Places to visit around Nishiawakura Village
We recommend the following places for you to truly get the feel of the Northeastern Okayama area. First of all, we would love you to step into the woods and feel the diverse forms of life all around you. This is the best place to set your body clock to the Nishiawakura Village time.
We offer tours in English with a licensed guide as the public transport access is limited. The model courses (please inquire!) show you the best of what the immediate areas offer, but please let us know what other cultural activities you are interested in; we are happy to tailormake a tour just for you and your companions.
"Craftsman Tours in Countryside Okayama" available with a licensed guide
from 7,500 yen (2 hours) ~
Feel free to get in touch with your interests and budget.
Wakasugi virgin forest 若杉原生林
A one- hour hike to the view point on the shortest course makes it ideal for a family event and travellers without heavy hiking gear. Here not only are you able to see the Japanese beech and Mongolian oak (rare in Western Japan), but walking on the stone path used for the last 300 years naturally invites you to cast your thoughts back to old times, stimulating your imagination as to how the journey must have been at that time. The Giant Japanese Salamander, designated a "natural national treasure" and known to reside only in cool and clear streams, can also be witnessed in our village.
A Walk in the Hikadani "Golden" Valley 引谷地区
From late March to early April, the golden paper bushes covering the well-drained slopes of the woods delight the hearts of both local and travellers alike. Their elegant blossoms reassure us that spring is just around the corner. The plants are also known for their use in Japanese paper production, especially paper currency because of the plant fibers' resilience. The paper bush only grows in well-managed woods as it needs a good amount of sunshine. Enjoy walking in the valley with terraced rice paddies and a fast- flowing stream lit up by the bright yellow oriental paper bush.
Firefly viewing 姫蛍
From the beginning to mid-June, we can see the dances of the Genji fireflies along the relatively slow- flowing rivers in the area. A month later in mid-July, we can see the rare Hime (princess) fireflies up in the woods whose light flickers on and off like Xmas illumination. With the starlit sky above and a natural light show around us, you can only describe the scene as magical! We strongly advise you to book early during this season.
７月上旬から２週間ほど大芽スキー場付近の森で見られる 姫蛍。夜空のミルキーウエイとゲンジボタルの光の線と共に 幻想的な空間が夏のこの期間だけ体験できます。
Fureru (Restaurant/Crafts Shop) in the Old Kageishi Primary School
Housed together with a few other young artists and entrepreneur's (work)shops in the old wooden primary school, Fureru offers homemade and nutritious dishes which often look too good to eat! As you can see in the picture, it is literally a work of art. Beautiful handmade wooden plates and the cutlery, both created by the chef's husband, enhance the whole experience of it all. When you visit, make sure you have enough time to admire all the pottery, glassware pieces and wood works for sale by local craftsmen.
Youbi Wooden Workshop ようび木工房
Mr Masayuki Oshima who heads the Youbi Wooden Workshop has challenged the norm of the industry head-on and succeeded in making furniture using needle-leaf trees such as Japanese cypress as opposed to the common broad-leaf trees. He is determined to do something about the vast cedar and cypress plantations left uncared for. Oshima’s chairs are designed in a way that they are most comfortable when you sit with your back straight. In this position, your inner organs sit in a more balanced way. His works blend perfectly into the environment and change the quality of that space. They are aesthetically pleasing and at the same time health-enhancing.
Having overcome the ordeal of the fire turning everything into ash in 2015, with the help of 600 volunteers across Japan, the new studio opened in May 2018 utilizing one of the latest architectural techniques, which symbolizes hope and bright future for both the village and the forest industry in Japan.
Nishiawakura Berry Farm にしあわくらだんだんベリー畑
You can pick berries of all types starting around the end of June. One of our favourite berries is called June berry as the name suggests, in June, they ripen to a dark red wine colour and have a unique sweetness without any bitterness or leaving your mouth sour. Those who like hiking can walk from the nearest local station "Awakura Onsen (hot spring) Station" all the way up to the farm with the murmur of the river and the chirping of the birds as your company. On the way back, drop in at a local hot spring, "O-gon sen (the golden hot spring)" and have a good soak admiring the mountain view in an open-air bath.
Most of our overseas guests, if not all of them, say that this is one of the most memorable places that they have come to visit. This is a place where you can get an experience of slipping back in time in a house with a sunken hearth and thatched roof. After a quiet walk along a clear stream with a waterwall over the mountain top (wait to come here to learn the story behind it), treat yourself to a healthy local traditional meal prepared by the ladies who have worked there for the last 40 years. Please try to observe their seamless movement, especially how their accustomed feet seem to know just where to place the next step avoiding the bumps on the path as they carry the trays of dishes back and forth between the dining space and the kitchen without ever having to look down! This is a gem rarely found anywhere else in Japan. Alternatively the cosy cafe "Quince" on the same ground serves a selection of drinks and desserts. Have a blissful time up there with the mountain spirits!
Tottori Sand dune and the Sand Museum 鳥取砂丘と砂の美術館
日本語はこちらをどうぞ (also more info in English) http://www.sand-museum.jp
We are only about an hour away from the sand dune and sand museum which are both stunning and well worth a visit. Every year, the sand museum features a themed exhibition of sculptures based on a particular country by various international artists. After displays of iconic images from the U.K. and China, the 2014/15 exhibition is of Russia.
Ohara Town and Higashi-Awakura Village 旧大原町と東粟倉村
Ohara is famous as the birthplace of the legendary samurai, Miyamoto Musashi. Here you can visit the Musashi Budokan, Dojo, a small museum and the Musashi shrine. Just 5 minutes from Ohara Station, you can stroll down Furumachi, a street in a style depicting a bygone age. Many of the buildings date back hundreds of years, one of which has recently been renovated to become Nambatei, a restaurant/coffee shop featuring a relaxed atmosphere and delicious meals of local produce.
Our sister village, Higashi-Awakura, has a very different landscape to us, featuring spectacular views from the mountain tops. A recommended rest-stop is Kobushi An, a small eatery for noodles and rice cakes.
Hands-on Activities 伝統文化体験
Taking part in a variety of activities enhances one's understanding of Japanese history and culture. Please let us know what you are interested in if it is not in the list below.
Kimono wearing, fabric dyeing using natural ingredients, wooden musical instrument making, cooking, martial arts (kendo, iaido), cotton weaving, carpentry (wooden utensils), berry picking, etc.