Soni village is located in the northeastern part of Nara prefecture in Uda city and is famed for its array of beautiful mountains, hiking trails but perhaps most notably for its pampas covered highlands.
Soni is registered as one of the most beautiful countryside villages in Japan and after spending a few days there, it's not hard to understand why.
Here are a few highlights of our time spent in Soni Village.
Soni Kogen Highland Area
Soni Kogen is an open mountain meadow and wetland area spread across the partially destroyed volcanic crater of Kuroso and Kameyama Mountains.
The meadow and the Japanese pampas grass (“susuki”) that grows there were once the source of thatching for the roofs of homes and buildings in Soni Village.
Despite ceramic “kawara” roof tiles and other modern materials replacing grass as the preferred roofing material, the people of Soni continue to maintain Soni Kogen for hiking and the breathtaking scenery that the open meadow provides.
The people of Soni use a method known as “yamayaki” (mountain burning) and other farming techniques to maintain and expand the meadow and preserve its pampas grass. The "yamayaki" takes place in spring, after which the area comes to resemble a lush green carpet.
The burning suppresses the growth of almost all other vegetation, allowing the perennial pampas to flourish in the autumn. The Soni Kogen is especially beautiful around mid-november when the pampas grass turns a silvery-gold. It's at this time that the highlands become a beacon for photographers, eager to capture the setting sun glistening off the golden pampas.
Address: Taro-ji, Soni-mura, Uda-gun, Nara
Telephone: 0745-94-2106 Soni Village Office
Closed on: N/A
Byobu-iwa Sheer Cliffs, Kabuto and Yoroi-dake Mountains
The entirety of the Soni Village area is mountainous and, after the Soni Highlands, the Byobu-iwa Sheer Cliffs, and Kabuto and Yoroi-dake Mountains are without doubt top of the village's must see natural wonders.
Mt. Yoroi-dake and Shorenji River
Yoroi-dake (Armor Peak) and it’s neighbor Kabuto-dake (Helmet Peak) are the most prominent mountains in Soni Village. Yoroi-dake bears a striking resemblance to the Matterhorn and both mountains can be hiked in a day.
Mt. Yoroi-dake and rice paddies in the Spring
Byobu-iwa Sheer Cliffs at the start of Autumn
The Byobu-iwa is a 2km long, 200m tall volcanic cliff that looks like a Japanese “byobu” folding paper screen. A large concentration of mountain sakura, rhododendron, and deciduous trees add a colorful and spectacular contrast to the area in all seasons.
There are over 300 wild cherry trees here, all of which are over 100 years old. The peak time for viewing is mid to late April – the latest in the Kansai region.
The open grass lands in front of the cliffs are also used as an open air event space and the views from just behind where this photo was taken can rival those of Soni Highlands itself.
Address: Nagano, Soni-mura, Uda-gun, Nara 奈良県宇陀郡曽爾村長野
GLOCAL -SONI Experience
Soni Experience is a new local government affiliated travel company whose goal is to connect visitors to Soni village with the culture of Soni via authentic, unique experiences & educational programs. Many of the programs are centered around interacting with the local people who are eager to share their rich history, culture and knowledge of the land.
Some of their standout packages include sunset and sunrise tours, the Soni Shishi Lion Dance experience, home farming experience and customizable nature meditation retreats.
If you are after tailor made private rural experiences & tours with an English speaking guide, Soni Experience is a great place to start
For more details check out their webpage soniexperience
Address: Soni Village Office: 495-1 Oaza-Imai, Soni-mura, Uda-gun, Nara
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Closed on: Weekends, Public Holidays
Picking Vegetables & Pizza Cooking Experience at BABA Garden
After introducing ourselves to the team at Soni Experience we were guided to a nearby residence with a small home farm.
After exchanging a few pleasantries with our host, we were whisked away to a few local other places to pick fruit then taken back to the host's home farm to pick fresh vegetables to cook as part of our lunch. It was a really rewarding experience and nothing is tastier than the food you cook for yourself with vegetables you have just picked with your own hands!
