Clear blue skies are interspersed with dramatic cloud and sometimes snow.
The warm hearth of the kominka is the perfect place to settle in for some hot sake.
James, Bryony and Christine wanted to spend some time on their winter break from their architecture course to see some of the traditional buildings of Japan. They’d read about streets of old buildings in various parts of the country, but they wanted to see one of the representative architectural styles, the ‘udatsu’, as well as the temples of Teramachi, so they opted to visit Nishi-Awa using the Japan Rail Pass.
James, Bryony and Christine arrived by train at Anabuki Station and decided to walk the short distance to Wakimachi. They crossed the long pedestrian bridge over the Yoshino River, stopping to admire the colours of the water in the winter sunshine.
Navigating with their smartphones, they made their way through the backstreets until they found the start of the Wakimachi street. They decided to split up until lunchtime. James made his way slowly down the road, photographing every detail of nearly every building, while Bryony and Christine found the Mima Visitors’ Centre where they admired the umbrellas and tried indigo dyeing. After meeting up for lunch in a pretty café in an old home, they explored the rest of the street, documenting the different types of udatsu and visiting the various museums and open houses. Their last stop was the retro-styled Odeon Theatre.
That night, they stayed in a guest house in Wakimachi and enjoyed a walk around the quarter after dark.
- Old Streets of Wakimachi
In the morning, the students took the train to Sadamitsu, followed by a taxi to the Teramachi area. Here they wandered among the temples and gardens. This was their first experience of Japanese temple architecture, and they tried to capture as much of it as possible on camera. They were charmed by the harmony of the buildings and naturalistic gardens.
In the afternoon, they headed back across the Yoshino River. After visiting the Sadamitsu Theatre, they walked to the street of buildings with double udatsu. They were struck by the difference in style compared with Wakimachi, and James photographed all of the baroque udatsu of Sadamitsu.
That evening, they stayed in a local ryokan to enjoy a touch of luxury. It was a good opportunity for them to sort through all of their photos.
- Old Streets of Sadamitsu
- Old Streets of Tsuji
- Onsen Hotel
On their final day in Nishi-Awa, James, Bryony and Christine took the train to Tsuji, a little town by the Yoshino River with streets of old homes and commercial buildings in a more modest style. They were delighted to discover a working sake brewery.
In the afternoon, they took the train further up the Yoshino River to Awa-Ikeda. Here they visited the fascinating museum documenting the tobacco industry of the region, followed by a stroll around the town with its many examples of traditional architecture in different styles.
At the end of their trip to Nishi-Awa, the students had amassed a huge collection of photos showing traditional commercial, domestic and temple architecture to take home for further study.
- Sake Brewery
- Awa-Ikeda Tobacco Museum