01 September, 2006

Japan Guide | Enjoy the Countryside

Today we’re having rain all day that we haven’t had for a while. It’s a whole lot cooler than yesterday. Looks like summer is surely leaving this country. One of my colleagues caught a cold for sleeping nearly naked till last night. Careful! The season is changing.

Yesterday I wrote about my shock about the reality the isolated islands of Okinawa are facing, but today I’m going to switch my mind on a lighter and more pleasant topic.

So, enjoy the countryside.
Let’s see, why don’t we start from Tokyo periphery? A typical guide would most likely lead you to Nikko, a historical and natural area located several hours north of Tokyo. Of course, it’s a beautiful place very easy to access: you can reach there easily and directly from terminal stations in Tokyo like Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, plus it’s going to be the foliage season soon so it is in fact a great destination this time of year. There is also the amusement park Edo Wonderland with a magnificent recreation & re-enactment of Edo Period where you can enjoy the townscape and townspeople of several centuries back in history. It has great ninja shows and attractions, too.

Yet, if you want to explore a more unknown rustic place and just spend a slow relaxing time, I recommend an area called Nanasawa in Atsugi City, Kanagawa Prefecture. It is an area in the mountains rich in hot springs, retaining the townscape of good old Japan. Although it is not as known as some other hot spring resorts in nearby areas, it is also accessible from Tokyo without any hassle. All it takes is a little more than an hour from Shinjuku, using Odakyu line and bus. Few people who know this secret spot are big fans of this spot.

As I was writing, I just realized how the term “rustic” is deeply associated with Japanese identity. We say “hinabita” in Japanese, and the synonyms include the following: idyllic, carefree, pastoral, rural (landscape), village-like, calming, peaceful, un-secularized, plain, somehow nostalgic, fond, harmony b/w human and nature... etc.

My definition of “hinabita” includes all of these, but is deeper and more discreet, I feel.

I plan to feature entertainment spots too where you can just scream till you lose your voice and dash around till your legs don’t move anymore, but I’m pretty sure that “hinabita” would become one big theme in my Japan Guide.

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