Mino city in Gifu Prefecture, north of Nagoya, has a long history of washi paper production dating back to the Nara Period (710-794).
Not far from Mino station are two parallel streets of preserved Edo-style houses of former prosperous paper merchants complete with udatsu roofs. udatsu are ornately-tiled firewalls attached to both ends of a dwelling's roof to prevent the spread of fire from house to house.
Wealthy merchants in the town competed with each other to build ever more decorative udatsu. The Kyu-Imai Ke Jutaku is one such merchant house now opened as a museum dedicated to the art of washi production and paper-making techniques.
Mino History Museum (Tel: 0575 33 0021)
Mino hosts an Akari Art Exhibition in mid-October every year. Akari artwork (Japanese washi paper lanterns) presented by members of the public is lit up and exhibited along the historic streets.
During the Hina Matsuri (Dolls Festival) in March many of the houses exhibit collections of Japanese dolls.
Other places of interest in the Mino area are Ogura Castle in Ogura Park with good views of Mino and the Nagara River. The park is also known for its cherry blossoms in spring. Oyada Shrine has colorful maple leaves in autumn.
Before the construction of a railway in the Meiji Period, Mino's paper was shipped by river and at Kawaminato on the Nagara River remains of the former river port can be seen in the shape of a wooden wharf and lighthouse.
Just to the south of Mino on the Nagaragawa Line, Seki City is known for its production of Japanese sword and kitchen knife blades. The Seki Swordsmith Museum (Tel: 0575 23 3825; Hamono-kaikanmae Station) holds demonstrations of Japanese sword forging. The Knife Museum (Tel: 0575 24 2132), housed in a Canadian log house, has a collection of unusual and rare knives from around the world including what is claimed as the world's largest knife.
Mino is accessible in around 1 hour 40 mins to 2 hours from Nagoya Station. Take the JR Chuo Honsen Line to Tajimi (41 minutes), then the JR Ota Line to Mino-Ota (29 minutes), then the Nagaragawa Line to Mino (31 minutes). The Nagaragawa Line continues on to Gujo Hachiman.
By road take the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway north from Ichinomiya to Mino Interchange or National Highway 156 from Gifu city.
Mino City Tourism Division Tel: 0575 33 1122
Festival Happi coats
Japan Mino udatsu Seki Nagoya washi paper Gifu
Tuesday, March 13, 2007