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Exploring Kitsuki, Japan’s Kimono Town
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Located in the North-Eastern region of Oita Prefecture, Kitsuki is famed for its traditional buildings and quaint streets which have been largely untouched by modern urban development and still very much resembles an Edo period samurai town.
The historical ambiance of the city, combined with its unique hilly terrain has lead to it becoming both a popular destination for tourists who wish to take a step back in time and tv studios who require an authentic backdrop to film historical dramas.
If traveling back to a bygone Japanese era sounds appealing to you, we think you’re going to love a trip to Kitsuki. This article will highlight some of the must-see attractions which the city has to offer, but before visiting any of those, the first thing to do upon arriving here is to get into the appropriate attire!
Kimono Rental Shop Warakuan has a vast collection of kimonos for both men and women is a vast array of colors and designs. For around ¥3,000, you can rent a kimono for the day as well as sandals, traditional hair accessories and sun umbrellas to ensure some spectacular photographs.
If you’re feeling shy about exploring Kitsuki in a kimono, please don’t be, from the moment you leave the shop, you are bound to see others dressed up, which only adds to the city’s antiquated atmosphere.
Kimono Rental Shop Warakuan 372-4 Kitsuki, Kitsuki City, Oita, 873-0001
The Instagrammable Backdrop
Once you look the part, your first port of call should be ‘Suya no Saka’ (Hill of the Vinegar Shop), the city’s most popular photo spot, but what makes it so special?
Much of Kitsuki City is within a narrow valley, meaning that from several locations, you can see each of the plateaus either side of it, this is the reason there are many paved slopes in the area and why the city itself is often referred to as the ‘sandwiched castle town’.
‘Suya no Saka’ is the most famous of these slopes and the perfect backdrop for authentic old fashioned photos. We highly recommend taking some close up shots as well as some from the opposite plateau, to really capture the scene.
Suya no Saka
Kitsuki, Kitsuki City, Oita, 873-0001
A short walk away from ‘Suya no Saka’ lies Kitsuki Castle, the smallest castle in Japan. Although comparatively small in size, the castle’s elevated location and proximity to the sea means that it offers some stunning views across the city.
16-1 Kitsuki, Kitsuki City, Oita, 873-0001
The Samurai Past
Remnants of the city’s past samurai presence can still be seen today, with several former samurai residences still in existence. The most impressive of these is probably the Ohara Residence, which features a thatched roof and beautiful garden, complete with pond.
Visiting the residence provides a unique insight into what life in a high ranking samurai family must have been like. The Ohara Residence is open between 9:00 to 17:00 (last entrance 16:30) daily and costs ¥200 to enter.
207 Kitsuki, Kitsuki City, Oita, 873-0001
Traditional Local Food
After exploring the city’s winding cobbled streets, you will probably have built up quite the appetite and what better place to eat than an establishment that has been in Kitsuki city since 1698.
The long-established Wakaeya’s famed dish is Tai Chazuke Ureshino (sea bream with rice and tea), with the ‘Ureshino’ translating literally to ‘I’m happy!’.
The story behind the name is that in the Edo period, the lord of Kitsuki Castle had been eating the Tai Chazuke every day and would proclaim his joy (Ureshino!) at getting to do so.
The current owner is the 16th generation of his family to manage the establishment and still uses the same recipe which gained a feudal lord’s seal of approval over 300 years ago. Wakaeya wants everyone to be able to experience Tai Chazuke Ureshino and offer a tofu-based vegetarian version.
665-429 Kitsuki, Kituski City, Oita, 873-0001
Traditional Local Tea
The last stop that we would like to recommend before returning your kimonos (and conveniently located opposite Warakuan) is Ocha Dokoro Tomaya, a 280-year-old tea shop that sells an array of different teas and provides a traditional tea ceremony experience.
Ocha Dokoro Tomaya
385 Kitsuki, Kitsuki City, Oita, 873-0001
For anyone wanting to step away from modern city life for a while and experience a slower-paced, traditional Japanese lifestyle, we highly recommend a trip to Kitsuki city.
Kitsuki is located in between Beppu and Oita Airport, taking around 30 minutes by car from either.
Kitsuki Station lies about five kilometers outside of the city center. A taxi ride into the city takes around ten minutes and costs 1500 to 2000 yen.
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