Creative Solutions Spark Rural Revival
Across Japan, communities highlight their distinctive charms to attract visitors. On this episode of Journeys in Japan we revisit 3 locales that have come up with creative ways to put themselves on the map, becoming known not only in Japan but around the world.

Mini marathon (Obuse Town, Nagano Pref.)

Obuse, the smallest town in Nagano Prefecture, is a tranquil community surrounded by peaceful rural scenery. Each year it holds a half marathon, which draws thousands of participants from all over Japan. From the start, runners have been encouraged to dress up however they choose, and many of them wear elaborate costumes, making it one of the most popular races in the country.

Cherry pit spitting contest (Higashine City, Yamagata Pref.)

Higashine, in Yamagata Prefecture, is one of Japan's leading producers of cherries. Each June, it hosts the World Championship of cherry pit spitting with up to 1,000 contestants taking part. The person who spits their cherry pit the furthest wins the title, along with various prizes.

Flowers and blossom (Nara Pref.)

Yoshino Town, in Nara Prefecture, is known for its cherry trees, drawing crowds of visitors in April when they are in full bloom. The trees have been planted over the centuries by the local people, and now cover the slopes of the nearby mountainsides. Many Buddhist temples in Nara also make great efforts to cultivate a variety of flowers, attracting worshippers especially during their peak season in spring and summer.

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The blossoms in Nara are at their peak from April through July. In Yamagata, the cherry season runs from June to July. And the annual marathon in Obuse takes place in mid-July.