Exploring Japan: Top 10 traditional stays in rural areas
Exploring Japan: Top 10 traditional stays in rural areas
With the busyness of modern life, it’s easy to get caught up in a monotonous cycle of living–always looking forward or ruminating on the past, instead of living in the present.
Japan’s countryside, much of which is frozen in times past, is the perfect environment to pause and look inward. The abundant nature, traditional agricultural lifestyles, authentic people, and cultural opportunities offer invaluable memories built upon new perspectives. Whether you are harvesting local produce, cooking with a friendly stranger, or exploring a new neighborhood, it is difficult to be anywhere, but the present.
Listed below are ten traditional lodging experiences that are guaranteed to stay with you long after you leave.
Farm Guesthouse Agriturisimo Omori
Our first stop is Farm Guesthouse Agriturismo Omori in Tono, Iwate Prefecture. This traditionally designed wooden building, nestled among rice fields, farmland, and mountains, creates a scenic retreat that embodies simpler times. Join the Omori family, with matriarchy Tomoko Omori as your guide, and immerse yourself in their rural lifestyle.
Start your adventure by picking seasonal vegetables from the family’s farms, including peppers, tomatoes, corn, melon, potatoes, and more. Then, with Tomoko’s tutelage, transform the freshly picked produce into a delicious dinner that reflects local Iwate cuisine. Share the fruits of your labor with the Omori family, and refuel physically and mentally as you converse with your hosts. Tomoko is more than happy to share her knowledge of the area, which is steeped in Japanese folklore. End the day with a full stomach and enlightened mind as you drift to sleep on a futon in a tatami floored bedroom.
Learn more: Farm Guesthouse Agriturismo Omori
Farm Inn Sakekoshimai
Farm Inn Sakekoshimai, located in Odate City, Akita Prefecture, is a welcoming, family-centered inn that offers insights into the local culture. The traditional building, complete with tatami mats for sleeping, makes travelers feel as if they have stepped into the past. Foodies will not want to pass up a stay at this establishment, as its primary activity is cooking with the owners Mr. and Mrs. Yamauchi.
Start your food escapades by creating tanpo rice skewers, which are unique to Akita. Pound freshly cooked rice, mold it onto skewers, roast it on hot coals, slather it with a sweet miso paste, and then enjoy! Afterwards, with help from the Yamauchi’s, fill the dinner table with roasted fish, kiritanpo-nabe (a type of hotpot), and local vegetables.
The next morning, explore the rural neighborhood and refuel with a filling breakfast. If you are staying mid-September to early October, try your hand at rice harvesting with a machete! After a hard day’s work, visit the nearby onsen, Yatate Heights, to soothe your weary body in hot waters encircled by the countryside.
Learn more: Farm Inn Sakekoshimai
Gonbo no Ie Farmhouse
Gonbo no Ie Farmhouse in Shinano, Nagano Prefecture truly embodies the area’s agricultural spirit thanks to its wide variety of hands-on farming activities. The husband and wife team, Keizou and Chisato Kurata, take guests on a journey through a day in their life. The traditional farmhouse itself acts as an extension of the rural atmosphere and features an earthen genkan entryway and a historically accurate irori stove.
After admiring the atmospheric charm of the farm, prepare yourself for a day of manual activities. Harvest vegetables, such as eggplant and carrots, collect eggs from the chicken coop, and then follow Keizou to his bee hives and gather fresh honey! Return to your home away from home, as Chisato presents a lovingly crafted meal using the vegetables you picked that day. Gather around the irori stove with the family and other guests, and cook skewered fish and vegetables, enjoy glasses of sake, and listen to the Kurata’s as they regale you with their life stories.
Before you leave, be sure to purchase a jar of Keizou’s fresh honey for a sweet taste of the memories you will carry indefinitely.
Learn more: Gonbo no Ie Farmhouse
Moshi Moshi House
Kamijo, a quaint village nestled in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture, is culturally renowned for its fukusuke architecture. These buildings feature thick, thatched roofs and wooden facades. Architectural and history enthusiasts will be excited to know that they can lodge at one of the oldest houses in the area–the Moshi Moshi House. This 150-year-old structure includes sliding doors, futons, tatami mats, and even a kotatsu (quilt-covered table with a heater underneath).
Moshi Moshi House’s manager, Ayumi Uchida, often takes guests on a tour through the town’s shrines, temples, and nature, which are frozen in the past. After your exploration on foot, join Ayumi in the kitchen and learn how to make hoto, a popular stew of flat noodles and seasonal vegetables. The hearty stew, coupled with the welcoming atmosphere of the Moshi Moshi House, is guaranteed to warm your heart.
Learn more: Moshi Moshi House
Wan de En
Wan de En, in the small region of Kawada, Fukui Prefecture, is a guesthouse that offers visitors relaxed, yet authentic cultural experiences. The 150-year old building has roots in the lacquerware industry and is located near multiple lacquerware studios. The structure itself stays true to times past with a preserved wooden facade, tatami mat floors, decorated sliding doors, patterned lights, and more. The guesthouse’s traditional atmosphere is complemented by the mountainous nature of Kawada.
