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.
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.