Located in the mountains of western Okayama, Fukiya Village was once the center of Bengara production during the Edo period. Originally a copper mining town, the discovery of iron oxide in 1707 brought prosperity to the village. The red ocher paint can be seen throughout the main streets in the color of the walls, blinds and roof tiles on the traditional houses maintained since the Edo period.
For a town designed in the 18th century, Fukiya is unique in its aesthetically consistent townscape. The wealth accumulated from the Bengara production in the late Edo to early Meiji periods allowed the merchants to employ renowned shrine architects to plan out their main street. The materials and methods used for construction were of the finest quality of the era.
In recent times, the small traditional village is recognized as a “Furusato Mura” (hometown village) and an important cultural heritage site due to the retention of its historical architecture. The traditional mansions commissioned by the Bengara factory owners are open to the public – notably, the Katayama House and the Fukiya Folk Museum. Both were built in the 19th century for the Katayama family, the wealthiest Bengara producers in Fukiya. Also part of the village is the Bengara Ceramics Museum, where you can make red ochre colored pottery, and the Bengara Museum, where a restored factory is used to explain the process of Bengara production.
The center of the village is a storehouse of Meiji and Edo era charm. As you walk down the main street you will be greeted by all sorts of neat cafes, restaurants and shops stocked with bengara-related goods. Be sure to visit the community center for information on local culture and events.
Perhaps the unofficial symbol of the village is the Meiji era built Fukiya Elementary School.The building that stands today was constructed in 1909 and saw continuous use until the school’s closing in 2012. Today, the remarkable structure has become an attraction that fills visitors with a sense of nostalgia and romance.
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