The main event at Wan de En is the chaji experience, which is a specialized type of tea ceremony. This formal event is run by the guesthouse’s amiable owner, Mayumi Araki, who encourages guests to take part in her version of the event, which is free from the pressures of a true chaji. After dressing in a kimono, you are ready to go. During the ceremony Mayumi instructs you how to light a hearth and prepare tea. She also provides a delicious meal of local ingredients and explains the ritualized steps of the ceremony. A stay at Wan de En is a wonderful way to gain insights into Japan’s cultural practices.
Learn more: Wan de En
Farmhouse Tennyo Sanchi
Farmhouse Tennyo Sanchi, located in Echizen City, Fukui Prefecture, is a 140-year farmhouse brimming with traditional Japanese charm. The old homestead is equipped with a traditional stone kiln, wood stove, and irori sunken hearth, and features tatami floors and an open air bath for relaxing. During your stay, spend the day hiking through the mountainous environment or picking vegetables at one of the many nearby farms. For food oriented activities, learn how to make soba noodles or mochi rice cakes from the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Watanabe. After a fulfilling day, enjoy a homemade meal of local ingredients, pickled vegetables, and fresh fish.
Learn more: Farmhouse Tennyo Sanchi
Akizuno Garten Guesthouse
For a unique lodging experience, spend the night at Akizuno Garten, a converted elementary school in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture. This repurposed building architecturally maintains its schoolhouse charm and is surrounded by lush nature. This nostalgic theme continues with the guest house’s lunches which are prepared daily by local mothers.
However, Akizuno Garten is more than just a place to recharge with food and rest. Thanks to its collaborations with nearby farms, the guest house also offers seasonal hands-on experiences such as fruit picking, a juice factory tour, hiking, and more.
Be sure to check out the sweets shop onsite, Valencia Batake, which holds jam, marmalade, roll cake, fruit tart, cream puff, and mikan juice making classes. This shop is the perfect place to create a sweet souvenir.
Learn more: Akizuno Garten
If you are looking for a relaxing countryside getaway, look no further than Origin Guesthouse in Ayabe City, Kyoto Prefecture. The guest house, with its quaint farmhouse vibes and ubiquitous natural beauty, is the picture of a traditional Japanese stay. The guest house’s operator, Yasuko Kashiwabara, is no stranger to the allure and simple integrity of rural life as she gave up her busy city life for its rewarding blessings.
The authentic vibes of the abode, complete with futons, tatami-mat flooring, and warm kotatsu tables, perfectly complement the rural farmside. During your stay, enjoy the family’s lovingly prepared meals filled with home grown and local ingredients. For a leisurely farm activity, accompany Kashiwabara to her azuki bean fields, and help her harvest the small legumes. Later, recharge with the family’s homemade azuki sweets and enjoy a chat with your hosts. A stay at Origin Guesthouse is guaranteed to refresh your mind, body, and soul thanks to its all encompassing atmosphere of relaxation and harmony.
Learn more: Origin Guesthouse
Komoda IL SOGNO Guesthouse
For a homey island retreat, stay at Komoda IL SOGNO Guesthouse on Tsushima Island. This family run guest house offers a variety of meals and experiences that encapsulate seaside life. Don your best fishing attire and hit the piers for some fishing. Then learn how to prepare your catches and cook them the Tsushima way on a heated stone. For mealtimes, your host father prepares unique Italian dishes crafted with fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables. Try sea bream carpaccio and blue-swimming-crab soup.
The guesthouse also holds traditional Japanese workshops, such as wooden coaster-making and origami. The onsite flower garden, lovingly tended to by the host mother, blooms brilliantly with roses in spring and summer and supplies rose petals for aromatic baths after a day of activities by the sea.
Learn more: Komoda IL SOGNO Guesthouse
Euchi Shizen Chiyu-no-sato
For a wholesome farm stay, visit Euchi Shizen Chiyu-no-sato in Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture. The hosts Fumio and Hiroko Ideue are more than happy to share their slice of paradise with curious passersby. The husband and wife’s personalized home includes a traditional irori sunken hearth and open kitchen, perfect for sharing their love of food with hungry guests.
Spend the day picking seasonal fruit or vegetables, and then take a break with a visit to Wakimoto beach for spectacular sunset views.
The couple truly comes to life during dinnertime. Help them craft dishes using local produce and learn the secrets of pickling and preserving. All the while, sample the family’s creations, including pickled shiso (Japanese basil) and green garlic paste. After preparing the food, sit around the hearth, and enjoy sashimi, salad, tempura, hotpot, and more. Of course, the next morning, the family also serves you a delicious and filling Japanese breakfast to start your day.
Learn more: Euchi Shizen Chiyu-no-sato
For more rural Japanese experiences, check out Countryside Stays Japan.
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