Yamanobe no Michi
One of Japan's oldest roads, the Yamanobe no Michi runs about 25 kilometers along the foot of the mountains in the Nara basin, linking Sakurai and Nara Cities. Agriculture prospers along the route, which is also dotted with many significant shrines and ancient burial mounds. Michael Keida, an American actor who also farms, heads down the southern stretch, visiting historical places and meeting people who live close to the land.

Ohmiwa Jinja (Shrine)

Considered Japan's oldest shrine, the object of worship is the entire Mount Miwa itself, which has been revered from ancient times. In Shintoism, people show gratitude to nature and the elements. They worship the gods of their area by expressing their thanks at shrines. Ohmiwa Jinja is the first place in Japan where a ritual was held on behalf of the ruler to pacify an epidemic. In the fall, shrine maidens dedicate dancing to pray for a safe sake-brewing season during the Sake Festival.

Miwa Somen

Somen production began 1,200 years ago. Legend has it that when the chief priest of Ohmiwa Jinja prayed to the god to save people from a famine, the god instructed him on how to make Somen. Visitors to the area can see workers run long chopsticks through the hand-rolled noodles to keep them from sticking. In the Edo period, Miwa's Somen became popular among pilgrims wishing for long-lasting happiness, and took off nationwide. After that, Somen started to be produced around the country.

Persimmon Farm (Kayocho, Tenri City)

Kayocho's specialty is Tonewase-gaki, which are persimmons harvested earlier than the usual variety. Native to China and Japan, persimmons are prized for their flavor and nutritious properties. More than 1,000 types exist. Recently, with the aging and declining population, persimmon fields have been left uncultivated, changing the autumn scenery. To counter this, local people have launched an ownership fruit farm system that is opened to outsiders. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities as well.

Access

To reach Ohmiwa Jinja from Tokyo, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kyoto -- about 2 and a half hours -- and then transfer to a local line for the hour trip to Miwa Station.