Translated by Hilary Keyes
Enjoy a Walk through Oita's "Little Kyoto" - Mamedamachi
Hita in Oita prefecture is a town rich in history. A former Imperial domain governed by the Tokugawa Shogunate, it used to be a forestry town and is now a charming historical site.
Written by Osawa Kumi
Hita (日田), a valley town in Oita prefecture (大分県), Kyushu region, is rich in forest resources and was an Imperial domain (tenryō) directly governed by the Tokugawa Shogunate (*1) during the Edo era. Even now, this charming town retains traces of its once very prosperous forestry industry.
Read also: Japanese Encylopedia: Edo Jidai (Edo Period)
*1 Tokugawa Shogunate: also known as the Tokugawa bakufu (1603-1867), it was a system of government that lasted for roughly 260 years. The power belonged to the warrior class, and the country was run primarily by the leaders in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Imperial domains were directly controlled by the
Here you see the mainly wooden JR Hita Station (JR日田駅). This particular attraction is located on the south side of the station and is a popular photography spot. If you stand between the H and the T, you can make yourself into the missing I. Why not give it a try?
If you exit the station and head right, you will find the Tourist Information Center, which has pamphlets available in English, Korea and Chinese (Simplified and Traditional).
From here, if you head north from the station and walk for 15-20 minutes, you will come across Mamedamachi (豆田町). Along the way, you are sure to see some signs of the current forestry industry, such as the stacked logs in this photo. This region is particularly famous for their excellent timber, Hita-sugi or Hita Japanese cedar.
Upon entering Mamedamachi, one of the first buildings you encounter is the former residence of Hirose Tansō. He was a scholar in the Edo era and, for the sake of his young students' education founded Kangien, a preparatory school here. Kangien existed in a time when, without regard to the social hierarchy (shinōkōjō 士農工商, *2) of the time, academic background, age or social position, most people could not attend school. Nevertheless, it successfully turned out a great number of scholars and educators based on their own individual merits.
*2 Shinōkōjō: the class system established in the Edo era, according to which nobility and warriors were at the top, followed by farmers, workers and merchants at the bottom.
At the temple on the way, you will see these stone Buddha statues and statues of Jizō all in a row. Here you can see some of the offerings that have been left by the locals, which shows how well-loved these icons are by the townspeople.
We have finally reached the heart of Mamedamachi. The sight of the gas lamps lining this street proves the dedication of the locals toward preserving this beautiful townscape. With Miyuki road to the west and Uwamachi road to the east, these two roads running from north to the south are interconnected with numerous narrow alleyways that add to the elegant atmosphere of the townscape.
Here you see one of the buildings on Miyuki road, which is well-known for its characteristic ocher mud walls. Called Nagaya, this long and narrow former tract house has been divided into smaller shops and residences.
If you walk to the north end of Uwamachi road, you will find Isshin-bashi (Isshin bridge), spanning a clear stream. From here, you will see Miyuki bridge.
Beyond Isshin bridge lies the Kunchō Sake Brewery (薫長酒蔵). Their oldest storehouse began in 1702. Within their facilities they have a museum and a shop where you can go on a tour and even sample some of their wares.
Let's Enjoy the Wooden Products of Hita!
Along both of the streets lie different traditional Japanese shops which are great fun to shop at. Here is a shop selling wooden products specific to Hita.
Here are some wooden chopping boards, with a characteristic style unchanged by time. For more modern tastes, wooden pizza trays and even cheese-cutting boards are sold here.
This is a shop specializing in chopsticks; you can even have your name carved into your very own chopsticks.
One of Hita's special products are geta, Japanese wooden sandals. Various types of geta are available here, from those made from sealed raw timber to highly lacquered wooden sandals.
If you would like to see how comfortable and easy it is to walk with geta, try them on before making a purchase. You can ask the staff: "Tameshi ni haitemite ii desu ka?" ("May I try them on?") first.
Hita's Mamedamachi is most appealing for its community-minded protection and preservation of its historical townscape. By all means, rather than just looking about, try talking with the locals. You might find yourself making some even more incredible memories of your trip this way.
Next time, we will take a look at a cafe in Mamedamachi that the Malaysian Prime Minister loved and more of their unique spots.
Address: Oita, Hita, Mamedamachi
Hours/Closed: Depends on shop
Credit Cards: Depends on shop
Other Languages: Depends on shop
Nearest Station: JR Hita Station (JR日田駅)
Access: 15-20 minute walk north from JR Hita Station
Price Range: Depends on shop
Phone Number: -
Homepage: Hita-Mamedamachi (Japanese)