Friday, May 05, 2006


About four years ago, I read Alex Kerr's, Lost Japan. From that time on, I have wanted to visit his house in the Iya Valley. Iya, is in the heartland of Shikoku and I didn't think I would ever actually get there. This Golden week provided me with the opportunity and now I want to go again.

Chiiori, is a 300 year old mountain farm house set on a steep incline. Even the drive up to it was a struggle for my little yellow plate car, I can't imagine what it must be like to walk or ride there.

There are not many luxuries but I like it that way. I felt like I was camping within an old house, actually it was exactly that. There are two original, traditional fire places within the house. These have to be lit daily to help cure the thatch roof and keep away animals and creepy crawlies. The fires make Chiiori a very smoky place in which to be, but oh what fun. The thatched roof costs somewhere in the vicinity of $200,000 to replace and needed to be replaced about two years ago. Alex talks about the last rethatching in his book. This occurred 18 years ago. The thatching should last around 50 years if cured properly. For approximately 10 of the last 18 years, Alex used the house only occasionally and therefore lit the fires occasionally. As a result the roof needs rethatching now!

If you want to get clean, you have to drive approximately 25 minutes down the road to the local onsen. The onsen itself was a real treat. It belongs to a hotel. You take the lift to the third floor, at this point, you can take an indoor bath or get on a cable car and travel up the cliff for the rotenburo (outdoor bath). The rotenburo is set in the cliff face and was a wonderful experience.
You walk down to Chiiori from the car park. Lots of fun, especially at night when we went to the onsen. Lots of us tried to walk by the light of our mobile phones. This was quite difficult as I am sure you can imagine what little light phones actually give off!

The resident dog, Jackie Chan. Jackie has been living at Chiiori the longest of all the volunteers. He was lovely. Dad, you would have loved him!

Alex is teaching Bo how to cook her famously delicious pancakes. Bo is the main volunteer at Chiiori. She has been living at and managing Chiiori for around a year. As we were leaving (finally), Bo was whipping up a second batch of pancakes by herself to see if they would work. I hope you enjoyed those pancakes Bo!


Anonymous said...

I loved the book and feel I have also been there! M XXX

Rosie said...

Wow! The thatched roof is gorgeous! Glad to see you had a good time.

Ang said...

I have been wanting to read that book for awhile. It might need to be one of my next purchases. I'm glad you finally made it out there.