It's spring in Okayama, which facing the Inland Sea of
Japan in the south and the Chugoku Mountains in the north, is
blessed with abundant nature.
In this edition of Journeys in Japan, John Moore and his daughter Ruadh visit the area, which has a long history and rich culture.
They look for "the traditional reds" of Japan. In Fukiya, they appreciate the earthy-rouge townscape. They taste a steamed sea bream dish the locals eat on joyous occasions. The fish's scales are a reddish pink, so people often call it "cherry blossom sea bream." The father and daughter also visit a swordsmith and observe how he forges a blade from the flaming red tamahagane, or raw carbon steel.
Address: 838-2 Fukiya, Nariwa Cho, Takahashi City, Okayama Prefecture
TEL: ＋81(0)866-29-2222 (Nariwa Town Tourism Association, Fukiya branch)
Open from 10:00 to 18:00 on Sundays and Tuesday, April through November.
Address: 86 Fukiya, Nariwa Cho, Takahashi City, Okayama Prefecture
Address: 1-7-65 Omote Cho, Kita Ward, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
It takes about seven minutes by taxi from Osafune Station on the JR Ako Line.
Closed on Mondays, year-end through New Year holidays and the day following national holidays.
Open from 9:00 to 17:00
Admission Fee: 500 yen
Address: 966 Osafune, Osafune Cho, Setouchi City
Open: 9:00 to 16:00
Address: 93 Osafune, Osafune Cho, Setouchi City
Address: 585-1 Oku, Mimasaka City, Okayama Prefecture
Traveler: John Moore > More Info
Length of residence in Japan:28 years
Reason: Japan had called to my heart since I was 18 years old, and I came to work in Japan as a PR copywriter for an advertising agency.
Seeing Red In Okayama
Irish people see red easily; long smiles but short fuses. But in
Okayama we saw so many shades of red, we see things a little
Japanese kids color the sun a rusty brown red, aka in Japanese-quite different to the soft yellow or burning gold that Western eyes see.
Ruadh and I went to a village high in the Okayama mountains to see this with our own eyes.
The soil around Fukiya district in Takahashi is red brown, packed full of iron oxide. It has fed wonderful vineyards as well as an ancient Japanese industry that colors walls, timbers, pottery and expensive laquerware with deep, earthy red glows.
We were amazed by the castle-like family home of the people responsible for spreading this lucrative business across Japan for hundreds of years. The impressive residence was protected by unscalable walls and 24-hour guardsmen. In this high retreat, hidden in the private garden, was a "sukinkutsu" water sounding chamber. It played mystical music as the water dripped through a hole in an urn onto collected water. A delight that Ruadh will hear in her imagination for the rest of her life...
We strolled the mountain red village at sunset. Japanese tones of orange red tiles, brown red coated timbers, soft red earth walls and deep rusty red drapes were an exquisite display of local craftsmanship and community.
The silvery reds of a delicious spring sea bream disappeared fast under Ruadhs chopsticks after being cured by a centuries-old salting process.
We created our own coffee and sake drinking cups from the local soil and naturally glazed them with the same bengara red tones-the deepest red tone being nearly black. Our pottery teacher eloquently made us pause to consider that the Japanese eye sees red in so many shades quite differently from the Western eye. I still can never choose the correctly matching obi for Ruadh's kimono. I want to make the colors harmonize or contrast. But the Japanese eye sees matching hues and colors I cannot yet see, and maybe never will.
One highlight of this trip was actually seeing a Japanese sword master beat a new blade. I even helped him hammer away his 40 to 45 foldings of metal. His eye expertly watches the red tones in the flames around the metal to judge the precise moments to place and withdraw his steel for the best results.
We saw the deep red Okayama sun sink below the sea as the city lights twinkled into their nightlife. And the next day clambered red sandstone hills to watch a more gentle sun softly rise through the early morning spring mists.
All these shades of red brought to mind one life story. Everyone sees everything differently. So look again and see what else you can see. See you on the road.