Tradition, Arts and Crafts: 7 Must-Do Activities in Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture

The city of Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture, is well known as the host of the Ube Biennale, an international sculpture contest and exhibition that has taken place every two years since its conception in 1961. However, there’s a lot more to Ube than just its Biennale; from discovering its traditional, artistic side to the area’s rich history and spiritual routes, here are seven reasons why you should include a trip to this amazing city during your next visit to Japan.


Overview
True art appreciation begins with an open mind, and there’s no better way to reach that state than through zen meditation. Your ‘Zazen’ meditation experience takes place at Sourenji, one of Ube’s most important Zen temples. Here, you will learn of the importance of correct posture and the ideal mindset for meditation, which will influence your senses and boost your ability to appreciate Ube’s varied art selection from a fresh, new perspective. You will also have a chance to visit the temple’s Ryushin Garden, designated as a national scenic spot and the oldest garden in the prefecture.

#1: Zen meditation

Pricing
■ Price (tax incl.): ¥3,500/person
Price per person when 4 people participate
■What’s included: Zen meditation experience, access to the garden, English interpreter

Information
■ Implementation period: Full year (limited to days when there are no other events – contact us to confirm)
■ Experience details: Zen meditation (20 min, twice), explanation (30 min), garden visit (20 min)
■ Time required: 90 minutes
■ Number of participants: 4 to 12 people
■ Application deadline: 2 weeks before
■ Attention: If you can’t sit on the floor, we will prepare a chair. Please inform us when booking.
■ Contact information: Sourinji Temple
210-Kogushi, Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture 755-0067
・ ☎︎ 0836-21-1087
sourin-yonyon@camel.plala.or.jp
■ Access: Approximately 25 minutes on foot from JR Ube Line – Ube Shinkawa Station.
You can take a bus from the station until Kosugi bus stop, from the stop it’s a 5-minute walk.


Overview
There a particular statue on the Ube Biennale hill called the “Ant Castle”, which is beloved by Ube citizens and considered a true symbol for the city. During this experience, you will have a chance to meditate before the Ant Statue in order to fully understand and appreciate it.
Contemplating all aspects of the statue as you empty your mind may seem somewhat of an oximoron, but in reality both art and meditation start from a condition of “nothingness”, which you will come to understand as you take part in the experience whilst surrounded by the park’s natural beauty.
After the meditation, take a stroll through the park’s 200 sculptures and listen to your guide’s descriptive commentary – you’re sure to find a favourite piece amongst the display.

#2: Meditation and sculptures tour

Pricing
■ Price (tax incl.): ¥2,700/person
Price per person when 4 people participate
■What’s included: Zen meditation experience, sculpture guide, English interpreter

Information
■ Implementation period: Full year (limited to days when there are no other events – contact us to confirm)
■ Experience details: Zen meditation (30 min), sculptures tour (60 min)
■ Time required: 90 minutes
■ Number of participants: 4 to 12 people
■ Application deadline: 2 weeks before
■ Attention: Please come to the Biennale hill. This is an outdoor experience which starts and ends there. You can add lunch for a ¥1,000 fee – please ask to the guide.
■ Contact information: Sourinji Temple
・ ☎︎ 0836-21-1087
sourin-yonyon@camel.plala.or.jp
■ Experience place: Tokiwa Park
3-4-1 Norisada, Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, 755-0003
・ ☎︎ 0836-54-0551
■ Access: Approximately 15 minutes on foot from JR Ube Line – Tokiwa Station.
From Ube Shinkawa Station, take the bus line Hagiwara Line/Hagiwara Circuit Line and get off at Tokiwa Park bus stop, or take the Tobushinai Circuit Line/Meguriina and get off at Tokiwa Park or Tokiwa Museum bus stops.


