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Nosegawa Village: Japan's Smallest Village on the Way to Koyasan



Nosegawa Village


Located in the southwestern edge of Nara Prefecture, Nosegawa Village is a mountainous village with an average elevation of 700 meters, often referred to as "The Land of the Sky."

The village has a population of under 400, which makes it the least populated village on mainland Japan.


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Being as the ever popular Koyasan is just a short car ride away, it's a wonderful destination to fully experience the Japanese countryside. Nosegawa offers a charming respite before or after your pilgrimage


Despite its small population, the village is rich in history, nature, romance, and human warmth. Nosegawa offers an escape unlike any other, a haven where avid hikers can conquer challenging trails, history buffs can delve into ancient stories, and couples can find the perfect romantic escape.


Nosegawa's unique charm awaits discovery, promising an unforgettable experience for every soul seeking solace or adventure.






Kumano Kodo and Koyasan


Part of the Kumano Kodo, namely the Kohechi trail runs straight through Nosegawa Village. The Kumano Kodo, a network of ancient pilgrimage trails in the southern Kansai region of Japan, holds profound historical and cultural significance, integral to the area's designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. These pilgrimage routes, known as Kodo, have served as sacred paths for over a millennium, connecting various spiritual sites across the Kii Peninsula.



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Kumano Nachi Taisha



The Kumano Kodo is a unique pilgrimage system that, alongside the Camino de Santiago, enjoys the distinction of being a World Heritage Site.


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Koyasan Okunoin Cemetery



At the heart of this sacred region stand the three Kumano shrines — Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha — collectively known as Kumano Sanzan. Pilgrims from all walks of life, including retired emperors and aristocrats, have been drawn to these revered shrines since the 10th century. Beyond facilitating access to these sacred destinations, the pilgrimage trails themselves are designed to provide a profound religious experience, often traversing challenging and even perilous mountain terrain.



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Mt. Omine



In addition to linking the Kumano shrines, the Kumano Kodo extends its paths to connect with other significant sites, including Kyoto, Koyasan (headquarters of Shingon Buddhism), Yoshino and Omine (mountain worship centers), and Ise (Japan's most important shrine). While coastal trails have diminished due to development, several mountain trails and passes still endure, preserving the historic and spiritual essence of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes.




Kumano Kodo Kohechi


The Kumano Kodo Kohechi is a pilgrimage route that connects the two major sacred sites of Koyasan, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, and the syncretic Grand Shrines of the Kumano Sanzan. This is the trail which passes through Nosegawa Village.





The Kohechi is a challenging route that crosses four 1,000-meter-high mountain passes: Mizugamine Peak, Obako-toge Pass, Miura-toge Pass and Hatenashi-toge Pass. Along the way, there are many remnants of the old Kodo, including stone statues, Jizo statues, moss-covered stone pavements, teahouse ruins, and house ruins. The route passes through mostly mountainous areas, providing an opportunity to experience a traditional walking pilgrimage. Sound preparation is key when traversing the Kohechi. The trek will take 4 days and should not be considered by beginners or anyone lacking the required fitness levels.





One of the best resources online for all things Kumano, is the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau homepage. If you are planning on visiting the area and need some expert advice, we highly recommend you contact them.




Nosegawa Village




Hotel Nosegawa


Nestled deep in the Kii mountains alongside the crystal clear waters of the Kawarabi-gawa River, Hotel Nosegawa offers a serene escape with spacious rooms, hot spring baths, a healthy breakfast and delicious evening meals served with local wild meats, amago and vegetables. The hotel also has a camping ground and huts which are popular with young families in the summertime.





The convenient shuttle service to and from Koyasan makes it a breeze for Kumano Kodo hikers and the shuttle service will also pick you up from the Omata trailhead. As there are no public transport services which can bring guests here, this shuttle bus service is the life-blood of the hotel. What's more, the shuttle bus also can take guests to tourist attractions such as Kongobu-ji Temple and the Okunoin upon request.





