The Fisherman's Village by the Water
Ine-cho is a small, picturesque town in the north of Kyoto prefecture, in Wakasa Bay in the east of Tango Peninsula by the Sea of Japan. This fisherman's village is renowned for its exceptional architecture displayed in more than two hundred stilt houses called funaya, whose first floor are boat sheds.
Ine-cho is nestled between the mountains and the sea, on a five-kilometer-long strip of land. Its inhabitants had the ingenious idea of building the funaya, or boat houses, that became the characteristic hallmark of the village. Their location protects them from the tides, and there are now 230 of these surprising houses above the water.
The unique architecture of funaya houses
Once renowned for its whaling port, Ine town has slowly declined due to the young’s departures for the cities. It recently became a national protected site, and the municipality has been trying to revive this rural, peaceful, and typical area, which has become a little bit more touristic.
The funaya were initially fisherman's rustic huts for short stays, and overtime became two-story Japanese traditional houses. The first level is a boat shed, and the upper level is a living room. This type of architecture is very rare, even in Japan. Most of the funaya owners have a second house on the land side, opposite in the street. This allows visitors to stay in one of the fisherman's houses and admire Ine bay and its emerald color in early morning.
A ride aboard one of the sea taxis boats offers a beautiful view on the funaya houses aligned all around the bay. The distance allows to understand the ingenuity of the Japanese who succeeded in taking possession of this strip of land so close to the sea.
The heights of the village, around Funaya no Sato Park, allow an additional viewing and house several establishments such as the tourist information center, a few restaurants and Mukai Sake 🍶 Brewery, that is also worth the detour. The brewery is one of the few in Japan to be managed by a woman. An English tour is available, provided advance booking, to discover the mysteries of the nihonshu’s making.
When to visit the fisherman's village?
The best moment to visit Ine-cho is in early morning, as soon as 5 a.m., when the boats come back from their fishing night and sell their fresh catch under the seagulls’ inquisitive eyes. Moreover, in summer, the town is lively with matsuri. Several festivals are celebrated with lovely aquatic processions, such as:
- Ine Matsuri, the big fish festival taking place over 2 days at the end of July,
- Obessan, the god of wealth festival, with taiko drums performances, on August 20,
- Night illuminations and big firework on the bay, from 8:15 p.m. on the last Saturday of August.
Despite being far from the main sightseeing routes, this lovely little village, which is still inhabited and lively, is highly recommended to live a unique experience, in a timeless scenery. Another wonder of Japan, Amanohashidate, is also located nearby in the area.