One thing that Miyagi is especially good for is hiking. Just a brief train ride from Sendai and you can start your way to the mountains for adventurous mountain hiking! But what if you are not so skilled and not used to walking long distances?
For beginners and others who prefer to combine hiking with picnics and/or meditations in the fields, there exists a great footpath course in Izunuma which I would like to recommend you today.
The course begins and ends at a lively Izunuma agricultural market. Here you fully realize that you are not in Sendai any more. Goats are waiting for a treat in a nearby pen, and of course, you can purchase a treat for yourself at the market (I recommend to do it after the course). Delicious vegetable tempura, local ham and sausages, as well as cosmetic goods made of famous Izunuma lotus are being sold here.
From here you go straight into the fields. Climb up the stairs to a small shrine and enter narrow paths that you wouldn’t have noticed at all if you were alone. But you are not alone. You are accompanied by a guide, who knows this place better than anyone. Although the course is led by a guide, it doesn’t feel like an excursion, rather a pleasant walk when you can ask questions, find out something new and even decide your own pace of walking.
Walking narrow paths and entering the fields opens many things that are naturally hidden from our site. Tiny flowers and plants that are used in traditional medicine. Birds and small animals, even snakes (not poisonous ones) who inhabit these landscapes that we often consider our own because we get our food from there, and who feel much more confident in the surrounding area.
Rural Japan has its secrets and discoveries. Do you know what does a rural cemetery look like? Do you know where masked palm civets are hiding in the day time? Or what kind of stone monuments are standing at the roadside? These things might not be useful for those who are living in the city, but it adds some important aspect to our understanding of Japanese culture and nature - it becomes closer to us.
A picnic with bento, kindly prepared by the organizers, is the great finishing point for the course. Japanese traditional cuisine with so many local ingredients as it is possible, healthy and delicious, presents the hospitality of Miyagi people at its’ best.
And I strongly recommend those of you who know Japanese to visit Izunuma's Facebook as well!