Join us on a tour to Ube, a city where the traditions and crafts of the past intertwine with modern art and industrial heritage.
- Trip Outline
Situated in Yamaguchi Prefecture, there’s far more to the city of Ube than first meets the eyes. Having played host to the internationally-renowned Ube Biennale Sculpture Competition every 2 years since its conception in 1961 (first held as a way of revitalising the area after the destruction of World War II), the city is home to a wealth of artisans and craftsmen who strive to keep the traditional crafts and arts of Japan alive.
As you make your way across Ube on this short tour, you’ll have several special opportunities to learn more about the trades and crafts of which the local community is so proud; from making your very own Akama Inkstone to sampling the produce of a local sake brewery, there will be plenty of hands-on experiences to help you explore the region from a truly special perspective.
Of course, no trip to Ube would be complete without taking part in one of the city’s authentic meditation sessions or a visit to the famous Tokiwa Park to see the amazing works of art on display there. Luckily for you, this tour provides plenty of chances to do both - in fact, you’ll even have an opportunity to combine the two for a truly unforgettable experience that will stay with you long after you return back home.
- Find inner peace during a special meditation session at Tokiwa Park, surrounded by the amazing Ube Biennale Sculpture Competition entries displayed there
- Learn how tea is grown, processed and prepared on a tour of the local Ono Tea Plantation
- Try your hand at crafting one of the area’s most iconic products at an Akama Inkstone workshop, then use one for yourself during a calligraphy lesson
- Sample the sake produced at a local brewery with a local group of performers specialising in Kagura, a sacred form of dance-based worship used to entertain Shinto gods for over 1300 years
- Visit a Koto harp workshop to learn more about how the instruments are built, then enjoy a special performance to hear just how beautiful this iconic instrument really is
This tour will begin at the Ubeshinkawa station, where your guide will meet you from your train and take you to a local restaurant for lunch and a friendly introduction to your trip (other starting locations can be arranged). Well-fed and no doubt eager to get started, you will then travel to Sourinji Temple by microbus for a special zen meditation session guided by a temple priest. This will be followed by tea, a stroll around the temple’s beautiful garden, and the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about meditation or temple life a whole.
Next, the microbus will take you to the iconic Tokiwa Park, where entries from the most recent Ube Biennale Sculpture Competition are displayed for all to view. Enjoy a tour of the park before continuing the peaceful elements of your day with another unique mediation session, surrounded by all the wonderful artworks.
In the evening you will check in to your accommodation before heading to a local Izakaya Japanese Pub for a delicious dinner and plenty of time to unwind and discuss the day’s events.
After breakfast on day two, you’ll travel by microbus to the Ono Tea Plantation. Here, you’ll have a chance to see the plantations, learn about how tea is grown, and even tour the factory to witness the production process that takes place there. At the end of your experience, you’ll have the opportunity to taste some of the local, fresh tea for yourself before boarding the microbus once again and heading on to your next activity.
At Kusunoki Komorebi Town, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a truly relaxing bath in an onsen hot spring - a tradition that the Japanese have considered an important part of life for centuries thanks to the healing and rejuvenating properties that onsen baths are believed to possess. Your bath will then be followed by a visit to the adjacent farmhouse restaurant to fill up on a delicious, freshly-cooked lunch.
In the afternoon, you’ll visit the workshop of one of Ube’s special craftsmen to learn more about Akama Inkstone, a calligraphy tool produced only in the local area and popular among professional calligraphers as a truly high-quality item. Having tried your hand at crafting one for yourself, you’ll then enjoy a calligraphy lesson to practice this famous Japanese art form for yourself.
Returning to your accommodation in the evening by minibus, you will enjoy another lovely dinner before some free time to relax and make use of the facilities before bed.
Make sure to fill up on breakfast on the final day of your tour, as the first stop of the day will be to the Nagayama Honke Sake Brewery. Here you’ll learn more about how sake is made during a special factory tour, followed by some time to taste and sample the brewery’s wares. You won’t simply be enjoying the drinks during this experience, however - at the brewery, you’ll also have the opportunity to watch a special performance of Kagura (a traditional form of dance-based worship used to entertain the Shinto gods for over 1300 years), with the local performers joining you for the tasting session afterwards.
Next, you’ll travel to Funaki Juku via microbus for a walking tour of the area. Your guide will introduce you to the traditional architecture and statues of the town as you walk; if you have any questions about Funaki Juku, it’s history or even just daily life in rural Japan, feel free to ask!
The final activity of your special tour to Ube will be a visit to a local, well-established Koto Harp workshop, Here, you can watch a family of master artisans build the instruments following methods that have been passed down for several generations, before enjoying a special live performance - the best way to experience the beautiful sounds of such a well-made harp.
When your time at the Koto workshop has come to an end, the microbus will take you back to Ubeshinkawa station, where your tour began and where it will now end. As you return home or continue on your journey, we hope that you’ll fondly remember the experiences you’ve had during your tour, and that your time in the wonderful city of Ube will remain with you forever.
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