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About Esashi, a "Japan Heritage"

"Esashi, Sightseeing Promotional Video, Japan Heritage" (北海道江差町 観光PR動画(日本遺産)), is a video created by the "Esashi Municipal Department of Tourism."
Esashi, in the Hiyama District of Hokkaido, is the first place to be registered as a Japan Heritage in Hokkaido, and is also a place of scenic beauty.
It sits on the coast of the Sea of Japan, with a population of 7,561. (2019, May).
It's said that Esashi is the origin of Hokkaido's culture and thrived thanks to it's herring fishing during the Edo Period.

In 2014, the mayor of Esashi became the youngest mayor in Japan at just 29 years of age.
In this video, the attractions of Esashi are packed into just 3 minutes of footage.
Enjoy the nature and history of Esashi, Hokkaido.

What Are "Esashi Herring"?

Esashi is surrounded by the ocean, and in the Edo period (1603-1867) it was a place where herring fishing was going through a boom.
This is explained at 0:26 in the video.
At the time, herring was a good fertilizer.
Esashi was busy, especially in May, because herring was a seasonal fish in May and many ships from Edo (Tokyo) and Osaka, came to fish for them.
Because of this, the popular phrase "Even Edo is not as busy as Esashi in May" was coined.

Many of the leftover goods remain in the storehouses of merchants from the time, demonstrating their prosperity and showing just how successful the business was.
Even now, herring soba is popular as a local dish in Esashi. Check out the video at 0:51 to see the merchant's warehouses.

Tourist Attractions in Esashi!

There's Kamamome Island where ships called "Kitamaebune" docked during the herring fishing season, Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社, Itsukushima jinjya), where sailors prayed for safety at sea, and the strangely shaped Heishi Rock (瓶子岩, Heishiiwa).
There's a legend of Heishi Rock, that says when the sailors couldn’t catch any herring and were facing starvation, they poured divine water into the sea causing a swarm of herring to appear.
Since then, every July a ceremony is held where they replace the "Shimenawa" (a rope used to cordon off consecrated areas or as a talisman against evil​) at Heishi Rock.
This can be seen at 1:27 in the video.

The Ubagami Grand Shrine (姥神大神宮, Ubagami Daijingu) which overlooks the port of Esashi, is famous for its summer festival, the Ubagami Grand Shrine Togyo Festival, which is said to be the oldest festival in Hokkaido.
From 2:01, the festival song "Esashi Oiwake," which has been passed down since the Edo Period, can be seen being performed.
It has a nostalgic melody reminiscent of Edo and because of that, it's said that "Esashi Oiwake" is the king of folk songs.
The herring fishing song "Soran Bushi" and "Hokkai Bonuta" also represent the culture of Hokkaido.
We recommend visiting Esashi during the summer festival where you can check out the big floats and the Ohayashi band.

Recommended Tourist Attractions

Image of Esashi Inishie Kaido Street
Photo:Esashi Inishie Kaido Street

There are many historic places and buildings that remain in Esashi, such as shrines, temples and houses.
Walking down Inishie Kaido Street, next to the ocean, will take you to those historic places.
For example, The Former Nakamura Family Merchant House, Yokoyama House, and the Esashi Town Historical Museum are all attractive spots that retain a good old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere.

Visiting Esashicho Bunka Hall, Esashi Town Meeting Hall, Esashi Oiwake/Yama Museum, and the Esashi Town Historical Museum to learn about the history is another great way to enjoy oneself.
The Kaiyo Maru from Netherlands can be seen near Kamome Island. It was a battleship of the Shogunate's navy at the end of the Edo Period. (About 1860)

You also get a great view, surrounded by the ocean waves, when the weather is nice. Don't forget your camera!

Summary of Esashi

Image of a school of fish
Photo:A school of fish

As you can see in the video, Esashi, Hokkaido is a fishing town with many and festivals and historic places left over from the old days of Japan.
Enjoy seeing the attractions of Hokkaido through the video.
At 2:36, we learn that, in 2017, a school of herring were seen for the first time in 104 years in Esashi, and a new light began to shine on Esashi once again.

Esashi is a sort of hole-in-the-wall destination in Hokkaido, but has easy access from Hakodate by train or bus.
If you're headed this way, we recommend checking out Hakodate as well!

Also, if Esashi interests you, check out the local products of Hometown Tax Donation Program.
There are attractive local products like queen crab and gasa shrimp.

【Official website】Esashi Town hall homepage

【Trip Advisor】Esashi

Written By
Last Updated : Sep. 15, 2020
坂崎 なお(Nao Sakazaki)
Interested in Japanese culture and traditions! I'll be introducing lovely scenery to you!
Esashi, Famous for Herring Fishing, Was the First Town in Hokkaido to Be Recognized as a Japan Heritage. In the Edo Period the Town Was Bustling With Commerce!
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