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A Last-Minute Trip to Takamiya: October in Japan

Written on November 8, 2012

I’ve been meaning to write about a magical, last-minute trip to Takamiya.  When I was in Japan in October, I went to Shiga Prefecture to visit two, small, little-known Buddhist temples.  At the end of the day, my friends decided we should try to visit Takamiya, a largely forgotten town that was once a powerhouse, which now, sadly, is visibly in decline .  During the Edo Period (1603-1868), Takamiya was a thriving commercial center.  It is where the region’s extremely fine hemp and ramie cloth was finished, bought and sold on a large scale.  At that time the cloth was called Takamiya fu.  Now we call this luxury cloth Omi jofu.The town is still dominated by a preponderance of large, white, stucco buildings, or kura, like the one above.  Kura are fire-proof storehouses that can be seen in every Japanese town–but I’ve never seen so many as I did in Takamiya.  The treasures that must have been stored there in the past…and for textile-sensitive people, the vibrant, commercial past of Takamiya was brought alive in the imagination when walking down these streets.

The long, main street in Takamiya was lined on both sides by buildings of the type shown above and below.  These massive, storefront buildings were where all the business transactions took place during the Edo period.  By the great size of the buildings, and by their large number, it’s clear that this town was once a commercial heavyweight. It is this very town which is the origin of this set of eight books which I showed on this blog some time ago.  It was important to visit this place to gain a better understanding of these important historical documents.

We visited Takamiya at the end of the day, and as we were there, we experienced twilight.It was hard to leave Takamiya.  The spirit of old Japan is truly in your grasp when you visit this place, especially as night begins to fall, and in the shadowy streets of this forgotten town, ghosts of the past start stirring.




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  1. Comment by Allison:

    Thanks for sharing this. I visited a similar town outside of Nagoya that maybe you’ve been to as well – Tokoname, a historic center of ceramics production full of old buildings (though done up now with a fancy path for tourists to stroll by them all). I felt the ghosts there, too, and the decay was oddly beautiful and moving, as it is here.

    November 8, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  2. Comment by velma:

    your words about the town, the importance of textile trade…and then these photos, and then the river…all i could think of are the films/photos i’ve seen of papermaking places where the rivers are “tamed” by paving and the women workers lean over baskets of cooked kozo, rinsing and cleaning the black bark bits. beautiful.

    November 11, 2012 @ 3:07 pm