isama 伊参

  • Published on : 31/03/2018
  • by : S.V.
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The charming village of Isama north of Nakanojo in Gunma Prefecture is a small town typical of the Japanese countryside, nestled between the mountains. Come and attend its film festival or its biennial of contemporary art; two moments of great conviviality which bind harmoniously to the memories of yesteryear emanating from the old wooden buildings.


Make fire with all wood

Wooden buildings are inseparable from satoyama . Isama retains many old wooden buildings. Thus, the residence of the Tomizawa family , designated as an "Important Cultural Property", is a farm dedicated to sericulture (silkworm breeding) typical of the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). It is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as a site associated with the Tomioka silk mill, located 50 kilometers away. Old wooden schools built at the end of the 19th century complete this architectural heritage . The warmth of the wood of these minka and schools resonates harmoniously with the satoyama landscape. Even if these are no longer in use today, they are an undeniable tourist asset for the community of Isama.



The Tomizawa House

On your marks, get set, drink!

Isama remains the last place in the archipelago where the Shirokubo ochako tea ceremony still takes place. Classified as "important cultural property of intangible heritage" in 1990, this ceremony has existed since the middle of the 14th century. Often described as a "tea fight" , it takes place according to a ritual that has not changed since 1799. First, four types of tea, ground in a mortar and then sieved, are prepared and served to the participants. They must pay particular attention to this tasting by trying to retain their tastes and aromas. Then the "fight" begins. New cups (between 7 and 10 per participant) are served among which the participants must recognize the teas presented previously. The winner is the one who accumulates the most correct answers. The "tea fight" takes place every year in Isama on February 24th.





Can you recognize the different teas?

great art

The tourist development of Isama is also based on its film festival and its biennial of contemporary art, two events which, despite their contemporaneity, are expressed marvelously in the rural setting of Isama. One of the old schools of the village having served set for the shooting of a film in 1995 has been renovated and converted into a small cinema museum . During the film festival, it also becomes a small " palace of festivals " where screenings take place. About the biennale of contemporary art which takes place every two years, it presents for a month the works of more than 150 international artists . The artists in residence find in this small mountain village a place conducive to creation and invest in the old rural buildings (schools, factories, community centers, etc.). An artistic journey to the heart of the bucolic landscapes of rural and traditional Japan.





Isama's Little Film Festival


Works of art invade the city during the biennale

Address, timetable & access

  • Address

  • Phone

    +81 (0)279-75-8814
  • Timetable

    Nakanojo Station (Agatsuma Line): 30 minutes from Nagano

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