I participated in a three-day, two-night “Air & Rail Type Solo Travel Media Tour” hosted by the Shonai Airport Utilization Promotion Council. On the last day, I woke up in the room of “SUIDEN TERRASSE” where I stayed the night before, feeling the sparkling sunlight (article of day 2).
I stretched and took a deep breath. You will not experience such a pleasant morning in this city. Designed by world-renowned architect Shigeru Ban, this floating hotel over rice fields features some rooms with countryside views. In addition, there are many facilities such as open-air natural hot spring baths and popular saunas. There is a fitness space that can relieve daily fatigue. There is a library with about 1,000 books on the second floor of the public building, and you can read freely anywhere in the library (even in your own room).
The weather was fine that day, and Mt. Fuji could be seen. First, head to Suna Takayama Kaiko-ji Temple in Sakata City, where you can see Soshin Buddha.
Sokushinbutsu is Buddha in mummy state. There are six Suzhen Buddhas in the village, among which Tada Huizhen (joined in 1755) and Yanming Huizhen (joined in 1822) are enshrined in the Sufo Hall of Kaiguang Temple. The sokushinbutsu in Kaiguang Temple does not allow us to take pictures, but when I see it, I feel as if it is talking to me, and I can even hear its inner voice. However, this is a worldview that cannot be explained in words, so seeing is believing. I hope you must visit it.
Next, head to the Sanno Club, where you can experience making grafu. Kasafuku, a lucky charm that carries the wish of “enriching life”, is a culture unique to Minatomachi Sakata, where the Kitamae ship that connects Osaka and Hokkaido returns from the Edo period to the Meiji period. The Sanno Club used to be a restaurant representing Sakata built in the Meiji era, and is now designated as a nationally registered tangible cultural property.
In the 106 tatami hall on the second floor, the 17th Minatomachi Sakata’s Kasafuku special exhibition will be held until October 31st. In the Kasafuku making experience, local mothers will carefully teach you how to sew and put cotton. It was fun interacting with these locals. Nearby is Maiko Chaya Somaro, a renovated restaurant from the Edo period where you can enjoy maiko dance and food.
The next place is “Yamako Warehouse”, which can be said to be a symbol of Shonai, a rice producing area. Built in 1893, this rice storage warehouse is said to hold 100,000 bales (10,800 tons) of rice.
The zelkova trees planted to withstand the summer heat are over 150 years old and are popular as photo spots and walking trails. When actually walking, I can enjoy a refreshing walk in the shade of a tree that is cool even in summer. It has a double-layer roof to prevent internal humidity, and the low-temperature warehouse is used as an agricultural warehouse, where the wisdom of the predecessors using nature is lived. Part of the building is the visitor and product center Sakata Yume no Kura, and I was surprised by the abundance of souvenirs.
For lunch, go to the exchange facility “Miraini” in front of Sakata Station to enjoy French local cuisine “Le Pott-Fou”. Here is a recommended lunch course where you can fully enjoy “Gourmet City Shonai”.
Main courses include chef’s selection of fish, meat or Yamagata beef hamburger steak, with Shonai vegetables and chef’s handmade hors d’oeuvres, rich seasonal vegetable soup, chef’s recommended dessert, bread and coffee. Dinner has a set menu It has a rich menu such as a la carte and is very popular with locals.
On the way, I came to “Michi no Station Chokai Apartment (Yusa Town)” along the National Highway No. 7. Depending on the season, you can peel and eat natural rock oysters on the spot. Rock oysters can be purchased by themselves, brought to the quarry, and eaten locally. Stop by and see this quality. Shonai is amazing, and I have experienced it here.
Next, we headed to Yuza-machi Maruike-sama, known as one of the most beautiful spots in the Shonai area. It is said to be a mysterious spring, and the only source of water is the spring. The diameter is about 20m, the depth is about 3.5m, clear and emerald green, beautiful. There is even an illusion of entering the painting world. The water surface will change according to the amount of sunlight, which is very mysterious. The pond itself is believed to be the object of worship of the Maruike Shrine located on the shore, and the shrine complex remains intact.
The nearby Udo River is 100% spring water, and the river water is cold and clear. It is said that salmon swim upstream in autumn. Many dragonflies are flying around the river, and there are frogs everywhere. “Is this the image of summer in Japan?”
Here we bid farewell to Shonai and head to Mototaki Fukuryusui located in Rukata Town, Nigaho City, Akita Prefecture. Walking about 750m from the parking lot, you can clearly see the cool air from the middle. The surroundings of the waterfall basin are like natural terraces, like another world. Refreshing. “Mototaki Fukuryuzui” is a waterfall of spring water that flows from the cliff at the end of the lava flow of Mt. Chokai about 100,000 years ago.
Mototaki, the source of the groundwater, is said to be about 200 meters upstream from the waterfall, but access is currently prohibited due to landslides. The Iwagaki oysters I ate before were also grown in the groundwater of Mount Fuji.
The last place we visited was “Kisakata Mongolian Village Baigal”, a glamping facility where you can stay in the mobile homes of Mongolian nomads “yurts” while admiring the stunning views of the Sea of Japan and Mt. Chokai. Glamping is the latest boom. It is popular as a spot where you can experience outdoor activities freely while experiencing a space and culture different from everyday life.
Kisakata Beach is right in front of you and the lodge has toilets and showers. We can taste yakiniku dishes at restaurant with a view of the sea. There are 13 gels in total, with a diameter of 6 meters and a height of 2.8 meters, and can accommodate up to 5 people. Equipped with bed, TV, refrigerator, air conditioner, free Wi-Fi, office can also be used.
Three days and two nights, the “Air & Rail Type Solo Travel Media Tour” in the Shonai area of Yamagata Prefecture and Nigaho City in Akita Prefecture has come to an end. Unfortunately, I also have to go back to Tokyo.
For the return trip, take the Limited Express Inaho from Zakata Station to Niigata Station. On the way, I met the setting sun in front of Haruki Murakami. At Niigata Station, the Shinkansen “Toki Line” is waiting next to the arrival station, allowing smooth transfers. It’s been a very fulfilling three days.
Finally, let me talk about your pertinent opinion. When I heard the word “Sonai”, I had no idea what kind of land it was and what kind of experience it would be. In addition, although it is very close to Tokyo, it is not actually a candidate for a tourist destination. However, I was able to experience what it was like to be reminded of such a fascinating land.
In addition to being less than an hour’s flight from Haneda Airport, it’s also a treasure trove of natural resources and plentiful, or overly plentiful, ingredients. There is also an ideal hometown like “Summer in Japan” depicted in the anime. I hope this post inspires as many people as possible to consider visiting Shonai.