Come meet the yōkais in Japan…
In Japan, Sakaiminato of Tottori Prefecture is known as the capital of Yōkai. Yōkai is the term for Japanese traditional monsters. When looking at the location, Tottori Prefecture in San’in region is quite secluded from the rest of the country, do you expect anything haunted there?
Stay calm. Don’t be too nervous.
Every walk of life in Japan is familiar with the comic of Yōkai Kitarō (original name in Japanese – Ge Ge Ge no Kitarō「ゲゲゲの鬼太郎」) . But, how do you relate the capital of Yōkai, Sakaiminato, to Kitarō? The answer is very simple, Sakaiminato is the birthplace of the author of this comic.
Anecdotes of the author, Shigeru Mizuki, and Kitarō
The original author of Kitarō, Shigeru Mizuki, was not good at schooling except for drawing. He made several attempts for further studies, but to no avail. He lost his left arm after the war, life went downhill upon his return to the country. While holding positive outlook, his remaining right arm continued to allow him to draw and brought hope to his life. With failures in between, not until he reached the age of 45 only he became known to the comic world.
Kitarō is Mizuki’s leading piece of work. Since young, he enjoyed the narration of yōkai stories from the helper at home. The idea of Kitarō came from those narrations. In the past, the term yōkai was only restricted to usage in folklore. It was Mizuki who made it common.
Shigeru Mizuki Road
The population of Sakaiminato was only 33 thousands (Oct 2017), but the visitors to the town has exceeded two millions, with Shigeru Mizuki Road being the top attraction. Never underestimate the popularity of Kitarō and its comrades, this tourist record was under the condition where not many foreign tourists visit Sakaiminato.
Yōkai statues could be found along the Shigeru Mizuki Road. It started off with only 23 in 1993. Today there are as many as 171. They remain silent, but are the key attention of tourists. The influx of tourists boosted the local development, let’s not forget the efforts and contributions from those who worked behind the scene.
Up until 2003 when Sakaiminato cancelled the merger plan with Yonago, the city could not financially sustain the Shigeru Mizuki Road project. The local committee then decided to launch a nationwide campaign to raise fund by having the contributor’s name engraved on the statue while setting the minimum limit of 1 million Japanese yen. Overwhelm responses received. The team successfully met the funding target within two months. Sixteen more statues were added in the next year. By that time there was a total of 102.
Although Mizuki has become famous through his Kitarō yōkai stories, his learning through his failures has developed a unique perspective about the world and reflected in some of his works. Through his 93 years of living, some of his principles are worth paying attention to and are in congruent with the youngsters of today with no generation gap. There is a memorial hall of Mizuki on Shigeru Mizuki Road which is open to the public.
Commemorative postmark from local post office
There are seven post offices in Sakaiminato which offer commemorative postmarks, each with a different design, but the theme remains on Kitarō’s stories.
These postmarks have the main characters from the stories: Kitarō (two designs), Medama-oyaji (Eyeball Father), Nezumi Otoko (Rat Man), Sunakake Babaa (Sand-throwing Hag), Konaki Jijii (Child-crying Old Man) and Ittan Momen (Roll of Cotton).
The post offices which issue the commemorative postmarks are as follows: Sakaiminato Post Office (境港郵便局), Sakaiminato Watari Post Office (境港渡郵便局), Sakaiminato Tonoe Post Office (境港外江郵便局), Sakaiminato Takeuchi Post Office (境港竹內郵便局), Sakaiminato Nakahama Post Office (境港中浜郵便局), Sakaiminato Higashi Honmachi Post Office (境港東本町郵便局) and Mizuki Road Post Office (水木ロード郵便局), each location carries its own design. Point to note is that customers who want to have the unique postmark on their letter would need to request it at the service counter in the post office instead of dropping it directly into the mail collection box.
Tourists also could try to find the “Yōkai mail collection box” (妖怪ポスト) located at souvenir shops along Shigeru Mizuki Road and the Shigeru Mizuki Memorial Hall. Letters processed from these mail collection boxes will automatically get the commemorative postmarks. The only condition is that you need to affix the stamps ahead of time.
- Letters in the red mail collection box outside of Sakaiminato Station (with Kitarō’s statue on it) will NOT get the commemorative postmark, but those dropped into the “Yōkai mail collection box” at the tourist information office inside the station will.
- Letters dropped into the red mail collection box outside the Mizuki Road Post Office will also NOT get the commemorative postmark unless requested through the service counter inside the post office.
Craving for seafood? Sakaiminato is the place to be?
Sakaiminato is a port city. It is one of the largest along the Sea of Japan. It used to be ranked the first for five years in a row since 1992. The last statistics at the end of 2017 had Sakaiminato at the fifth position. Since you are already here, will you give the seafood a miss?
The key seafood harvested here are tuna (pacific bluefin tuna) and crab (red queen crab) – these are the top choices of seafood in Japan. Pacific bluefin tuna has its peak harvest in early summer from June through July. Red queen crab is available all year round except for July through August (fishing restriction reason).
A few recommendations from the local:
– 魚山亭 Gyosantei (3297 Nakanocho, Sakaiminato): Famous for its seafood rice, but be prepared for long queue.
– 御食事處 峰 Mine (1-4 Hanamachi, Sakaiminato): Not far from Shigeru Mizuki Road. Apart from seafood, also serves Japanese-style western food.
– お魚天国 すし若 Sushi Waka (81-4 Takeuchi Danchi Sakaiminato): The revolving sushi serves here is definitely of high quality. Value for money.
The list is exhaustive…
Seafood Market Visit
Are you a foodie? It does not matter how you define it. Most importantly, how these resources get to the dining table is definitely not easy.
To appreciate the food in Sakaiminato, why not get to the source. The Sakaiminato Seafood Promotional Association organizes seafood market tour for visitors with a fee of only JPY300 per person. The tour includes off-load of fishes at the shore, auction and bidding. The duration of 50 minutes is ideal for tourists.