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Beautiful Town of Red Ochre “Fukiya Furusato Village”

Beautiful Town of Red Ochre
“Fukiya Furusato Village”

DATA
Fukiya Furusato Village (Fukiya Elementary School)
838-2 Nariwacho Fukiya, Takahashi, Okayama

Streets of red

Located in the mid-western part of Okayama Prefecture in the mountains at an altitude of 550 meters, is a town unified in red ochre. The streets are lined with traditional merchant homes and townhouses with rust colored ”Sekishugawara” roof tiles and red ochre lattices painted with “Bengara” color pigment made from oxidized iron. It is “Fukiya Furusato Village” in Nariwachofukiya of Takahashi city.
This is a town which flourished as the biggest copper mining town in the Chugoku region from the 17th century to the 19th century. The town also prospered during mid to late 19th century as the only production site in Japan for a red pigment called ”Bengara” which is a byproduct of coal mining. The amazing thing about the streets of Fukiya is that the town was built under a unified concept by resulting from discussions among wealthy business owners. Heads of shrine carpenters were specifically invited from Sekishu (Shimane Prefecture) for the work.
Fukiya is not only a town with many old buildings. It has a sense of advanced and inventive urban planning. The town has been used for movies such as Seishi Yokomizo’s “Yatsuhakamura”, “Gokumonto” and “Hadakanotaisho” for its beauty. It was designated as Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings, and so the streets are preserved as they were in the olden days.

Elementary school in lights

Unfortunately, Nakata arrived at Fukiya Furusato Village after sundown and could not fully enjoy the sight of the town, but was able to see the illuminated Fukiya Elementary School building. Fukiya Elementary School is actually the oldest working wooden school building in Japan. It is illuminated from dusk to 9 pm. The dignified and nostalgic atmosphere does not seem like a school building at first glance.
The fact that a 100 year old building can still be used is an indication of the quality of the materials. The elementary school was built during the height of Fukiya’s prosperity. The building is large considering the overall size of the village, and is made with elaborate design such as coved ceiling. It is a building which represents Fukiya.
There were only 5 students in 2005, but students, guardians, PTA and graduates collaborate in local activities at the school. An example of their activity is making calendars of carefully carved wood prints depicting historical and tourist spots in the area.

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