Photo By: Matthew Coslett
Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nara
Population
1,442,862

Asuka Mura

The green areas around Nara Prefecture represent an attempt by nature to retain its dominion despite the constant encroaching by the major cities that most tourists visit in the Kansai Region. In the outskirts there are still village areas which have likely remained unchanged for most of the century. For those that want to see the Kansai’s leafy soul, visit Asuka Mura in the outskirts of Nara.

Nara Park

One of the big differences between Asuka Mura and other nature locations in Kansai is that there aren’t any big sights to see. Unlike its surrounding areas there are no ancient castles, fascinating temples or epic waterfalls.  What is fascinating about this area is that visitors won’t even notice or mind the lack of a major attraction. Rather than having a single must-see location, the whole area is the attraction. The traditional houses, the rivers and the rice plantations all seem part of a synergetic whole, so complete that if a single element was removed the natural, idyllic feel of the area would need be as perfect as it is.

Photo by: Matthew Coslett Catch these scarecrows in September.

It is worth visiting the village twice, once to experience its tranquility and once during its annual scarecrow competition, held in late September, which is one of the few times in a year where Asuka Mura does have a must-see event. If you are imagining poorly rendered straw men, then you will be pleasantly surprised by the craftsmanship of the villagers. The scarecrows on display have history, culture and real effort put into them. Everything from child’s games to legendary beasts from Japanese folklore are represented in straw-stuffed form.

Naturally for an area with such a deep connection to folklore, the area has some mysterious sights that, unlike the scarecrow festival, can be enjoyed all year round. By far the most interesting is the turtle-shaped rock that is found by the side of one of the roads. According to local legend, the rock must be kept facing any direction except the west as should it ever face that direction Japan will be reduced to a sea of mud.

Photo by: Matthew Coslett Head outside Nara City for some peace and scarecrow.

Equally mysterious are the water-gathering, circular stone structures found at Asuka-dera. As this temple was constructed by Korean artisans, the exact purpose has been lost to history although the most likely explanation is that they were for ceremonial cleansing purposes. More easy to appreciate is the well-preserved Bronze Buddha dating back to the 7th century.

Photo by: Matthew Coslett Countryside life!

People looking for the quieter, traditional face of Kansai should find exactly what they are looking for in Asuka Mura. A big part of its appeal is that, while the modern face of Japan is an ever-changing, undefinable entity which refuses to be easily categorized or even defined, Asuka Mura has the feel of something solid that likely hasn’t changed in a long time. The best thing is that a trip can be combined with an evening visit to Namba to experience both sides of Kansai.

For more info on the surrounding area, check out the Asuka Mura official website.

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Trivia

Nara Park

Divine deer at one of the oldest parks in Japan.

More

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒634-0138 Nara-ken, Takaichi-gun, Asuka-mura, Koshi, 560, 飛鳥駅

By train

Asuka Mura can be easily accessed from Asuka station on the Kintetsu line.

Where To Stay

Kotorian
  • Mayumi 1473 Takaichi-Gun Asuka-Mura, Nara 634-0137
  • 9.8/10
  • 0.4 km
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The Kashihara
  • Kume-cho 652-2 Kashihara-Shi, Nara 634-0063
  • 8.1/10
  • 2.2 km
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Kashihara Oak Hotel
  • Kume-choJingumae 905-2 Kashihara-Shi, Nara 634-0063
  • 6.9/10
  • 2.2 km
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Asuka Guest House
  • Asuka 659 Takaichi-Gun Asuka-Mura, Nara 634-0103
  • 9.2/10
  • 2.6 km
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