The event is a bilingual affair, the host is extremely friendly and accommodating and will take little heed of your native tongue, chatting away in Japanese and lively going about her business as if you had known each other for years. The accompanying guide is more than proficient enough in English to ensure everything goes smoothly and facilitate meaningful conversation,
The event is available all year round and and as such, vegetables harvested and the food cooked will change with the season.
Participants: Between 2, and at most 5
Language Japanese / English
Experience Fee: 3,200 JPY
Number of Participants: At least 4, and at most 8
Okame no Yu Hot Springs
The Okame no Yu is a hot spring at the base of the Soni Kogen. Its indoor and
outdoor pools offer views of the aforementioned Kabuto-dake and Yoroi-dake mountains and the surrounding countryside, and the minerals in the water will help speed the healing process of any cuts or burns and leave your skin feeling clean and smooth.
Okame no Yu's spring quality was ranked No.1 in Western Japan
There are two types of bathrooms, "Stone bathroom" and "Wood bathroom". They are provided for male customers or female customers alternately on a weekly basis and both bathrooms have an open-air bath. There is a panoramic view of Mt. Kabuto and Mt. Yoroi from the open-air bath of Wood bathroom, and Soni Highland from the open-air bath of Stone bathroom.
The spring quality is sodium-hydrogencarbonate, which makes the skin moist. The Okame no Yu’s restaurant serves up some organic and delicious countryside cuisine.
Address: 830 Oaza-Taroji, Soni-mura, Uda-gun, Nara
Apr. 1 – Nov.30: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM (Last admission at 8:00 PM)
Dec.1 – Mar.31: 11:00 AM – 8:30 PM (Last admission at 7:30 PM)
Closed on: Wednesdays and New Year Holidays
*If a public holiday falls on Wednesday, closing day will be the next day.
Soni Plateau Farm Garden
Okame no Yu is located at Soni Kogen Farm Garden, where the buses drop off. The complex also comprises a restaurant, fresh produce shop, a bakery specializing in breads and cakes made with rice flour, public facilities, a craft brewery and a sizeable carpark.
Address: 839 Oaza-Taroji, Soni-mura, Uda-gun, Nara
Hours): 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Closed on): 水曜日、年末年始 *祝日は営業、翌日休業 (Wednesdays and New Year Holidays
*If a public holiday falls on Wednesday, closing day will be the next day.)
Soni Kogen Beer
Microbrewery aficionados and beer lovers everywhere are in for a treat when they venture into Soni Village.
Introducing Soni Kogen Beer, the first craft beer ever to be produced in Nara. It’s brewed in the German brewmeister style, and the clarity and purity of the Soni Kogen water used in the brewing process eliminates the need for pasteurization, giving Soni Kogen Beer a delicious fresh taste.
Urushi Base Soni NEN-RIN - Japanese Lacquerware
Soni Village is also the birthplace of urushi natural lacquer, the village even has a nickname related to this; "Nurube no Sato (lit. home of urushi lacquer work.)
In order to preserve and promote this ancient tradition, Soni Urushi Factory Nenrin was opened in 2018 in a stylishly reformed traditional Japanese house.
Behind the house there is also a small garden where some lacquer trees have been planted. They are still quite young, but they promise to grow into healthy specimens to help demonstrate how the lacquer is procured.
Nenrin regularly hosts workshops and exhibitions and is deeply involved in all things lacquer. The project is in its infancy and is busy expanding and experimenting so it is something we definitely plan to keep an eye on and check back in in a few years time.
Address: 605 Shioi, Soni-mura, Uda-gun, Nara
Hours: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Closed on: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays
Soni Village isn’t along any train lines and is best accessed by car. Renting a car in Japan is quite easy and cheaper than you may think.
Soni is accessible by public transport from Kintetsu Nabari Station. Take the Mie Kotsu Bus to Taroji : approx 45 min.
If you need any help with directions or have questions about Soni Village, or indeed anything related to travel in Nara, please feel free to get in touch with us.
We are more than happy to help you in any way we can.
Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn