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Get Wonderfully Rural with these Tohoku Farm Stay Experiences

Iwate Prefecture’s Horoha Guest House 
Photo credit: Stay Japan

 

As more and more travelers seek experiences off the beaten track and away from crowds, farmhouse stays are finding fresh popularity as a chance to slow down and enjoy an authentic connection with the Japanese countryside and culture. 

 

See a different side of Japan with a farm stay in Northern Japan

 

The northeastern Tohoku region, comprising Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata Prefectures, is particularly suited to farmhouse stays. Not only do these ancient provinces, the subject of poet Matsuo Basho’s seminal 17th century travel diary “Oku no Hosomichi” (“The Long Road to the Deep North”) boast stunning natural beauty, sacred sites, and a wealth of folklore and folk craft; they also make up for harsh winters with a summer climate that is cooler and more forgiving than most of central and western Japan. 

 

Time can seem to stand still at this 150-year-old farmhouse in Iwate Prefecture.
Photo credit: Stay Japan

 

Re-connect with nature at a nostalgic farmer's inn in Iwate

 

Iwate, on the far northern Pacific coast, is the largest prefecture on Honshu, Japan’s largest island, and its tourism offerings are correspondingly diverse: from World Heritage-recognized Jomon period (c. 14,000–300 BCE) sites and the medieval monuments and ruins of the abandoned city of Hiraizumi, to the Ryusendo limestone cavern and retro railway journeys along the picturesque Sanriku coastline

 

Horoha Guest House, a 20-minute drive from JR Senmaya Station on the Ofunato line, is a traditional bed and breakfast set within a 150-year-old farmhouse encircled by a rambling wagyu cattle ranch. But despite the historic surroundings, rest assured that guests are provided with mod cons including an internet TV and a toilet with electronic bidet

 

A traditional irori hearth is a cozy feature of many traditional homes in Tohoku. 
Photo credit: Stay Japan

 

Visitors can cook for themselves in the atmospheric, wheelchair-accessible (and pet-friendly!) guest rooms or enjoy home-cooked local specialties around the warm glow of a traditional irori sunken hearth. The farm also provides a convenient staging post for local attractions such as the Fujisawa Sports Land motocross circuit, and numerous sites associated with the area’s once-hidden Christian heritage.

 

Get an authentic Japanese countryside experience in Akita

 

Travelling due west from Iwate towards the Sea of Japan coast brings us to Akita Prefecture. Known as one of Japan’s snowiest destinations, this once-isolated region has in recent years enjoyed an uptick in tourism thanks in part to promotional activities centered around the famously fluffy local Akita dog breed.

 

As the name suggests, Akita’s Seisetsukan promises idyllic views of both snow and stars.  
Photo credit: Stay Japan

 

Private Farm Stay Inn Seisetsukan, 15 minutes on foot from Ugo-Nagatoro Station on the Akita Nairiku Line, promises idyllic views befitting the name of the inn, which translates as “star-snow hall” (星雪館).  

 

Placing traditional kiritanpo rice cakes on cedar skewers in a special stand to cook by the stove. 
Photo credit: Stay Japan

 

For maximum privacy and relaxation, the converted second floor of the farmhouse accepts only a single group (of up to seven guests) at any one time. There is an on-site onsen hot spring bath in which to soak as you enjoy the cooling summer breeze, while winter arrivals can gather around the woodburning stove and munch on traditional kiritanpo rice cakes freshly cooked on cedar skewers.

 

Discover country charm with friendly hosts in Fukushima

 

More than a decade after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Fukushima Prefecture is finally back on the map as a tourist destination. It’s heartening to see, because here, too, there are a wealth of things to experience, such as traveling back to samurai times among the historic streetscapes of Ouchijuku or hiking in the scenic Bandai-Azuma highlands.

 

Fukushima’s Nihonmatsu City Farm is home to another irori stove.
Photo credit: Stay Japan

 

Located in view of Mt. Adatara, a stratovolcano that abuts Mt. Azuma, the Nihonmatsu City Farm Stay Experience offers free pickup by car from Matsukawa Station on the JR Tohoku Main Line. Besides the tatami-floored guestrooms and authentic home cooking, guests can take part in seasonal farm activities like mulberry pruning and rice planting. The farm is also a mere hop, skip, and jump away from Nihonmatsu Castle, Lake Inawashiro, and the stunning Okitsushima Shrine (founded in 769 CE). 

 

Guests have the opportunity to help out with various seasonal farm activities. 
Photo credit: Stay Japan

 

Where to look for your Japan farm stay experience

 

Readers attracted by the idea of sustainable farmhouse stays in Tohoku can find the above establishments and many more besides via the Stay Japan website (search by “Tohoku” or the prefecture of your choice). There are also numerous options in Tohoku and beyond to be found on the Countryside Stays Japan website. 

 

More farmhouse bed & breakfast options in southern Yamagata’s Iide district can be found via the Iidemachi Tourist Association, who will match you with appropriate accommodation and transport options in response to details and preferences provided via the online “Booking Accommodation” form. 

 

 

 

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    About the author

    Author: David McMahon
    Profile: Drawn to Japan from his native UK in 2003 by a love of the country’s underground music, parallel to work as a translator and localization professional David McMahon has written on food, travel, sport, and culture for outlets including the Japan Times, Nippon.com, and NHK World. 

     

     

     

     

     

 

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