Learn to Cook with the Famous Local Black Beans from the Picturesque Town of Sango in Nara Prefecture! [PR]

Nara Prefecture is a popular travel destination thanks to its many tourist spots like the World Heritage Sites “Todai-ji Temple” and “Kasuga Grand Shrine”. It’s also where you’ll find the town of Sango, which boasts a strong connection to history with its ancient roads and places of worship, as well as beautiful nature scenery that you can enjoy all year round. Now you can also learn how to cook a product of that wonderful nature: Sango’s famous black beans! In this article, we’ll discuss the details of this black bean culinary class as well as can’t-miss tourist spots around Sango, a relatively unknown area that’s ready to make you fall in love with it.

Enjoy Fascinating History and Nature in Sango, Nara

Nara Prefecture is located in the western part of Japan known as “Kansai.” As it used to be the site of Japan’s old capital, you’ll find many historic shrines and temples like the famous Todai-ji Temple or the Kashihara Shrine. The area also boasts popular cherry blossom spots like Mt. Odaigahara and Mt. Yoshino, as well as beautiful natural scenery, which have made it a popular travel destination among Japanese and foreign tourists. Nara can be easily reached in 1.5 hours by bus or train from the Kansai International Airport, which takes in direct flights from all over the world, making it especially accessible to people traveling from abroad.

Sango: Where History and Nature Meet

Sango lies in the northwest of Nara Prefecture. It measures 5.6km from east to west and 3.5km from north to south, for a total area of 8.79 It’s a very compact town, but it is blessed by the beautiful splendor of nature thanks to the Kongo-Ikoma-Kisen Quasi-National Park and Mt. Shigi, which always offer visitors something different depending on the season.
There are also many traditional Japanese poems associated with Sango found in the Man’yoshu anthology of Japanese waka poetry, which was compiled between the late 7th and late 8th centuries. It mentions spots in Sango, such as its famous Tatsuta Road or Mt. Mimuro, a famous cherry blossom site. The town is also home to many precious cultural assets like Tatsuta Shrine or Heiryu-ji Temple.

Sango boasts beautiful and historic nature scenery like the one above. It’s also located just a 30-minute train ride from Osaka, making it a great place to visit during a trip to the city.

A map of Sango can be found here

Must-See Tourist Spots in Sango

1. Ancient Tatsuta Road

The Ancient Tatsuta Road connected Heijo-kyo (former capital of Japan in Nara) and Osaka during the Nara period (710 – 794). It served as the gateway to Yamato (the old name for Japan) and was used by the Emperor during imperial visits as well as by Japanese envoys to Tang China or Silla. Some consider it the first official state road, and many poems about the Ancient Tatsuta Road have been written by poets traversing it. You can read those poems today in the Man’yoshu anthology, which shows just how important this road used to be to people of the past. Many temples were built along the Ancient Tatsuta Road and you can now admire these historic buildings among the splendor of nature.

Name: Ancient Tatsuta Road
Address: Tatsuno, Sango-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara
Access: Around an 8-minute walk from Sango Station on the JR Yamatoji Line

2. Tatsuta Shrine

This shrine venerates the deity of wind known as Tatsuta Fujin. Legend goes that 2,100 years ago, after a long period of bad crops and plagues devastated the nation, the Emperor was visited in his dreams by a supreme being that told him to “venerate the two deities, Amenomihashira-no-Mikoto and Kuninomihashira-no-Mikoto, at Mt. Tatsuta.” After construction on the shrine began, the crops became bountiful and the plagues vanished from the land, and that’s how Tatsuta Shrine came into being. Most current visitors to Tatsuta pray for protection from the wind or safe passages on ships or airplanes. Every year, on the first Sunday of July, the shrine holds the Fuchin Festival during which participants can enjoy Kagura music and dance, Fuchin taiko drum performances, and an exciting handheld firework show. If you’re ever in Kansai during this time, make sure to check the festival out.

Name: Tatsuta Shrine
Opening hours: Worship: 24/7, Office and souvenir store: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (prayer registration: until 4:00 pm)
Address: 1-29-1 Tatsuno-minami, Sango-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara
Access: Around a 5-minute walk from Sango Station on the JR Yamatoji Line

3. Mt. Tatsuta

Mt. Tatsuta lies in the southernmost part of the Ikoma Mountains in Nara Prefecture. Located in the basin of Tatsuta River, the name “Mt. Tatsuta” actually refers to a chain of mountains at the north bank of the Yamato River, which runs south off Mt. Shigi. During autumn, the mountain becomes a popular travel destination because of its beautiful foliage. There are many poems about Mt. Tatsuta in the Man’yoshu, meaning that this beautiful land and its seasonal natural views have been fascinating people for more than 2,000 years.

