Yokkaichi in Mie Prefecture on the Kintetsu and JR Lines west of Nagoya Station is definitely off the beaten track.
Best known as an oil-refining city, you can smell the petrol from Yokkiachi's refineries if the prevailing breeze is blowing inshore. Thankfully on the day we visited it wasn't. Yokkaichi means "four days market" and was a thriving international port in the late 19th century. During the 1960s the chemical industries in town gave rise to Yokkaichi zensoku - a kind of asthma caused by the sulphur emissions from the town's many chemical plants.
Congested during the week, Yokkaichi is pleasantly relaxed on Saturdays and Sundays. I could not find a tourist office at either the Kintetsu or JR station, separated by about 700m on the town's grand boulevard, so I gave up sightseeing and just walked the town.
Unless you draw the short straw and are posted here as a JET assistant high school teacher or lecture at the respected but failing Yokkaichi University, there is little reason to visit.
Highlights of town include a good tobacco shop in the indoor shopping arcade, exceptional manhole covers and er...not much else.
One stop out of town on the Kintetsu Line towards Nagoya to the east is the Banko Pottery Center (Tel: 0593 30 2020; closed Mondays), a short walk left out of Karawamachi Station. There is a pottery store and a hands-on workshop on making your own ceramics. The nearby river is the local cherry blossom viewing spot.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008