A Fun Walk Through the Townscape

(Let’s find the sense of “Wabi Sabi” in the town of Omori)

Hi my name is Tomoko. Today my friend Shun and I gave a tour of Omori to Harish, Luis and Jeffery. Omori is a town of 400 people located in Shimane prefecture. This small town where we live was given a World Heritage status by UNESCO in 2011 for its remaining abundant nature together with its history of being one of the most active silver mines in the world back in the 16th to 17th centuries.

By the way, do you know what “Wabi Sabi” means? It’s a Japanese word that is often used to describe a sense of natural and pure standards of Japanese beauty and to acknowledge the beauty in natural deterioration and imperfections. I would like to introduce some places in Omori where we found things that can be considered Wabi Sabi.

We first visited Gungendo to look at their art exhibit. This exhibit was produced by an iron sculptor called Yoshida-san who happens to also be a resident of Omori. He had his friends send their works in and made this exhibition full of different types of sculptures!
While we enjoyed looking at these exhibits, Shun gave us an interesting lesson of Japanese craftsmanship of making dirt walls called Tsuchikabe. This light gray colored dirt wall is perfectly smooth when you touch it, but might look unevenly painted. This is purposely made this way by the craftsmen’s sense of beauty and the word “Wabi Sabi” can be used to describe those things as well.
I think this little lesson helped our guests understand what Wabi Sabi meant, and allowed them to enjoy the rest of the tour from a new perspective.

As you can see this photo, the townscape of Omori has a lot of attractive spots to take photos and is full of Wabi Sabi! Buildings with dirt walls and wooden shingles, Japanese styled narrow verandas called ‘Engawa’, and an old-fashioned mail post allow the guests to feel as though they time traveled to the past. Harish, Luis and Jeffery seemed to be enjoying taking photos of each other as well as finding “Wabi Sabi” spots.

It was a cold day so we had a couple of small breaks during this tour. The first break was at “Backerei Konditorei Hidaka” which is a popular bakery in this town, and the second break was at the Kumagai Residence. The Kumagai Residence is one of the largest and best preserved examples of an Edo Period residence in this area. The staff members served us their home made tea after we explored the residence. We enjoyed their warm tea and had nice conversations like Tomodachi (friends).

I hope Harish, Luis and Jeffery had a good time and had a chance to explore Omori through the new perspective of “Wabi Sabi” today.

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