Miyama, preserving it's traditions.
In the last week of January each year, there is a Lantern festival in a small historic village on the outskirts of Kyoto, called Miyama. I hace the chance to get there this year, and it was great. Once at the village center, it was now time to walk the streets of the village and see not only the Thatched Roof houses, but 2 hillside shrines and a few cafes, small museums, an archive museum, and restaurants that themselves are located in some refurbished Thatched roof houses. In general the Houses are all relatively old, and the village is known to be a Historical Village of Thatched Roof Houses and was registered as a District for groups of Historic Buildings in 1993. Basically, if you want to see a real rural part of Japan, Miyama is one place you can do this. This is how the Japanese lived in the rural parts of Japan centuries ago. Listening to some of the residents, we found out that there are actually only 3 people in the Kyoto area that can actually re-lay or fix the rooves of these houses. While you can't go into all the houses, there are 3 houses in Miyama that have accommodation lodgings, and even though they are very simple, I can highly recommend these. Dinner and Breakfast are included in the accommodation fee, and all you need to do after you check in , is to walk around the village or relax in your Japanese style room until a Traditional Japanese dinner(that changes in the different seasons). For us, it was more walking around the village in the snow, and then when until it become dark. Once it became dark and the whiteness of the snow was pretty much all you could see, on came the lights of the lanterns that had strategically been placed in front of the Thatched Roof Houses, and throughout the rice fields lower than the village. The Village then took on another form compared to previously in the day, and even felt spiritual. This lantern festival is done for only a week towards the end of January. Miyama offer many events throughout the year, such as a photo contest in February, Fishing events in March, and not to mention the Cherry Blossom season. In May and December, the have a day or two to use fire hoses and check there are no leaks or damage to the rooves. There are also several festivals that involve the Shrines and Temples of Miyama. In August there is even an event where you can try your luck at grabbing small fish called Ayu (Sweetfish) along with the event of burning the harvested grass of fields to bring good luck to the next harvest season (You can see flames going up to some 20 meters into the sky). No matter what season you come to Miyama, the views and then feeling of the village is different. If you have extra time in Japan, or have been to Japan before, I highly recommend a visit to Miyama. As I mentioned before, it is not too far from Kyoto, so not impossible to reach.