Introduction to Miyama Village

Miyama is located 50km north of Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. It is a village that retains the original landscape of a Japanese farming village, with rich nature and traditional lifestyle, and is blessed with traditional culture represented by thatched houses and abundant wildlife symbolized by "Ashiu old-growth forests." The entire area is designated as Kyoto Tamba Kogen Quasi-National Park. 

Various traditional events and festivals with a history of more than 400 years remain in the village, and books on village history and culture have been published by residents in each of the former villages in Miyama. 

The number of visitors in 2019 was 768,310 (including 3,769 foreign overnight guests). Miyama has 3,464 residents in 1,733 households, of which 98.8% are Japanese, and 1.2% are non-Japanese. It is a profoundly mountainous area that preserves traditional lifestyles, but like the rest of the country, the population began to migrate out of the village and age in the late 1980s. 

In Miyama, residents took the initiative to promote exchanges between urban and rural areas through tourism. As a result, the number of new immigrants from outside the village increased. Miyama is a community that has actively promoted the acceptance of newcomers from outside the community, including tourists, and is home to residents who create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. 

In 2021, Miyama was recognized as the Best Tourism Village by UNWTO for preserving culture and traditions, respecting diversity, providing opportunities, and protecting biodiversity through tourism. Miyama is committed to the sustainable development of the village as a whole, using tourism as an integral part of the local community. 

Miyama is characterized by its thatched houses, which were selected as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings in 1993. 18th-century wooden Kayabuki private houses still exist in the area, and the residents of Miyama still live in them. These houses are made entirely of natural materials such as wood and grass, and when the houses are torn down, all the waste is returned to nature and used as fertilizer for the fields. 

The interior of a thatched cottage is cool in summer and warm in winter, and the thickness of the roof provides insulation from the heat of the sun and the cold of snow. Thatched roofs are designed to prevent water from flooding into the building. The sloping roof structure is suitable for the harsh natural environment of Miyama, which has much snow. In addition, the thatched roofs have excellent sound absorption properties, making the interior of a thatched house tranquil. 

The traditional thatch technique of creating and restoring these distinctive thatched roofs is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Site, and there are two thatcher companies in Miyama. Thatched roofs, which are well suited to Miyama's climate, result from the power of natural materials and the skill of artisans. 

The residents live a traditional mountain village lifestyle in a rich natural setting surrounded by mountains. Visitors to the area can experience the traditional lifestyle of the people of Miyama, such as cooking over an open hearth in a 150-year-old thatched house that can be rented out.

Cultural information

The residents of Miyama have long lived in harmony with nature through agriculture. Events related to Shintoism, a religion unique to Japan, remain in people's lives. The residents have long worshiped many shrines, and festivals related to these shrines remain. For example, Suwa Shrine, built in Miyama in the 14th century, holds a grand celebration once every 15 years called "Tanano no Senryo Matsuri," in which residents dedicate various folk arts to the gods.

Straw crafts using rice straw, the material used for thatched roofs, are also popular; straw sandals, straw snow shoes, "Shimenawa (sacred straw rope), " and all sorts of things are made from straw. The "Shimenawa" of the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine in Kyoto City has also been made by the people of Miyama for many years.


Transport to Miyama Village

When using public transportation, it takes about 2 hours to get there from JR Kyoto Station* in Kyoto City, a major city, by train and city bus. Also, a rental car takes about 1 and 20 minutes from Kyoto City and about 2 hours from Osaka City. (*) JR Kyoto Station is a large station where the Shinkansen bullet train stops.


What’s good to eat in Miyama Village

Because Miyama is located between the Sea of Japan, where marine resources can be harvested, and Kyoto City, once the capital of Japan from the 8th to 19th centuries, a road called "Saba Kaido" (mackerel road) used to pass through the village for peddlers to carry marine products to the capital.

As a result, Miyama, despite being surrounded by mountains, has a traditional fermented food called "Nare-zushi," which is made from mackerel from the Sea of Japan and cured in salt. This preserved food is made using a traditional method that prevents spoilage by fermentation and takes advantage of the sterilizing properties of bamboo grass leaves.

Other conventional foods using mackerel include "Saba-sushi" (lightly pickled mackerel sushi) and "Saba No Heshiko" (mackerel fermented in bran and brine). The abundance of nature in the area also makes it possible to taste nature's bounty in different seasons, such as dishes using wild vegetables and "Ayu" (sweetfish) from the river, wild boar and deer, and sweets made from milk produced in the area. Miyama has been designated as a particular area for "Doburoku", a Japanese sake made using an old-fashioned method, and the production of "Doburoku" using rice from Miyama is also very active.

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    Information about accommodation in Miyama Village

    There are 42 lodging facilities in Miyama. We can offer a variety of facilities depending on the target audience, such as thatched-roof single-family houses, farmhouse guesthouses, and facilities for groups. We also have a homestay program for students from overseas, and about ten schools, mainly from Taiwan and Australia, visit Miyama every year. Wi-fi is available at many inns, but we recommend you enjoy a digital detox when you come to Miyama.

