NHK WORLD > NHK WORLD TV > Journeys in Japan

Tue, Jan. 12, 2016 Iiyama: The Landscape of the Heart *This program was first broadcast on Oct. 27, 2015
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Iiyama City, located in northern Nagano Prefecture, is known for its beautiful nature and distinct four seasons. The rich landscape is nourished by snowmelt—Iiyama is one of the snowiest regions in the world. There are about 80 farmhouse lodgings in Iiyama where guests can experience a traditional way of life. They can also enjoy cooking local cuisine and farm work. The city developed around Iiyama Castle. Visitors can explore its ruins. With more than 20 Buddhist temples, the area is also known the "Snow Country's Little Kyoto." The atmospheric has many shops dealing the region's traditional Buddhist altars called "Iiyama Butsudan." It also has excellent museums.

Iiyama Station Tourist Information Center
Iiyama Station Tourist Information Center
Iiyama Station Tourist Information Center is located inside Iiyama Station's Shinkansen bullet train section. Its attendants will make sightseeing and lodging reservations for visitors.
They can also arrange tour guides, called "Furusato Annainin," via telephone or the Internet.

Business Hours: 9:00 - 17:00 (until 18:00 between April 1 and October 31), Open 7 days a week
Tour guide fees: 2,500 yen for 2 hours / 4,500 yen for 4 hours / 6,500 yen for 6 hours / additional 2,000 yen for every 2 hours exceeding 6 hours

Address: Iiyama 771-1, Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan 389-2253
Tel: +81 (0) 269-62-7000
Fax: +81 (0) 269-62-7003
Visits to Gangi Street (Buddhist Altar Street) and Buddhist temples
Visits to Gangi Street (Buddhist Altar Street) and Buddhist temples
"Gangi" refers to a special type of roof designed to prevent snow accumulation and secure pedestrians' comfortable passage in winter. It is one example of the wisdom developed in the snowy region.
This 300-meter street was named for its restored Gangi-roofed structures. It is also referred to as the "Butsudan Dori" or "Buddhist Altar Street," due to its many altar shops.
There are shrines and temples around the street, which are connected by a beautiful, nearly parallel-running path called the "Temple Promenade." The tranquil temples also have well-maintained stone and moss gardens. In autumn, you can enjoy the breathtaking view of red and golden leaves.

Location: 10 minutes on foot from Iiyama Station, or 5 minutes from Kita Iiyama Station
Shinshu Lacquer Studio – Irodori (Workshop of Makie craft)
Shinshu Lacquer Studio – Irodori (Workshop of Makie craft)
Kazuo Fujisawa, one of the few masters of Makie for Buddhist altars, learned the technique from his father.
The fulltime craftsman makes time to run workshops to educate people about the art. Participants can decorate an object, such as a small plate or hand mirror, with lacquer and gold powder.

The studio closes irregularly and advance reservations are required.

Address: Oaza Nosakada 741-4, Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan 389-2233
Tel: +81 (0) 269-62-2717
Farmhouse Lodging "Uwadane Kan"
Farmhouse Lodging "Uwadane Kan"
In addition to lodging, guests can experience rice planting as well as rice, vegetable and wild plant harvesting. Cooking classes are available, too. Hot spring bath is available.
No. of rooms: 10 (up to 45 guests)
Accommodation Charge: 6,500 yen or more per night

Address: Toyoda 5457, Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan 389-2411
Tel: +81 (0) 269-65-2096
Fax: +81 (0) 269-65-2909
Location: 5 minutes by car from Togari Nozawa Onsen Station

Iiyama City has a wide variety of inns from which to choose. They include accommodation facilities for skiers and trekkers and for people interested in rural living. Many inns offer experiential programs to let guests discover the attractions of Iiyama. Most provide free transportation service from and to the nearest station.
Iiyama City Museum of Traditional Art (Iiyama City Art Museum, 1F)
Drop by this museum to learn about the techniques for creating Iiyama Butsudan (Buddhist altars). In addition to the altars, 400-year old Uchiyama washi paper and other traditional crafts from Nagano Prefecture are on display.

Address: Iiyama Kamikura 1436-1, Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Tel: +81 (0) 269-62-4026
Fax: +81 (0)269-62-4019

Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Regular holiday: Monday (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday), Year-end and New-Year season
Charge: 300 yen per person
Access: 7 minutes on foot from Iiyama Station
Iiyama Furusato Hall
Iiyama Furusato Hall educates visitors about the nature, history and culture of Iiyama, with scale models, photographs and diverse artifacts. In addition to the gallery and archive zones for ethnological and archeological materials, the facility also has a private collection of ancient documents. Its building is located on the same premise as that of the Iiyama City Museum of Traditional Art.

