Gassho Mura (Village) is a touristic attraction in Gero which features traditional Japanese farmhouses that were moved to Gero and preserved as a museum, recreating a typical mountain village of the old days. The Gassho houses feature a steep triangular roof made of dried vegetation. In addition to the traditional Japanese farmhouse, the village also features beautiful gardens.
Away from the popular touristic attractions, one may find great beauty in the common Japanese lifestyle. This beauty will be seen by the one who ventures away from the beaten path. I will collect over time in this post photos that feature the beautiful Japanese countryside I had the chance to witness by walking in rural areas of Nagano city.
The Harunire terrace, located in Naka-Karuizawa, boasts a great selection of restaurants and specialty shops in a natural setting. Whether you are looking for a delicious coffee or locally-made ice-cream, you’ll enjoy a relaxing time on the river-side terrace.
South Aso (Minamiaso) is one of the prettiest place I’ve seen in Japan, but also happened to be the scene of one of the most terrifying events of my life.
Minamiaso is located to the south of mount Aso, an active volcano. The mountain is surrounded by fertile land due to previous eruptions of mount Aso, which made it particularly suitable for agriculture. The landscape is simply superb with fields and deep rivers surrounding mount Aso (the photos shown here were taken around Choyo station).
On April 17th 2016, in the middle of the night, as we were staying at hotel Chikurakutei in Minami-aso, the ground shook. An earthquake was affecting the region of Aso. Its epicenter was right under us. The ground shook for many minutes at a time, then followed by brief interruptions, and then shook again. The electricity gone, in complete darkness, we protected ourselves with pillows and blankets, occasionally hearing tiles falling from the hotel roof and breaking on the ground. It is hard to tell exactly how long it took between each tremor, but one thing is sure, they were too frequent and too strong to our taste.
An employee of the hotel finally came to help us. We evacuated to the parking lot and were able to spend the rest of the night in the employee’s own car. The hotel lent us blankets to stay warm during the night but we were barely able to sleep since the ground shook repeatedly all night with frequent alarms from the town’s emergency sirens.
In the morning, we were able to hitch a ride to Miyazaki airport with other guests of the hotel and got tickets to fly to Nagoya, cutting short the trip we had planned around Kyushu.
I will forever remember the kindness and hospitality of the staff of hotel Chikurakutei, who stayed up all night to make sure of our safety and comfort throughout the night. Thank you! Despite the scary memories, we will, for sure, return to Minamiaso in a near future.
The island of Miyajima is most famous for the Itsukushima Shrine. Not too far north of the shrine is located the town’s commercial center where many restaurants and hotels are located. The sector features many stores selling Momiji Manjyu, a special pastry originating from the island. They come with various fillings inside a maple-shaped outer dough.
The island is also known for the World’s largest rice spoon, made from a single tree, which is located on the Omotesando shopping street. Smaller replicas are sold in the many gift shops on the island.
Downtown Miyajima also features a nicely landscaped waterfront beach offering a nice view of the city of Momiji on the opposite coast. Many deers that are accustomed to humans inhabit the sector and may be hungry for some tourist’s shirt. Be careful!
Obuse is a small town of Northern Nagano prefecture. It is known for being the residence of the famous Japanese painter, Hokusai, who spent his older years in Obuse. The Hokusai museum in Obuse is dedicated to his work while the Takai Kozan museum is dedicated to Hokusai’s patron, the rich merchant Takai Kozan.
Obuse is also an agricultural town known for its chestnuts (kuri 栗), which can be found easily in souvenir stores around the town. The center of the town is picturesque and exceptionally well maintained. Many residences and commerce feature “open gardens”: private gardens opened to any visitor, for free.