    Businesses in Miyama regularly attend customer service and safety management courses given by top-notch instructors and courses on various meal requests to ensure that guests are comfortable daily.

    Tips for staying in Miyama Village 

    <Throughout the year> Miyama is located almost in the center of Kyoto Prefecture, but its climate classification is closer to that of the Sea of Japan, and it is a relatively rainy area with high rainfall and humidity throughout the year, with an average annual rainfall of 1.509mm. Mountains surround the entire village of Miyama. Please note that cell phone reception could be better in some areas. 

    <Spring and Fall> The average temperature in Miyama is 2~3℃ lower than in urban areas, so please dress a little warmer than usual for a comfortable stay. Even if daytime temperatures are warm, morning and evening temperatures drop dramatically. It is advisable to bring a cardigan or jacket. In spring, wild vegetables grow in various places, but most places are the private property of villages and residents, so please only enter land around residences or into the mountains with permission to pick wild vegetables. 

    <Winter (December to the end of February)> Since the area has a relatively heavy snowfall, it is advisable to take precautions against snow even if you are coming to the village by public transportation. For example, it is advisable to wear shoes that do not get wet and are not slippery so that you can enjoy sightseeing with peace of mind. If you are driving a rental car or another vehicle, many roads can be conducted without snow tires during the daytime when the weather is good. However, even during the day, some streets are shaded and become icy when the temperature drops in the early morning or evening, so studless tires are recommended just in case.


    Entertainment in Miyama Village

    There is a festival called "Age-Matsu" held in August every year. This is a heroic festival in which torches are set alight in lanterns more than 20 meters high and dedicated to Atago Jinja Shrine, the god of fire, to pray for a bountiful harvest of farm products and to ward off fire demons. 

    "Gionsha Kagura Festival" is an annual festival at Yasaka Jinja Shrine, which has long been worshipped in the village and is dedicated to praying for a bountiful harvest of agricultural products. In this festival, residents dressed as legendary Japanese creatures such as "Tengu" and "Oni" walk in procession while performing traditional local arts such as flute and drum performances, a custom preserved in Miyama from ancient times to the present. 

    At Chii Hachiman Jinja Shrine, where the tradition has been handed down since the 8th century, a festival is held every year in which a portable shrine is carried through the village in a procession to pray for the exorcism of bad luck and family safety. In October, "Karasu Dengaku," a 600-year-old tradition, is dedicated to the god of Kawakami Shrine. This annual festival is held to pray for a good harvest and family safety and is performed by nine people with flutes and drums.

    The common thread through these festivals is the spirit of coexistence with nature and a sense of gratitude. People have been sincerely thankful for the blessings of nature and have built a sustainable society since ancient times by holding festivals to live with heart, which is sometimes harsh.

    Best Things to do in Miyama Village

    In Miyama, visitors can enjoy a variety of hands-on sightseeing throughout the year. 

    In spring, the entire village is decorated with beautiful flowers and grasses. Spring wildflowers have long been an indispensable source of nutrition for residents. Mugwort, in particular, is used to make tea and rice cakes, which are also offered to tourists. Ono Dam Park, a cherry blossom viewing spot, is located in the western part of the village and is a popular place to enjoy the approximately 1,000 cherry trees without crowds. 

    In June, a precious flower called "Paeonia obovata" blooms with beautiful red and white flowers. The flowers are managed by residents in a protected area, which holds viewing events for the general public on a limited number of days (two days per year). The village allocates funds for conservation activities by collecting a small cooperation fee from visitors. 

    In summer, visitors can fully enjoy the food and nature unique to summer in Japan at the "Ayu (sweetfish) Festival," where they can catch sweetfish, a summer river fish, by hand and eat it grilled on the spot in the beautiful clear waters of the Yura River, or under the stars to see the great light created by fireflies, which live only in areas with clean water. Visitors can also experience the thrill of rafting down the Miyama River, which runs through the entire village, through a gorge surrounded by beautiful forests. 

    In autumn, there are trekking tours to view the magnificent waterfalls in the "Hora" district amid the beautiful autumn foliage and nature-guided tours with expert guides on plants and animals in "Ashiu old-growth forests," which have been preserved in their natural state by Kyoto University for research. The trekking tours are on well-maintained walking trails, so even those not accustomed to trekking can easily enjoy themselves. 

    Taking advantage of the fact that the area has much snow, an event called "Yukitouro (snow lanterns)" was started about 20 years ago as an idea of residents. What began as a small event in which villagers made handmade lanterns out of snow and lit them has grown into a significant winter event that attracts tourists from Japan and abroad. 

    Visitors can enjoy the fantastic night scenery created by the lighting up of snow-covered thatched houses and snow lanterns made by visitors. There are also a variety of snow-based activities, such as walking on snowshoes or cross-country skiing on snow-covered mountains with more than one meter of snow. Of course, visitors can enjoy not only outdoor experiences but also relaxation experiences and traditional cooking experiences in thatched houses.