Written by Chad Martin
My otaku side brought me toNagoya, Japan in 2012, but I stayed for the food, countryside towns, andgorgeous mountain scenery. I was born and raised on the east coast of theUS, but I dare say I never grew up. I never shut up about Japan.
While there are those that come to Japan to see the bustling mega-cities, the quiet countryside towns that have resisted the change of centuries will always be the most memorable places to me.
These villages, many with dwindling populations, offer so much genuine experience for the overseas traveler.
Sekijuku is a small village located in Kameyama City, Mie Prefecture.
It lies along the Tokaido, an ancient road that travelers of the past used to move between Kyoto and Edo (present day Tokyo).
Towns like Sekijuku were vital places for trade and for weary travelers to get a bit of respite, as the typical means of traveling was not on horseback or horse-drawn cart, but 514 kilometers on foot.
The city was quiet enough to hear the melting snow drip off of the rooftops, interrupted only by the occasional compact car gingerly coasting through the town.
I took my time strolling down the streets, taking pictures of countless quaint displays, things that are probably insignificant to the locals, but very memorable to an outsider.
A daunting challenge at first, but it was warm inside and the prices very reasonable.
While assured by the staff that my candle was better than the staff could make.
It burns and smells good. Huzzah for functionality!
Of course, if you have no faith in your ability to pour liquid wax into another container, you can always purchase a wide variety of candles and other goods directly.
It turned out to just be two lively older gentlemen having a spirited conversation about--you guessed it--carpentry!
One of them was a master carpenter, the most recent in a very long line of carpenters in this town who have been making wooden buckets and other useful items for well over a hundred years.
The craftsmen in many small towns across Japan pride themselves similarly.
Their trade may seem very specific or outdated to some.
But they pride themselves in plying the same trade as their ancestors, and in being a true master of something quite difficult.
Sometimes in smaller towns, particularly towns nestled in the mountains, a communal watering hole of sorts exists.
These are “ashiyu”, small hot springs at which you can rest your tired feet in the warm waters to rejuvenate body and spirits.
Or, if you’re like the ladies I met, you come every day to socialize and take in the sunset. It was certainly something I could get used to.
They weren’t shy at all about chatting with a random foreigner sharing the warm waters.
Although, they spoke little English aside from basic greetings.
Of course, one does occasionally run into a Japanese elder who “doesn’t see” race and will tell you a story whether or not you understand a lick of it.
As complete a day trip as one can hope for. Come see authentic mountain village life first hand.