Japanese countryside, full day

Rural Japan and the marvels of Buddhism Tendaï


The opinion of Japan Experience

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

Your Travel Angel's plus

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

Description

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

Very quickly we will be driving alongside the river Takano and leaving the noises of the city behind us. The road heads upwards via a few hairpin bends, goes round Mount Hiei on the west flank 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 which we walk along is bordered with small shops where the main item on sale is tsukemono, these pickled vegetables which are the pride of Kyoto and many of which come from the very fertile plain of Ohara.

Once we have gone through the gate of Sanzen-in, we are surrounded by greenery. 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 the filter is bright yellow or red when the autumn arrives.

The green of the hortensia and azalea groves as well, and then the pinks, whites, reds, blues and purples when they burst into flower at the start of summer.

The Amidad?, a wooden pavilion which is nearly 100 years old gives off a powerful sobriety. It contains three remarkable wooden, lacquer and gold leaf statues which also date from the Heian period shortly after the foundation of Kyoto.

Those who love temples* will be able to continue marvelling when they visit the 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 1370 samuraïs disembowelled each other.

We will then pick up a small forest road to go and explore a hidden village where the agricultural and forestry work of old Japan stays alive.

We 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 these wild mountains.

A few kilometres after the hamlet,, the road comes to an end…a landslide 5 years ago…It was not judged necessary to rebuild the road, 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 us to their restaurant, where every dish is cooked using local products (game, river fish, mushrooms etc…) and vegetables which come from their fields.
It is time for gourmets to take up their chopsticks, this place is well worth a visit!

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

To finsish off, we 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 most majestic whole.

And then, via a small road, we 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 that other Kyoto, away behind the mountain…

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

Access

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