Travel Thru’ The Lens – Misugi (Mie), Miyama (Kyoto) & Kyotango (Kyoto)

Everyone knows Kansai region but most will travel to Kyoto and Osaka through the Kansai International airport. My trip this time is really to go beyond the tried and tested and look at other places that most tourists will not venture out because of time constraints especially with Singaporean’s very limited amount of leaves they can muster.

So in 10 days, we tried to be a bit different and yet get an experience that I hope my family will remember better than your typical tour+shop types of trip. With some help from Khamisah of Xtrekkers we decided to venture to Misugi, Miyama and Kyotango in March.

Ready to Go!
Going to the Land of the Rising Sun
Always nice to be back in Japan.

MISUGI (MIE Prefecture)

Nestled in a valley full of forest trees Misugi is a place where locals like to go for a nice dip of the onsen, definitely welcomed after a long flight from Singapore.

To reach Misugi, we bought the Kintetsu pass from the airport and make our way through Namba station to Sakakibara-onsenguchi Station. From there a shuttle bus from the hotel picked us up. Do make prior arrangements with the staff at the hotel.

Once you reach Sakakibara-onsenguchi, you are right in the heart of the Japanese countryside with greenery and fresh air. Perfect!

We stayed over at Misugi Resort Hotel Annex that is perched on the side of the valley overlooking the area. They have various types of accommodation including log houses and chalets but we took the Japanese tatami styled rooms.

On the way to Misugi
After a very long journey over air, great to reach destination.
The bus picked us up at the station.
I always love tatami mat. That fragrant straw always gives me a homely feel.
The Misugi Valley.

We got hungry from all the travelling and decided to do a bit of trekking to see the surrounding area too. We went to the river bed and chanced upon a local eatery that provides the local venison and river fish called “Amago”.

Yamazato. Sometimes the exterior does not show the gems within.
The interior is so localised it is a fresh experience. The deer antlers are displayed prominently inside and this eatery is visited by quite a number of Japanese celebrities too.
Restaurant Yamazato
Hotplate Venison being served
Venison Donburi. Yum! Sometimes being simple, is the best way to show how fresh and delicious the food is.
Because we are in the valley, cannot really see the sunset but the clouds gave an indication how beautiful it is.
The plum flowers and sakuras are starting to bloom.
All ready for the Kaiseki Dinner.
Not sure how fresh is the produce? Look at the fish itself. LOL!
If you are into King Crabs, then this trip is well worth it. There will be more so do read on.

MIYAMA (Kyoto Prefecture)

Most of those who are thinking of going to Japan, the thatched roofs of farmhouses of Shirakawago are always in the minds of the planners. Being a UNESCO heritage site this is almost a given that a lot of people will visit just like the Taj Mahal of India, Borobudur of Indonesia or Ankor Wat of Cambodia.

The bad news is also the number of tourists visiting such sites and Miyama, more famous amongst Japanese tourists but doesn’t feature much for International Visitors is definitely a quieter alternative.

Miyama is rural area in the mountains some 30km from Kyoto. Like Shirakawago, they also have a thatched roof (Kayabuki) farmhouses village nestled in the valley of Miyama. The best part is that the locals still live and work in the village so even though tourists came and visit, it still does not overwhelm and lends it an air of authenticity.

To reach there we took a train to Hiyoshi Station from Kyoto main station. From there we take a bus into Miyama.

Hiyoshi Station
The bus to the mountains.
The bus stop. It was raining while we waited for our ride.
Tautasya. Slow Food and Accommodations. Highly recommended for the adventurous.
Yup. We are officially away from civilisation.

The place where we stayed is called Tautasya Farm. Situated right next to the forested area and a stream, it can be called an educational farm akin to an adventure camp. They have pretty interesting activities from agriculture to hunting deers.

In the compound they have 3 log cottages that is at once rustic and yet very comfortable. Inside each cottage can sleep 8 people and it is heated with an iron stove. With snow this place reminds me of the log cabins up in the mountains (though we are in the mountains and it is a log cottage).

In terms of food it cannot get any better. We had venison stew filled with self grown organic vegetables and the whole pot will cost an arm and a leg. It was delicious, filling and fresh. Best ‘normal’ food I have had in years.

Up in the mountains where the air was crisp and the peaceful surrounding envelops you.
It does reminds me a bit of the army barracks but it is really comfortable.
This is the iron wood stove and heater. That’s the miso soup for our breakfast.
They actually have English explainers telling you what they are serving and how to enjoy your meal. You will also have an idea why they raise ducks that is a source of food and also pest control as well.
That’s our first night’s dinner Duck Meat Hotpot. Simply delicious and healthy thanks to the self-grown organic vegetables and duck.
The dining hall felt very homely too. Great place to sit around and chit chat or get immersed with a book.
This is the Venison Stew with seasonal vegetables. The potatoes and carrots together makes the stew sweet. The venison is cooked to perfection. No wonder Isaac loved it so much he can easily give his blessings away to Jacob that readily.
Wife approved.
The beauty of Japanese wilderness.
Was raining on and off and nice to have the sun streaming through the trees.
One of the dogs of Tautasya. Heard they help with the hunting of deers in the area.
The rice fields in the valley
One of my favourite photos showing the resilience of the local elderlies doing their morning walk with their own wheelchair! And she has walked passed me to reach the foot of the hill and come back up again! Contrast this with the PMD users at home. No wonder Japan can bounce back from WWII destruction so fast.
The Lim Family + 1
The Wongs
The local map of the village
It was a wet day
Wet days create puddles of water for that more dramatic shots such as reflections…
…and water droplets.
The Sakuras are blooming!
A more dramatic view of the thatched roof with decades-old moss giving the roof its distinctive look.
If you are at Miyama, do have this bowl of Soba made with locally produced wheat in a restaurant opposite the village. Simply delicious with the local fish.
The river is so clean here!

