Travel & Lifestyle

A Cultural Odyssey Through Western Japan’s Enigmatic Town

Japan’s smallest main island, lies Ozu—a town steeped in rich history and cultural charm. Imagine arriving via a winding mountain pass, greeted by the sight of Ozu Castle perched majestically on a hill, overlooking a tranquil basin formed by the meandering Hiji River. This picturesque setting, enhanced by a gentle mist and snow-dusted mountains, sets the stage for your journey into Ozu’s captivating past and vibrant present.

A Tale of Transformation
In 2018, Ozu may have appeared as a quiet, neglected town with remnants of its former glory fading away. However, fast forward to February 2024, and you witness a remarkable revival. The once-deserted streets are now bustling with life. The plaza in front of Ozu Machi-no-Eki Asamoya buzzes with activity, resembling a lively village square where locals and tourists mingle seamlessly. Elegant samurai residences and meticulously restored merchant houses now house vibrant restaurants, cafes, and museums, showcasing Ozu’s renewed vigor and community spirit.

A Glimpse into History
Often likened to “little Kyoto,” Ozu served as the capital of the Iyo feudal domain from 1617 to 1868. Its prosperity thrived on industries like wax, silk, paper, and timber, enriching the town and its cultural heritage. However, economic shifts in the past century led to a decline, leaving behind decaying structures and a dwindling population. In response, Ozu embarked on a bold plan in 2019 to harness sustainable tourism as a catalyst for revitalization—a strategy that has since transformed it into a beacon of cultural preservation and community revival.

Seasonal Delights
Your journey through Ozu is defined by its seasonal allure. In spring, wander amidst cherry blossoms adorning the paths below Ozu Castle. Summer invites you to witness the ancient ukai fishing method on the Hiji River, where trained cormorants skillfully catch fish. Autumn paints the town in vibrant hues at Shirataki Park, offering breathtaking foliage views. Winter unveils the mystical Hijikawa Arashi, a rare natural spectacle where fog transforms into a windstorm as it flows from the mountains to the Seto Inland Sea.

A Global Recognition
In 2023, Ozu earned acclaim as one of the Top 100 Sustainable Tourism Destinations worldwide by Green Destinations. Recognized for its commitment to cultural preservation and community-driven tourism initiatives, Ozu continues to lead Japan’s sustainable travel movement. Winning first place in Green Destinations’ Culture and Tradition category underscores its success in revitalizing historical assets and integrating them into a modern tourism framework.


Staying in Ozu
Your accommodation in Nipponia The Ozu Castle Town Hotel represents Ozu’s mix of heritage and innovation. As Japan’s first “scattered hotel,” it consists of several beautifully renovated buildings scattered throughout the town. This novel technique protects Ozu’s ancient townscape while also immersing you in its true lifestyle. Whether you stay in a samurai residence, a former merchant’s palace, or a tiny terrace dwelling, each accommodation provides a look into Ozu’s illustrious past while also providing modern amenities.

Experiencing Ozu’s Hospitality
Your stay at Nipponia Ozu Castle Town Hotel unfolds like a journey through time. Imagine arriving in a kimono or samurai armor, escorted on horseback by local actors to Ozu Castle. Here, traditional performances such as gagaku court music and Shinto kagura dance captivate your senses. Dinner in the Koran Turret, once frequented by Ozu’s feudal lords, offers a taste of history amidst breathtaking views. You retire to the castle’s keep, where a unique timber-latticed open well awaits—a testament to Ozu’s blend of luxury and heritage.

Immersed in Local Culture
Throughout your stay, Ozu’s charm envelops you at every turn. Walk the narrow cobblestone streets lined with artisan shops and centuries-old mansions. The hotel’s public spaces, including restaurants and gardens, are seamlessly integrated into the town’s fabric, inviting interaction with locals and fellow travelers. Discover local crafts like Tobe ware ceramics, Ikekuchi organic cotton towels, and Silmore beauty products—testaments to Ozu’s commitment to sustainability and community prosperity.

A Sustainable Vision
At the heart of Ozu’s transformation lies a commitment to sustainable tourism—a balance where residents and visitors thrive harmoniously. Diego Cosa Fernandez, a sustainability coordinator, emphasizes this approach, highlighting how Ozu’s revitalization benefits all stakeholders. The town’s shops, cafes, and cultural venues not only preserve history but also support local artisans, ensuring Ozu remains a vibrant destination for generations to come.

Your journey through Ozu, from its historic castle to its revitalized streets, is a testament to the town’s resilience and vision. As you bid farewell to this “little Kyoto” of western Japan, you carry with you memories of a town reborn—a place where tradition meets innovation, and where the past paves the way for a sustainable future in global tourism.

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