Renowned for its old-style charm, Udatsu Street in the town of Mima is a must-see for anyone wanting to explore authentic Japanese history in a rural setting.
Udatsu Street: Home of Historical Japanese Architecture
The street has been named as one of the 100 special scenic roads of Japan, due to its beautiful Showa and Edo period houses which remain largely in their original condition. It is located in the township of Mima, and the surrounding area gives the impression of being a small agricultural community.
Fruit trees bloom by the side of the train tracks, and rugby posts can be found on a small patch of grass, in a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in rural New Zealand. However, the township itself is unmistakably Japanese, with the historic houses and stately manors along the street revealing the authentic style of old Japan.
Many of the old buildings are beautifully decorated, with family crests, fish, and protective demons decorating the rooftops, and detailed woodwork stealing the show underneath them. The street is very picturesque, and some of the private houses leave their sliding doors open, so that visitors and neighbours alike can peek their head inside and see what’s going on.
For anyone exploring Shikoku in search of traditional Japanese architecture, much of which remains largely unchanged after centuries of continued usage, Mima is a great place to visit.
Similarly, for those who have had enough of the big-city lights of Osaka or Tokyo, visiting Udatsu Street in Mima may be just the relief you’re looking for.
It’s surprising how quickly the atmosphere goes from very rural to (comparatively) bustling the second you begin to walk along the street, with occasional guided tours taking place alongside the local residents strolling around, visiting their neighbours and chatting away while tending to their gardens or shopfronts. The paved but somewhat gravelly path is lined with decorative chrysanthemums, which are impressive and imposing when in bloom.
Authentic Japanese Culture, Both Modern and Traditional
Udatsu Street’s history is steeped in the tradition of indigo dyeing, with the striking blue and white contrast omnipresent around the area once the eye begins to search for it. Even the map of the town layout itself looks like it has been indigo-dyed, and soon it becomes apparent that the tradition has not yet died out, with indigo-related souvenirs and small omiyage available for visitors.
However, the unescapable reality is that time stands still for no community, and while elements of the past can be retained, some things will always have to change. The long street has a mix of historic shops, museum exhibits, homes, and cafes – perhaps most notable of which is Funatoto, which wouldn’t be out of place in a larger city such as Osaka or Kobe.
If you have seen enough beautiful Japanese architecture, with detailed ornamentation and timeless style, consider checking out Funatoto and sampling some of the local organic cuisine. Funatoto is a trendy cafe which has had its interior refurbished, and contains a small souvenir shop as well as an alternative book/zine store called Philbooks.
The contrast between the traditional exterior and the modern cafe culture (think various granola flavours with locally-sourced ingredients, and quality roasted coffee beans) on the inside is an interesting one, and the baked goods are highly recommended.
Another notable aspect of Mima is the friendliness of the local community, and the openness with which they receive visitors. Many locals are obviously passionate about preserving their area’s heritage, and you may well find yourself in a conversation with various shopkeepers or passers-by as you browse the variety of local shops.
The conversations struck up between people here are a reminder that this isn’t just an interesting tourist site – this street is still, after hundreds of years, where people live out their daily lives and forge new connections.
Whether you want an authentic experience of historic Japan, buy high quality produce from a trendy cafe (with the option of donating your change to children in Nepal), or leave a 100 yen coin on a trust-system bench in order to buy a large decorative pinecone, Udatsu Street has you covered.
How to get there:
- The closest railway station is JR Anabuki station. From there, it is recommended to take a taxi to Yoshida ke jyutaku「吉田家住宅」which is one of the most recognisable buildings along Udatsu Street. Click here for an exact route: https://goo.gl/hj5GzJ.
- Getting to Mima takes approximately 80 minutes by car from Takamatsu in Kagawa prefecture, or 40-60 minutes from Tokushima city (depending on whether you use the motorway or local roads.)
- Rental bicycles are available from the local tourist office, and could be worth considering for anyone who wants to bike along the nearby Yoshino River.
A travel writer and wildlife enthusiast currently based in Shikoku, Japan. Having previously lived in New Zealand, I'm especially interested in exploring places with a focus on ecotourism and the natural environment. Highlights of my experience in Japan so far include being mobbed by rabbits on Ōkunoshima, sleeping in a beachside Mongolian yurt on the art island of Naoshima, and countless trips around the many natural wonders of Shikoku.
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