Edo-Era Town, Takehara


Yesterday, Kanae and I had another “Darts” adventure, heading out to Takehara. It took about 40 minutes from the farm. Many old buildings from the Edo period (1600-1853) are preserved there. One is the famous Taketsuru sake brewery which is a national treasure.

This shows the typical criss-cross namako-kabe pattern used on many mortar or clay buildings of this time. It  unbelievable that these wooden buildings such as the brewery have lasted so long!


We were there on a mission, to find the perfect gift for a special friend in America! I noticed that many little shops have sprung up here and there, using the old buildings for new ventures. We first visited a craft shop where as group of 50 men have formed a guild to carry on the traditional craft of weaving bamboo baskets, vases, and handbags.

Tetsuro Mizuno was putting the finishing touches on a ornamental basket. He explained that they use ma-dake bamboo, stipping off and discarding the outer bark. Then they cut the inside bamboo into narrow strips, sometimes dying them various colors.

Tetsuro Mizuno

Tetsuro Mizuno

Since retiring 13 years ago, Akita Hiroyuki has been weaving bamboo. Now he teaches others as well as creating items like the bag he is holding. Unfortunately these items were well beyond our budget, but we really enjoyed looking at them and meeting these artisans.

Beautiful but expensive! 10,000~

Beautiful but expensive! 10,000~

Akita Hiroyuki, master craftsman

Akita Hiroyuki, master craftsman

From there, we went on to see the Shorenji temple, dedicated to the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. We saw a statue of the founder of Jodo Shinshu, Shinran (1173-1262). Kanae pointed out that the toro here were rare, having many “legs” rather than setting on a pedestal.

Gate to Shorenji Temple

Gate to Shorenji Temple

Shinran, founder of Jodo Shinshu

Toro Lantern with five legs

Finally we reached our main destination, the shop that sells old cloth and kimonos for women who are clever enough to make bags, wall-hangings or tunics from this hand-dyed silk or wool fabric! They had some handmade items for sale, but most were smaller than what I had in mind. Then I spied one I liked very much and was able to negotiate on the price a little.

Mukai-san with one of her katazome stencils

Shimoyama-san with one of her katazome stencils

We met the shop’s owner, Etsuko Shimoyama. Her father, Mukai Kazuaki,  was a designer who crafted kiri-e type stencils (katabori) to dye patterns onto the cloth for kimono. She pointed to one katazome stencil which she herself had carved. Then I noticed she had no right hand. She told me she lost it in an accident when she was 2.Even so she could create such amazing art!

The light-colored fabric is katazome stencil!

The light-colored fabric is katazome stencil! (katabori)

I was thrilled to learn about the way they carve the pattern and then brush dye on the cloth. And I was honored to meet her! Dying cloth was apparently one of the main businesses in old Takehara.

Dye factory at Rai Tadasuga residence

Dye factory at Rai Tadasuga residence

We saw the dye house and home of Rai Tadasuga. The three wells in the back provided water for the household as well as for dye and for the production of India ink used in calligraphy. His grandson was the famous Confucian scholar and literati, Rai Sanyo.

Finally we stopped to rest and use the restroom at the first post office in Takehara. The woman sweeping leaves outside urged us to come in and rest and have a cold drink. So we did! We enjoyed the machine that served us ice cold green tea or citrus-flavored water (tasted like lemonade!)

Suzuko Irikawa at the old Takehara P.O. Museum!

Suzuko Irikawa at the old Takehara P.O. Museum!

So last of all here is a quiz for you. Today all the mail-drop mailboxes are red. Can you guess what color  the first post boxes in Japan were?!I’ll let you know next week!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cgaylemarie
    Aug 17, 2013 @ 10:01:25



    • leahmama1
      Aug 18, 2013 @ 03:44:17

      日本語は母国語ですか?はじめてのアパートにゴキブリさんが出て来ていやよね!でもどこに行ってもいますよ!I used to stay awake all night worrying about it if I saw one, but finally learned to live with it!I hope your traps work well! You can buy hosan dango which works pretty well too!
      Thanks for saying all these nice things about my blog. If you are in Japan, maybe you will visit our country house sometime??


  2. todaysillustrationtomorrow
    Aug 17, 2013 @ 14:32:24

    The katazome that the lady made is amazing! I have much respect for craftsmen. Was the mail boxes blue? That’s my guess since the mailboxes in the States are blue.


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