In October 2014, we stumbled upon a small shop in the shopping centre Tokyo Midtown. Utensils, furniture, cloths, and other miscellaneous household items were on display on wooden shelves and stands. Merchandises were displayed in clusters according to brands from different parts of Japan. The design of that attractive small shop in the middle of a high-end shopping arcade, according designer Yusuke Seki, was inspired by shotengai (traditional shopping street). We stayed at the shop for quite some time, and ended up picking up a blue umbrella with a nice wooden handle. At its underside, there was a small label with an illustration of two deer and a traditional logo saying Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten (中川政七商店). Later on, we did some online research and realized that Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten originates in Nara, and has been around for three centuries.
Opened in 1716, Nara’s Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten just celebrated its 300th anniversary. Originally, the small Nara shop produced hand woven textiles for samurai and monk ceremonial robes. The textile was known as Narazashi, or sarashi bleached hemp textile. During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the society went through a dramatic change. Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten was forced to diversify its focus on other products such as table cloths and handkerchief. Entering the modern age, the shop defied all odds of modernization, persistently remained faithful to its traditional techniques and craftsmanship. Nakagawa, the 13th president who joined the family business in the last 15 years or so, tested the potentials of his traditional shop to a new level. Not only did he opened new shops outside of Nara like Tokyo and Osaka, Nakagawa also re-branded the company, and gave new life to old products such as using the old technique of mosquito net making for the new best selling fukin (Japanese style table cloth). Furthermore, Nakagawa proactively engaged in fruitful collaborations with other craft companies across the country to come up with new brands and merchandises suitable for the contemporary era.
This time around, we were in Nara after a long day of temple hoping. We promised ourselves that we couldn’t leave the city without visiting the Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店), the flagship store of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten located at a tranquil alleyway near Sanjo Dori. At one corner of the shop, several merchandises commemorating the 300th anniversary of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten were on display. A beige cloth with beautiful embroidery was a reproduction of their 1925 product exhibited at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, the design world fair that gave birth to Art Deco. 90 years on, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten is still standing at the crossroad between the old and new, advocating a good mix of traditional crafts and contemporary aesthetics. At their 300th anniversary, their locally made fabrics and household merchandises are as cool and modern as ever.
The subtle wooden machiya (町屋) facade of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop provides a perfect fit for the shop that advocates high quality local crafts and products.
The design of Yu Nakagawa is a comfortable blend of traditional and contemporary elements.
The signage of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店) with the iconic deer symbolizing the city of Nara.
Rows of colourful textiles behind the cashier counter attracted our attention right from the beginning.
Cloths, bags, paper products, socks, scarfs, utensils, etc were on display in the pleasant interior.
Most items on display came from their own brands, such as 2&9, their line of well made socks.
It was already dark by the time we left Yu Nakagawa Main Shop.
Before we left Nara, we also stopped by Nipponichi (日本市) at Sanjo Dori. Nipponichi is also a brand from Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten focused on selling Japanese made souvenirs.
Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan
As the eastern terminus of the former Silk Road, Changan (now Xian) of the Tang Dynasty was a melting pot of different cultures and religions. A number of Middle Eastern and Central Asian religions entered China during that time, some of which had survived and remained strong even today. Dated back to many centuries, Xian’s Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque revealed an interesting cultural fusion that is not commonly seen in other parts of China. Xian’s Great Mosque is the largest mosque in China. The buildings in the traditional courtyard complex were mainly constructed in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644). Earlier religious complexes, Tanmingsi and Huihui Wanshansi, were established on the same site dated as far back as the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Our taxi dropped us off at one end of the Muslim Quarter, where we began our brief meandering through the crowded Muslim market streets and alleyways before reaching the Great Mosque. From the first glance, the mosque looked very similar to a traditional Chinese courtyard complex, consisting of houses, pavilions, pagodas, gardens, and courtyards. We took our time to wander around the courtyards. As we looked closely at the building decorations, we could find Islam functions and design elements incorporated in the traditional Chinese architecture, with the most obvious being the Arabic inscriptions on walls. The entire complex faces west towards Mecca. Artefacts related to Chinese Islam were on displayed in some of the buildings that were open to visitors. However, the largest prayer hall at the far end of the complex was restricted for Muslims only. We could only peek through the doors to have a glimpse of the colourful carpets and delicate wooden screens in the hall, where worshipers would have prayers sessions. It was interesting to see the fusion of Islam and Chinese design elements combined into one single complex. Before sunset, we left the Great Mosque behind for our last designation in Xian, the Ming city walls.
We entered the Muslim Quarter from the main market street.
There is still a significant population of Muslims in Xian.
