A Look Back at 2020 and Projects We’ve Been Doing

As we all welcome in the new year, the whole tourism industry looks forward to a safe recovery after the tumultuous year that was 2020. While there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic situation, it is still unclear how and when travel will return to normal. No matter what 2021 brings for the travel industry, here at Heartland Japan, we’d like wish everyone a safe and healthy year.

With the number of inbound travelers to Japan so low throughout 2020, Heartland JAPAN spent most of the year preparing new products and doing promotion projects with many local companies, associations, and local government entities. Here is a handful of the areas we’ve been doing work in.

Kagoshima

Sakurajima Vulcan during the Sunset, in Kagoshima.

A quick search of Kagoshima will surely result in pictures of the active volcano Sakurajima, which towers of the city of Kagoshima. It is truly a wonderful sight, but it actually has a deeper connection to the area. A long history of volcanic activity throughout Kagoshima Prefecture, together with the geographical characteristics, has resulted in the area being great for agriculture. The soil is very fertile and the climate is ideal for many varieties of crops.

The overall agriculture production of Kagoshima ranks 2nd of all prefectures, trailing only Hokkaido. In Kagoshima, though, it isn’t only about quantity, but quality, as well. In the most recent Wagyu Olympics, Kurege Wagyu of Kagoshima took home the top prize and kurobuta black pork is often considered a top pork in Japan. Fruits and vegetables are also of top quality and in recent years, many farmers have started turning to organic farming.

All of these things put together make Kagoshima a great place for a farm stay. There are many local farmers and associations that are trying to create and improve farm stay, agriculture, and culture activities. Heartland JAPAN is working with these farmers to help in this development. Look forward to some new agriculture tours in Kagoshima in the near future.

Kiso Valley

The iconic view of Naraijuku, in the Kiso Valley. (Image: Photo-Ac)

As a part of the Nakasendo trail that linked Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo), the Kiso Valley was a bustling area for travelers passing through. In the past, strict government restrictions meant that most travelers had to move by foot, which resulted in many post towns along the Nakasendo trail. In Kiso, some of these post towns have remained intact and even preserved to keep their historic atmosphere. This has resulted in the area becoming a popular place to visit for those looking for some beautiful outdoor scenery.

A lesser-known point of this area, though, is the relationship that the samurai had with the forest. Samurai were not simply warriors prepared for fighting, but were very cultured and skilled in art, as well. If you want to learn more about the culture of the local samurai, check out this video, _Insert URL for Samurai Timber video.

Kumamoto

Renge-in Tanjō-ji temple in Tamana, Kumamoto.

Just north of Kumamoto City, the city of Tamana is putting efforts into creating some unique tours and activities, especially if you are interested in exercise and mental training. Located in Tamana, the small town of Nagomi is the hometown of Japan’s first Olympic marathon runner. There are many trails that locals run that are being developed for traveling trail runners. This includes a mini pilgrimage where you can run to 8 shrines that are each dedicated to a different part of the body for health, such as a shrine of vision and a shrine of strong/healthy legs.

Located in Tamana, Mt. Shodai has Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples scattered along the mountainside. The mountain was historically famous for yamabushi monks that would roam the forest. A variety of temple activities provide a truly unique experience for those interested in learning about religion in Japan or those seeking mental discipline training.

Follow Heartland JAPAN for more tourism information throughout the countryside of Japan.

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