For many Shitada visitors, whether from Japan’s big cities or from countries across Asia, Europe and the Americas, one of the real delights that the slow and steady style of Shitada brings is simply enjoying the beauty of the rural setting. It’s not just endless rice fields, either, but the beauty of the forests and hills beyond, the rivers cutting between the rice paddies, the rocky outcroppings and rolling terrain that makes for timeless, beautiful, and restful scenery. It also means that there is delicious produce to be enjoyed: the sweet rice that is not your everyday bowl; the freshest of vegetables and fruit; the famous Sanjo pork and other local specialties. You start to feel connected to the land and the people as you explore not only what you see, but what you can touch and taste as well.
At the base of the cliff of Yagigahana is Yagi Shrine; the resident kami, or deity, is the god of rice cultivation. This is a land where snowmelt from the sacred mountains flows down to fill the rice paddies, which produce a superior grade of rice.
Paleolithic ruins in this area show that this ideal water flow and excellent natural conditions have allowed for a local culture that has continued from ancient times. Today, too, the timeless beauty of Yagigahana is reflected in rice produced in the traditional way—organically, without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
One of the most distinctive, beautiful (and, sadly, often disappearing) sights of rural Japan are the tanada—terraced rice fields. Selected as one of the top 100 tanada in all Japan are the fields of the Kitaimogawa Tanada, right here in Shitada. This is in a beautiful location under Mt. Awagatake, with a walking trail that takes you to the Okubo Spring, the source of water for the tanada. In the spring, fields of purple katakuri flowers (Erythronium japonicum) bloom in the open spaces.
The Michi no Ei (Roadside Station) Kangaku no Sato is an excellent spot to find and purchase local fruit and vegetables; the restaurant also serves meals featuring the best local produce.
It’s slow and steady out here, but Shitada also has some comfortable, even luxurious, places to stay. These also serve yamazato kaiseki, multi-course Japanese cuisine built around the best of the wild things from the mountains and streams.
Shitada has a long tradition of fine metal craftsmanship, from the hand-forged nails that started the industry more than 200 years ago, to today’s high-tech camping gear made by companies headquartered here.