Takaoka city, Toyama Prefecture is located in the center of the main island in Japan, which stretches from north to south. The city is blessed with rich nature that changes with the seasons and is a scenic spot full of poetic sentiment that was once mentioned in the Manyoshu, The Anthology of Myriad Leaves. The second-largest city in the Prefecture, Takaoka was founded in 1609 by Toshinaga Maeda, the second generation of the Kaga clan. The city is still alive with the "craftsmanship" that has been handed down for over 400 years.
Ecchu Province, loved by the poet of Manyoshu
Takaoka is blessed with an abundance of nature, surrounded by fresh greenery and clear water. A mountainous area with the two peaks of Mt. Futagami and the Nishiyama Hills in the west, Toyama Bay in the northeast, and a fan-shaped area with high-quality groundwater formed by the Shogawa and Oyabegawa Rivers in the east. From the Amaharashi Coast in the northern part of Takaoka City, you can see the panorama of the Tateyama Mountain Range, which is 3,000 meters high, over Toyama Bay.
In the Nara period (710-794), Otomo no Yakamochi, the representative poet of Japan's oldest waka poetry anthology, Manyoshu, spent five years in Ecchu Province (current Toyama Prefecture) as the governor. The Manyoshu contains a total of 4,516 poems, of which 473 are known to have been written by Otomo no Yakamochi. Of these, more than 220 were composed here in Ecchu, a place blessed with nature.
Otomo no Yakamochi, who came from Nara, was so impressed by the fact that there was a mountain with the same name as Mt. Nijo in Nara near the province office that he left behind many poems related to it. A statue of Otomo no Yakamochi has been erected near the summit of Mt. Nijo, where he wrote, "The time has come when I miss the sound of birds singing on Mt. Nijo.”
Challenging the Tradition and Innovation of craftmanship
The history of Takaoka began when Toshinaga Maeda built a castle on a deserted small plateau called Sekino and developed a castle town. The name "Takaoka" is said to have come from a verse in a Chinese poetry sutra, "The phoenix cries in his high (taka) hill (oka)”.
When Toshinaga opened the town of Takaoka, he invited craftsmen and merchants from all over the country in the hope of promoting industry. In 1611, he invited seven foundry workers and had them manufacture and sell a large quantity of pots and kettles, as well as nails and metal fittings, which were necessary for the town's development, and fostered the foundation for the development of Takaoka as a city of commerce and industry. Since then, Takaoka has developed as a city of commerce and industry and a town of craftmanship, including copperware and lacquerware.
Today, many of Takaoka's manufacturing companies, while inheriting the history and traditions of the past four hundred years, are fusing them with modern lifestyles and values to produce innovative products one after another, attracting attention and earning high praise both in Japan and overseas.
Highlights of Takaoka
The Great Buddha of Takaoka
The Great Buddha of Takaoka is one of the three largest Buddhas in Japan, along with Nara and Kamakura. It took about 30 years from 1907 to complete this statue by concentrating the copperware manufacturing technology that Takaoka is proud of. It is known as the most beautiful big Buddha in Japan with a neat face, and is loved as a symbol of the town.
The name "Amaharashi" comes from a legend that Yoshitsune Minamoto and his party waited for the rain to clear on their way to Oshu after being chased by his brother Yoritomo Minamoto. The magnificent view of the Tateyama mountain range seen from Toyama Bay is breathtaking. The contrast with the "Onna-iwa" (female rock) with pine trees stored at the top is also beautiful, making it one of the most representative scenic spots in Takaoka.
It is the oldest town in Takaoka and the birthplace of the casting industry. The rows of houses with 1,000 lattices and the cobblestone pavement covered with copper fragments remind us of the Edo period and give the town a beautiful appearance. In 2012, it became the first foundry town in Japan to be designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
The scenic beauty of Takaoka has been loved by many people since the Nara and Manyo periods. Takaoka is also known as a town of craftsmanship that has been around since the Edo period (1603-1868), and the skills of traditional industries such as Takaoka copperware and Takaoka lacquerware have been handed down to the present day. Why don't you take this opportunity to experience the traditional crafts that Takaoka is proud of?