William Merrell Vories was a brilliant and prolific architect who was active throughout the Kansai region in the early 20th century. He is said to have built up to 1600 buildings over a 35 year career, all while leading an active life as an educator, entrepreneur and Christian missionary. Many of the buildings he designed are still standing today, including quite a few in Kyoto. This month, the city of Ōmi Hachiman in Shiga, where Vories made his home, is commemorating the 50th anniversary of his passing with a series of special events. Last Saturday, Mewby and I visited Ōmi Hachiman to take a tour of some of the beautiful buildings that Vories built there. Until November 3rd, you can get a special “passport” for 1,500 yen that will give you access to all of the buildings on the tour, many of which are also exhibiting material related to his life. Passports and maps are both available at the tourist information center at Ōmi Hachiman station. You can also download the map as a PDF here: 市内マップ＆展示案内. Even if you can’t go before November 3rd, you can still visit or view many of the buildings on the tour after the special exhibition is over, but I would give yourself a good day to walk around all the sites. I really enjoyed visiting this town and would very much like to learn more about this extraordinary man.
Here are some pictures from our day.
Mewby meets W. M. Vories.
Ikeda Machi Jūtakugai (池田町住宅街), the Western residential area of Ikeda town, is a cluster of homes designed by Vories very early in his career. He had a house here himself, but that has long gone and can be seen only in old photographs. Three fine buildings do still remain though. Continue reading →
Kyoto International Community House (“kokoka”) have organized a free tour of Kyoto Central Wholesale Market for Saturday May 10th. What they don’t mention is that the market is open to the public, every second Saturday of the month, 12 months of the year and worth a visit with or without a guide. It’s not quite on the league of Tokyo’s Tsukiji of course, but an interesting place to visit nonetheless and the seafood is extremely cheap. Mewby and I picked up a huge bag of mussels there on our last visit at a very reasonable price.
Kyoto Cycling Tour Company offers a variety of bicycles for rent, ranging in price from ￥1,000 to ￥2,000 a day. For those who wish to go it alone, the friendly staff will be happy to suggest the best cycling courses and there is also a very handy K.C.T.P. cycling map available. In addition to its rent-a-cycle service K.C.T.P. also offers cycling tours of Kyoto with professional tour guides. Some of the tours on offer include:
The Machiya Tour: “Machiya” are the old wooden town-houses of Kyoto. This tour is a chance to experience traditional Kyoto life as it would have been, fifty, a hundred or even two hundred years ago.
The Mystery Tour: Kyoto has a long and bloody history and so naturally has many ghosts. This is a tour of some of the more famous haunted sites of Kyoto. Not for the faint-hearted!
The Japanese Tea Tour: Experience the Japanese tea ceremony and learn about its deep culture and long history.
Tour prices range between ￥3,900 and ￥9,800, depending on the tour chosen and the duration and all tours must be booked at least three days in advance. See the English website for further details.
Kazuo Taga, who founded K.C.T.P., has a deep sense of mission; both to promote traditional Japanese culture and history, and also to promote the use of bicycles within modern cities. He was kind enough to grant me a short interview, which you can see below.
For bookings and inquiries, please contact KCTP, on their website or telephone them on 075-354-3636. K.C.T.P.’s main terminal is very close to Kyoto Station. Leaving the station’s main north exit (facing Kyoto Tower), turn left and head west, past the post office on your right and then the new Bic Camera store on your left, until you come to the end of the road. K.C.T.P. is just around the right-hand corner. There are also terminals for the rent-a-cycle service dotted throughout the city, and maps and directions to these are available on the website here: K.C.T.P. Terminals.