TAMBA
The Land of Harvest

Satoyama, the original landscape of Japan. Among them, the Tamba area is a remarkable place where unique crops and harvests remain alive even today.
Tamba-Sasayama was a major transportation hub. The city developed as a center of exchange. The castle town, nature, and the hometown of pottery offer a glimpse of what Japan was like 400 years ago.

Overview

Satoyama, also known as managed countryside / community forests, is one of Japan's traditional landscapes. Among Japan's satoyama, the Tamba area is particularly noteworthy, as it still produces unique crops and harvests to this day. Renowned as a place of rich harvest, Tamba is located around 30 minutes from central Kyoto by train. For more than a millennium, this mountain-encircled area has been delivering both building timber to the capital Kyoto and agricultural products vital to the diets of its dwellers.

Various highways ran through Tamba and it was a key route for delivering harvested goods to the capital; this brought great prosperity to the area. At Miyama, formerly a waypoint on the highway along which seafood was transported from the Sea of Japan, you can still see thatched-roof houses from some two centuries ago, and experience everyday satoyama life. At Tamba Sasayama, you can catch a glimpse of what Japan would have looked like four centuries ago, including samurai houses, a castle town—still with its castle—as well as local nature and a pottery village from the Edo period.

Tamba-yaki (traditional Japanese pottery) is a renowned style of pottery which began here in the 12th century, making it one of Japan's oldest pottery styles. As of today, there are some 60 kilns working in the pottery village that nestles in the mountain foothills. Here you can enjoy a very special experience: a visit to the studio of a local potter, where you can view pottery pieces and talk to the artist.

