Satoyama library ~Japan Village Experience~

Seasoning Journey to living Satoyama - meet the ingredients, taste their stories!

Featured Tour

Village Life



Saturday, 21 July 2018

Ama female divers village in Shima Peninshula

Hearing the voices of Ama female divers 

Ama are female divers who go free-diving to catch shellfishes and seafoods like abalones, sea urchins, sea snails.without a breathing apparatus. The origin of ama dates back to 3000 years ago, which was recorded in the Chronicle of Japan.

They are still relying on the ancient methods of fishing until now without using modern technologies. This is to protect and appreciate the natural resources of their ocean.

It is said that ama divers are unique culture, which can be seen only in a part of Korea and in Japan. There are 2000 ama divers in Japan, and among them, half of divers are in the Shima peninsula of Mie prefecture.

Ama can dive into ocean for approximately 1 minute at one breath. They repeat this 20-30 times for one hour. Even 70 year old ladies, who feel difficulty in walking, still work for diving. The old lady said she found better in the sea rather than walking on the land.

Before the free-dive, they set fire in pray for their safety and to ward off evil spirit, even in the mid-summer. Mugwort of butterbur leaves are roasted and used as anti-fogging diving masks.

After 1-2 hours diving, they will get together to have snacks and chat. Although ama is lonely while diving alone in the sea, they always work in a group, so that all can keep eye on each other just in case of emergency. It is said that before, they sometimes witnessed sharks in the sea.

After 2 hours diving,  big abalones are collected.

Ama divers bring their trophies to the port, where the staff of fishery cooperative culcurate the purchase price.

Recommended place to visit in Shima

Sea-Folk Museum in Toba

Founded in 1971, the Sea-Folk Museum preserves over six thousand exhibits about Toba’s ancient fishing traditions and antique fishing equipment. 

Its architecture is also unique, and must-see destination, designed by a Japanese architect, Mr. Hiroshi Naito of Naito Architect & Associates. It was awarded several prizes, including Award of Architectural Institute of Japan by Architectural Institute of Japan.


It produces salt by using only seawater in the ancient method. Recycled wood from houses is used for firewood. Sea water is poured into a kiln and burned for 3 days until the salt is completely crystalized. You can see the process of making sea salt. 

Ama diver's guesthouse "AMARGE"

Ms. Rikako Sato, who became an ama diver 3 years ago, opened a guesthouse in Ijika town of the Shima peninsula. She will take her guests to the ama hut in the following morning, if it is the day of diving.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

making tea utensils in a tea farming village

Located in the high land of Yamato Plateau, Yamazoe village is the largest production area of Yamato green tea in Nara prefecture.

We visited a wood workshop to make our own tea utensils.

In the entrance of the workshop, there are diverse varieties of timbers.

These furnitures are all hand-made.

"Would you like a cup of tea?"

At a home of Yamazoe tea village, drinking tea together is just like a greeting.
When we visit a person in the village, first thing to do is drinking tea.

Then, we go to the workshop to select our own woods to process.

There are too many options to choose one...

First, we adjusted size by using blader.
Then polish,

The last is to put wax on it.

Tea party by using tea board just made.

tea farm in Yamazoe village

Monday, 16 April 2018

[1Day Nara] Eat & Walk Food Tour in Nara, foraging & medicinal plant garden

The history of harvesting medicinal plants dates back to early 7th century, when the first empress Suiko hunted wild herbs in today's uda city, Nara prefecture. This is written in the Chronicle of Japan in 611 AD.

Afterwords, during the ara of Yoshimune Tokugawa, 8th generation of Shogunate government in Edo period, one of the oldest medicinal plant garden was established in O-Uda.

At that time there were 35 traditional pharmacies and 12 medicinal liqor shops in the town. In Uda, since ancient times, traditional knowledge to utilize natural resources had been passed down from generations to generations. Many notable pharmaceutical companies are also initiated in this town. 

How about visiting the birthplace of medicinal plant culture in Japan, and going for harvesting wild edibles?

Japan's oldest medicinal plant garden "Morino herbal garden"

Morino Kudzu honpo, is a kudzu starch maker, also maintaining the Japan's oldest medicinal plant garden. There are 250 kinds of herbal plants, and 6 plants which was originally provided by Tokugawa Shogunate Government are still there. 

