A far northern town of ama or female shell divers, rich in underground natural resources.
The port town of Kuji City is blessed with the nature of both sea and mountains. While the town faces to the Pacific, 80% of the total area is mountain and forest. At the coast, the wild landscape consists of steep cliffs, shore reefs and strangely shaped rocks. “Ama (female shell divers) of Northern Limit” have been fishing here by a traditional skin diving method for generations. In the mountains, a beautiful birch forest spreads across the Hiraniwa Kogen Highland, where they have been breeding Japanese Shorthorn cattle for ages. Every year, a bullfighting tournament, the only one in Tohoku, takes place here.
Kuji has a long history of iron sand mining, going back more than a thousand years, and there are many ruins of iron mines in the city. Kuji’s iron was recognized as a major product of the Nanbu domain in the Edo period when Kuji was most prosperous. In addition, Kuji has the largest amber mining industry by production. Recently Kuji attracted a lot of attention when dinosaur fossils were discovered in the amber strata at a mine.
Local children protect and nurture the traditional folk performing arts
There are many Yamabushi-kagura that have been passed down for generations in Tohoku. One example, Natsuidaibonten-kagura, has been designated an intangible folk cultural asset by the Iwate prefecture. Performers used to visit each house of the region to exorcize evil and pray for good luck and long life for the family. Nowadays, local junior high school students keep the tradition, learning and practicing this dance form. Besides this dance, Kuji has many other folk performing arts rooted in the nature and history of the region such as Kosodegyorouta to pray for a big catch, Oitaira Koma Odori, Nenbutsu Kenbai, Oashi Shakushi Mai, and Nanyatoyara.
Every two years, preservation societies and student groups gather to showcase their achievements in a festival of local folk performing arts at the Kujishi Bunkakaikan Amber Hall. Their activities in accord with the festival have become an important part of efforts to preserve the precious traditional culture. The Amber Hall is recognized as a town landmark for its striking entrance hall designed by the late Kurokawa Kisho. The hall’s acoustics have been highly praised by many artists.
Kujishi Bunkakaikan Amber Hall
The Amber Hall was designed by the internationally renowned architect, the late Kurokawa Kisho. It is known for its cone-shaped entrance hall, which has been used as an example in a school mathematics textbook. This landmark of Kuji is beloved by the local population, who take pride in its excellent acoustics, praised by many artists who have performed in the hall.
Address| 17-1 Kawasakicho, Kuji, Iwate 028-0051,Japan
Phone| +81 (0)194-52-2700
Kujishi Museum of History and Folklore
This museum was designed as a place to preserve and exhibit cultural assets, so that anyone can learn the history and culture of Kuji. The museum utilizes a closed school’s facilities to carry out its mission. The exhibition hall is organized according to four themes: the history of Kuji’s iron industry, people of historical importance, archaeological materials, and everyday articles. It’s open to the public by reservation.
Address| 37-32-1 Kokujicho, Kuji, Iwate 028-0071,Japan
Phone| +81 (0)194-52-2700 (Amber Hall)
For information including reservations, please contact the Amber Hall.
Kuji City Website