Thursday, December 22, 2011

Roadside Station Tosa Washi Kogei Mura “QRAUD”

An old preserved storehouse
stands nearby. Inside is a gallery.
   When driving long-distance in Japan, most people make stops at “roadside stations.” That goes to show that there are many roadside stations in this country where you can take a break, shop, eat and gain traffic and tourist information.

   There are twenty-one roadside stations in Kochi, and for this edition, we KIA staff and CIRs of Kochi Prefecture and Kochi City have gone out to experience two: Tosa Washi Kogei Mura “QRAUD” and Shimanto Towa.

   QRAUD is located beside the beautiful Niyodogawa River, thirty minutes by car from central Kochi City. Surrounded by abundant nature, this unique roadside station provides various hands-on learning opportunities.

   The first thing that came into sight when we arrived was the JA shop selling locally grown produce. Not only can you find fresh, tasty-looking vegetables here, with prior reservation you can try your hand at making soba or konnyaku, or pick your own juicy tomatoes.

   We made our way to a quaint traditional Japanese house up on higher ground with a magnificent view of the Niyodogawa River and lush mountainside behind it.

   With an outdoor terrace, it is a wonderful place to spend a quiet moment and take in the surrounding beauty. Inside the house is a number of wooden weaving looms at which you can learn to weave, as well as a little shop. Before we knew it, we had spent quite a bit of time just wandering around inside.

A weaving loom. Choose your own thread
colors to make a one-of-a-kind piece!
   We tried our hand at weaving a little table mat. Though it was slightly difficult at first coordinating both hands and feet on the loom, it was a creative experience as we had fun choosing and changing the color of thread. Time moved at a relaxing pace, as though to the harmonizing sound of the loom and nature. Making a small piece does not take much time at all, but you may want to set aside more time to make a larger item like a luncheon mat or scarf, or try natural dyeing.

   Ino Town where QRAUD is located is well-known for its Tosa Washi (Japanese paper) and at this roadside station one can experience the traditional craftwork of making it. Within the building are many stands for paper screening, and peering into its opaque water we could see floating white fibers. A skilled paper-making craftsman showed us how these fibers transform into paper.

Paper-screening machines. If you are
 lucky, maybe you can meet a craftsman!
   With a concentrated look, the craftsman skillfully dunked his screen into the fiber-filled water and lifted it, swaying it back and forth to create an even layer. He peeled away the thin sheet of intertwined fibers and created a stack of sheets that would later be compressed and dried.

   When you make your own paper, you can choose to add an assortment of flowers and plants to create a decorative postcard, or choose to dye this paper to make an original fan. Recently, there are schools where students come and make paper for their own graduation certificate! Including drying time, it takes about an hour to make. You can roam around the rest of the facilities while you wait for your masterpiece to dry. The staff will kindly teach by demonstration, so Japanese language ability is not required.

   A little walk away, we found some old but beautiful, traditionally built storehouses. Inside, we were surprised to find a small gallery. Displayed was a collection of items based on the theme of botany. At the time of this visit, there was an exhibition of artwork made from hemp and cotton. Wrapped in the warm atmosphere and relaxing background music, we found ourselves immersed in this quiet artistic world. The exhibit changes periodically, so we are looking forward to seeing what is next.

   Besides these facilities we have introduced, this roadside station also has a restaurant that provides seasonal dishes using locally grown fresh vegetables and herbs, as well as a popular spa bath and hotel. In the summer, you can take a canoe trip, swim in the river and camp out. It is a place where you can experience not just the above, but also the warm hospitality of the staff. Instead of making QRAUD just a rest stop, we highly encourage you to plan a day’s excursion of it!

 Location:1226 Kashiki, Ino Town
 TEL: 088-892-1001
   JA Shop  10:00am-4:30pm, closed during year-end and New Year holidays
   Restaurant  10:00am-9:00pm (Last order at 8:30pm), closed Wednesdays
  Weaving  9:00am-5:00pm, closed Wednesdays and during year-end and New Year holidays
   Paper making 9:00am-5:00pm, closed Wednesdays
   Spa  11:00am-9:00pm
 Directions: From Kochi City, take the Ken Kotsu bus to “Yananose” and get off at Iwamura bus stop (about 1 hour). 30 minutes by car from Kochi City.
 Website: (Japanese only)

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