A Trip down Joge’s Historical Main Street

Hello there everyone! This is Mary, back with another entry in my JOGE blog series. Joge is a small town in northern Hiroshima where the charm of traditional Japanese lifestyle, architecture, and hospitality abounds. It is my hope that by writing English content about Joge, many people will come to know and love this town like I do.

A Trip down Joge's Historical Main Street

As I’ve mentioned in blogs past, Joge was a tenryou territory, meaning it was under direct control of the Shogunate, the rulers of Japan. It was a prosperous town in the center of the “Silver Highway,” responsible for sending funds to the Tokugawa and Meiji regimes. Almost everyone in town did some sort of work related to finance or lending. Some even owned inns or shops in addition to this work. Walking down Joge’s main street, one can still feel the lingering tenryo culture and get a sense of the bustling, Edo-era Japanese Wall Street.


A few weeks ago, some local guides treated a friend and I to a tour of this historical thoroughfare. Joge’s main street reached its peak use during the Edo period, and many of the buildings along the street have been carefully preserved since then.

The photo below was taken in 1928 during a local festival. As you can see, this street used to be quite narrow, packed with vendors, signage and people.

Today, Joge’s main street is much wider. In the mid-1930s, when war seemed imminent, the street was widened in order to transport large cargo for the military. As a result, the roofs of many of the merchant homes were cut back as far as one to two meters, as you can see in the picture below.

The highlight of Joge’s main street are the merchant homes. Each one has it’s own historical crest, like this one. The owners of these merchant homes were quite wealthy. They flaunted their status by gilding their homes with patterns and adornments.

One example is the udatsu, a slightly raised embellishment on both ends of merchant townhouses. They had several purposes, including separating one house from the next, preventing the spread of fires, and hindering break-ins from the roof. In Tenryou Joge, they were symbols of prosperity and status. You can see an udatsu on the right-hand second-story wall of the building pictured below.

Another hallmark of Joge’s townscape are namako kabe—durable, fire resistant walls made by plastering flat roof tiles together in a pattern that reminded locals at the time of sea-cucumbers (namako means sea-cucumber in Japanese). Joge Town actually offers a course for artisans looking to learn and pass down this plastering technique.

Now to introduce a few iconic buildings on Joge’s main street. In the Meiji era, this building functioned as Joge’s police office and fire station. The fire lookout tower above the roof is preserved in its original state.

Another must-see on Joge’s main street is the Yoshida Main Store, an impressive black-plaster building that also features namako-patterned walls. This kimono shop spans two buildings, and boasts the largest storefront in Joge. Most of Joge’s homes and shops are long and narrow. This is because, during the Edo period, property tax was was paid according to the width of a building’s front entrance. The Yoshida Main Store was built in the Meiji period after tax systems had changed, allowing it the freedom to spread out.

I’d like to give a big thank you to the dedicated guides who taught us so much about Joge’s history. As I always say, the true heart of Joge is the warmth and hospitality exhibited by the local people, who are committed to preserving their culture, lifestyle, and townscape for future generations to enjoy. See you next time!

Mary Popeo has lived in Hiroshima Prefecture for four years, three of which she spent in Joge. She is passionate about sharing the magic of the Japanese countryside with people from around the world. Mary currently works at a peace education nonprofit in Hiroshima City, and collaborates with Fuchu City and the Joge Town to plan programs for inbound English-speaking tourists.





























– Translation by Chizuko Inagaki

2020.10.28 / Joge Guides