Legend has it that the roots of Fukiya Village start in the early 9th century when a copper mine is said to have been established in the area. This is a fitting story because the mining industry went on to become the defining aspect of Fukiya’s commerce.
Fukiya is known for bengara, which is a mineral used to produce a reddish pigment for dyeing. Mining began in the early 18th century and continues to weigh heavily in the prosperity of the village.
Along the main street there are several shops which specialize in the sale of bengara dyed textiles and earthenware made from the clay itself. The deep red of the mineral with its slightly brownish hue suits any kind of garment or accessory, providing a natural look that is not possible with artificial dyes.
The rich color of begara comprises most of Fukiya’s palette, from the tiles covering the roofs to the stain used on the wood and the pigment used on the clay walls.
The architecture of Fukiya Village exemplifies the Meiji era (1868-1912), and the best example of this is the former Fukiya Elementary School. Built in 1873, it operated in its original form until 2012. Now a popular tourist attraction, it remains an important part of the village’s charm.
Today, 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.
Fukiya also has quite a lot of options if you are interested in having a meal while you are there. There are several restaurants and eateries serving everything from traditional Japanese cuisine to nouveau vegetarian cuisine.
About the Area
Takahashi City is a place that requires several days to even scratch the the surface of the diversity of its culture, landscape and people. As the city center is easily accessible by train that is the best place to start.
Right next to the station is the Takahashi City Library, which was conceived as a gathering place for the 21st century by town planners. An overwhelming success, the space draws locals and visitors from across a great distance.
Central Takahashi is also the home of the historic district, which includes the former residences of the samurai who served the lord of Bitchu Matsuyama Castle.
The castle occupies the highest elevation of any in Japan and is a challenging hike from the bottom of its access road. Actually reaching the castle gate requires a relatively steep climb up steps that have been set into the mountainside.
There are many options when its comes to getting outside the city but if you have limited time Fukiya Furusato Village and Nariwa are good choices. Fukiya is a historic bengara (iron oxide) mining town where the reddish-brown pigment takes on many forms. Nariwa is location of the Tadao Ando designed Nariwa Museum of Art.
Access: From JR Okayama Station, take the JR Hakubi Line to JR Bitchu Takahashi Station. Take a one hour ride on the Bihoku Bus from Takahashi Station to Fukiya Village.
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