Cars, motorcycles, and people packed the main market street.
The market street of Xian’s Muslim Quarter is a good place for people watching.
An awfully tall steamer in front of a local eatery.
A street vendor put different topping on a local dessert called “jing gao” which is a steamed glutinous rice cake.
A wonton vendor managing her charcoal stove.
Lamb skewers vendors could be seen everywhere.
The entrance gate of Xian’s Great Mosque.
The interior of an old study room looks very much like a traditional Chinese house, but all the paintings and calligraphy on displayed were Islam related.
Islamic components were incorporated in the Chinese architecture.
The mosque complex is made up of a series of courtyards.
“Examining the Heart Tower” in the third courtyard.
The main prayer hall at the far end of the complex.
Richly decorated pendant lamps at the veranda of the main prayer hall.
Peeking inside the main prayer hall.
Wooden clock and timber screens of the main prayer hall.
Leaving the Great Mosque behind, we exited the Muslim Quarter from another end of the market street.
It was approaching supper time when we left the Muslim Quarter, and the food vendors were all geared up for their night of business.
Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:
DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China
After the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, we taxied back to the city centre of Xian. Before dinner, we decided to pay the beautiful Bell Tower a proper visit. Situated at the heart of a roundabout, the Bell Tower could only be accessed via an underground passage. We paid the admission and climbed the stair up to the podium deck of the building. Ornate architectural carving, including the magnificent window screens, were well restored. Since construction in 1384 during the Ming Dynasty, the Bell Tower had been restored a number of times. The tower was damaged in the Second World War, and since then five restorations had taken place to restore the building into its former glory. Originally built to house the bells to announce time for the city, Xian’s Bell Tower had also performed multiple functions throughout history: stage for public announcement, military beacon, temporary prison, and even the first ever film cinema in Xian. We stayed on the podium deck for quite some time to admire the architecture and the urban scenery at all four directions, until we were urged by hunger to leave for a dumpling dinner nearby at a traditional restaurant called De Fa Chang (德發長).
Bell Tower in the centre of the roundabout with Drum Tower in the background.
Close up of the colourful timber architectural elements of the Bell Tower.
Across the street from the roundabout stands the equally important Drum Tower.
The Bell Tower and roundabout in 1960.
The beam and purlin system that supports the big roof of Bell Tower.
Close up of the beams and purlins.
Walking out to the deck of the upper level.
A smaller version of the famous Jingyun Bell (cast in AD711 during Tang Dynasty) was on display on the Bell Tower.
Stair back down to the base of the Bell Tower.
Bell and Drum Tower Square adjacent to the Bell Tower roundabout.
The Drum Tower as seen from the Bell and Drum Tower Square.
Dumpling dinner at De Fa Chang Restaurant.
Founded by a shrine priest in the mid or late Edo Period, Ryokan Adumaya is a very traditional hotspring inn in Yunomine, the oldest onsen town in Japan. With 22 rooms all finished in traditional Japanese style, the interior of Adumaya is dominated by timber and bamboo. As an onsen ryokan, Adumaya has its own indoor and outdoor hotspring bathing facilities, which can be visited during the day even for visitors who are not staying the night. As hotel guests, we were able to enjoy the hotspring facilities at Adumaya 24 hours round the clock. Despite the short stay, we enjoyed the baths and delicious meals. Signage of Ryokan Adumaya was erected in a naturalistic setting in front of the inn. Situated in the middle of Yunomine Onse across the street from the public bathhouse, Ryokan Adumaya is one of the most prominent building in the village. Beyond the neatly trimmed trees and bushes lies the drop off and main entrance of Ryokan Adumaya. Entering the ryokan through the wooden overhang was liking going back an times of Edo Japan. Beside the main entrance mounted a board with names of hotel guests written on it. Traditional timber finish dominates the lobby and reception area. We had to take off our shoes during our stay. We could choose to put on either a pair of indoor slippers when staying indoor, or a pair of outdoor shoes for venturing out into Yunomine. The sitting area in the lobby was quite atmospheric. The door on the left led to the bathing facilities and souvenir shop. Upstairs on the second level, the entrance into our room was right at the corner next the the main stair. The wooden door then led into a vestibule and then into an anteroom before reaching the main living space of our room. The vestibule also connected to our private toilet. Beyond the sliding doors of the anteroom is main living space where we dined and slept on the tatami. At the far end of the room there was another set of sliding door leading out to the sun room where a tea table stood. The sun room was well lit with natural light. At the far end of the sun room was the vanity counter. From the window we could see the main street and creek that bisected Yunomine. Beyond that stood the village shrine on the left, and the public bathhouse at further back.
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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka