A year ago I was invited by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry to explore the best of Tokushima, a prefecture located on Shikoku Island, just one hour flight away from Tokyo.
Although this prefecture is usually overshadowed by Honshu island (you can read about it in my other posts: Kumagaya and nearby, Saitama prefecture, Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture) there are unique places and experiences you cannot do anywhere else. Its charm is rooted in its heritage, traditions and beautiful landscapes – and besides that, you can see there real Japan, not adapted for tourists. Scroll down to read more!
Explore historic Udatsu street at Tokushima
Mima is a wonderful historic town, once known for the horse breeding and indigo dying (read about the latter below). Now it’s a city with Wakimachi and Odeon theaters, park, Temple Village, family residences and – Udatsu street.
A whole street of protected historical buildings brings you back to the Edo era. Udatsu were originally little walls that protected households from fire at first, but later became a lavish decorations to richer buildings. Weak lighting and shadows from the roof create mystic atmosphere – which you can boost by trying a kimono or booking a rickshaw ride.
By the way, it was my first rickshaw ride ever – and I felt a bit intimidated by the feeling that a human being was moving me around even if I fully realised that many tourists take part in the same activities throughout other Japanese cities. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the ride – especially when riding across the bridge over the Yoshino river and admiring the landscape around!
Dye a handkerchief indigo
Once Tokushima was the only area where plant called Persicaria tinctoria grew thanks to geographical conditions, and the most precious dark blue dye was produced from it. Thus, I’m introducing you to another place not to miss – Mima city Tourist Centre Aizome Koubou, place where the ancient traditions of indigo dying are kept alive.
And even more – you can try dying process yourself choosing a specific pattern and going from one stage to another! I was kindly shown the whole process and even dyed a handkerchief myself.
Interesting: did you know that primarily there was no special word for ‘green color’ in Japanese language? There was ‘ao’ which combines blue and green hues, and ‘midori’, a distinctive word for green, has come in usage only recently!
Create your own piece of Japanese traditional paper
Japan is also famous for its paper – and you can participate in this process too when you come to Tokushima! Awagami Factory which is run by Fujimori family for 6 generations in a row. You’ll see how Japanese washi is made (there are two main methods of paper making called “Tamezuki“ and “Nagashizuki”) starting from the plants and its fibre and ending with a product of different thickness, size and purpose.
Both human and machine labour are used for different stages of manufacturing.
Stay in Ryokan
Always wanted to stay in a traditional Japanese inn? Tokushima can offer that to you too! I stayed at Udatsunoengawa Zeniya overnight – and I really loved my yukata, floors with tatami (bamboo mats), sliding doors, and even taking ‘ofuro’ – bathing in a Japanese way: washing yourself first and then taking a bath in a small pool with hot water. Usually family shares one bath without changing water. In the ryokan, I, as a guest, was offered to be the first one to take a bath.
The whole aesthetics of ryokan was very pleasant! Japanese styled breakfast was both delicious and set up beautifully (I still don’t eat natto though 🙂 )
Learn Awa Odori dance
Awa Odori is one of the most famous and beautiful festivals in Japan rooted in an ancient tradition of honoring the dead. The festival takes place in Tokushima city annually every August. Even if you’re not visiting Tokushima around that time, you can still learn and watch Awa Odori at the Awa Odori Museum: musical instruments, costumes, 400 year history of the dance – everything is displayed there.
I was really impressed how energetic it was compared to other Japanese dancing styles I’ve seen! Moreover, real dancers are demonstrating different variations of dance live in the museum hall!
By the way, you can spot the traditional Awa Odori hat everywhere in Tokushima!
Order a bespoke ramen
Imagine that your ramen is a constructor, and you can gather all the parts up to your taste! Sounds like fun doesn’t it? You can try it in Tokushima too – just choose every ingredient – from noodles to toppings – separately in vending machine in Inotani shop, get tokens for each of your choices, hand it over to a member of staff, take a seat and enjoy your delicious ramen in a few minutes!
Many local celebrities visited this place too 🙂
Climb Mountain Bizan
If you follow my blogs for some time, you are aware that I LOVE climbing up somewhere and observe cities from above. Thankfully, Tokushima gave me this opportunity too – mountain Bizan, a local symbol, and the pagoda on its top are accessible via a ropeway from Sanroku Station. As I was visiting in early December, the surrounding nature bursted with red hues! (Read about autumn foliage here)
Try the best game meat
Are you a meat eater? Then Tokushima is your dream destination! Usually game meat is called there ‘Jibie’ following french influences and their ‘Gibier’ wording.
I was invited to try the local meat dishes in several locations: at Mimuragaoka and at Minshuku Uribou. Deer, boar, many vegetables including local lettuce dishes (local delicacy) – and I tried shabu shabu for the first time there too!
Enjoy the landscape
No words needed to describe it – just see it yourself. Jaw dropping isn’t it?
Hope you enjoyed my blog!