A visit to Miyama means encountering a lifestyle that is only possible in a mountain village, where the seasons set the rhythm of man’s daily activities. The fact that the thatched roof village Kayabuki no Sato is not only a national heritage site but an inhabited area should be compelling enough to see Miyama as more than a sightseeing destination. It is an occasion to discover and to experience another side of Japan – not just anywhere, but in Kyoto’s rural suburbs.
Conveniently Located Near Famous Sightseeing Destinations
Being located just 50 km away from Kyoto, Miyama is ideal as a base to explore the Kyoto-Osaka area, as well as cities like Maizuru, which is located in Kyoto’s northernmost area in an inlet of the Sea of Japan, or the other port cities lining along the coast of the Sea of Japan – Takahama, Obama or Mihama in Fukui prefecture.
Staying in Miyama, after each day trip to the major touristic attractions around Kyoto, you’ll be able to return to the peaceful life rhythm of the village, where you can recharge and digest what you saw and experienced during the day. The flow of time in Miyama is as unshakeable as the mountain and as smooth and refreshing as the flow of Yura River. If you are on vacation in Japan, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to experience the reinvigorating features of such a time spent in one of Miyama’s peaceful mountain villages.
Meet the Residents of Miyama
Rest assured that there is no lack of exciting activities and stimulating encounters in Miyama. First of all, you should meet the locals. In addition to being hospitable and kind-hearted, with the sort of inner richness that only those living close to nature possess, the residents of Miyama have fascinating stories to share with their guests – stories about the mountain, about the seasons, about the local festivals and customs which are deep-rooted in centuries-old legends.
Take Mrs. Hayashi Etsuko, for example. She runs Miyama’s first ‘bed and breakfast’ lodging facility – B&B Dan, the concept of which was inspired by her extensive travels around the world. A self-taught speaker of English, she is more than happy to chat with her guests and tell her all they want to know about Miyama, Kyoto and the surrounding areas, as well as about the history and culture of this region. Mrs. Hayashi is blogger and a published author writing about her life in Miyama (Miyama Tasogare Mail).
Her stories are full of inspiration and show the richness of daily life in Miyama, a place where one can find fulfilment in everyday activities for the simple reason that they reflect the seasonal changes. One won’t be doing the same work and won’t be seeing the same landscape for long. Each season, in fact, each month, brings new views and new activities.
When we met Mrs. Hayashi, it was March, the month of the Hina Matsuri (Doll’s Festival), a time when the Japanese celebrate the first signs of spring. Hina Matsuri is a festival dedicated to the girls, when the people pray for their daughters’ health and happiness. They display in their houses gorgeous Hina dolls, which symbolize the elegance and happiness of the Imperial Court – the kind of bliss that the people want for their daughters.
In Mrs. Hayashi’s house there was a wonderful display of vintage Hina dolls, which she proudly shows to all her guests, explaining to them their significance and role. The guests will also notice that these dolls are not just a display. Whenever she cooks something special, for example, the Chirashi-zushi – the dish that is eaten at celebrations such as March 3rd, the day of Girls’ Festival, Mrs. Hayashi takes care to bring some of that food to the Hina dolls as an offering. This sign of reverence shows the deep connection of the seasonal customs with religious beliefs.
A wonderful cook, Mrs. Hayashi is selling her homemade bento box lunches, sandwiches and puddings at the roadside station Furatto Miyama in the town. Travelers coming to Miyama or on their way to the north stop by this store to take a break and enjoy local treats.
Miyama’s Roadside Station – Michi no Eki
Furatto Miyama has a great assortment of products made by local farmers – from fresh vegetables and fruit to pastry and sweets, as well as craft items made of wood and Japanese paper, all of which make great souvenirs.
On the same side with Furatto Miyama at the roadside station, there is an oyaki stand offering fried buns with various fillings.
Delicious and easy to eat on the go, these oyaki are the travelers’ favorite treat.
The roadside station is also the place where Miyama’s Tourism Association Office is located. If you would like to know what are the recommended spots to visit and what kind of tours and programs you can take part in during your stay, make sure to stop by this office.
Leisure and Community Actvities Available in Miyama
Stay at any of the guesthouses and inns in Miyama for at least three days and you’ll be treated as a member of the community. Lodging in a thatched roof traditional Japanese house is a unique experience in itself, but you’ll also be welcome to take part in the daily activities of the locals – from cooking or making ingredients like miso (soybean paste) and tsukemono (pickles), to rethatching or gardening.
There are several leisure activities one can enjoy every season in Miyama. In early spring you can take part in mountain walks for picking herbs. In the summer, visitors to Miyama can enjoy hiking on the various trails in the area and even ayu (sweetfish) fishing, an activity for which Miyama is renown for. Autumn brings the opportunity to take part in harvesting the crops and in harvest festivals, while in winter you can enjoy the beautiful illuminations of the thatched roof village area.
Meeting Miyama’s people and taking part in the activities available in this village on the rural suburbs of Kyoto will undoubtedly be wonderful experiences whose memories you’ll treasure, not to mention that everything you experience and the knowledge you gain from staying in a mountain village is something that adds to your life experience and that you’ll be able to use in your own everyday life.