4 Places In Fukuyama Where You Can Experience Japan's Traditions
Fukuyama city in Hiroshima is famous as a major producer of koto, one of Japan's traditional musical instruments. Discover four cultural and historical places you can visit in this wonderful city!
Fukuyama city is located on the southwestern end of Hiroshima.
Within the city, there are plenty of places to encounter traditional Japanese culture and historical structures. In this article, we are going to feature four locations for you to enjoy during your stay.
1. Marvel at an Ancient Temple: Myoo-in Temple
Designated a national treasure, the main hall and the five-tiered pagoda of Myoo-in Temple belong to the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. It was originally called Saiko Sanrichiin Jofukuji Temple and legends say that the most famous monk of Japan, Kukai, founded it in the year 807.
The main hall is entirely in the Japanese form, however, the details feature a mixture of Chinese Buddhist and Zen style architecture. It is a rare style of architecture even in Japan. The guardian deity of this temple is represented as a magnificent eleven-faced Kannon statue made in the early Heian Period.
In addition, the five-tiered crimson pagoda is also a must-see. This pagoda is said to be the fifth oldest five-tiered pagoda in Japan, and is an important piece of historical architecture that is still standing.
The temple grounds themselves are not very large, but you can freely explore the area. This temple is known to be loved by many local visitors and is considered to be a place where visitors can find a moment of peace.
2. Enter the World of Noh: Oshima Noh Theater
The Oshima Noh Theater is a facility where traditional performing arts from Fukuyama can be enjoyed.
Noh is a traditional Japanese performing art that has many fans in Fukuyama city. Along with Noh instructors, people who are fond of the Noh and practice the utai (*1) and shimai (*2) as a hobby gather here at the Oshima Noh Theater.
*1 Utai: Noh chanting. The spoken and chanted lines of the characters that appear in a Noh performance.
*2 Shimai: The choreography of a Noh performance. Dancing without the accompaniament of the hayashi (the players of instruments used in Noh), and without masks and outfits.
The beginnings of the Oshima Noh Theater date back to 1958 when the third head of the Oshima family, Hisami Oshima, began holding regular Noh performances. Here Noh performances are held in a modern looking facility, making it easier for people of all ages to enjoy watching Noh.
Noh ”Miidera”, performed at the Oshima Noh Theater. (Photo courtesy of Oshima Noh Theater)
The highlight of the Oshima Noh Theater are, of course, the Noh performances. Regular performances are held by the shitekata (*3) actors of the Oshima family four times a year, while utai and shimai performances are held three times a year by their disciples for free.
*3 shitekata: The person playing the main character in a Noh performance.
In the display room on the first floor, you can see artefacts related to the Noh in Fukuyama. You can find explanations on how outfits are worn in Noh, photos of performances, and printed documents made by the Oshima Noh Theater. This is a rare opportunity to come in contact with the world of Noh.
Another appeal of this theater is the costume display area, where you can see the elaborate Noh costumes up close. You can inspect the intricate details and motifs related to Noh plays woven into the outfit.
The displays change from time to time, so you may be able to catch something new and different every time to visit. For those who wish to see the special displays, please contact the Noh theater in advance.
For those who are further interested in the world of Noh, you can also join a Noh experience at Fukujukaikan Hall in Fukuyama city. This would be a wonderful opportunity to further understand the joy of the singing and dancing in a Noh performance.
3. Enter the World of Zen: Shinshoji Temple
The Rinzai School Kenninji Tenshinzan Shinshoji Temple was constructed in 1965 and has been practicing the ways of the Rinzai School Kenninji Style Buddhism ever since. Currently, it not only operates as a temple but also as the Shinshoji Temple Zen and Garden Museum. It is a place where you can experience the world of Zen in various forms.
After passing through the grand gates, you will witness an amazing Japanese garden called the Shoshintei. Immerse yourself in the beautiful Japanese scenery created by the peaceful garden.
Make sure to enjoy the picturesque scenery created by a lake in the shape of the kanji character for 'heart' (心) and the Ryuhaikyo bridge in the shape of an arched dragon. The garden is surrounded by various trees and flowers that change seasonally, creating a panoramic view along with the mountains.
Within the temple grounds, you can get a full Zen experience through the main temple hall, Mumyo-in, the Zen hall Daitetsudo, historical tea houses, Koutei art pavilion, tea shop (cafes and eateries), and the Zen art collection centering on Hakuin's works.
The Koutei art pavilion may come as a surprise. Using a traditional construction method called the Kokerabuki, this unique building is surrounded by soft wood that is built on stones. This is supposed to represent a boat floating on the sea.
Once you step into the building from the small entrance, you will suddenly be greeted with darkness! After walking a bit, you will find a faint ray of light reflecting against some waves. The world of Zen is represented by these waves within the darkness. This is a modern art pavilion where you can experience the beliefs of Zen Buddhism as you try and reach the core.
4. See How a Koto is Made: Fujii Koto Factory
When mentioning traditional Japanese music, many may think of the koto (Japanese harp). Fukuyama city is well-known as a major producer of kotos. It is said that nearly 70% of kotos made in Japan are from Fukuyama.
Fujii Koto Factory is located in Fukuyama city and is known to make kotos that are easy to use and have a beautiful sound.
When visiting the Fujii Koto Factory, you will be able to see how a koto is made up close.
The outer shell of the koto is made out of high-quality foxglove wood and the quality of the sound makes a difference depending on how the outer structure is made. Watching each step of the construction along with the intricate engravings speak of the fabulous skills of the craftsmen.
Hoping each koto will become a treasured instrument by the player, beautiful decorations are placed on both ends of the koto. You can tell just how passionate the artisans are from their careful craftsmanship.
In Fukuyama, you can also experience playing the koto as well. If you participate in the koto playing experience at Fukujukaikan Hall, you will be able to play a song under the instructions given by a professional koto player. Why not take this opportunity to give it a try?
Other Charms of Fukuyama
Fukuyama is a wonderful city where you can experience traditional crafts, architecture and performing arts up close. Another recommended spot is the Fukujukaikan Hall where you can try a hands-on experience with Japanese cultural activities. For more information on Fukujukaikan, please read ”Koto and Kimono Dress-up Experience at ”Fukuju Kaikan” in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima!”.
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