Winter along the Mogami River
The Mogami River is one of the most important waterways in northern Japan. It runs for 229 kilometers through Yamagata Prefecture, with around 80% of the prefecture's population living along its basin. From the 17th century, the river became a major transportation route, carrying people and cargo such as rice and safflower down to the coast, and from there as far as Kyoto and Osaka Prefecture. To this day, many towns along the river retain traces of their historic streetscapes and culture. In this episode, Catrina Sugita from Switzerland visits a community close to the Mogami River. She meets people who are keeping alive local traditions for surviving through the harsh, snowbound winter months. And she discovers the charm and bounty of this waterway known to the locals simply as their "Mother River."

Mountain Trekking through the Snow

The Tsunokawa district lies on a tributary of the Mogami River. Many people here maintain aspects of their traditional lifestyle. To this day, hunters go out in search of food, even in the harshest winter conditions.

Homestay Guesthouses in the Tsunokawa District

There are five farming families who offer accommodation in their homes. Visitors can see for themselves how the farmers work their fields, even in winter.

A Wintering Ground for Migratory Swans

The wetlands at the mouth of the Mogami River are one of the major wintering places in Japan for migratory wildfowl. More than 10,000 swans arrive in Sakata from Siberia each year to spend the cold months here.

Access

To reach Tozawa Village from Tokyo, you take the Yamagata Shinkansen bullet train to Shinjo, and then continue by bus. In all, it takes just over four hours.