The hotel staff are extremely friendly and despite only speaking basic English, they make every effort to make your stay as comfortable as possible. As you can see from the video, the rooms are clean and spacious and each comes with a closet full of extra bedding should you require. The hotel is surrounded by stunning natural scenery. A taste of the slow life and the crisp fresh air will have you feeling fully refreshed for the day ahead.





Shuttle times

The shuttle service departs Koyasan Station at 15:20 on weekdays and at 15:40 on weekends and Public Holidays


The shuttle service departs from the hotel at 10:00.

It is a 50 minute ride to Koyasan Station.

Please note that the shuttle service must be reserved at the time of booking.



Access:






Address: 426 Kitaimanishi, Nosegawa-mura, Yoshino-gun 648-0307, Nara Prefecture

Tel: 0747-380-011

Check-in: 15:00

Check-out: 10:00





 



Amago Farm

Omata Fishing Association


During our stay at Hotel Nosegawa we were treated to fresh amago fish for both dinner and breakfast. With our stomachs full and lungs full of fresh air, we headed out to Nosegawa's amago farm, just a 10-minute drive away from the hotel. Nestled along the river bank to the backdrop of lush mountain scenery, it's a picturesque scene




The amago that we enjoyed at Hotel Nosegawa were brought directly from here on the day.

There is a special pool here dedicated to servicing the hotel.




In 2012, the amago was designated as the official fish of Nara Prefecture. The water

used to raise the fish is sourced directly from the river, the purity of which is

said to be the secret to Nosegawa Village's amago being recognized as the best in Kansai.




Access:






Address: 104 Kitaimanishi, Nosegawa, Yoshino District, Nara 648-0307

Tel: 0747-380-224





 



Wasabi Farm Minami


Nosegawa Village is one of only a few places in the Kansai region that produce wasabi. The clean air and pure water required for wasabi to grow healthily are found in abundance in Nosegawa Village. The following mini-documentary provides a nice introduction to Minami Wasabi and the magical green vegetable in general.



Another reason why Nosegawa's wasabi is delicious is that it is propagated from seeds collected from native parent plants that have been carefully preserved in this region since ancient times. These seedlings, perfectly adapted to Nosegawa's unique microclimate, produce wasabi renowned for its intense pungency and subtle sweetness.






 



Matsutake Mushrooms

Nishida Matsutake Mushroom Association


Matsutake mushrooms, scientifically known as Tricholoma matsutake, are a prized and aromatic fungi species highly esteemed in Japanese and other East Asian cuisines. Renowned for their distinctive spicy, pine-like fragrance, matsutake mushrooms have become a symbol of autumn in Japan.





These mycological delicacies grow in specific symbiotic relationships with tree roots, primarily preferring the roots of pine trees, hence the name "matsutake," which translates to "pine mushroom." Highly sought after for their unique flavor profile and scarcity, matsutake mushrooms are often used in traditional Japanese dishes, enhancing them with a rich, earthy taste and a captivating aroma. It's not usual for matsutake mushroom to fetch over $500 per kilogram, roughly the same rate as for kobe beef.





People in Nara have been eating matsutake mushrooms for over a millennium. They are even mentioned in the Man'yoshu, Japan's oldest collection of poems from the Nara period.

Nosegawa village and its abundant natural environment are ideal for growing matsutake mushrooms and luckily on the day we visited, October 15th 2023, it happened to be "National Mushroom Day" in Japan and also matsutake mushroom harvesting day at Nishida Matsutake Mushroom Association.


We stopped by to take a look.






 




Sea of Clouds


The term "sea of clouds" refers to a meteorological phenomenon where a layer of clouds covers the landscape, creating the illusion of an ocean-like surface. This phenomenon is particularly breathtaking when observed from a high vantage point, making Nosegawa Village Nara's premiere location for seeing this natural wonder.





The formation of a sea of clouds involves several atmospheric and geographical factors:

  1. Temperature Inversion: Typically, temperature decreases with altitude in the Earth's atmosphere. However, in certain conditions, a temperature inversion occurs. This means that there is a layer in the atmosphere where the temperature increases with altitude. This inversion traps moist air beneath, leading to the formation of clouds.

