Once the capital of Japan, Shigarakigushi was initially built as a summertime villa by Emperor Shomu, which later named it as the capital in 744. Often known as Shigaraki-no-miya (紫香楽宮) – Shigaraki Palace, it was also referred to as Koka-no-miya – Koka Palace in the Shoku Nihongi (続日本紀), an imperially commissioned Japanese history text that was completed in 797.
Despite the high cost of rebuilding the city, Shigaraki-kyo was short lived as a capital. A year after moving to the new capital, numerous disasters occurred in Japan. These include: earthquakes, famine and tsunamis to name the least. This brought to the idea that Shigaraki was a place of bad luck and the Emperor proceeded to move the capital back to Hejio-kyo (currently Nara), and the disasters receded.
Shigarakigushi is along the Tokaido (東海道) – an ancient route that ran mostly along the Pacific coast of Honshu and is approximately 303 miles long with 53 post-station towns whose inns and vendors provided ancient travelers lodging, refreshment and supplies en route from the capital city of Kyoto to central Honshu. Even though the route has been underused since the start of the industrial revolution, it is still accessible to travelers and would provide a great insight as to the history and lifestyle of ancient Japan. For more info on the Tokaido, check out this blog.
Take the Shigaraki Kogen Railway and get down at Shigarakigushi. After arriving, you would see signs saying “紫香楽宮跡”. It’s around 10 – 15 minutes away from the station. You would pass by a small park and a fairly quiet housing area.
Cost and Hours: Free. From 7am – 5pm.