When traveling, it’s easy to think of big cities as a definitive window into a country’s culture. Food, music, shopping: cities are where a nation retains its defining characteristics. And of course, when it comes to Japan, it’s true, the big three, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, are dizzying and unique experiences that will undoubtedly have to be visited several times to fully appreciate.
But absorbing the vibe of a nation other than your own and detoxifying yourself from city life is not mutually exclusive. quite past Tokyo.
Located in the mountainous Mie Prefecture, about an hour south of Kyoto, the ancient village was merged with nearby Tsu after their population dropped to 4,000 in 2006. (However, locals will still refer to the area as its old name.) With its calm nights. , and endless forests, it’s a place that invites you to slow down and breathe. As if you need more inspiration to relax, Misugi’s station of the same name even offers a beer onsen, a traditional Japanese hot spring bath mixed with on-site beer. There is also a newly opened beer hall at the hotel, where an overnight stay entitles to as much Hinotani Brewery the beer they care about consuming.
When you’re done soaking up and drinking in Japanese culture (literally), here are some more creative, cultural, and simply breathtaking windows into everyday Japanese life worth experiencing.
Forest therapy, or “forest bath”, is as magical as the name suggests. Head to the mountainside woods of Mie Prefecture to absorb the natural healing properties of cedars (believed to help lung infections, insomnia, and diabetes, among other ailments). You can also book a session with Youki Nakagawa (resort co-owner, resident beer brewer and baker, who also happens to be trained to guide you through the 10-year practice), who will remind you to slow down, breathe and use all of them. your senses to enjoy the enchanted environment covered with moss. Embrace your inner mystical beast, just put your phone in airplane mode before taking some selfies.
Misugi is a region rich in traditions, which means that families have often established trades, which have been practiced for many decades. This is the case in Azumaya, where fourth (!) Generation candy makers use large iron pans to create perfect emerald-colored candies from adzuki beans. Less popular overseas than the red bean, these treats are chewy and only slightly tasty, and handy enough for anyone with a sweet tooth, they also photograph themselves as the perfect gemstones.
Cherry blossom display
You’ve heard of cherry blossoms. They’re on your bucket list, your mom’s bucket list, and splashed on every Instagram travel inspo in March and April. But if the crowds in Tokyo and Kyoto aren’t your jam, remember that this natural phenomenon is happening all over the country. Mie Prefecture is the perfect place to attend this event, not only because you won’t be competing with your fellow ‘gramers, but because the area around the Kimigano Dam, which is just a short drive away. outside of Misugi in Tsu, bursts into life with over 20,000 sakura (aka the Japanese word for cherry blossom) a rose show that will easily hook you all likes.
Sanae TORII doll gallery and tea room
In her 80s, Sanae Torii has been making handmade dolls for decades. The bigger ones take up to 10 hours (though she says she could do them a lot faster if life wasn’t embarrassed). Big or small, her creations are eye-catching, as do the brightly colored red bean desserts she serves in front of large cups of traditionally made Matcha tea.
Shinto is the traditional religion of Japan, which means that there are shrines all over the country. Ise Honkaido is considered one of the oldest, a place where believers enter through superb arcades to pray, meditate and sometimes leave small offerings as a sign of devotion (like the Maneki-neko “waving cats”). It is so revered that the new Emperor of Japan will visit it later this year. If you stop at this place of peace, be sure to wash your hands at the ceremonial fountain in the front and walk to the side of the path, not the path itself, which is reserved for the gods.
Ise Honkaido waterfall
The shrine isn’t the only eye-catching landmark in the area. Walk another ten minutes on the trail over a bridge surrounded by winding vines to the top, where you will find a waterfall, surrounded by sheer cliffs and trees growing to the side. Note: you have not entered an episode of Game Of Thrones, even if the environment is worthy of a Mother of Dragons. Sit a bit on the rocks, the same ones used by Shinto pilgrims to pray. Think deeply or just think about your laundry, whatever, you deserve a break.
Editor’s Note: If you would like to experience any of these activities on your own, many companies do not have official websites but can be contacted through INAKA tourism.
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