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One hundred drawings portray the customs and scenery of 150 years ago. These scenes are still remarkably visible in the old castle town of Tsuwano, Shimane prefecture. In this episode of Journeys in Japan, Australian actor Luke Bridgford uses the ancient Tsuwano drawings as a map to the town's past, present and future.

One Hundred Views of Tsuwano
One Hundred Views of Tsuwano
This famous chronicle depicts Tsuwano of 150 years ago in both images and words. More than half of the views featured in the one hundred paintings can still be seen today.
Tsuwano Castle Ruins
Tsuwano Castle Ruins
Built on the mountaintop overlooking Tsuwano, the architecture was an unusual mix of medieval mountain and modern castle styles. It was dismantled in the 19th century. Only its stonewalls remain.
Tonomachi Street
Tonomachi Street
This street, which runs through the former district of samurai retainers, attracts many tourists.
The Tsuwano Dance
The Tsuwano Dance
This ritual dance has taken place every summer for 400 years. The origins of the dancers' black hoods date to the dress of Lord Kamei's warriors.
Pino Rosso
Pino Rosso
This 25-year-old local Italian restaurant offers recipes with locally sourced ingredients, such as wild boar.
Ro 284, Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, Ashikagun, Shimane pref.
TEL: +81-856-72-2778
Kuriya Familia
Kuriya Familia
Community restaurant with a weekly rotating chef system.
Washibara 819, Tsuwano-cho, Ashikagun, Shimane pref.
This former oil stop has over 300 years of history. It sells incense and souvenirs today. The owners started offering sencha tea ceremony experiences, using their family heirlooms, last year. Participants observe the tea master and try performing the ceremony themselves.Ro 190, Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, Ashikagun, Shimane pref.
TEL: +81-856-72-0021
Tsuwano High School
Tsuwano High School
Facing low enrollment, this school started accepting students from outside five years ago. Nearly half of this year's freshmen class came from other areas of Japan. The school emphasizes real-world learning projects.
Ha 12-3, Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, Ashikagun, Shimane pref.
From Tokyo to Tsuwano, it takes one and a half hours by plane to Yamaguchi Ube Airport, 30 minutes to Shin Yamaguchi Station by bus, and two hours by steam train.
Travel Log

Traveler: Luke Bridgford > More Info


Occupation:Tech Entrepreneur, Actor & Coach

Length of residence in Japan:On and off for 10 years

Reason:Cultural curiosity & inspiration

Tsuwano to me had the feeling of a tightly packed cultural theme park. A wonderfully forward thinking community set in picturesque surroundings carrying many historical sites and accompanying stories.

Within short distances to the city center, surrounding villages and farmlands; getting from A to B to C was thoroughly enjoyable with unexpected surprises all in between.

It was an interactive history lesson to trace the locations, customs and stories bestowed and captured in Kurimoto Kakusai's drawings. To find many of the original images still very much intact was a very surreal feeling.

Walking through the very well preserved city center, I found myself constantly wondering what life must have been like here some 200 years ago. The air was very clean, butterflies kept me company with birds singing as I explored.
I also found many modern day lessons in Tsuwano, in the form of what comes with a mass tourism boom and then the result when the bubble bursts. From here, finding the inner spirit and innovation of today's Tsuwano community really has me believing they are heading in the right direction. It was clear to me the new students attracted to Tsuwano's recruiting activities have now in fact found a new home and perhaps direction in their lives that the big cities were not offering them.

I loved the examples, such as the teahouse and restaurant offering local wild boar, of focusing on the regions past to define its commercial future. It's a win-win for historical preservation and modern commercialism.

I have traveled to many already popular places in Japan and Tsuwano has a lot if not more to offer in a compact space. I would definitely like to visit again to learn more and to see the fruit of the community's efforts in designing it's modern future.

Inside Story

Atsushi Takase

I have seen many regional, historic cities hit by the wave of depopulation in Japan. Some faded away and some survived-but in doing so, altered their landscapes. Tsuwano remains a time capsule of its beautiful traditional and natural features. Yet it is surviving in one of the most depopulated areas in the country. Watch the show to learn how the community is doing it.
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