Mishima, Fukushima: Keeping Alive the Folk Craft Tradition *RERUN
Mishima Town, in western Fukushima Prefecture, receives some of the heaviest snowfall in all of Japan. During the winter, when the local people are unable to work in their fields, they spend their days making traditional handicrafts, using vines, leaves and bark from plants that grow wild on the nearby mountainsides. It's a folk tradition that continues to this day. Leina Bambino is an English instructor from the United States. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, she visits Mishima to meet the people living there, and sees how they keep their traditions alive. She also joins in a New Year ceremony that's been held in this area for over 200 years.

Mishima Town Living Crafts Center

This center offers visitors a chance to see for themselves the wide variety of Mishima's traditional woven basketry. Known as ami-kumi zaiku, this is recognized by the central government as a Traditional Craft Product. Besides the many items offered for sale, visitors can also try their hand at making their own basketry here. Handicraft items made by the local people are also available at the Furusato Aizu Kojin Craft Fair, which is held in June each year, attracting large numbers of people to Mishima from across the country.

Sainokami Ceremony

In the middle of January, traditional ceremonies are held across Japan to celebrate the end of the New Year period. In Mishima, an event known as Sainokami takes place on the night of January 15. A large fire is prepared, and the local people gather to burn their New Year decorations and old good-luck amulets. This ceremony is held to pray for abundant harvests and good health in the year ahead.

Great Viewpoints Along the Tadami Line

The JR Tadami Line runs through this mountainous region, following the course of a local river. There are several places along this railway that offer memorable views of the surrounding countryside. Images from here have been widely shared on social networking sites, which has made them popular with visitors from abroad. The view of the Daiichi Tadami River Bridge is not to be missed.

Access

From Tokyo, it takes about four hours by train to reach Aizu-miyashita, in the center of Mishima Town, traveling by Shinkansen to Koriyama and then transferring to local trains. By car, it also takes about four hours, using the Tohoku Expressway.