This month’s destination: Shigaraki, in Shiga Prefecture
Deep in a valley that runs through the mountains of Shiga prefecture lies the little town of Shigaraki, which is best known as the place where all those grinning tanuki figures are made. You’ve seen them outside of bars and restaurants, right? The cheerful raccoon-dog wearing a straw hat, with a sake flask in one hand and a wad of unpaid bills in the other? You may have wondered why this mammal is constantly trying to get you inside to spend money, but I bet you might have been too polite to ask why he’s always got such a MASSIVE SCROTUM?
But let’s go now to the town where they’re all made, and discover just how many excellent varieties of tricksters there might be!
And the tanuki goodness doesn’t end on the shopping street. As we walk the tiny lanes that climb the hills of this old-fashioned village, tanuki figures customized by artists hide around every corner…
Here’s where Shigaraki is:
Here’s how to get to Shigaraki from Tokyo:
No matter what time of day you go, it takes around four hours. I left Tokyo super early in the morning and returned the same day, but as you can see by the map, a trip to Shigaraki gets you within shouting distance of all kinds of other great stuff to see in the Kyoto area. Bonus travel experience: the last train on this route—the Shigaraki Kogen Railway—is one of those quirky local lines with a theme:
I used the Japan Navigation phone app to figure out this route, and you can easily use it too, when your actual date and departure time. It’s also good for finding the easiest way to get to Gyōda from where you’re staying. Here’s where to get the app and how to use it and here’s where to buy a Japanese transit card and how to use it. (I searched the route from Shinjuku Station, because it’s huge and central, but you might find a closer place to catch the Shonan-Shinjuku Line, if you search from where you’re staying.)