Penny Candy

Just got back from an overnight trip through the old city of Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture and Yonago in Tottori. I found two original “penny candy” shops or dagashiya (駄菓子屋)that are still in business. I called ahead to be sure that Ueda Shoten in Takahashi would be open. The owner told me she has been in business since she married and came there about 53 years ago. The building itslef has been renewed but the old style of selling loose candy and snacks by the gram is still used.

Buying penny candy!

Buying penny candy!

I met a woman who came with her grandson and he seemed absorbed in choosing his favorites! The shop is sometimes closed so you should check in advance. 植田菓子店 0866-22-3294

Owner of the shop, Ueda Fumiko

Owner of the shop, Ueda Fumiko

After leaving there we briefly stopped by the church established by Niijima Jyo in 1880. The lady I met outside the shop, Nishi-san, is  a member of this historic church. Unfortunatey, no one was there to show us inside! From there we went up the mountain to see the highest castle in Japan.

Takahashi Christian Church

Takahashi Christian Church (started around 1880)by Niijima Jo

Church member Nishi-san

Church member Nishi-san and grandson Kouki

 

 

The highest castle in Japan...Bicchu Matsuyama Castle

The highest castle in Japan…Bicchu Matsuyama Castle

We drove to the parking lot where there is space for just 20 cars. Then we began the climb. I was forewarned that the “steps are severe”, but never expected it to be so far and so grueling! Halfway up it started to rain..and we dummies hadn’t brought umbrellas. Well, I had a parasol but Hiroo was totally soaked. We did make it to the top. I barely made it and appreciated the kindness of a woman who lent me a walking stick on the way up! (They are free for use in the parking lot but I didn’t see them!)

Wet and bedraggled, I reach the top !

Wet and bedraggled, I reach the top !

Bicchu Matsuyama Castle, just ten minutes drive (and 40 minutes climb) from Takahashi city, was built in 1331  at an elevation of 1410 ft. above sea level.  It is an easy climb for someone under 30!

One of my favorite things about travelling around Japan is the people I meet in small towns and villages. Just after we left the expressway at Kasaoka and began driving in the mountains, we came to a small old town called Yakake-shuku. This was one of the stops for the samurai retinue that accompanied the feudal lords on their annual trips to the capital in Edo. (sankin kotai )

Yagata Shuku inn for the feudal lord's servants

Yakake Shuku inn for the feudal lord’s servants

Proprietor of Fujii Shoten, Hiroko Inoue

Proprietor of Fujii Shoten, Hiroko Inoue

I spotted a woman in the front of a souvenir shop.n There were lovely drawings of flowers pinned up all over her shop. Hiroko Inoue has run this souvenir shop for 73 years, ever since she was born and adopted into the family. The shop’s name is Fuji Shoten. Inoue-san writes haiku poetry and one of her poems was recently chosen to appear in hte Yomiuri newspaper! The flower paintings are done by one of her customers.

Fumiko HIrose in her general store! I bought an umbrella and some ice cream!!

Kyoko HIrose in her general store! I bought an umbrella and some ice cream!!

A few doors down,I found an old shokuryohin shop, the kind of general store that mainly sold foodstuff but also shovels, umbrellas and household utensils. Kyoko Hirose has run this shop for about 55 years, since she came as a bride from the town of Tamashima. These kind of stores are disappearing from the Japanese countryside as the convenience stores open every half mile of the road!

Outside Cafe "Ciao" in Takahashi CIty, Okayama

Outside Cafe “Ciao” in Takahashi CIty, Okayama

After climbing the castle, we were very hungry. Hiroo said he’d just as soon have a obento from 7-11, but I wanted to experience dining at someplace local. So we decided to stop at whichever we came to  first. We passed this “drive-in” and turned around and went back. This has been here for 42 years and is one of the vanishing old- style of coffee shops (or Japanese people call the roadside cafes “drive-ins”!)

owners of Ciao Coffee Shop

owners of Ciao Coffee Shop

The owner was very friendly and a fan of John Coltrane! He and his wife opened the cafe in 1973, the year I came to Japan! He is 68 and sometimes thinks of closing up but their regular customers urge them to keep the doors open! Hiroo enjoyed his tonkatsu teishoku ( pork cutlet lunch!)

Pork Cutlet Lunch

Pork Cutlet Lunch

Our last destination on this day was the old town of Fukiya where bengara (powdered iron oxide)was made in from the Edo era. Bengara prevents rust, keeps wood from rotting and was used in the clay walls in this town only giving it a pinkish cast. It is a little old street of pink houses and shops. Nowadays they are museums, gift shops and eateries! This is a great place to visit and I highly recommend it. If I wasn’t so tired from climbing to the castle, I would have spent more time here!! I have to go back!

A pink town, Fukiya, Okayama-ken

A pink town, Fukiya, Okayama-ken

Fukiya, souvenir shop with dyed noren flags

Fukiya, souvenir shop with dyed noren flags

 

Selling bengara by the gram, early 1900s?

Selling bengara by the gram, early 1900s?

 

red iron oxide powder

red iron oxide powder

Strolling on the street of Fukiya town

Strolling on the street of Fukiya town

 

 

Bengara was sold as a reddish powder by the gram. Now it is sometimes used to dye cloth as the noren outside the shop! We stopped to take a picture of the old elementary school before heading north to our inn in northern hills of Okayama.

 

 

Old elementary school, Fukiya, Okayama

Old elementary school, Fukiya, Okayama

We stayed at Chiya Onsen Ibuki-no-Sato. I chose this inn for the reasonable price. The food wasn’t bad and the tatami room was fine, but no frills! I was surprised that there was no elevator and Hiroo had to carry  our suitcase up the stairs. (We were still beat from mountain-climbing!) Also they offer no slippers and expect us to walk  barefoot in the lobby and hallway! That IS unusual for Japan. Then they didn’t provide za-isu (low chair with a back support used in Japanese-style rooms.) So the inn is not “Senior-friendly”! That said, after I asked for chairs, they did bring us a couple.

Dinner at ibuki-no-Sato

Dinner at ibuki-no-Sato

...and this too!

…and this too!

 

 

The next morning we started out for the town of Yonago in Tottori, arriving in less than an hour! There was a “penny candy” shop still in business there and I really wanted to go there. Like some of the old penny candy places, they sell small toys, and junk! I was so disappointed that it wasn’t open. The note on the door said, ” I’ve gone to take my doggy to the vet for his shots. ”

Okamoto Candy Store, Yonago

Okamoto Candy Store, Yonago

Peaking in the shop window, Okamoto Penny Cany

Peaking in the shop window, Okamoto Penny Candy

 

 

 

I would have definitely waited around and gone back but I was meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years! They had made lunch reservations in Matsue, about an hour’s drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old friends!

Old friends! Ishiga Mama in Yonago< Tottori

It was great to see Yoko Mama and her husband after all these years! We enjoyed the day with them. They took us to Sakai-Minato, and Mizuki Road, then across the new bridge of Shinji Lake to the town of Matsue where we had an amazing lunch.

 

Soon it was time to say goodbye. We left Yonago at 5:00 and Hiroo had to face a 3 hour drive home! But, all in all, it was a great trip. I will go to Okamoto Candy and Toy store again!! If you know of any other old Showa stores in business, let me know!!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: