Taking a Step Back in Time in Shikoku Mura – Part 1

Date: 21st November 2018

Shikoku Mura (四国村) is an open-air museum located at the foothill of Yashima, showcasing thirty over traditional buildings relocated from all over Shikoku region. These buildings which include farmhouses, storehouses, lighthouses and many others mostly dates back to the Edo and Meiji periods. I really appreciated the amount of English explanations they had for each structure and was really impressed that even some of the smaller items in these buildings were labeled in English. Most of the descriptions in this post are paraphrased from those labels.

The entrance office itself, the Hamada tomariya (Meeting House of the Young Men of Hamada Village) is a reconstruction of a tomariya originating from the fishing villages in Hata district of Kochi Prefecture. Young males would belong to a young men group called Wakamonogumi, applying membership as young as the age of 15 by presenting sake to their elders. The tomariya serves as a gathering place for the group in which occasionally they are used to spend the night. This custom is no longer in practice and only one original tomariya still exist today in Sukumo city.

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Hamada tomariya

Next is a pretty popular structure – the reconstruction of Iya Kazurabashi, Vine Bridge of Iya Valley. In the Iya Valley of Tokushima Prefectures, vine bridges woven from shirokuchi (actinidia arguta) vines harvested during winters were once a common sight. Upon their defeat at the Battle of Yashima, the Taira clan fled into the mountains and set up ochiudo mura (fugitive villages). It was said that these bridges were built to ease passage in the mountainous region.

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Iya Kazurabashi

Currently, only two of these suspension vine bridges remain in the Iya Valley. The reconstruction seen in Shikoku Mura was designed by vine bridge builders from Iya, though it is reinforced with steel cables. I had the wonderful opportunity to embarrass myself by shrieking when I almost stuck one of my foot in between the bridge. Thank goodness I was the first visitor of the day, so there was only one other couple around to witness that comedic moment.

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Iya Kazurabashi

At the end of the vine bridge is the Shodoshima Kabuki Butai (Shodoshima Kabuki Theatre). Seeing how small Shodoshima is (I can attest to this after driving around almost the entire island), there would not be any Kabuki troupe which would have set up this theatre on the tiny island. Instead, based on the Kabuki shows the islanders saw on the mainland, the farmers themselves built this Kabuki theatre which even includes a revolving stage. The shows are staged twice a year as part of the celebration of rice planting and the harvesting of rice. This amateur production of Kabuki, also called country Kabuki is still performed in a small number of rural villages today.

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Shodoshima Kabuki Butai

Outside the Kabuki theatre and later after the furnace hut are shishigaki, wild boar fences built by farmers to keep the wild boars out of their fields. The shishigaki from Shodoshima and the southern Awa province are particularly known for their height and length. The one seen in the picture below is from the Mito Peninsula of Shodoshima.

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Shishigaki

Lets now look at some of the family houses, starting off with the Yamashita-ke no Jutaku (Yamashita Family House). This house which was given by Yamashita Masuo is a typical example of a farmer’s house in the eastern Sanuki province (current Kagawa prefecture) during the Edo period.

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Yamashita-ke no Jutaku

This type of house was called gururi hachiken (about 48 feet around) due to its rough dimension. The interior is equally divided to separate the farm-work tool and supply storage space and the living/sleeping quarters. Yes, imagine living in a house with a big family and having to spend even your sleeping hours in the same room.

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Yamashita-ke no Jutaku

Another house is the Kono-ke no Jutaku (Kono Family House) given by Kono Kiju. This farmhouse dates back to the early 18th century and was built in the mountains of Ehime prefecture with its floor entirely made of bamboos. Before the house you will first see the naya, a farm storage made of wood and fire-resistant clay walls.

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Kono-ke no Jutaku
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Naya

The house itself is pretty big with two living/sleeping quarters taking up two thirds of the house, each with its own irori (a traditional Japanese sunken hearth). The bamboo floor around the irori is covered in coarse straw mats for comfortable seating.

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Living/sleeping quarters, you can see the irori here

The entranceway and the work-storage space makes up the remaining part of the house. There is also a bark steamer for paper-making, which will be explained further when we reach the kozo mushigoya (bark steaming hut) later.

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Work-storage space

Stay tune to next week’s post where I will cover the sugar mill, the Nanyo tea hall, the lighthouses, and many more structures exhibited in Shikoku Mura.

Info

Admission fee: 1,000 yen (definitely worth it)

Opening hours: 08:30 – 18:00 (17:30 in November till March). Last admission is one hour before closing. No closing days.

You will most likely spend a good amount of time in this massive ‘village’ (translated from ‘Mura’), so be sure to allocate ample of time if you are planning to visit.

As mentioned above, there is a good amount of English labels and explanations for each structure, which was a pleasant surprise since I did not expect this after seeing the lack of foreign tourist in both Shikoku and Yashima.

Official website (Japanese)

Further reading:

Access

The nearest train stations to Shikoku Mura are the Kotoden Yashima Station (5-10 mins walk), and the JR Yashima Station (15 mins walk).

How to get to Kotoden-Yashima Station:

  • From Kotoden Kawaramachi Station, take the Kotoden Shido line (15 mins, 240 yen)

How to get to JR Yashima Station:

  • From Takamatsu Station, take JR Kotoku Line (16 mins, 220 yen)
  • From Tokushima Station, take JR Kotoku Line (2 hours, 1,280 yen). The Limited Express JR Uzushio will cut down the travel time from Tokushima by an hour, but would cost 2,980 yen.

If you are not keen on walking, you can even take the Kotoden bus from any of these stations (timetable here) @ 100 yen (10 mins from JR Yashima Station and 2 mins from Kotoden Yashima Station). The same bus will make a stop at Yashima Sanjo, thus making it a good combined trip.

 

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Author: Jennifer

Hi! I am Jennifer. I enjoy planning my own travels and love traveling in Japan - for the history, nature, temples, and the food! Read more for travel guides of places I have visited.

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