Overview

Ube’s Ono Tea plantation is Japan’s largest, with a rich green carpet of tea leaves extending as far as the eye can see and surrounded by gentle hills unique to the area’s geographical landscape.
During this activity, you will have the chance to truly immerse yourself in the tea plantation experience; learn about about tea growing and the production process with the aid of a Yamaguchi Tea Industry guide, then enjoy a fresh, delicious cup of green tea that pleases all the senses. After the plantation tour, you will have the chance to explore the tea factory and and also to purchase tea leaves or the plantation’s processed products.

#3: Yamaguchi tea industry, Ono tea

Pricing
■ Price (tax incl.): ¥12,000/group
■What’s included: Tea plantation tour, tea factory tour, English interpreter

Information
■ Implementation period: Full year
■ Experience details: Tea plantation tour & lecture (20 min), factory tour (20 min), tea tasting and shopping (20 min)
■ Time required: 80 minutes
■ Number of participants: 4 to 12 people
■ Application deadline: 2 weeks before
■ Attention: This is an outdoor experience which starts at the tea plantation and ends at the tea factory. A car is needed to transfer from the plantation to the factory.
■ Contact information: Yamaguchi Tea Industry Co., Ltd.
152-13 Obe, Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
・ ☎︎ 0836-64-2116
ono@onocha.com


Overview

The history of the Akama Inkstone is believed to date back over 900 years to the days when Akama stones were collected from a nearby mountain and inkstones made from them were considered a truly precious gift.
Today, the Akama Inkstone Workshop is known as of the leading crafters of Yamaguchi Prefecture and its products have been selected as souvenirs for the Tokyo Olympic games.
During this experience, you will learn how to sharpen Akama Inkstones during the production process, which consists of five major steps: quarrying, edging, shaving, carving and polishing.
The finished, original inkstone can be used not only as a tool for calligraphy, but also as a paper weight or accessory stand.
A more relaxed “light plan” is also available.

#4: Inkstone making

Regular plan

Pricing
■ Price (tax incl.): ¥10,500/one person
plus ¥5,000 for any additional person
■What’s included: Inkstone making experience, material, English interpreter (price for up to 5 people)
■What’s not included: Shipping fees for your inkstone (you can get it finished with lacquer and then shipped)

Information
■ Implementation period: Full year (10:00-15:00)
■ Experience details: Lecture and inkstone making experience
■ Time required: 5 hours (2 hours of experience, 1 hour of lunch break, final 2 hours of experience)
■ Number of participants: 5 to 12 people
■ Application deadline: 2 weeks before
■ Attention: The experience venue is “Mankura Fureai Center”.
You can have lunch at “Kusunoki Komorebi no Sato” which is just a 3-minute walk.

Light plan

Pricing
■ Price (tax incl.): ¥10,000/one person
plus ¥5,000 for any additional person
■What’s included: Manufacturing experience, material, workshop tour, English interpreter (price for up to 2 people)
■What’s not included: Shipping fees for your inkstone (you can get it finished with lacquer and then shipped)

Information
■ Implementation period: Full year
■ Experience details: Explanation video (20 min), workshop tour (20 min) and manufacturing experience (40 min)
■ Time required: 80 minutes
■ Number of participants: 2 to 4 people
■ Application deadline: 2 weeks before

■ Contact information: Akama Tsuzuri no Sato
・ ☎︎ 0836-67-0641


Overview

Calligraphy is a traditional Japanese art form, drawing beautiful Japanese characters known as ‘Kanji’ with a brush dipped in deep black ink. During this experience, you will have the chance to practice Calligraphy using Ube’s iconic Akama inkstones, under the watchful eye of an instructor who will not only teach you how to direct your brush, but also introduce you to the mindset and spirit of the practice.
Try your hand at writing your favorite words on Japanese paper and create your own bookmark which you can then take home with you as a keepsake.
After the experience, there will be time to rest and enjoy some traditional matcha tea and Japanese sweets at the venue, Kamanota no Megumi.

