The Fukiya village in Okayama, Japan -Part 1-
I’ve been posting Momotarou-related articles so far, and to be honest, I’m getting a bit tired of recalling, researching and translating old stories.
This time, I write about the Fukiya village in Okayama as an interval.
Actually, I didn’t even know the name of the village until several years ago.
I don’t remember how I got interested, but I think I saw photos on a travel brochure or something.
Since then, I’ve been there twice in the off-season.
Originally, it was a copper mine site.
People in the village just dug mines in the beginning, then they coincidentally found “Bengara” in 1707, an oxidized iron used for colouring, which was made from mine remains.
Fukiya’s “Bengara” became quite famous in the 18th century and that brought the village fortune.
Later on, the wealthy merchants in Fukiya had a talk and decided to employ “Miya-daiku” (carpenters who build Japanese traditional buildings like shrines and temples) to rebuild the village using red tiles on roof and fine lumbers such as Japanese cypress, sakura (cherry tree), etc., coloured with “Bengara”.
Now, all the mines have long since been closed, the village suffers from depopulation.
The only elementary school in the village, which was the oldest wooden school building in use in Japan, was finally closed in 2012.
How to get there
Unless you have your car, you need to take a train to “Bicchuu (pronunciation is like “BitchYou”) Takahashi” first.
From Okayama station, it takes about 1 hour (if you take the Express train, about half an hour).
Then take a bus from the bus station next to the train station.
The bus departs only 3 times a day. (In a certain period, 4 times a day)
After a 50-minute-ride to its final destination, you’ll reach “Fukiya”.
Because it’s such a small village in a mountain, the best way is on foot.
It’s only about 1.5 km (1 mile), if you stay in the village centre.
To visit the houses of wealthy merchants and/or other institutes in the surrounding area, better to have a car.
You can hire a taxi at the “Takahashi” train station.
Ask at the Tourist Information for details.
In a certain period (in 2014, April to June and September to November, on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays), there’s a cyclic bus service which goes to some of the institutes outside of the village.
Where to stay
It’s amazing there is a proper hotel in this small village.
Its appearance is a copy of the school and it was built behind the original.
I stayed here on both occasions of my visits, and there always seemed to be only a few guests including me.
Most tourists just make a day trip to the village, I suppose.
Or, perhaps there’s something to do with some secret that an old lady, who was an owner of a cafe I went, told me.
She said, “The locals suspect the hotel would suffer subsidence damage sometime future, because it’s on the digging area and the ground is almost hollow.” just after I told her where I was staying.
I don’t know if it’s true, but I think foundation investigation must have been held beforehand.
Anyway, at least I can say it was a few years ago, and the hotel is still there.
I’ll tell you what to see in the village next time.
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