Name: Mt. Tatsuta
Address: Tatsuno, Sango-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara
Access: Around an 8-minute walk from Sango Station on the JR Yamatoji Line

4. Heiryu-ji Temple

Heiryu-ji Temple, also known as Serokuon Temple or Heguri Temple, was one of the 46 places of worship founded by Prince Shotoku, the famed politician and member of the imperial family from the Asuka period (538 - 710). The temple is located in the Sango region of Seya, famous for the kilns that produced roof tiles for the Heiryu-ji and Horyu-ji temples, as well as the keyhole-shaped tombs from the early 6th century. For those reasons, the Heiryu-ji Temple area has been designated as a historic landmark. The modern Heiryu-ji building is a product of the modern age, but the remains of the historic temple are still there, resting peacefully below the ground.

Name: Heiryu-ji Temple
Opening hours: Worship: 24/7
Address: 2-11-60 Seya-higashi, Sango-cho, Ikoma-gun
Access: Around a 10-minute walk from Seya-Kitaguchi Station on the Kintetsu Ikoma Line

5. Mt. Shigi

One of the 100 best mountains to visit for an excursion in Nara (as designated by Nara Prefecture), Mt. Shigi stands tall at an impressive 437m. One of the area’s biggest attractions is the Shigi Ikoma Skyline, a scenic toll road connecting the ridge of Mt. Shigi with Mt. Ikoma on the border of Nara Prefecture and Osaka Prefecture. In spring, the road comes to life with cherry blossoms, and in autumn, it becomes a popular and colorful foliage viewing spot. It’s also beautiful in winter for its snow scenery, making the entire area popular with both locals and tourists. The road also offers panoramic night views of Nara and Osaka, so if you have the chance, visit it in the evening hours.
Another place worth mentioning is the Kaiun Bridge, a registered tangible cultural property and the only place in Kansai where you can enjoy bungee jumping. If you’ve ever wanted to dive off a 30m-tall bridge while surrounded by gorgeous nature, this is the place for you.

Name: Mt. Shigi
Address: Shigisan-nishi, Sango-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara
Access: Around a 5-minute walk from the Shigi Ohashi bus stop after a 22-minute bus ride from Oji Eki Kitaguchi (Oji Station North Exit) via the Nara Kotsu Bus Line heading towards Shigisanmon. To catch the bus, get off at Oji Station on the JR Yamatoji or Kintetsu Ikoma Line.

Name: Kaiun Bungy
Opening hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (registration finishes at 4:30 pm)
Holidays: Wednesday and Thursday. Also closed in the event of typhoon, lightning, or heavy snowfall.
Price: One jump: 9,000 JPY, second jump on same day: 5,000 JPY, all subsequent jumps: 7,000 JPY (certification and ID required)
* Note: Starting on January 1st, 2020, the prices will be revised to:
One jump: 10,000 JPY, second jump on same day: 6,000 JPY, all subsequent jumps: 8,000 JPY (certification and ID required)
Address: 1190-20 Shigisan-nishi, Sango-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara
Access: Around a 5-minute walk from the Shigi Ohashi bus stop after a 22-minute bus ride from Oji Eki Kitaguchi (Oji Station North Exit) via the Nara Kotsu Bus Line heading towards Shigisanmon. To catch the bus, get off at Oji Station on the JR Yamatoji or Kintetsu Ikoma Line.

A Lavish Union of Sweet and Savory Flavors! Learn to Cook Sango’s Delicious Black Beans!

These beans pack a lot of nutrients and flavor!

Black beans have a lot of health benefits. For example, they have high levels of antioxidizing polyphenols, prevent high blood pressure or the hardening of arteries, improve blood glucose levels, and have a general antiaging effect on the body. Because of this, black beans have long had their place on the Japanese dining table.
The beans cultivated at Sango are sundried for 1 month to bring out their sweet and savory flavor. This process doesn’t affect their high nutritional value.

Learn to Cook Sango’s Delicious Black Beans!

Eating local specialties is one of the best parts of any trip, which is why we recommend the Sango black bean cooking class hosted by the popular ABC Cooking program.
During it, you will be making three dishes with Sango black beans: Brazilian Feijoada stew with beans and pork (or beef), cream soup, and rum balls with jam or condensed milk inside a cake or biscuit dough. The class takes place at the easily accessible JR Tennoji Station, which can be reached in 20 minutes from JR Shin-Osaka Station, or in 30 minutes from JR Nara Station. The instructors speak English, so even foreigners who don’t speak Japanese can participate in the class!
Let’s enjoy making delicious dishes which bring out the best flavors of local Nara ingredients harvested from the very heart of Sango’s nature!

- Black bean and pork Feijoada-style stew, with rice
- Black bean cream soup
- Rum balls

Things to bring:
An apron, hand towel (guests without an apron will be able to buy one for 100 yen)

Venue: Abeno and Studio (Google Maps)
Address: Abeno and 4F, 2-1-40 Abenosuji, Abeno-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka
 December 20 (Fri), 2019
 January 14 (Tue) and 30 (Thu), 2020
 February 10 (Mon) and 26 (Wed), 2020
 March 9 (Mon), 2020
Lesson duration: 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm (one lesson is around two hours)
Access: Around a 5-minute walk from JR Tennoji Station
Languages: Japanese, English


We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the magic of Sango. If you ever get the chance, please enjoy local Sango specialties and the beautiful scenery in this land of history and nature!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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