When visiting the old district, you'll notice that their homes are strong but very simple and without any futile decorations.

In the absence of shopkeepers, their wives ran and protected the houses and worshiped the ancestors of the family. They were recycling old kimono or made, with pieces of fabric, small bags and thimbles. Respect things, avoid waste and be serene is the way they kept the peace in their households and assisted their husbands. In these houses, commercial and agricultural tools are exposed.

In this context, in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the first business school of Japan was built in Ohmi-Hachiman. William Merrell Vories (1880-1964), an American architect was an English teacher, there. He stayed here until his death for business : architecture office, pharmaceutical company, school, library and hospital. He initiated Japanese people, not only to Western culture, but also to the famous mentholated cream Mentholatum. At the time, without any animosity for Westerners, people of Omi-Hachiman were kind and friendly towards this American. Statues and monuments representing him can be found in the district nowadays.

In Omi-Hachiman, a magnificent old district and birthplace of Japanese trade, you can experience a typical representation of Japan.






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