KYOTANGO (Kyoto Prefecture)

The next part of our journey is to the seaside town of Kyotango. The local tourism office labelled Kyotango as Kyoto by the sea. Pretty interesting way to describe the place actually.

Like I said, Kyotango is by the sea, Sea of Japan actually so that means a few things. Super fresh seafood, beautiful sunset and mesmerising coastal area. That means great food, landscape and more landscapes.

Well this time is a bit different. With some arrangements made with Xtrekkers, I prepared a kimono shoot session for my wife.

Kyotango from the air.

I got to make it a point to thank 女将 IKEDA-san, who runs the Totoya Inn is just right next to the iconic Tateiwa Rock on the coast of Totoya. If you are an avid photographer, it is within walking distance to a few choice locations for beautiful sunsets, sandy landscapes and a cliff for some great photography too.

And I seriously need to mention their food quality is impeccable. The King Crab is out of this world. Highly recommend this place if you choose to visit Kyotango.

I didn’t know 8 Days and Today (same content as 8 Days) were invited to Kyotango last year too. Judging by the photos and the report I can say they have not scratched the surface for this area.

The special Kyotango train
Top tip. Go to the end of the train and there’s this special lounge area where you can sit down, have your bento and drink while looking at the world pass you by outside the window.
It doesn’t look much but this cafe has a great view and a fantastic bowl of Udon.
Look at that! What a view!
When we reached Kyotango, it was way pass lunch time and so we have one of the nicest bowl of Udon at Blue Tango (since vacated as the building it is in is marked unsafe as it is not earthquake protected).
This is the reception area of Totoya. Good vibes!
This is Totoya early in the morning. Our rooms at in the building on the right. Right in front is the rice padi field. You can imagine this place during harvest time.
Preparing for the shoot.
Wifey with Tateiwa Rock. Lethal Combination.
Nearby Tateiwa is this wooden bridge that gives that a certain feel of a bygone era. I can imagine a few more cosplay shoot with this place.
Come sunset, the golden glow gives another dimension to a portraiture shot. I switched on the Mate 20 Pro’s swirly bokeh mode to achieve this shot.
After a bit of poster designing.
Now the food here is not going to disappoint. Sashimi of the highest quality
Salmon cheek well BBQ with crispy skin and soft tender meat.
This is the product of our shabu shabu broth mixed with beaten eggs and rice and we have this. I still miss this!
Our breakfast! Exquisite!
The appetiser!
Just before we cook the King Crab. The red is just so enticing.

The beach just behind Totoya is also another trove of possible locations for the avid landscape photographer. With Tateiwa and wooden bridge it allows multiple possibilities to shoot landscapes, including start studded nightscapes.

The Lady Shizuka statue provides a good foreground to the beautiful sunset in the area…
…and also the starry skies at night. Lady Shizuka (静)is a famous court dancer in 12th century Japan. She is the subject of Japanese Noh plays. The statue features her and the son of her lover, Yoshitsune who was killed by an enemy general, Yoritomo.
This bridge has a East-West orientation that is perfect for milkyway shots. Too bad we reached here during the full moon period.
Tateiwa just after the sun sets.
Tateiwa from the air.
While in the area, you can visit Ine no Funaya, a seaside fishing village that is now selected as an protected area of traditional buildings.
You can take a short cruise around the bay of Ine no Funaya but the highlight has got to be the Japanese Black Kite trying to get some food. And the snack of choice? Calbee Prawn crackers.
One the Black Kites about to grab the prawn cracker.
Not just the Kites, but the sea gulls are into the action too.
You can visit Amanohashidate. Take the cable car up to the theme park at the top of the mount and take in the view of Amanohashidate that meanders like a dragon and I think it is called Bridge in Heaven is the fact it can look like a bridge with reflected clouds and blue skies off the sea surface.
Obviously very happy to win a posh toy in the theme park.
We actually made our own souvenirs that intrigued Ikeda-san she took a photo.
It was Mathias’ birthday and what better way to celebrate than using the Strawberry Swiss roll from the local bakery. Yes the strawberries came from local farms as well.
A very great end to a great trip!

My Gear for the Trip

  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro Smartphone and Content Creation Center
  • Nikon D500 with Laowa 12mm f2.8 DSLR
  • Parrot ANAFI Drone

DSC_0061 (Small)

About Wilson Wong
Founder of the 10000+ members Singapore Photography Interest Network photography group, avid gadget lover and budget wanderluster. He also writes for Techgoondu.com a tech website for the non-techies about the latest trends in personal tech. His wish is to help people get the right stuff and enjoy life without cutting off limbs to do so.

About X-Trekkers

X-Trekkers Adventure Consultant Pte Ltd (“X-Trekkers”) is a leading pioneer in the area of adventure travel and we take pride in bringing regular people to the farthest places on our wild and intricate planet. You can contact them via email at japan@x-trekkers.com

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