#5: Calligraphy experience using Akama inkstone

Pricing
■ Price (tax incl.): ¥8,500/person
Price per person when 4 people participate
■What’s included: Calligraphy experience, material, food and drinks, English interpreter

Information
■ Implementation period: Full year
■ Experience details: Calligraphy experience and bookmark creation (2 hours), light meal (30 min)
※ If there is enough time, you can also experience other Japanese culture’s aspects for free like wearing a kimono.
■ Time required: 2 hours 30 minutes
■ Number of participants: 1 to 10 people
■ Application deadline: 10 days before
■ Contact information: Kamata no Megumi
1-6-50 Nakamura, Nakamura, Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture 755-0072
・ ☎︎ 0836-32-1824
ohagi333@galaxy.ocn.ne.jp


Overview

Starting at the “Forest of Learning Kusunoki” Museum and walking right around Funaki post-town, this tour will take you to the Okazaki Hachimangu Shrine – one of the only four shrines in Japan with a license for brewing sake.
After admiring the statues and traditional styles of the Edo period shrines, temple and architecture that still remain in Funaki post-town, you will then visit the “Tamashige Koto Workshop”, which will be the tour’s final destination.
At the workshop, master craftsman Akihiko Tamashige will give you a detailed explanation and lecture regarding the history of the Koto (Japanese harp) and the way it is made. Visitors will have the chance to freely explore the workshop, and also to enjoy a special live Koto performance.

#6: Funakijuku Walk and visit to Tamashige Koto Factory

Pricing
■ Price (tax incl.): ¥15,000/group
■What’s included: Tour guide, Koto workshop tour, English interpreter

Information
■ Implementation period: Full year
■ Experience details: Guided walk tour of the post-town Funaki and Okazaki Hachimangu Shrine (80 min)
Hatamiya-post town), workshop tour and performance at Tamashige Koto Factory (60 min)
■ Time required: 2 hours 20 minutes
■ Number of participants: 4 to 6 people
■ Application deadline: 4 weeks before
■ Attention: This activity includes an outdoor experience, and starts and finishes in the Funakijuku area. You can add lunch for a ¥1,000 fee – please ask to the guide.
■ Contact information: Essence
・ ☎︎ 0836-39-9611 or 090-3178-6811
vizio@nifty.com


Overview

The Japanese believe that there is a special link between sake and the art of Kagura, with both dedicated to the Gods and used in prayers for good harvest and against disease.
In the first half of this experience, you will learn about the brewing process of “Ki”, Ube City’s world-famous sake. There will also be a chance to taste the product for yourself, savoring a taste born from the partnership of locally sourced rice and water.
Part two will involve a live Iwato Kagura dance show, held in the brewery by the local Kagura group which refunded in 2018. Made up of mainly local high school students and volunteers, the magnificent routines and performance of this group against the dark, dimly lit backdrop of a brewery which has been designated a tangible cultural property makes for a truly unforgettable experience.

#7: Visit to Nagayama Honke Sake Brewery
and Iwato Kagura dance performance

Pricing
■ Price (tax incl.): ¥48,000/group
■What’s included: Brewery tour, sake tasting, Kagura dance performance, English interpreter

Information
■ Implementation period: Full year during weekends and holidays
■ Experience details: Sake brewery tour (40 min), Iwato Kagura dance (40 min), sake tasting (20 min)
■ Time required: 1 hour 40 minutes
■ Number of participants: 6 to 12 people
■ Application deadline: 30 days before
■ Attention: Please come directly to the Nagayama Honke Sake Brewery. During the Winter season, please ensure to wear warm clothes. We may also ask you to wear a mask during the influenza season.
Minors (under 20 years) cannot do the tasting.
■ Contact information: Iwato Kagura Dance Reconstruction Committee
・ ☎︎ 0836-67-0201
magurac1@city.ube.yamaguchi.jp
■ Experience place: Nagayama Honke Sake Brewery
138-01, Oaza, Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture 759-0133
・ ☎︎ 0836-62-0088

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