More info from the Naeba-Sanroku Geopark Guide Map, carrying on from the Naeba-Sanroku Geopark 1 post.
Human History of Naeba-Sanroku
People began living in Naeba-Sanroku about 30 thousand years ago during the Paleolithic Age, as evidenced by stone tools unearthed at several sites in the area.
During the prehistoric Jomon Period (c.12,000-c.300BCE), people lived in harmony with the deciduous forests of the Shinano Basin for about 10 thousand years. The hallmark of this culture, which also coped with heavy snowfalls similar to those of today, was the flame-shaped earthenware vessel.
Suzuki Bokushi, an Edo Period merchant and writer from Shiozawa, Niigata, toured the Nakatsu Gorge in 1828, and published his experiences and observations (with illustrations), giving us a valuable glimpse of life in this isolated area nearly 200 years ago.
Hot Springs – Gifts of the Earth
Hot springs can be found throughout Naeba-Sanroku along the Nakatsu, Shikumi, and Shinano Rivers. Various types of hot springs with different mineral content can be enjoyed, and some have excellent views. The most natural hot spring of this area is at Kiriake, where hot water springs from the river bank and flows into the river, allowing you to dig your own hot spring bathing hole where the hot and cold water mix just right! Choose from a variety of different hot springs to refresh yourself after touring geosites.
Food Culture in Snow Country
In order to survive the severe snowbound winters of Naeba-Sanroku, traditions of food preservation have developed, resulting in a unique food culture.
High quality rice is grown here (and sake produced) using spring water that comes from plentiful snow which soaks into the earth and gets filtered during long periods underground.
It is also said that the plentiful mountain vegetables and mushrooms become tender and tasty due to the heavy snow. Another benefit of heavy snow is letting vegetables, especially carrots, sleep under the snow all winter, which increases sweetness.
Plants and Animals of Naeba-Sanroku
Plants As many as 1,300 plants have been identified in the area, enough to fill a flora picture book. Snow camellia, which lays down under the snow, then springs up with conspicuous red blossoms. Bog rosemary and cotton grass, found on the high marshlands of Mt. Naeba and Komatsubara. Grasses typical to more northerly regions can be found around the windholes of Naeba-Sanroku. Virgin forests of horse chestnut, beech, etc. spread across the mountainside.
Animals Foxes, hares, serows, and raccoon dogs are the more commonly seen of 35 kinds of mammals. Asiatic black bears have also been seen.
Mountain hawk-eagles breed in the tall trees and sheer cliffs of Naeba-Sanroku. Rare species of migrant birds are also among the 120 kinds of birds that have been observed.
Mountain trout and land-locked trout are among 33 kinds of fish that inhabit Naeba-Sanroku’s rivers and streams.
Many kinds of insects have been observed here, including Japan’s smallest dragonfly, haccho tonbo, and the ‘goddess of spring’, gifu butterfly. Fireflies light up summer nights in several places.
Naeba-Sanroku Geopark Promotion Council (Agriculture and Jomon Experience “Najomon”) Shimofunato-Otsu 835, Tsunan, Niigata, 949-8201 Tel: 025-765-1600 Fax: 025-765-5511 URL: http://naeba-geo.jpn.org/
English Tour Guides are available. Please enquire and request by email to Tsunan Town Tourist Association, including “Geopark Guide Request” in the subject line Email: kanko(at)tsunan.info