  2. Moisture Source: For a sea of clouds to form, there needs to be a source of moisture. This can come from nearby bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, or oceans. The moist air rises and condenses into clouds when it encounters the temperature inversion layer.

  3. Geographical Features: The presence of geographical features like mountains or valleys plays a crucial role. Mountains, in particular, can lift moist air masses, causing them to cool and condense into clouds as they ascend.

  4. Wind Patterns: Wind patterns influence the movement and distribution of clouds. If there's a consistent wind direction, clouds may accumulate on the windward side of a mountain range, creating the sea of clouds effect.

  5. Stable Atmospheric Conditions: Stable atmospheric conditions contribute to the persistence of the sea of clouds. If the air is stable, the clouds are less likely to dissipate quickly.



Along the main road through Nosegawa, there are several places earmarked for observing the sea-of-clouds. The local council has erected little signposts to show passerby where to stop and these places are also clearly marked on local sightseeing maps. The most popular location is part of a lay-by with room for 10 cars or so. During Spring and Autumn, the times when the weather conditions are most ideal for the sea-of-clouds, you will find several cars parked up here every morning, with expensive camera gear set up to film or take time lapses. the other main spot is the large car park of Tateriko Jinja Shrine


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Like with most things in life, you need a bit of luck but unfortunately, on the morning we visited, the sea-of-clouds didn't fully form. We woke up at 4am and after a quick coffee set out in the car and headed for the main lay-by to set up our camera gear. Usually, it would take about 30 minutes to get there, but driving in the pitch black along mountain roads requires you to slow down a little. On several occasions after turning yet another bend, we came face-to-face with a deer in the middle of the road, so it pays to drive slowly in these conditions and take your time.


In the dark, it is also difficult to spot the roadside sea-of-clouds signs. The large lay-by is at a junction with a large billboard and is the easiest to spot. The others less so. If you are on your own, we recommend you go to the larger lay-by area as scanning the roadsides looking for signposts while driving would not be a wise thing to do. Alternatively, you could make your way to Tateriko Jinja Shrine where the vantage point to view the sea of clouds is second to none.




Mitsubishi Motors has a great website outlining the probability of a sea-of-clouds forming for various places throughout Japan. Here's a link to the Nosegawa area. (Japanese only)


Live Camera Feed

At the sea-of-clouds layby, there is also an elevated observation deck and a live camera.

Click here to access the feed.



Access:






Address: Nosegawa, Yoshino District, Nara 648-0301




 




Taira no Koremori Rekishi-no-Sato

Taira no Koremori Historical Village


Nosegawa Village has 4 official mascots. The 2 main ones are Taira Koremori and Princess Tsuru (known affectionately as Koremori-kun and Tsuru Hime-chan) with 2 supporting characters Wasabi Sennin and Shiita Inu, born from the local specialties of Nosegawa Village namely wasabi and shiitake mushrooms. They support Koremo-kun and Tsuru Hime-chan in promoting the village.





Taira no Koremori Historical Village is a charming enclave in Nosegawa Village dedicated to the memory of Taira no Koremori. He was born in 1159 as the eldest son of Taira Kiyomori's legitimate son, Shigemori, and a prominent figure in the Taira clan. During his youth, Koremori trained in martial arts and military strategy, preparing himself for a life of leadership within the Taira clan


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The Genpei War


The Genpei War, a 5-year clash between 1180 and 1185, pitted the Taira clan, led by the charismatic yet at times brutal Taira no Kiyomori, against the Minamoto clan, seeking to regain imperial power. This epic civil war ultimately led to the downfall of the Taira clan, paving the way for samurai dominance under the Minamoto shogunate.


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During the war, Koremori initially led the Taira to victory in several battles, including the Siege of Hiuchi in 1183. However, he also presided over several critical defeats, most notably the Battle of Fujigawa in 1180 and the Battle of Kurikara in 1183. These defeats were perhaps more due to circumstance rather than poor strategy, but this did not stop his reputation as a military leader from becoming irrevocably tarnished.


As outlined in The Tale of the Heike, the Taira clan ultimately fell at the hands of the Minamoto clan for control of Japan