Address: Oaza Iiyama 1434-1, Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan 389-2253
Tel: +81 (0) 269-67-2030

Opening Hours: 9:00 – 18:00 (Last entrance 5:30 PM)
Regular holiday: Monday (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday), Year-end and New-Year season
Charges: 200 yen for adult, 100 yen for child going to elementary or junior high school
Access: 7 minutes on foot from Iiyama Station
Fukushima Tanada no Sato
Fukushima Tanada no Sato
Fukushima Tanada no Sato, or a group of traditional rice fields in Iiyama City's Fukushima district, is considered one of the 100 most beautiful terraced rice fields in Japan. The rice paddies framed by natural stone partitions were originally developed during the Edo Period. After having been left fallow for decades, the fields were restored by the Terraced Field Preservation Association (formed by residents) in 1988. The association has since been in charge of the maintenance, management and improvement of this agricultural asset. Today, it organizes experience-based events regularly, such as rice planting in May and rice harvesting in September. Local elementary school children participate in both events, which are also open to visitors.

Location: 20 minutes by car from Iiyama Station
Parking: 5 cars
Open days: Throughout the year for observation
Inquiry: +81 (0) 269-62-3133 (Shinshu-Iiyama Tourist Bureau)
Narazawa Shrine Festival (Narazawa District, Iiyama City)
Narazawa Shrine Festival (Narazawa District, Iiyama City)
Many traditional festivals take place across Iiyama City in autumn, including those praying for abundant crops and the health of families. Narazawa Shrine Festival is held annually in the city's Narazawa District on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday of September. It features a sword dance by elementary school boys and other religious performances. The highlight is the offering of the dance of the long-nosed goblin, called Daitengu, to the deity. The dancer swings a huge lit-torch that measures 2.5 meters long and weighs 8 kilometers. It's believed that the fire sparks brings good luck.

Location: Narazawa Shrine
Address: Oaza Iiyama 8975, Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Access: 10 minutes on foot from Iiyama Station, 7 minutes from Kita Iiyama Station
The festival is open to the public.
It's about two hours from Tokyo to Iiyama on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. You can also get off at Nagano Station and transfer to the local Iiyama line to take in the countryside dotted by fields and farmhouses. By car from Tokyo, take the Kan-Etsu Expressway from Nerima, and change to the Jo-Shin-Etsu Expressway. Exit at the Toyoda-Iiyama and take the National Road 117 to Iiyama City.
Travel Log

Traveler: Kit Pancoast Nagamura > More Info


Occupation:Poet, Photographer, Editor

Length of residence in Japan:More than 20 years

Reason:I'm always looking for opportunities to experience more of the world of artisans in Japan, and to have the chance to talk to those who live close to the beauty of the land.

Traveler's Archives:

> Tohoku haiku journey -following Basho's footsteps-

> The Miniature World of Bonsai - Omiya -

> Wajima Lacquerware, Layers of Perfection

> Appreciating Abundance - Kumamoto Pref. -

> Winter Wonderland - Hakodate

> Kumamoto: Children, Dolls and Celebrating Spring

Those of us who live in the city rarely see a horizon where the earth meets the heavens anymore. In Iiyama, tucked in an idyllic valley, the autumn sky stretches luxuriously across the wide fields of ripe golden rice. From the moment one steps off the local train, the air smells of the earth and you can see people busily tending gardens, taking in produce before the heavy snows of winter arrive.

In Iiyama, I had the marvelous opportunity to cull fresh vegetables, harvest rice amidst flights of red dragonflies, and learn to make the local specialty, "sasazushi." I also loved joining a local family at their inn to celebrate their matriarch's birthday. This woman, just turning 100, had a beautiful face, straight strong hands, and a great sense of humor; she seemed to me the embodiment of Iiyama's healthy life.

A city guide, Akiko Kosaka, showed me Iiyama's castle, and its historical connection with the area's plethora of temples, reflecting the religious affiliations of a series of ruling lords. The town also specializes in making Butsudan, or elaborate Buddhist home altars which bring the combined skills of many artisans together in one creation that enshrines the spirits of one's ancestors. Trying my hand at a simplified version of the gold lacquering process, I was surprised at how peaceful and prayer-like the process is.

Finally, attending the spectacular Daitengu Himatsuri at Narazawa was an unforgettable encounter with a centuries-old, surprisingly wild fire festival that burned memories of this lovely area of Japan forever in my mind.

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