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Devi's Japan Travels Part 6: Ujitei, a beautiful countryside artist house

Welcome back to my travels! We left the last blog off at arriving at Ujitei, the artist airbnb house in the middle of the Japanese countryside. We arrived in the dark and met the Uji family. Taeka, our host's mother, welcomed us when we were looking for the place in the dark. We were quite tired, because we rode such a long distance that day. So many impressions too! Something about traveling we have noticed, is that you don't really have time to process all the impressions so usually for me after coming back home and settling down, I start to process it and relive the amazing moments.

Ujitei day 1: First day in Tsuyama
The day we arrived we went grocery shopping in Tsuyama city on our way to Ujitei, because we weren't sure there would be an opportunity to buy food near Ujitei as it was a half an hour drive from the city. Fortunately we could cook ourselves at Ujitei because they have a very nice kitchen there with all the utensils as well as appliances (fridge, oven, etc.). As the toll-fares are really high in Japan, which I mentioned in my previous posts, we needed a little breather and cook ourselves. I enjoy cooking a lot, and using Japanese ingredients is also something I like. After Taeka found us wandering outside trying to find Ujitei in the dark (lol) we got inside and got the introduction of the house and explanation from Yuka. My first impression of this place was that it was exactly what I expected it to be: an artist house. It was the perfect combination of modern, artsy, and Japanese style. I can honestly say it's my dream house! Also, our first impression of our hosts was that they were very welcoming. We had an instant connection, I felt right at home. After the grand tour we ate our store bought sushi and went to sleep. It is SO quiet out there, I really loved it. We slept on futons on the first night and it was cold and quiet which means a good night's sleep. It was a bit too cold actually so we had gas heaters in the room we stayed in.

Now, I have to do a shout-out to Yuka and her family, they were the most amazing hosts. It was like arriving at my own family's place, such warm and generous people. The house is an artist house: all of the family members are artists. Toshi, Yuka's father, has paintings and works a lot with wood. A lot of his work is displayed in the house. Yuka's work is there as well. You can really feel the spirit of the artists and their creativity in this house. The house was featured in House Hunters International, an American TV-show about looking for property in another country. The last house they visited was Ujitei, they give a nice introduction of the house.




Also, for those who want to practice their Japanese listening skills, there is a shorter video of Ujitei. Ganbare~




Some of our impressions of the place:


Ujitei from the outside

The genkan, or entrance hall. Here is where you take off your shoes which is a custom in Japan. The word 'agaru', or going up, means going inside the house. As you can see you literally go up in order to enter the house. 

A Panorama from the living room

Panorama of the living room

We decided to check out Kakuzan park and the Tsuyama castle, we didn't see many cherry blossoms so we already knew there was probably nothing blooming yet at the park. But the drive there was already worth it, we got to see the mountainous areas, little creeks, lots of green, so different from the bigger cities!


Arriving at Kakuzan park, I was unfortunately right about the cherry blossoms. I got my hopes up, but I also heard from Yuka and her family that this winter was especially cold so the cherry blossoms were quite late this year. It is supposed to be a good place for cherry blossom spotting. Nothing was blooming yet except for a few other types of trees. We saw the people already setting up for the cherry blossom festival that was going to start a couple of days later. After a short climb we had some nice views from the castle grounds. There wasn't actually a 'real' castle left, just a quite new building in which you could see the 'castle life' that they used to have.

 Even though it wasn't in full bloom yet, it looked beautiful. I might actually prefer it this way.

Kind of sad, really.

 Entrance road to the castle grounds


 Panorama view of the castle grounds



The view was worth it, we ate some of the sushi we got the day before while viewing this, bliss!

After this we went back to the Ujitei and stopped on the way there for some groceries. We were really tired from all that traveling so staying in the countryside and taking it easy was definitely something we needed. We got some meat and yakiniku (bbq) sauce with some other stuff and cooked ourselves back at the house.


That evening we met Toshi, Yuka's father, who stopped by and showed us his art and the meaning behind it. I showed him and Yuka my art and my dad's, as my dad is an artist too. Toshi felt like my dad and he were alike, and I agreed with this. He was like the Japanese version of my father! It was really special realising that. Toshi showed us how to use the heater and where to get firewood. He put it on for us and it was so nice and cozy! Looking into the fire is also mesmerising.



Ujitei day 2: biking, surroundings, and onsen
We woke up and the skies were blue and the sun was shining! Finally, we had some really nice weather. We had bikes at our disposal so we decided to take them out for a ride. First of all we made ourselves some breakfast.

I love all the cute little bowls and cups. Especially the one on the right had become my favourite one. I used it all the time to pour my tea out of into a tiny little cute cup.

 Isn't she a beauty?? I haven't found one like this yet.. :(

After breakfast it was time to get on the bikes! We rode around the neighbourhood and went up to the little house Toshi had built. Behind it there was a mountain with steep paths leading into a forest. We also saw Yuka, Taeka and Yuka's babygirl An-chan (cuteness overload) on the way, they were talking to one of the neighbours, a 90+ year old lady. We noticed in the countryside a lot of older people still working in the fields and in their gardens. I was quite impressed by this, they still had energy and health to do this.


 The weather was quite warm, a t-shirt was enough


 The inaka, or countryside, I love the houses here


 Rice fields 

After coming home Toshi told us to visit the 900 year old gingko tree, there was a hand-drawn map and I kind of guessed where it was on google maps. Which meant, that we got lost.. Navidevi failed! We couldn't find the old tree, so we stopped at a little local shop and asked the old lady who was working there where the 'old tree' was. She was really sweet and even gave me a folder. They spoke in the local dialect which sounded like a mixture of kansai-dialect and Hakata-dialect to me. The folder really helped, we had a clear map and we went on our way to the tree. Navidevi back on track!


This is a map of the location of the tree, it's in Nagi town Okayama prefecture

While we got lost we already had fun just driving around, but on our way to the old tree we didn't have high expectations. Boy were we surprised by the marvellous views from the mountain! It was really amazing.


The higher up we went, the more amazing (and cold) it became. At one point we even saw snow on the side of the streets. Finally arriving at the old tree we didn't have much daylight time left. Again, reality far exceeded my expectations. It was a beautiful, and very old tree.

 Because it was march, it wasn't blooming yet. I think it would be worth coming up here in the fall

 The trees branches were supported


There were even trees growing on top of the trees!

Snow in front of the temple

While it was getting dark we drove back and cooked ourselves again. After a long and satisfying day driving around the neighbourhood it was time to rest and prepare for another day. This was halfway our 3-week road trip, so the perfect moment to take it easy and do little road trips around the place. Ujitei is the perfect place to do that, the peace and quiet combined with beautiful mountains and the slow countryside life is very relaxing. And it was only day 2 out of the week we stayed here! So stay tuned for more countryside adventures.


~Written by Devi~




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