Continuation of Mt.Shosha.
Back at my hostel, the other two guests from the room next door had also just returned from Himeji Castle. They complained about the amount of people and I felt lucky that I had organised my itinerary so I would be there on a weekday instead of a Saturday.
My plan for today was to go to Ako and Bizen as I made my way to sleep in the town of Asakuchi just past Kurashiki, but it was already 2pm by the time I was on the train (after a quick lunch), and later once I arrived to Banshu-Ako Station, so I decided to only include Bizen in the day’s sightseeing and leave Ako for another day when I could enjoy it with more time.
Bizen is a town known for Bizen-yaki, one of the oldest forms of Japanese pottery. It’s main characteristic is its lack of glaze and instead having a more rough and earthy finish. While I don’t really have much of an eye for pottery, seeing so many different pieces through the shop windows and the chimneys used when making them was curious. One of the workshops had pulled the wall off, and I was able to see the shape the kiln must have had.
Kiln’s are filled with the Bizen-yaki (or sometimes tiles or whatever else it is that the person wants to make) at the further end, then the first half of the kiln is filled with firewood. Heat and smoke go up so it passes through the Bizen-yaki and out through the chimney, hardening the pottery in the process. I read that firing bizen-yaki usually takes ten days!
I also saw an old kura house, although I will talk more about that style of architecture tomorrow when I visit Kurashiki.
As soon as I got off the train I hurried to Amatu Shrine before it closed. Usually shrines and temples close at around 5pm and I wanted to add another stamp to my shuincho, but as I got there it turned out to be empty. Working by honour code, I left a 500yen coin next to some other coins and bought a small ema board made out of bizenyaki.
Amatu Shrine was very small but surrounded by pottery of different sizes and shapes, animal figures and covered in bizenyaki tiles on the roof and walls. Having in mind how expensive the pottery is today, this shrine must hold great meaning or sentiments as town members spare no thought on price when making a donation.
I was about to leave when I spotted a statue of Ninomiya Kinjirou (also made fully out of bizenyaki)! This really made my quick stop in Bizen just a little bit better.
From Imbe Station I could see an old tunnel kiln, 500 years old and designated as a national treasure, although if we’re being honest it really just looked like a lump in the ground and I would’ve never guessed it had been a kiln.
I hopped onto the wrong train when leaving, accidentally taking an express to Hiroshima instead of a local, so I had to get off at the next station and wait for the next one to come. But all is well, and I arrived to Konko Station and to my new hostel shortly after without any problems. The hostel I stayed at was my favourite out of all the different ones I have been to.