Mr. Harano, a garden master explains the highlights of the herbal garden

Foraging on the hill of Matsuyama castle town

Going through forest from Kasuga shrine led us to fantastic view of Matsuyama castle town. 

After 30 minutes walk, you can see awesome scenery from the top of the mountain. 

Here is the wild plant hunting site. 

Warabi, bracken plant

dokudami, (Houttuynia cordata)fish mint
fuki,  (Petasites japonicus) butterbur
mitsuba, (Cryptotaenia japonica); Japanese honewort
uba yuri, Cardiocrinum cordatum), Heartleaf lily

<Foraging tour in Uda>
Visitng Japan's oldest plant garden, foraging on the hill, sansai lunch, tasting medicinal herb liquor.

9:30 -      Meeting at Ouda bus stop
10:00-11:00    Medicinal Plant Garden
11:00-12:00     Foraging
12:30-14:00     Cooking and Lunch time

<min-max participants>    5-20 persons 
<Fee> 5000JPY(including lunch and entrance fee of medicinal plant garden)


Saturday, 7 April 2018

visit bamboo crafts atelier in Yamazoe village

"I wish to continue to make till the end of my life"

Said a bamboo craftman in Yamazoe village, who has dedicated himself to bamboo for more than 60 years.

A young bamboo craftman from Oita prefecture visited Mr. Tanioku, and once they met each other at the atelier in Yamazoe village, they sat down on the floor and started to work for bamboo. Their thoughts and wills can be conveyed through the handiwork beyond generation.

The craft by the craftman in Yamazoe village is called "shoke", bamboo basket.
This is especially for rinsing rice in the past time when people used earth oven.

First, cut bamboo along with bamboo fibre in preparation for "higo" bamboo sticks. This process is especially time consuming.

In Yamazoe village, which once flourished as tea production area, also boasted about its production of "shoke", half of the village population was engaged in making shoke baskets in winter season after finishing tea processing.

After processing tea, water content of bamboo plant will be reduced, which is a suitable season for preserving bamboo.

Cutting bamboo from October to Spring sustain farmer's income during off-season of farming. Once, it is said that shoke basket production was a big industry, which enables farmers to construct big houses, called "shoke gotten (villa)"

Nowadays, the basket price is only 2500JPY, although it takes one full day to produce.
He continues to make basket not for earning income, but for just keeping his life unchanged from the past until the end of his life.

Even in the rain or wind, just keep producing everyday until he dies, this is his way of living. 

On the other hand, a yound artist, Mr. Mappon from Oita prefecture, makes refind items such as kitchen tools and accessories. It is a bit different from the crafts made by the old craftsman. 

The common problem of these two artisans is that there are decreasing bamboo which is suitable for making crafts From the abandoned bamboo forest without human control, people cannot  harvest good bamboos.

In order to harvest good ingredients, management of forest environment is indispensable. Not only successors of craftsman, but also good materials are also disappearing.

irori earth oven to make tea in frot of the entrance hall
The knowledge and skills of bamboo crafts are disappearing, however, the problem is decreasing value of bamboo products. How do we sell bamboo baskets at 10,000JPY, while there are 1000 JPY baskets imported from overseas?

Travelling and learning their stories can help them to support financially, and this could be a fair-trade for farmers.  Responsible travelling is to sustain handiworks and their rural life.


Hidden places of cherry viewing and secret sweets

Tour to visit hidden beauty spots for viewing cherry blossoms, visiting 8 temples and private residences and eating 3 tailor-made sweets

Cherry blossoms of Yoshino in Nara is famous for its thousands cherry blossoms in the mountain, however, in Yamato plateau there are also several unknown beauty spots as well.
In the tour, we explored 8 different cherry viewing points, along with 3 sweets, which are especially  custom-made by sweet chefs for the tour.

Shorenji temple

a local vegetable seller

Tenyakuji temple, also famous for  its camellia flower

katakuri, dogtooth violet

Custom-made sweets

Ananda's cream puff with cherry flower testes.

Kuzukiri made by a 70-year-old grandma, who were fascinated by kudzu starch produced in Uda and moved to Uda to make kudzukiri. 

Mitarashi dingo by Nishi-showado in Utano.

home visit to see cherry blossoms at a private residence

The highlight is illuminated cherry blossoms at Hozoji temple in Higashi Yoshino . The cherry tree is said to be 430-year-old, and designated as the natural treasure.