Japanese countryside, full day

Rural Japan and the marvels of Tendai Buddhism


The opinion of Japan Experience

A chance for any curious visitor to catch a glimpse of a little-known yet important side of the country: the paddy fields, woods and fields of Japan, with the bonus of being able to visit two wonderful temples which are often overlooked for reasons of distance.

Your Travel Angel's plus

Jean-François has noticed that in Japan efforts are often made to keep or rediscover authentic taste and good products. Gourmets and lovers of local produce will surely be satisfied by this day out. 

Description

Your guide will come and pick you up at 9am and you will head off in a minibus, driven by the guide, towards, the "great plain".

Very quickly we you be driving alongside the river Takano and leaving the noise of the city behind you. The road heads upwards via a few hairpin bends, goes round Mount Hiei on the westernflank and comes out onto a fairly vast plateau where the first rice fields can be seen.

Ohara is a very pleasant village whose houses are scattered here and there on either side of the road and the river, between fields and forests. The narrow road you'll walk along is lined with small shops where the main item on sale is tsukemono, pickled vegetables which are the pride of Kyoto and many of which come from the very fertile plain of Ohara.

Once you have gone through the gate of Sanzen-in, you are surrounded by greenery. Admire the green of the moss on the old stone lanterns or at the foot of the maples, whose own delicate green filters the sunlight, unless of course it's autumn when the leaves turn bright yellow or red.

There's the green of the hortensia and azalea groves as well, and then the pinks, whites, reds, blues and purples when the flowers burst into bloom at the start of summer.

The Amidado, a wooden pavilion which is nearly 100 years old, has a powerful presence. It contains three remarkable wooden, lacquer and gold leaf statues which also date from the Heian period shortly after Kyoto was founded.

Those who love temples* will be able to continue marvelling when they visit Hosen-in, its venerable, 700-year old 5-trunk pine and its ceiling panels coloured with blood, having originally been part of the floor at the castle of Fushimi where 1,370 samurai disembowelled each other.

You will then take a small forest road and explore a hidden village where the agricultural and forestry work of old Japan lives on.

You will walk in the paddy fields and meadows nestled in the midst of the great cedars and cypress trees which, in the relatively recent past, used to supply charcoal, logs and beams to the former capital. Here, they still smoke wood in little shacks by the roadside, they hunt boar, deer and sometimes the bears which can be found across the wild mountains.

A few kilometres after the hamlet, the road comes to an end, the result of a landslide 5 years ago…It wasn't thought necessary to rebuild the road, as no-one lives up there any more!

Kyoto is the northern point of the triangle of the region of Kansai with its 18 million inhabitants. Ohara is even further to the north and from there to the shores of the Japan sea 100km away, there is nothing but a succession of steep valleys.

Satoshi and his wife will then welcome you to their restaurant, where every dish is cooked using local produce (game, river fish, mushrooms etc…) and vegetables which come from their own fields.
It's time for gourmets to pick up their chopsticks - this place is well worth a visit!

After Ohara, you will continue north towards Lake Biwa and then, taking a winding road, climb to the top of Mount Hiei, with many superb places from which to view the lake and the mountains of the area.

To finish off, you will visit the peak of the mountain at an altitude of more than 800m; this is where the famous Enryaku-ji is located, a UNESCO world heritage site which is full of history dating back to the very foundation of the city of Kyoto in the 8th century.

The temple's history is intermingled with that of Buddhism, so widespread was its influence not only on religious life but also political life. Originally intended to protect the capital from harmful influences and demons from the north-east, the temple has often been a place for conflict resolution thanks to the intervention of its monk warriors, the famous "Sohei". Sitting atop Mount Hiei, the huge buildings made of sawn or vermillion timber today form a majestic whole.

And then, via a small road, you'll return to the hum of the city with its traffic, surprised by the contrast and amazed to have, in the space of a single day, caught a glimpse of the 'other' Kyoto, hidden away behind the mountains…

Meals and the visits mentioned are included in the price.
* The visit of Hosen-in is optional, with entry costs to be paid for by customers (approx. 800 yen).

Access

Your Travel Angel will contact you by e-mail to decide the meeting point.
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