Ten Landscapes of Maze: Appreciate the Mountain Scenery in One of the Most Beautiful Villages in Japan
The Maze area of Gero City, boasting excellent local resources and beautiful landscapes, is a member of the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages in Japan. Here you can find expansive mountain scenery typical of Japan, with a rich natural environment created by mountains and rivers. Also, this tiny mountain area features scattered scenic spots called “The Ten Landscapes of Maze.” It’s fun to take a walk around it. Here is a brief description of the landscapes in the Maze area of Gero City and how to enjoy them.
A 14-Centuries-Old Culture of Diet and Faith: Savor Shojin Dishes in Silent Saikan
“Beautiful.” This is the single word that springs to mind when you see the beautiful dishes carried to the dining room. These shojin dishes, which you are about to enjoy in the dead silence of shin’iki (divine territory), are one of the symbols of the 14-centuries-old strolling monk training culture. They are here to tell the eternal stories of those monks who have long inhabited this place. The following is a brief description of the traditional shojin dishes served in Saikan at the summit of Mt. Haguro.
Healing Trip to Enjoy Tokachigawa Onsen, a Moor Hot Spring Nurtured since Ancient Times
Forget the worries of daily life and take time to refresh yourself…that’s one way to enjoy a trip. Hokkaido is one of the favorite destinations of domestic tourists. Although it has many attractions for travelers including superb landscapes and specialty dishes featuring local ingredients, you should never forget the hot springs, which are places for physical and mental refreshment. Here is an introduction to Tokachigawa Onsen, a moor hot spring kept going since ancient times in the Tokachi area of Hokkaido.
Contact with Affluent Nature and Tradition: Mountain Life Experience in Maze, One of the Most Beautiful Villages in Japan
View the wild landscape of Japan that should be handed down to future generations, or experience traditional practices and customs. If that is the kind of trip you are looking for, the Maze area in Gero City, Gifu Prefecture is definitely the place to go. On the map, you can see that this area, virtually located at the center of Japan, is a village covered almost 95% by mountain forests, with a population of only 1,200.
Walk around Chuson-ji Temple and Feel the Magnificence of Hiraizumi, Listed as a World Heritage
Chuson-ji Temple in Hiraizumi. Walking through the main approach lined with cedar trees to the Main Hall (Hondo), you will reach Chuson-ji Temple. Here is one of the best tourist spots in the Tohoku region where you can enjoy beautiful scenery as well as historical architecture, and feel the eternal history. Don’t leave here without visiting Chuson-ji Temple, one of the components of the Cultural Heritage of Hiraizumi, designated in 2011.
Trip to Experience Nature in Nishi-Awa: Outdoor Activities on the Yoshino River and Mountains in Iya
Iya in Miyoshi city, Tokushima prefecture is one of the hidden treasures of Japan. The Iya region is richly endowed with nature, such as the Yoshino River in the Oboke Gorge as well as Mt. Tsurugi, and is attracting much attention for outdoor activities. Here are the activities you should try when in Nishi-Awa.
Experience the Spiritual Culture of Japan through Strolling Monk Training in the Three Mountains of Dewa
Climbing the approach to a shrine step by step, you hear the solemn sound of a shell horn coming from nowhere. You stop to look for the source of the sound, and find a strolling monk coming down the stairs blowing the shell horn – a stately scene that makes you lose track of time. For people in ancient times, mountains were holy sanctuaries of the gods, where ancestors’ spirits rested in peace. Strolling monks are practitioners of Shugen-do, a religion merging traditional Japanese beliefs, including the worship of mountains, Jingi Worship and Onmyodo. Shugen-do, which requires its practitioners to go out into the middle of a vast wilderness and reflect on themselves through ritual purification (misogi) and training, reminds one of the meaning of soul-searching, a practice forgotten by many Japanese today. Mt. Haguro, still home to many Shugen-do practitioners, is one of the “power spots” where you can actually experience the strolling monk training that started in 593. Here are some tips when you decide to go through this traditional training.
Sacred Atmosphere of the Five-Story Pagoda of Mt. Haguro
Deep within a grove of cedar trees over 350 years old, the Five-Story Pagoda, designated as a national treasure, nestles quietly at the foot of Ichinozaka, a slope which leads to the top of Mt. Haguro. The Mt. Haguro area is shrouded in beauty and mystery as if in another world. The Five-Story Pagoda, which was built some 600 years ago, and the landscape of Mt. Haguro will leave lasting impressions.
A Seasonal Tradition on Summer Nights: Hiburi Fishing in Maze
During the short period from late August to early September, a traditional fish-catching method is practiced on the Maze River, a limpid stream running through the Maze area of Gero City. When darkness falls at the end of a long summer day, fishermen surprise sweetfish, or ayu, with torches, fires and sounds to drive them out of their resting places so they can be caught by nets. This fishing technique is known as hiburi-ryo. After an interruption due to various changes, the hiburi fishing technique, which used to be one of the seasonal traditions in the Maze area, was resuscitated by local residents in 2012.
Leisurely Boat Ride Down the River through the Geibikei Gorge, One of Japan’s Best 100 Landscapes
Geibikei Gorge, located in Iwate, Tohoku region, is surrounded by soaring cliffs around 100 meters high. The beauty of Geibikei’s scenery changes each season, and many tourists visit the area throughout the year. Why not relax here amid the impressive landscape, which is designated as one of the best 100 landscapes of Japan?
Trip to Savor Mochi, a Traditional Good-Luck Food from the Edo Period: Ichinoseki and Hiraizumi
Rice cake, or mochi, is an ancient but still popular Japanese food made of steamed sticky rice pounded in a large mortar into gruel. Sometimes, mochi forms a privileged relationship with local tradition. The Ichinoseki-Hiraizumi area in the Tohoku district is one such example. Here are some of the attractive features of rice cake dishes that are worth trying when you visit this area.
Mochitsuki and Mochi Honzen Experiences to Immerse Yourself in Mochi Gastronomy
Thump, thump, thump… This is the sound of steamed sticky rice pounded in a large mortar with a wooden mallet. With this pleasant sound, the rice rapidly turns into rice cakes, or mochi. It is fun to watch this visually-entertaining traditional Japanese practice of mochitsuki, but you can also experience it in the Ichinoseki-Hiraizumi area of the Tohoku district. Dubbed the “leading mochi producer in Japan” due to its wide variety of rice cake dishes, the area boasts a Rice Cake Gastronomy that dates back to the Edo period. Here, you can savor a broad range of rice cake dishes, as presented in the traditional mochi honzen, or a full-course ritual meal. Here is how you can obtain first-hand experience in Rice Cake Gastronomy typical of the Ichinoseki-Hiraizumi area.