Shukunegi, located at the southern tip of Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, is a former port town.

Updated: Nov 9

Shukunegi was at its zenith from the 17th to 19th century, as a port of call of Kitamae-bune which was cargo vessels navigating along the Sea of Japan. Kitamae-bune was for the domestic trade between Osaka and Hokkaido, the distance between them is about 1,000km. Many shipowners, ship builders, sailors, blacksmiths and other people working for shipping business were living here. Domestic sea transport was replaced with railway transport in the 19th century, thus the role of this port town came to an end and all the traditional houses were left intact as shown in the picture. The entire townscape was designated as an Important Preservation District for Group of Historic Buildings in 1991. 106 historic houses with wooden boarded walls against salt damage, most of them are two-storied, feature prominently in this old port town. They seem to be modest though, some of them, the houses of the shipowners in particular, boast splendid interior with lacquered pillars and inner walls, as well as engraved finishing. Ship's chest of drawers, needless to say that it is absolutely waterproof and was used as as a valuable storage, is found in former wealthy people's houses.


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Masahisa Takaki.

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