Hidden in the mountainous area of northern Gifu Prefecture in the town of Hida Furukawa is Satoyama, a picturesque town that time seems to have forgotten. Isolated by the surrounding mountain ranges, it has developed a distinctive culture all its own and one you won't want to miss.
There are so many great ways to experience Satoyama. To begin with, you can go on a walking tour through the town and meander along the Seto River, an old canal that runs through the town. The canal originally separated the samurai quarters from the merchant quarters and you can still the whitewashed walls of the latter's storehouses on one side of the canal. Don't forget to bring some breadcrumbs for the huge orange carp that swim in the canal.
In the center of town you will find the Takumikan Craft Museum. Satoyama has long been famous for the high-quality lumber that grows in its mountain ranges and for the skill of its craftsmen. In olden days, Satoyama craftsmen were so famous that they were called to the capital cities to build palaces, temples and shrines. The Takumikan craft museum pays homage to these skilled craftspeople. The museum itself was built without using any nails, only traditional Japanese wood-joining techniques so that is parts fit together much like a puzzle. It's a must-see for anyone with interest in Japanese architecture and woodworking.
Another popular way to see Satoyama is on a bike tour through the surrounding countryside. About five hours will take you through farmlands, terraced rice fields, and past traditional farm homes where you can still observe rural Japan at its best. No matter what season you go, you will see something that delights your eyes.
All of this exercise will no doubt make you hungry. You are in luck, for Satoyama's natural beauty produces great food as well. You can enjoy famed Hida gyu (Hida beef), sake tasting at the local sake brewery, ayu (river fish) and traditional houba miso (miso roasted on a magnolia leaf).
To get to Satoyama from Tokyo takes about five hours via Shinkansen High-Speed Rail to Nagoya and then express train to Hida-Furukawa Station.
For more information about the Satoyama Experience and how to get there, visit here.
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