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van-island Ikuno - A travel report by Corey
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Ikuno,  Japan - flag Japan -  Hyðgo
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van-island's travel reports

Ikuno Town, rural Japan at its finest

  15 votes
Step away from the bright lights of big city Japan and see how the other half lives. While Tokyo may be a smorgasbord of sights and sounds, it's worth checking out the slower paced Japan as well!


Ikuno as seen from the remains of Ikuno Castle.
Ikuno as seen from the remains of Ikuno Castle.
Ikuno is a small town of 5000 in the mountains of central Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Unlike other small rural towns surrounding it, Ikuno doesn't derive its income from agriculture; rather it has a long history as an industrial town, despite the fact that it's located fairly far from Japan's major cities. The town's first industry, mining, began around the year 807, when silver was discovered in the mountains around the town. The mine that resulted was in active operation for over a millenium, producing copper and silver, serving as a POW camp during WWII, and only ceasing production when it was closed by Mitsubishi in the 1970's. Ikuno currently has factories producing a range of products such as shoes, pumps, silicon for electronics, with Mitsubishi as the the main company in the town. However, despite its lack of agriculture, Ikuno isn't a dirty industrial town; its real charm is in its unique location in a mountain valley, its historical streets and friendly people.

Favourite spots:
A Shinto shrine surrounded by cherry blossoms on Ikuno's back streets.
A Shinto shrine surrounded by cherry blossoms on Ikuno's back streets.
While the former silver mine is a tourist favourite, Ikuno has a range of other interesting spots worth checking out. In the summer, Uogataki waterfall serves as the local swimming hole and is a great place for a picnic, (although it's a stretch without a car) however the downtown Ikuno area also has some sights of interest. A 30 minute hike nearby takes you to where Ikuno castle used to stand on top of a mountain overlooking Ikuno pass, where the castle served to protect the silver mine for the samurai lords who ruled the area. In the centre of town, you can tour a tradional rural Japanese home, complete with garden and various antiques from ages past. Everywhere in Ikuno is like a blast into Japan's past, with small streets winding past tiny temples and traditional houses.

What's really great:
Shrines wind through the narrow streets.
Shrines wind through the narrow streets.
If you can make it at the end of September, the Autumn Festival is a sight to behold. In a day-long stamina test, groups from all over town hoist 2 tonne shrines onto their shoulders, and at the end of the day have lifting showdowns in front of the elementary school in the centre of town. An amazing array of sights, colours and noise, the fanfare as the shrines are carried into the festival grounds is great. You can even arrange to participate in the festival for the day if you know the right people... (wink wink) Be warned however, if you're one of the lifters, the shrine can do a number on your shoulder! The summer festival at the end of July is also a more relaxed way to experience Ikuno, definitely sample the festival foods available from a variety of stalls.

Accommodations:
Snow encrusted town, Ichi River, Ikuno Town.
Snow encrusted town, Ichi River, Ikuno Town.
Ikuno is an easy day trip away from Himeji, or even Kobe and Osaka for that matter, so you might not even need a hotel, but if you do, the Kassel Resort in the highlands behind Ikuno is a great place to stay. You can play a round of golf and enjoy the mountain view, and you're still within 5 minutes of Ikuno. If you decide on a day trip, it's only 50 minutes by train from Himeji, or 1.5 - 2 hours from the Kobe/Osaka area.

Nightlife:
While there are no nightclubs in Ikuno, the famous Nana-Warai (7 Laughs) makes up for that. An izakaya (Japanese-style pub) in the centre of town, it only seats about 15 people, but every time I went there things got crazy! After a few beers, the locals are open, friendly, and eager to learn about you and where you come from. There is always someone ready to dust of their English and try for some cross-cultural communtication as well. It was a rare night that someone didn't buy me a round or two, and the food is excellent as well. Nana-Warai is actually built out of a back room in the owners house, and on a trip to the washroom you can often see his kids or mother watching TV in the next room! In any case, everyone is friendly as heck, and it sure beats the chain izakayas in the city. Directly across the street is a cool little bakery where you can pick up a croissant or two for breakfast should you decide to stay the night.

Restaurants:
You can count all the restaurants in town on one hand, but a few recommendations are lunch at the Silver Mine restaurant; they do an excellent "Hamburg" steak set meal. Also is a little okonomiyaki restaurant about 30 seconds from Ikuno Station. Just walk out the station entrance, past the roundabout, and it's about halfway between the station and the river. Very cheap okonomiyaki, and a great home cooking atmosphere. The owners are super nice as well.

Other recommendations:
The train from Himeji to Ikuno.
The train from Himeji to Ikuno.
I lived in Ikuno for two years as a JET Programme partcipant. Although I've now moved on to Kobe, there are always two JET English teachers living in Ikuno, and are easily contacted if you e-mail the Ikuno Board of Education (now the Asago City Board of Ed, thanks to amalgamation of four towns into Asago City). Most JETs are happy to show visitors around; in fact it's part of their jobs as foreign ambassadors in the towns they live in. Tokyo is great, but give the rest of Japan a shot too!

info@city.asago.hyogo.jp

Published on Friday September 15th, 2006


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Sun, Sep 24 2006 - 05:33 PM rating by st.vincent

An evening in the Nana-Warai sounds like great fun. Nice report, thanks

Sun, Sep 24 2006 - 09:04 AM rating by marianne

Corey,
Very good report and photos

Sat, Sep 23 2006 - 01:39 PM rating by bootlegga

Ahhh, this broughtback memories of my time in 'inaka'. Excellent report!

Thu, Sep 21 2006 - 02:36 PM rating by tokyomike

Nice one! I wonder how much the Kessei Resort is. I'd hate to go there and find I had to spend my as-yet-non-existent child's college fund for a night and a dip in the hot springs. ;) But it sounds like a very nice place to visit for people who have yet to see the quiet side of Japan. But tell the truth now...you're happy to be back in the big city, right? Great report, bud!

Sat, Sep 16 2006 - 08:08 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

nice report .

Sat, Sep 16 2006 - 01:10 AM rating by eirekay

Wonderful Report on a place I had never heard of. Nicely done!

Fri, Sep 15 2006 - 06:15 PM rating by davidx

Really good interesting report. s you say, it gives a different picture of Japan from the usual one. Some good pictures.

Fri, Sep 15 2006 - 03:20 PM rating by rangutan

Very interesting cultural tips and a wonderful first report at GLOBO. Well done and hope to see more reports like this from Japan or otherwise....

Fri, Sep 15 2006 - 01:38 PM rating by mrscanada

How did you get a picture of a bullet train without people in it?

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