Kyoto City is packed with famous sightseeing spots, but it would be such a waste if you only stayed within the city! Why not go a little farther and enjoy a special experience in Miyama, a town that has retained the old-time rural Japanese landscape? A visit there is sure to make you feel like you have slipped back in time.
What Sort of Place Is Miyama, Kyoto?
Miyama is approximately an hour’s drive from Kyoto City. Located at the center of Kyoto Prefecture, it is a small town with rich nature, and the houses with thatched roofs hark back to old-timey Japan. Visitors are greeted by views that that look like they came straight out of a picture book, with the appearance of the town changing with the seasons. Note, though, that there are no highways or direct train lines to Miyama, so if you are planning to visit, you will need to transfer between trains and buses, rent a car, or take a bus operated by Keihan Kyoto Kotsu, which requires reservation.
Highlights of Miyama
Kayabuki no Sato
Kayabuki no Sato (Thatched-Roof Village) is a sightseeing spot that best represents Miyama. There are 39 houses with kayabuki yane in this village, with the oldest one dating back to 1796. This is intriguing because kayabuki yane is a kind of primitive roof that uses plants, and since houses with such roofs require maintenance once every few decades, there are not a lot of them left today. Some of these houses in Miyama are still used as private homes today, while others have been transformed into cafes set in 300-year-old traditional Japanese-style houses and lodging facilities that you can rent as a whole house. A water spraying event is held here twice a year (May 20th and December 1st) during the inspection of the water hoses that have been installed in case the flammable thatched roofs catch fire. The event draws in a lot of tourists, who come hoping to snap a photo.
Visit Shrines and Temples
Built in 1071, Chii Hachiman Jinja (Chii Hachiman Shrine) is a shrine that is perched on a slightly elevated area at the end of a stone staircase. There is an unobstructed view of Kayabuki no Sato from there. It is a historical shrine that is associated with the legend of the extermination of an eight-headed beast, and the detailed engraving of this event at the main shrine is definitely worth a look. There are many other temples and shrines that you can visit in Miyama, such as Chubuji, the only temple in the country where you can pray for the warding off of chufu (motor dysfunction and paralysis), and Ohara Jinja, a shrine that is dedicated to the deities of plentiful harvest and safe childbirth.
Take in the Lush Nature
Ashiu Forest, located in east Miyama, is a nature-rich forest that has been designated as a quasi-national park. Known for its abundant collection of valuable plants despite being situated near a metropolis, this primeval forest that is visited by a lot of hikers has strict regulations on entry by the public in a bid to preserve it. It is not designed for trekking, so it would be best to join a guided tour if you want to visit this forest.
Seiryu Miyama no Ayu Matsuri
You can take part in Ayu-tsukami (sweetfish catching) (from late July to late August annually, priced at 2,000 JPY (incl. tax) per adult) in the clear and beautiful Miyama River. This event sees many participants every year, and is suitable for children too. You can see the ayu (sweetfish) even without underwater goggles thanks to the extremely clear water of the river. The Seiryu Miyama no Ayu Matsuri (Sweetfish Festival) is held in August, offering various other attractions besides ayu catching, such as firework display, Bon odori (Bon festival dance), stage performances, and food stalls.
Where to Stay
At Miyama Nature & Culture Village Kajikaso, which hosts the annual Ayu-tsukami event, you can indulge in local ingredients of the season, as well as gibier (wild game) dishes. They also offer accommodation, and you can choose to stay in a thatched-roof house that has been taken from elsewhere and reconstructed at the site, or at the campground. Spend a magical night surrounded by the lush nature.
Miyama is a place where you can feel the nostalgic landscape of Japan, similar to how Japanese people feel when they go back and visit their grandparents in the countryside. Make sure to check out Miyama and experience a different side of Kyoto.
*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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