Itinerary Guide: Explore the Japanese Town Where Bizen Swords Are Made
Not much has changed in the traditional town.
Bizen Fukuoka was the largest marketplace in the Sanyo region during the Middle Ages and was once a distribution base for Bizen swords. It is also famous for being the home of acclaimed swordsmiths (not limited to the school of Ichimonji) and a number of military commanders, particularly Takamasa Kuroda, the great grandfather of Kanbei Kuroda. When Kanbei moved to Kyushu, he named the area after his hometown, which then became the Fukuoka Prefecture we know today.
Historical structures stand in rows at this unique town.
Bizen Fukuoka is a town that’s said to be “difficult to invade and easy to defend.” The town has a pleat-like landscape, featuring lots of blind curves and nooks where people can hide. Touring the area will easily bring you back in time with its various historical buildings lining the streets.
Want to explore the town further? Follow our itinerary below!
Attend a workshop at Bizen Fukuoka Folk Center.
Bizen Fukuoka Folk Center, which is found in the town of Bizen Fukuoka, holds a wooden katana model assembly workshop (¥1,000) on the 4th Sunday of November at the same time as the Fukuoka no Oichi (big Fukuoka market). Through this workshop, you can easily learn and understand the structure of Japanese swords.
Bizen Fukuoka Folk Center is located at 758 Osafunecho Fukuoka, Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture. It is open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays, as well as, every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month (schedules may vary). You may contact the Setouchi City Tourist Information at +81-869-34-9500 for more information.
Admire the beautiful artworks at Nakazaki Residence Museum.
The Nakazaki Residence is a mansion that was built from the Meiji era to the Taisho era. Its total cost was 20 times that of a typical house in the market at the time. Modern designs, such as Western-style rooms and glass windows, were incorporated in the building. While all of the rooms inside are beautiful, the second-floor room is the most famous area in the mansion.
Tour around the wonderful Nakazaki Residence.
A painting of sparrows by Fukuoka artist Hosen Higashihara is hung there. Fun Fact: Some of the sparrows from this painting has flown away and can be found in different spots around the city!
Painting by Hosen Higashihara
Illustrations of sparrows spotted around the city
Nakazaki Residence Museum is located at 688 Osafunecho Fukuoka, Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture. It is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Entrance fee costs ¥200 (SHS students and below have free entrance). You may contact the Setouchi City Tourist Information at +81-869-34-9500 for more information.
Taste homemade udon bowls at Ichimonji Udon.
Ichimonji Udon is among the pride of Fukuoka. The restaurant stays true to its commitment of making everything homemade, especially its noodles, through wheat cultivation, flour milling, and noodle making. You can also pair their udon bowls with tempura made with local vegetables.
Apart from that, the original chirashi sushi (rice bowl topped with chopped sashimi and other ingredients such as cucumber and eggs), known as dodomese, is highly recommended. A set meal of dodomese and udon costs ¥1,000.
Dodomese, the original chirashi sushi, costs ¥1,000 with udon.
The scent of the soup stock drifting outside the store will invite you to dine inside and try their dishes.
The aroma of the soup stock will raise your expectations.
Bizen Fukuoka Ichimonji Udon is located at 1588-1 Osafunecho Fukuoka, Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture. It is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays to Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays to Sundays and holidays. It is closed every Wednesday and every 1st and 3rd Tuesday. You may contact them at +81-869-26-2978.
Visit the graveyard of the Sengoku era daimyo at Myokoji Temple.
Myokoji Temple, built in 1403, once had 10 monk’s quarters. The compound has a memorial tower of the grandfather and great grandfather of Kanbei Kuroda. This is also where the burial ground of the Ukita family, a daimyo from the Sengoku era, is found.
History fans, especially those of Kanbei, can’t miss the chance to visit this place. You’ll notice that a historical atmosphere remains on the grounds, made even stronger by the graves of the Kuroda and the Ukita families behind the temple. Tip: If you come with a volunteer guide, you might be allowed to see the inner halls!
Enjoy the place’s historical atmosphere.
Be one of the fortunate people to get a glimpse of the halls inside the temple.
Myokoji Temple is located at 684 Osafunecho Fukuoka, Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture. You may contact them at +81-869-26-2024.
Go shopping at the Bizen Fukuoka no Ichi market.
If you want to experience more of the culture of Bizen Fukuoka, you can drop by the Bizen Fukuoka no Ichi market. It is a recreation of the Fukuoka no Ichi market, as depicted in the national treasure Ippen Shonin Eden (Illustrated Biography of the Monk Ippen). This is held on the fourth Sunday of each month. Locally produced items and food are packed side by side, making you feel the liveliness of Fukuoka as a commercial town.
Bizen Fukuoka no Ichi is lined with stalls selling different products.
Bizen Fukuoka no Ichi is held in Osafunecho Fukuoka, Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture every 4th Sunday of the month. You may contact the organizers at +81-869-26-2978.
Buy food products at Meitou Miso Honpo.
Meitou Miso Honpo sells additive-free, homemade miso. Originally, they sold koji (malt), but the successor became interested in something else and studied the science of fermentation and brewing. Thus, the shop was transformed into a miso specialty store.
A variety of fermented goods, like shio koji (salt marinated rice malt), root of miso, and soy sauce called hishio, are added to the flavorful but not too salty miso. In addition to this, the sweet Koji Nectar (150g), made with 100% ground malted rice, is also available.
Koji Nectar (¥270 for 150 grams)
Meitou Miso Honpo is located at 14-3 Osafunecho Haji, Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Sundays and holidays. You may contact them at +81-869-26-2065.
Tour around town using bikes from the Miyake Bicycle Rental Shop.
Renting bicycles is a must when touring Osafune. You can do this at the Miyake Bicycle Rental Shop located in front of Osafune Station.
Once you find a bicycle that you like, you can go and see the city right away. By doing this, you can appreciate the historic sites better as compared to riding a taxi or car.
See more of Osafune by renting a bicycle at the Miyake Bicycle Rental Shop.
Miyake Bicycle Rental Shop is located at 118-1 Osafunecho Haji, Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture. It is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except Wednesdays. Rental fee costs ¥300 per day. You may contact them at +81-869-26-4301.
Sign up for a tour.
If you’re not too confident traveling around on your own, you can also opt to hire a volunteer guide who has a thorough knowledge of the place. Volunteer guides will be happy to tell you about the beauty of the town, the stories behind the stone monuments left by swordsmiths, and the origins of the traditional buildings in the vicinity.
Take note that reservation is required at the Setouchi City Tourist Information five days before your arrival. One tour lasts about an hour.
Listen to the commentary of the volunteer guide as you roam the city.
You may contact the Setouchi City Tourist Information at +81-869-34-9500. Reservation is necessary at least 5 days before arrival.
When going to Osafune, go down Osafune Station via the JR Ako Line after riding the train or bullet train in Osaka City. This will take about one and a half hours. If you’re going by car, it will take around two hours on the Chugoku Expressway via Sanyo Expressway and 25 minutes from the Bizen Interchange.
Provided by Japan Walker™, Walkerplus™, and Kansai Walker™ (3 January 2020)