The way of life in Snow Country has been heavily influenced by the heavy winter snows and there is a lot of interesting knowledge that is unique to this area. The people at the Snow Country Tourism Office are looking to introduce that culture and knowledge to visitors and there are a few tours coming up that link together. They are all two day/one night tours that shed light on different aspects of life in and history of Snow Country. All the tours are based over in Tsunan and include meals and an overnight stay in local accommodation.
Snow Country Jomon Course – We’ve mentioned the Jomon history of this region on several occasions, and there are several things still in existence today that trace their roots back to that ancient era.
The Jomon Course has two editions – the first takes place on November 6th & 7th and is the Late Autumn Edition. The first afternoon involves making thread for angin – an ancient woven material, remains of which have been found in Jomon era pottery. The technique of making it was thought to have been lost but was rediscovered in Tsunan. The thread for the material is made by twisting the fibres of the ramie plant, and it is this that you will do under the guidance of a local old lady. After an overnight stay in Tsunan, the next morning involves foraging for mushrooms in the local mountains and preparing lunch out in the wild.
The Late Winter Edition (February 25/26) carries on where the Autumn Edition left off. The first afternoon you’ll use the twisted ramie thread to learn how to weave angin, and the following morning features a snowshoe hike to a reconstructed Jomon era settlement buried in snow.
The Snow Country Life Course focuses more on the day to day challenge of living in a region which gets buried in snow for half the year. The first instalment is the Winter Preparations Edition on November 12/13. A daikon tsugura is a little hut made of straw that when covered in snow, is the perfect environment for storing white radishes, keeping them fresh for the whole winter. With the fields under snow for the winter months, techniques like this were very important to keep vegetables in the diet. It is also part of a growing movement to find positive uses for the snow rather than just seeing it as a nuisance. The first afternoon of the Winter Preparations Edition involves trying your hand at making a daikon tsugura with a local. The next day you will harvest the daikon to fill it and take part in a small harvest festival, which is traditional in this area once the autumn produce have been gathered from the fields.
The follow-on to this tour is the Blanketed in Snow Edition which takes place on February 4/5. Kanjiki are traditional snowshoes that enable people to walk around outside during the snowy months, and are an essential tool for Snow Country. They are put together from curved bamboo and rope made from the kuromoji tree. Making things indoor around the open fire is a very Snow Country experience. Chatting and laughing with companions as your hands stay busy makes for a really bonding experience. The following day you strap on your kanjiki and head out into the snow to test your creation.
All these tours are especially designed to give an insight into the region far removed from the usual scenery that the average tourist enjoys. The capture special moments in the yearly cycle of life in Snow Country and introduce to locals that still practice skills that go way back in time.
Each tour costs 16,000 yen and lasts from about 1pm on the first day to 2pm on the following day. Meals and accommodation are included. For further information you can contact the Snow Country Tourism Office on 025-785-5353