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A Side of Kobe You Didn’t Know 3: Kita-ku, the Thatched-Roof Town

Today I’ll be introducing you to Kita-ku (Kobe’s northern ward).
Kobe City has 9 different wards (or areas), and the largest of those is Kita-ku. It covers some 40% of Kobe City’s area!

So what is there in Kita-ku, exactly?
Kita-ku is blessed with rich natural surroundings, and its farming communities produce a variety of agricultural products like rice and strawberries. Kita-ku is also home to buildings with historical value, as well as traditional arts. Today, I’d lke to share one of Kita-ku’s unique points with you: “kayabuki,” or thatched roofs.

Thatched Roof Homes】

“Kayabuki” (Thatched Roof) is written with the Japanese character 茅 (“kaya”), meaning silvergrass or reed. This word is used to describe roofs thatched from bundles of harvested rice straw or other grasses.

Out of the approximately 800 thatched roof homes remaining in Kobe, about 700 of them are in Kita-ku! Hakogi House is said to be the oldest home in Japan. The Uchida House, which was built in the mid-Edo Period (1603-1868) is also designated as an Important Cultural Property.

Hakogi House

Uchida House

【A Rural Kabuki Stage】

Have you heard of kabuki? Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theater. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), it became popular in urban areas as a form of common people’s entertainment.
Rural kabuki is the form of kabuki that came to rural areas. It is traditionally peformed during celebrations for the autumn harvest and other local festivals.

In Kita-ku, there is still a rural kabuki stage! In order to preserve this rural kabuki stage, a performance is held here in Kobe’s Kita-ku every year. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event will be streamed online

You can find a video on Kobe City’s official YouTube channel. Please take a look!
(Part one)
(Part two)

Kayabuki Events】

There are also many events held related to the thatched roof homes and the rural kabuki stage. A “Month of Getting to Know Thatched Roof Homes,” held primarily in November, in particular, includes a number of events, like a music concert and a chance to see the roofs being re-thatched, so if you’re interested be sure to check it out!

See here for event details:

When you come to Kobe, be sure to visit Kita-ku!