• Visit Ohana and Join the Tachibana Clan on a Journey Through Feudal Japan, Where Luxury and History Meet

    People & Culture_Story

    Visit Ohana and Join the Tachibana Clan on a Journey Through Feudal Japan, Where Luxury and History Meet


Yanagawa: A town where time stands still, and tradition lives on

Sitting on the bottom of Fukuoka prefecture, a stone's throw from neighbouring prefecture Saga, and past the steaming, onsen populated century of Kyushu is Yanagawa. While its population is a humble (by Japanese standards) 63,000 households, this is a town big on history and personality. Known for its many canals, the area is sometimes referred to as the 'Venice of Japan' and although it's a favourable comparison – who doesn't want to be compared to one of the world's most picturesque cities? – it's one that doesn't do justice to the uniqueness of Yanagawa.

Canal boatmen

Yes, it's a town centred around water-based transportation; boats cruising through the centre of the city, paddled by singing boatmen (and women) may be the biggest tourist drawcard here. But spend a little extra time in Yanagawa, and you'll be gifted with insights and access into the cultural nuances and traditional sophistication you didn't even know existed in Japan. This is a side of Japan accessed by the very few, but those who do will be changed forever.

Ohana: The centrepiece of your Yanagawa exploration

Start your exploration of Yanagawa with a visit to Tachibana Garden Shoto-en Garden. This nationally-designated scenic place of beauty and spectacular Japanese garden is located on the grounds of Ohana, a residence of one of Yanagawa's most influential names, the Tachibana family, the feudal lords that once ruled over the town.

Fourteenth Earl Tomoharu Tachibana built the garden in 1910, its artfully curated landscaping is designed to mimic the ocean, complete with small islands and surrounded by almost 300 black pines. The garden is open to the public and day visitors for a fee, but for those who want a more immersive journey through Yanagawa, one filled with elegant hospitality, world-class culinary offerings, and a history lesson or two, consider staying at Ohana.

Once the home of the Tachibana family, Ohana is today one of Fukukoka's most elegant accommodation experiences. The facility combines traditional Japanese hospitality with contemporary comforts and the charmingly retro-Meiji-era Japan touch. It features banquet and conference halls, Japanese restaurants for smaller groups, and 20 beautiful guest rooms, many of which boast sensational garden views.

The original incarnation of Ohana was built in 1738 under the watchful eye of the fifth lord of the Yanagawa domain (and sixth head of the Tachibana family), Tachibana Sadayoshi. Sadayoshi wanted a place to spend time with his family, naming the villa 'Ohana Batake,' which means flower garden. In the early 1900s, Ohana came into its second evolution; you could say when Earl Tomoharu added a Western-style guest house, a Japanese-style reception hall, living quarters, a household management office, a guardhouse, as well as the garden Shoto-en.

In the 1950s came another turning point for the facility; you could say it was at this time the Ohana that exists today really came into its own. During this post-war period, the family was forced to find new ways to maintain financial stability while maintaining the family legacy. As they say, from adversity comes innovation, and from this period came the modern-day Ohana. The 16th head of the family, Kazuo, who married the 15th head's only child, a daughter Ayako, began running a hotel and restaurant called 'Ohana,' using the residence of the Tachibana family.

Chizuka Tachibana

It's a refreshing take on traditional hospitality, and with Chizuka at the helm, an exciting new era for Ohana. Collaborating with innovators from all over Japan, like Tokyo-based drink-artisan Emmy, who in collaboration with Ohana created a series of drinks (non-alcoholic and cocktails) that tell the story of the Tachibana family through a series of three carefully selected and artfully mixed aperitif style blends.

As part of this next evolution of Ohana, the facility is well underway, with the launch of the new website for guests to findtheir own Yanagawa experiences. This new addition to the facility will allow guests to craft a stay in Yanagawa that's both wholly independent and guided by the Tachibana family.

Mihashira Shrine: Pray for safe travels through Yanagawa

Looking beyond Ohana, the influence of the Tachibana family can be seen throughout the town of Yanagawa, like at Mihashira Shrine. The shrine's current priest, Seitaro, is a cousin of Chizuka Tachibana, and like Chizuka, he's the 18th generation of the family now watching over this shrine.

Built in 1826, Mihashira Shrine was built as a dedication to the many folks who worked on the canals of Yanagawa. Still today, they hold regular ceremonies praying for safe travels along the town's canals.

The canals are the main arteries of Yanagawa. Built around the 17th century, many of the waterways that travel through the townscape, past residential homes, schools, and government buildings were originally constructed to protect feudal families from enemies. Although the enemies are now a relic of history, the canal remains vibrant, populated by boats – known as donkobune (pronounced: don-ko-boo-nay) – that transport tourists through the town's most iconic destinations.

Kikko Orchards: New perspectives and mikan celebrity

On the topic of iconic destinations and Tachibana influence, Kikko Orchards is deeply connected to the Tachibana family legacy and location that offers a very different perspective on the region.

Tamio Tachibana

Run by Tamio, the uncle of Chizuka, and father of Mihashira Shrine priest, Seitaro, Kikko Orchard is a sprawling orchard and camping facility. The terraced fields of Kikko are dotted with endless clusters of mikan (like a Japanese mandarin orange) tree, branches heavy with fruits just waiting to be picked.

Home to a history that needs a whole book faithfully retold in detail, the orchard is home to 'Miyagawa wase,' one of the most widely consumed mikan varieties available in Japan. Mikan is also a key ingredient in one of the Emmy-crafted drinks 'hanabatake' served at Ohana. All connected, a visit to this orchard for some time fruit picking, camping (day camping options available), and if you're lucky, time spent chatting with Tamio offers insight into how this little town's influence permeates far beyond the confines of its city limits.

While there's so much more to explore within Yanagawa, what makes the town such an exciting place to visit is the intimacy with which you can explore it.

Human connection, independent navigation, and omotenashi hospitality are the founding and guiding principles of travelling through Yanagawa and the best foundations for exploring Japan deeper. For more information on booking your next adventure through this fascinating pocket of Japan, visit

Ohana and Shotoen Garden
1 Shinsoto-machi, Yanagawa-city, Fukuoka-prefecture

Contact TARO for more information, complete travel plans and exclusive offers.

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