Learn about bengara production

Bengara Museum

visit west japan, visitwestjapan, okayama prefecture
Photographer | Takuma Kimura


Bengara, a red iron oxide pigment used for painting walls and pottery, dyeing textiles and making cosmetics, was discovered by chance in the copper mines of Fukiya in 1707. It brought prosperity to the village, evident in the grand Edo style architecture preserved on the main street.

This pigment is thought to have been used by humans for painting since ancient times.The roughly 40,000 year old depictions of bison in the Altamira Caves of northern Spain are one such example of this use.

In looking at the early use of bengara in Japan, it has been suggested that the murals found on the walls of some ancient burial mounds are exemplar, highlighting its historic value.

The demand for bengara during the Edo era would have been quite high and Fukiya was for a time, the center of its trade as the pigment extracted from the village’s mines was considered to be of the finest quality.

Bengara mining in Fukiya was controlled by the houses of Nishie, Tanimoto and Hirokane, while refinement of the pigment was handled by those of Katayama, Nagao, Higashinagao, Nakata, and Tamura. On a visit to the village you will find these names appear repeatedly as they were important business leaders in the region and many of their family estates remain to this day.

After mining and refinement both bengara and copper were loaded onto horses and transferred to a holding area, then transported by boat down the Nariwa River and the Takahashi River to Tamashima Port. From there, the materials were shipped around the country.

The bengara factory was reconstructed during the Meiji era, and the equipment recreated, to show the process of creating this precious material. From the burning of the iron oxide in the sun and subsequently in a cauldron, to rinsing, and deacidifying the powder, each intricate step required to produce the red ochre is shown. Adjacent to the museum is a display of Kutani, Imari, and Kyo pottery painted with bengara.

 

ABOUT THE AREA

Takahashi City is a small municipality along the Takahashi River and is notable for is historic buildings and wonderful townscape. The standout structure of he city is Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, which is located high in the mountains. There are also former samurai residences, a temple and a historic church.

Nariwa Town is part of Takahashi City and is about a twenty minute bus ride away. Although the city center has a lot to offer there is much to see in the surrounding towns and villages. Nariwa is a quiet old town with a landscape that is stunning at any time of the year.

 

Access: From JR Okayama Station, take the JR Hakubi Line to JR Bitchu Takahashi Station. Take the Bihoku Bus bound for Fukiya Furusato Village. It is about a 10 minute walk from the final bus stop.

Cancellation Policy

1) Detailed tour information & conditions will be given after application is made; please read and confirm the final itinerary before the departure date.
2) Reservations: Fill out the application contact form; application is complete upon payment. Reservations accepted by phone, mail, fax, online, or other communicative methods. The contract is not valid at time of reservation; the customer will be asked to submit an application form and payment within 3 days from time of reservation. If application form and payment are not submitted within the term, the reservation shall be considered void.
3) Items not included in tour price: Transportation costs not included in itinerary, optional tour fees, excess baggage fees, any fees of a personal nature (phone bills, meal costs, etc.) Items excluded from the tour will be stated in the tour information.
4) Cancellation fees: When the application is cancelled by the customer or when payment has not been made by the specified date, Ryobi Tours shall receive a percentage of the per person tour fee as a cancellation fee, or a penalty fee. Differences in room charges that result from one person in a group cancelling shall be charged to the participating person(s).

Cancellation Date Up to 21 days prior 20-8 days prior 7-2 days prior Day prior to start of tour Day of tour After start of tour/non-participation with no contact
Cancellation Fee No charge 20% of tour fee 30% of tour fee 40% of tour fee 50% of tour fee 100% of tour fee