Katori is situated in the northeastern part of Chiba Prefecture, and is 15 km northeast of Narita International Airport and 67 km from Tokyo. It has a population of about 80,000 and covers an area of 262 km2. Located near the Tonegawa River, which has a nostalgic atmosphere unique to riverside regions, Katori is abundant in water and greenery. Agriculture is the city’s core industry. Katori is also known as where Inoh Tadataka (1745-1818), who created a map of Japan, used to live. There still remain many historic sites, as well as elements of traditional culture, in the city, highlighting the rich history of Katori.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Katori region was located beside an inlet for a vast ocean called the sea of Katori. People gathered and formed communities in search for fish and shellfish in the coastal regions and food in the mountains. Thus Katori region developed and Sawara Village was at its center.
Residents of the communities in the region set up a shrine to pray against natural disasters which could threaten their livelihood, and built a spiritually rich and peaceful society and left many offspring.
In 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), the lord of Edo (present-day Tokyo), began a public work to prevent the frequenting flooding. The project was intended to change the course of the upstream Tonegawa River so that the stream would flow into the sea in Choshi. The public work was completed in the mid-Edo Period (1603-1867), 64 years after its start.
After a water way connecting Katori with Edo was established in the Tonegawa River, Sawara became "the kitchen" of Edo, which had a population of 1 million. The central area of the local region became a leading distribution base, and ambitious merchants traveled there from as far as the western Kansai region, fueling the rapid development of Sawara. Despite that remarkable prosperity, as an increasing number of people came to use automobiles in the early Showa Era (1926-1989), water transportation gradually declined in Sawara.
However, the "Sawara Grand Festival", springing from Edo period’s water culture, has since become much more deeply rooted in the local residents, rather than becoming obsolete. The festival has been gradually accepted and developed in the area for vitalizing the local communities. It is now one of the main tourist attractions.
With regards to tourism, a "Kioroshi Chabune" boat ride service was available on the Tonegawa River in the mid-Edo Period. The boat trip service was used mainly by those who visit the 3 most renowned shrines in the eastern region. The boat ride starts in Edo, then heads to Kioroshi through the Narita highway and tours Katori Jingu, Kashima Jingu and Ikisu Jingu shrines. Although a daily average of 12 boats were available and 17,000 people once enjoyed the boat rides annually, the boat trip service came to an end after the 1832 eruption of Mount Asamayama caused sediment to accumulate in the Tonegawa River.
In the first half of the Showa Era, a new large boat ride service touring Sawara, Itako and Kashima was launched and transformed the riverside areas into a mecca for water excursion. However, the 1936 completion of the Suigo Ohashi Bridge over the Tonegawa River, which connects Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures, paved the way to the era of motorization and led to the demise of water excursions. In 1969, the Suigo Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden opened in conjunction with the land development of the Shinshima district, which used to be the tideland of Lake Kasumigaura. The iris festival held every June at the botanical garden is a major tourist attraction till this day, and is held in great affection by many people.
In the 1990s, local officials and residents proceeded with joint tourism promotion efforts to revitalize the local communities through festivals. As a first step, they cleaned up the Onogawa River, which runs through the region. The magnificent scenery of Sawara has been designated by the central government as an "important preservation district for groups of traditional buildings." Old merchant houses in the area have successfully been revived as valuable historic facilities due to such local efforts.
Katori is currently well known as a year-round tourist destination. We look forward to your visit to Katori City.
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