My Japan is... Hidden Gems and Rural Communities

In an ongoing series of mini-posts we ask our most passionate Odigo writers “What is your Japan? ” in words and photos.

My Japan Is…

My Japan can be found along the backstreets and in rural hamlets, in artisans’ workshops and around my neighbours’ kotatsu (Japanese style heated low table). My Japan not limited to any particular geographical region, but lies just beyond the pages of the glossy tourist brochures. I would like to share a few of the aspects that I love:
Timeless festivals that are still a living part of the community

Young Participants in the Yamadera En’nen Festival Examine Their Regalia -- Photo by Emma Parker
Every city, town, and village in Japan has its own unique festivals, sometimes deeply spiritual, sometimes raucous and colourful, sometimes just wacky. Festivals that I have attended in the last year include burning trees in midwinter, a plate-spinning dance, and a battle between portable shrines -- and that’s just in my town…

The sheer variety of local food


“Gengyo” are Among the Many Weird and Wonderful Fsh Caught in the Sea of Japan -- Photo by Emma Parker
Japanese cuisine is so much more than sushi and tempura, much as I love them. From picking wasabi in the mountains to gingerly sampling pickled pufferfish roe (it’s highly poisonous in its raw state), each region has its own unique delicacies for you to try. 
Cool shops that reinvent traditions in new ways

hickory03travelers Sells a Range of Stylish Niigata-themed Items, Including Koshihikari Rice Wrapped in an Originally Designed Cotton Towel  -- Photo by Emma Parker
Japan is renowned for its ingenuity in design and technology, but I especially like shops that support local craftsmen and combine traditional skills with creativity to make items that fit just as well in Western interiors as in Japanese ones.

Shrines and temples, without the crowds


Seisuiji Nestled in a Wooded Valley, is Sado’sVersion of Kiyomizudera, only much more Peaceful -- Photo by Emma Parker
With tens of thousands of shrines and temples across the country, there is no need to follow the tour groups. Even in tourist hubs like Kyoto, you can find secluded shrines and temples along the backstreets. My top destination for temples, however, is Sado Island: a history of wealth and of political exile has left the island with countless ornate temples where you are not likely to be in a throng of tourists

Life in my rural valley


People have to Help Each Other Out in Winter, Creating a Strong Sense of Community -- Photo by Emma Parker
I often get home to find that someone has left me a gift of vegetables from their field. Like in many small Japanese communities, people rarely lock their doors, and my neighbours are always ready for a chat over tea and sweets or homemade pickles. To me, this is the real Japan...
 

Explore and discover your own Japan  

 

Emma Parker