A San’in Road Trip From the Mountains and Onsen to the Sea ・ Part 4
The Yonago Area
Yodoe Japanese Umbrella Museum
The Yodoe area of Tottori was once one of just a few areas around Japan that specialized in crafting traditional washi umbrellas, and in the golden age of umbrella production, rows of colorful paper umbrellas could be seen spread out to dry on the sandy beaches of the nearby Hino River. Although clear vinyl umbrellas have mostly taken the place of traditional paper ones in the daily lives of people in Japan, the artisan craft of Yodoe umbrellas is still passed down in the region, and the Yodoe Japanese Umbrella Museum is at the forefront of preserving the beauty of this tradition.
Yodoe umbrellas are made from local bamboo and San’in’s famous Inshu washi, making them both classically elegant, and also impressively waterproof. Whether you want to call the end result a high-end product or a work of art, these traditional umbrellas have been favorites of Japan’s upper crust for a long time, and one has even been presented to Princess Kako.
Visitors to the Yodoe Japanese Umbrella Museum can not only watch generations of crafting tradition put to work right before their eyes, but also check out interesting exhibitions like umbrella light displays, and plenty of finished umbrellas to ooh and ah over — big and practical, or small and decorative.
Sightseeing in Kamogawa & Around the Nakaumi
The Kamogawa and Tenjin Bridge area of Yonago was once part of a busy castle town, with boats and their cargo coming and going on the canal. These days the area is a little sleepier, but it’s still crowded with old-fashioned houses and white-plastered Japanese warehouses along the water, along with Teramachi Street/Otera Ginza (寺町通り/お寺銀座), which is home to nine different old temples (tera/otera in Japanese).
The Kamogawa River is popular as a spring cherry blossom destination, and one of the best ways to enjoy the cherry trees is a riverboat cruise along the river and the Nakaumi. The river is also home to a number of mythical kappa, including creations by the mangaka Mizuki Shigeru, known for his manga Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro, which focuses on the traditional Japanese mythical creatures called yokai.
A retro snack shop in the old-fashioned district of Kamogawa, Okamoto Issen-ya offers customers a wide range of classic treats, and they’ve been at it for more than 70 years. The name “issen-ya” implies that the store’s wares can be bought with small change, and the huge copper coin sign out front was made in 1950 to commemorate the Yonago Fair. Okamoto Issen-ya has always catered to little kids with a few coins and an appetite, and the colorful little space is crowded with nostalgic sweets and unique snacks.
Okamoto Issen-ya is popular with local children and adults, and the shop attracts quite a few nostalgia-seeking sightseers as well. The old-fashioned building and toys are a treat, but the real charm comes from Ms. Okamoto, who still runs the shop with a cheerful smile. Even when traveling far from home, a chat at Okamoto Issen-ya feels like chatting with a friendly neighbor!
Nagacha Cafe 1801
The Nagata tea shop has been in business for 220 years, specializing in authentic Japanese tea grown organically or with low levels of pesticides, and the main shop in the Kamogawa River area has long been a go-to for Yonago souvenirs. Since 2019, the old shop has been taking on the world of modern sweets as well thanks to a public fundraising effort, with their new takeout cafe Nagacha Cafe 1801. The menu is full of sweets that make the most of the shop’s high-quality Japanese green tea/matcha, definitely worth a taste for those exploring the area.
Out of all the tempting tea-based items, some of the most popular are the tiramisu-like chabatake latte (茶畑ラテ/tea field latte), and the 475 parfait, which comes with its own little mini Yonago Castle. Why 475? With a little finagling, the numbers 4–7–5 can be pronounced “yo-na-go” in Japanese! The shop also has lunch specials on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays (11:00–13:00), so stop by if you’re looking for some tasty bites.