Written by Pete Leong
The town offers a special plan called "Taiki Town Dialogue," which includes overnight stays where you can experience local agriculture, forestry, and rural life, as well as cycling with a local guide who will show you around the town.
By riding a bicycle around the town, you can easily access the highlights or "dots" of the town, and when the dots are connected, they become "lines," and when the lines are connected, the town looks more "three-dimensional." It is recommended not only for cyclists but also for those who are interested in Japanese traditional culture and rural life in Japan.
We stayed at one of the minpaku (private lodging) facilities in the town. There are several to choose from. Some of them are next to beautiful rivers where you can see fireflies in summer, and others are renovated old houses that are over 100 years old. Some include facilities where you can experience cooking on a traditional kamado cook stove.
I stayed at Minpaku Izuho on this trip, although I have visited several other guest houses in the past that were all fantastic fun as well. Much more enjoyable I think than staying at a hotel as you get to interact with the owner and it's generally only one group/guest staying per night. In all my experiences staying at minpakus, I have always found the host/hostess to be super friendly and happy to share tons of information about the local area.
I felt like I became instant great friends with Izuho-san, the owner of Minpaku Izuho, when she greeted me with a big smile and invited us into her house. We were shown around the house and the facilities. After unwinding a bit, we got involved in prepping some firewood for our traditional style bath and outdoor fire for later that night to enjoy drinks and food around.
Next, it was time to pull some fresh organic vegetables from the garden for Izuho-san to prepare for dinner for us. I pulled some "sato-imo" yam's to be added to a soup dish.
We enjoyed a fantastic dinner of sashimi (raw fish) as well as locally caught ayu "sweetfish" and the fresh-picked yams in a soup. Afterwards I enjoyed trying Izuho's traditional style bath where I had to stoke up a fire below to heat up the water. It was heavenly! We rounded out the night with drinks and fun chat around the outdoor fire before retiring to a tatami room with a futon for the night.
In the morning we were up early for our cycling tour on E-bikes. But not before our hostess Izuho-san called us in for some wonderful breakfast that she had been preparing from early in the morning.
I had done this type of tour before in a different part of Taiki and loved it, so was looking forward to getting out to explore some different parts of Taiki. The E-bikes make it very easy for you to ride around for extended periods of time without getting worn out, thanks to the electric battery.
We were introduced to our local guide (an escort rider who has completed a specialized training program and is very familiar with the area). There are several courses you can choose from. You can visit several local temples, mountains, mountain streams, hot spring facilities, and sweets stores.
We set off and enjoyed a ride along a riverside first before arriving at a Kobenomiyayomo shrine, where we checked out a waterfall flowing into a river and drank fresh water from a frog statue that is said to be good for the brain and wisdom. I was just happy that it tasted great and refreshing.
Next, we rode on to visit Milkland, home to milk and dairy products that are produced in the area. It's a perfect rest stop along the tour for different flavors of milky-rich ice cream, although being a coffee fan I opted to try their iced coffee.