Recommended Spots

  • A village lined with traditional thatched-roof houses, Miyama is designated a nationally significant Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings. The idyllic satoyama landscape, when glimpsed from the surrounding hills, seems like something out of a folktale. The village is beautiful in every season, thanks to cherry blossom in spring, the lush green of summer, the changing foliage of fall, and winter's snow. Take a stroll through the village with your camera and you're sure to come across many photogenic scenes.
    Experience the traditional Japanese technique of thatching, honed in Miyama over many generations. The re-thatching is carried out on a roof frame set up on the ground, so it's perfectly safe. You'll watch video footage taking you through all the processes involved, then learn about the structure of thatching using the roof frame model. Next you'll get changed into traditional "happi" work gear and experience what it's like to re-thatch a roof. Veteran thatchers will talk you through the process, so beginners are welcome. The experience ends with a commemorative photograph and certificate of completion.
    Audio Guide
  • Kameoka, around 30 minutes from Kyoto Station by train, is a castle town that's home to the ruins of Tamba Kameyama Castle. It's also the starting point of the Hozukyo Kudari river boat ride that takes passengers to Arashiyama. Vegetable growing has long been prolific in Kameoka, and today the area is known as a producer of "Kyo-yasai" (Kyoto heirloom) brand vegetables. Cycling through this rural landscape, encircled by mountains, will give you a sense of how agriculture is embedded in local life.
  • <Farmhouse NaNa> A farmhouse lodging set in an authentic Japanese house nestled in a satoyama village. Guests are limited to just one group per day. The main house aside, the site has a warehouse and a barn, enabling guests to get a sense of what life was like in Japan in times gone by. The guest rooms overlook a beautiful Japanese garden. Time your visit right and you can experience harvesting vegetables from the farmhouse garden. If in season, you can also try freshly-picked "Kyo-yasai", or Kyoto heirloom vegetables. Year-round you can enjoy making rice balls with rice cooked on a traditional wood-fired "kamado" stove, or try making stone-baked honey pizza.
  • Kira Farm provides restaurants in Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe with grown-to-order vegetables. The owner, Yoshiteru Kira, grows his vegetables without any use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. His focus is not only on his farm: he also works on preserving the surrounding natural environment and providing farming education and training. Visitors can tour the fields, while listening to Yoshiteru talk about the farm. This is a place where you can touch the very heart of Japanese farming in harmony with nature.
  • <Masahiro Sword Smith> Run by a swordsmith said to be unique even in Kyoto, a city of such tradition and history. The forge offers a small blade forging experience, designed to enable visitors to understand the allure of swords. Visitors will make their own knife with a blade length of around 15cm in 3-4 hours. These knives are made from the same material used for Japanese swords: "tamahagane", made from iron sand. As such, the more you polish the blade, the more defined its "hamon" edge pattern will become. Challenge yourself to create your very own, one-of-a-kind knife.
  • Since 1979, Tamba Wine has been promoted as Kyoto's first local wine, compatible with delicate Japanese cuisine. In 1984, Tamba's Toriino white wine was awarded the gold medal at the Monde Selection, the Challenge International de Vin and the Japan Wine Challenge amongst others.
    Audio Guide
  • Kyoto's Tamba area is characterized by staircase-like river terraces formed along the riverbanks. The original riverbed became a plateau higher than the current riverbed, and the rich soil of the terraces produce delicious rice and other agricultural products.
    Audio Guide
  • Choro Shuzo brewery has been brewing sake since ancient times at the foot of Mt. Chorogatake in the Niwa District of Kyoto. Its product is a mellow, slightly dry, and full-bodied sake made with clear, clean water and good quality rice.
    Audio Guide
  • Tamba Sasayama is surrounded by nature and has a rich food culture. In conjunction with NIPPONIA, a company dedicated to preserving Japanese landscapes, the town is developing old warehouses and mansions into hotels, where visitors can experience the life and culture of the area, and the changing of the seasons.
    Audio Guide
  • A village lined with traditional thatched-roof houses, Miyama is designated a nationally significant Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings. The idyllic satoyama landscape, when glimpsed from the surrounding hills, seems like something out of a folktale. The village is beautiful in every season, thanks to cherry blossom in spring, the lush green of summer, the changing foliage of fall, and winter's snow. Take a stroll through the village with your camera and you're sure to come across many photogenic scenes.
    Experience the traditional Japanese technique of thatching, honed in Miyama over many generations. The re-thatching is carried out on a roof frame set up on the ground, so it's perfectly safe. You'll watch video footage taking you through all the processes involved, then learn about the structure of thatching using the roof frame model. Next you'll get changed into traditional "happi" work gear and experience what it's like to re-thatch a roof. Veteran thatchers will talk you through the process, so beginners are welcome. The experience ends with a commemorative photograph and certificate of completion.
    Audio Guide
  • Fukusumi is a post town situated on the route to Kyoto from Sasayama Castle. Since ancient times, it has been a key stop on the San'in Road: during the Edo period, it was called the "Kyokaido", or "road to Kyoto". Today, the town is designated an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings. The streets, still lined with "hatago" inns and merchant houses, offer a glimpse into how it would have looked back then. It is also home to several shrines, including Maruyama Inari and Sumiyoshi Shrine. The rustic feel of the town makes it perfect for a stroll.
  • <NIPPONIA Shitsukawa Sky Farm> A guest house standing at the top of a terraced rice field, in a spot formerly held by a traditional thatched-roof house. This space offers a blend of old-time living and comfort. It is the perfect place to spend some quiet and private time, surrounded by nature. Guests are supplied with locally-produced breakfast ingredients, to be prepared following recipes supplied by a chef from a high-end Kyoto restaurant. The rice—the first crop of the season, harvested from the terraced rice fields and prepared in a clay pot—is impressively delicious. Shitsukawa has its own local variety of green tea, and guests can try tasting fresh tea leaves during the harvesting season.
  • <Maruyama Village> Previously unused old homes in this village have been refurbished into guest houses, around which are dotted traditional-style village homes. Here you can stroll through a village surrounded by unspoiled nature, while getting a sense of how carefree life might have been in the Japan of old. You can also make use of the rental bicycles available. Try your hand at making toys from wood or bamboo or at wood-chopping, and, if you come in the right season, at harvesting black beans and watching fireflies. The village has a French restaurant and a soba restaurant.
  • Founded in 1797, Houmei Brewery believes that "Sake is culture", and creates a strong, robust and authentic range of sake. In the over two hundred years old brewery, visitors can see the various sake making production processes and tools, and even taste the sake!
    Audio Guide
  • The Dekansho Matsuri is Tamba Sasayama's lively summer Bon Festival dance. The lyrics of Dekansho Bushi, describe the history and culture, regional climate, famous places, and specialties of Sasayama, and was Japan Heritage listed in 2015.
    Audio Guide
  • A village lined with traditional thatched-roof houses, Miyama is designated a nationally significant Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings. The idyllic satoyama landscape, when glimpsed from the surrounding hills, seems like something out of a folktale. The village is beautiful in every season, thanks to cherry blossom in spring, the lush green of summer, the changing foliage of fall, and winter's snow. Take a stroll through the village with your camera and you're sure to come across many photogenic scenes.
    Experience the traditional Japanese technique of thatching, honed in Miyama over many generations. The re-thatching is carried out on a roof frame set up on the ground, so it's perfectly safe. You'll watch video footage taking you through all the processes involved, then learn about the structure of thatching using the roof frame model. Next you'll get changed into traditional "happi" work gear and experience what it's like to re-thatch a roof. Veteran thatchers will talk you through the process, so beginners are welcome. The experience ends with a commemorative photograph and certificate of completion.
    Audio Guide

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