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Bengara production in Fukiya

A rural village known for its red iron oxide pigment

Fukiya is a small rural village tucked away in a small valley in eastern Okayama Prefecture. Surrounding the town are copper-rich mountains, and Fukiya prospered with both copper mining and the production of bengara, a red iron oxide which was found in the same mountains. The village, however, faded into obscurity after the closure of the mines in the early 20th century.

Bengara was used in coloring ceramics, lacquer and on religious objects. In addition to providing a vibrant color, bengara also has water and fire resistant properties, which made it a popular choice for coating building structures. Today, the village retains its traditional red houses, which were coated with bengara pigment. Fukiya is a unique place to visit and learn more about one of Japan's only large scale pigment producing area.

There are a number of attractions mostly relating to bengara in Fukiya Village. The more memorable ones include: the Hirokane Residence where the wealthy Hirokane family who operated the mine and produced bengara lived (and still do), the Sasaune Mine, a copper mine which can be entered, and the Bengara Factory Museum to learn more about bengara production in Fukiya.

Fukiya Village is not very well-known, but is worth the trip for those who want an offbeat educational visit.

Home Delivery by japan-guide.com is a series of articles on Japanese culture, life and travel for all of us who are currently staying home to flatten the curve. Many travel plans, including our own, have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. While we aren't able to share new content from the road, we hope this collection from our travel archive helps you explore a bit of Japan from your own home.