Rural Japan – Toyooka
The very common go-to places in Japan are usually Tokyo, Shinjuku, Kyoto or Osaka, which are much talked about in videos and posts. When I decided to go to Japan for a short while, I decided to explore the country side of Japan and a place I had no idea about. To kill 2 birds with one stone, I also decided to learn a little about Japanese cultural arts while I lived there. Hence, I enrolled in a very small private tutoring school called “Yoshida Hikari Gakuin”, Toyooka city, Hyougo Prefecture.
I would say it was definitely an experience I would like to share because the school I went to was very unusual in its own way. I spent 3 months in the school premises, experienced the hottest summer in the whole of Japan and left mid-way through autumn. I will try to concise this 3 month long experience as much as possible.
From Shin Osaka station, it is a 4 hour journey to Toyooka. As the train moved further away from the city, the most apparent change was the sight of acres of paddy fields and the slow emptying train as I become the only one left by the end of the journey. Trains to the rural side, though there is connectivity, the frequency is one in an hour. So plan your journey beforehand.
Some standard experiences wherever you go in Japan: The summer festival, Autumn festival, Obon, standard curry chain stores, sushi restaurants are very generic and can be found anywhere in Japan. Even the menu would be the same like a Mc Donald’s in a country. These are things which won’t be missed just because you are leaving the city, from someone who has visited Indian villages, where there is barely any access to things, Japan has very good connectivity, be it trains, supermarkets, restaurant chains, Kfc and daizos. So what is different from the city you may ask?
The lack of people: Throughout my entire stay, I never saw a crowd or a group of people anywhere, probably a group in the train station, but the lack of traffic and noise was eerie for me. I went from a very noisy country to an utter silence atmosphere. After 2 months I was afraid that returning back to noise would be a challenge to adjust to after all the peace and quiet. Night walks are the best if you like nature because you can hear the whole ecology around you.
The surroundings: A 20 minute ride in a bicycle in and around the town is filled with mountains and valleys, I went mountain climbing and stayed at a campsite for 2 days and I loved every minute of it.
A little further brings you to Kinosaki, which is famous for its onsen and aquarium. The small tourist town is just so pleasing to walk around. There are outdoor baths, standard onsens. The onsens are special because of the grock formation in the area and the water from these mountain springs are said to be very effective for pains, aches and stress.
The neighboring town Izushi ( an edo- era town) still has the same buildings and vibe from the edo period. Castle ruins and red tori gates, if not Kyoto, it exists here. IT's a blast from the past.
Toyooka is famous for it’s rock formation (genbu) caves, all the rocks are pentagonal and formed like waves of water. Thought much of the cave is closed, it can mostly be seen from outside. Do look at the pavements you walk, the rocks are all pentagon.
The school: was a private tutoring for abacus and accountancy, but they also taught, tea ceremony, calligraphy, Ikebana etc for foreigners and Japanese. It is run by a head master who was very conservative in keeping the Japanese traditions alive. They had prayer sessions in the morning, cleaning the buildings after prayer and a very conservative way of life which I didn’t expect. To get to use the full extent of my Japanese because no-one knew even the tiniest bit of english, was the real test i was challanged with.
Before I left to Toyooka, I was told in that " the real culture and kindness of a country can be found in it's villages" and i believe that to be true be it Japan or India.