Uchiko: Tradition Preserved
After Ozu, we headed to Uchiko. It was only a short one-car train ride away. At the Uchiko train station, we picked up some maps (in English!), though the town is easily explored without any maps.
Our first stop was an old kabuki theatre that still hosts shows throughout the year. Visitors get run of the place. We walked on, and even underneath, the stage, explored the musicians’ wings and viewed the stage from the boxes. At the gift store, we purchased some incredible advertising prints made in a colorful wood block style. Numbered and signed by the artist, they will make an incredible addition to my home art collection. Matt even purchased some and they might soon make an appearance at Sen…
After playing around in the theatre, we walked through the historic district of Uchiko. The area is filled with craftsmen working in old workshops and selling their wares in antique storefronts. We watched candles being made by hand – literally. The artisans built the width of the candle layer by layer by adding hot wax, by hand, to the previously dried and shaped layers. Candles have been made this way for centuries, and I’m glad the tradition continues today. We also met with an artist who creates brooms for tatami mats and other artistic creations from fibers. He was so happy to have some visitors to chat with and explain his creations.
By tea time, our feet begged for a break, so we stopped to eat some of the traditional sweets we purchased in Ozu. Our tea house was a bench outside a temple. Our view was a giant sleeping Buddha in nirvana, an apt description of how we felt. Like other temples, it was perched on a hill and offered a great view of Uchiko.
After enjoying the views from the temple, we headed back through town to wait for the next train back to Matsuyama. While waiting for the train we were treated to the day’s news presented by a modern day town crier. The announcements of the day echoed through town via speakers perched atop the buildings, apparently a common occurrence in small towns.