Spectres, Blue and Dancing Too

Posted by on Nov 13, 2011 in Tokushima, Travel Volunteer Journey | 3 Comments
Spectres, Blue and Dancing Too

Truth be told, Tokushima prefecture offers us little we’ve not seen before. That might sound incredibly negative, but bear with me while I explain.
We started today by visiting Aizumicho, a government-endorsed indigo dyeing studio and museum. The technique was imported from China around 800 years ago, and Tokushima has made itself the Japanese home of the rich blue – almost every tourist area has indigo coloured bits and bobs; every restaurant has an indigo drape, dangling across their doorway. We were kindly offered to dye some handkerchiefs and got good and messy trying to recreate the phantom whirlpools from yesterday. However, though it was a lovely experience, it was very similar to our bengara dyeing in Okayama prefecture.

So we moved on to see some Awa dancing. It’s big business here – especially in August when over 350,000 people fill Tokushima city to bursting to watch and join in with the manic traditional dance. The origins of the fervent display aren’t clear, but out favourite explanation is that the whole thing started with an enormous drunken party to celebrate the opening of (the now-defunct) Tokushima castle hundreds of years ago. The dancing is quite a sight, and people – entirely sober – have great fun joining in. For us though? Well way back on day one, we saw some similar dancing, with identical head-dress in Toyama prefecture.

The next stop was in Wakimachi, a town famous for its traditional streets where owners play an endless game of one-upmanship with the size of their udatsu. Originally designed for fire prevention, the blocky re-enforcements soon came to be a symbol of wealth: if you could afford one, especially a big one (and better yet two) then you had announced your success to the rest of the street. For dumb tourists like us, we wouldn’t have noticed them if they hadn’t been pointed out to us – but around here, these things matter. Anyway, the houses look very authentic and there aren’t any power cables hanging over the street, adding to the time travel feel of the place. That’s all very nice, but, y’know, it’s not a million miles away from life in Gifu.

Growing despondent, we moved on and arrived at Oboke. There we came face to face with another shocking (and hilarious) Japanese parenting technique. Here in the hills of “Shikoku’s navel” parents, in order to save kids from themselves, tell stories of sinister spectres who live in the woods and commit an array of heinous deeds. There’s plenty of detail too, including a one-eyed beast who rides a headless horse, hunting any kids who stay after curfew. Just in case you were in any doubt about his intentions, the placard explains that he: “cuts or beats people – to death!” Shocking stuff, but, surely you’ll agree, very similar to the infamous Namahage back in Akita prefecture.

Worried that we were going to have nothing to write about, we were shepherded onto a boat to ride along the emerald green  river below. This tour (or something very like it) has been available in this gorgeous gorge for over 100 years, during most of which the boats have been floating above the same mega carp in the waters below. I almost began to complain that we’ve seen carp all over the country, and gorges, and autumnal colours, too, but then it hit me: all of those other things were spread across hundreds, if not thousands of miles of Japan and it’s taken us 60 days of non-stop travel to see it all. Yet today, in unassuming Tokushima, all if it was found within roughly an hour’s worth of driving.

Good form, Tokushima. Good form.

Our time in Tokushima prefecture was made possible by:

All of the companies mentioned above.

Once again, the tireless efforts of guide and mafia king pin, Mickey Honda.

The driving and organisational skills of local government representatives Mr. Hirotaka Yamazaki and Mr Shiro Ooka (Tokushima) and Mr Ozakai (Miyoshi City).

The sleek and ultra convenient Hotel Clement in Tokushima City. It was really busy while we were there, which is no surprise: great location, comfortable beds and lightning fast internet connection.

Similarly, the maze-like Hotel Hikyounoyu which sits in the middle of the Iyakei valley, proud to be the biggest hotel for miles around. It’s size isn’t its only asset: there’s a great onsen, some excellent dining options and – at least in our experience – some extremely friendly (and perhaps tipsy) septuagenarian guests with whom to discuss the world.

The lovely little soba joint that is Hashimoto in downtown Tokushima City.

Uzo no Michi for laying on the viewing platforms for the whirlpools in the Naruto Straits. And all the staff – not to mention curators – at the sprawling Otsuka Museum of Art. You can read all about both of them, here.

Both the Hotel Kazurabashi for use of their excellent footbath, and Iyaonsen for their open air bath. They each make the most of the superb alkaline water that naturally rises from the earth in this part of Tokushima. Curiously, there’s not even a volcano around to fuel the whole thing…

The Kazura Bashi bridge for being so, well, bridgey. Top bridging, really. Assuming you can find the courage to walk across it, that is.





















  1. Joe Lafferty
    November 13, 2011

    So, for the tourist who is time restricted Yokushima is Japan in miniature?

    • Katy & Jamie
      November 14, 2011

      Yeah, there and neighbouring Kagawa squeeze an awful lot into a very small area.

  2. dance for 3 year olds
    November 14, 2011

    I really appreciate the activities of performing arts. Thanks for posting.