The impression you get from your travels will vary greatly depending on where you stay, making the choice of accommodation essential to planning an enjoyable trip.
While a cleanly appointed hotel room or a hot spring inn rich with Japanese aesthetics will certainly provide satisfaction, if you are coming to Fukushima, why not also consider something more rustic to get a taste of the local culture?
One option is to stay at a “farmer’s inn” (nouka minshuku).
Fukushima is a veritable kingdom of farming, covered with fields and rice paddies over much of its area.
The popular crops on local farms vary with the area, such as rice in the Aizu region, fruit in the Nakadori region, and vegetables and other seasonal crops in the Hamadori region. Farmer’s inns are part of a style of travel growing in popularity in which you stay at a home actually involved in farming. Unlike normal trips where visitors travel from place to place for sightseeing, staying at a farmer’s inn will give you a deeper experience of the land and its appeals as you work and eat with the local residents.
First and foremost among the various activities you will experience is the farm work itself. Visitors assist the farmer running the inn to manage and harvest the crops in his or her fields and paddies. It does not matter if you have never done this before, as these veteran farmers will kindly guide you through the work.
When the work is done, next you can join the locals in preparing meals from the freshly harvested produce. Meals prepared from foods you harvested yourself are incomparably delicious! Your bonds with the farmer’s family will deepen as you dine together around the dinner table, and you will likely experience the comfort of visiting the home of favored relatives.
Each area of Fukushima also features its own local cuisine, so such a trip can also be an opportunity to encounter rare dishes. For example, there is the Kozuyu soup made with a broth of scallops and filled to the brim with numerous local ingredients such as carrots, taro, and shitake mushrooms. This dish local to Aizu has long been enjoyed as an essential part of any celebratory occasion. Don’t hesitate to ask the families about the history of the dishes and tips for preparing them so you can make them at home and fondly recall your trip in years to come.
During moments of free time, you can relax in the tatami room and nap on your futon and experience the simple pleasures of the traditional Japanese lifestyle. If the inn is a traditional Japanese home, you will likely also encounter such items as the special sunken hearths located in the middle of the living room, or the blanket-covered kotatsu table under which you can warm your feet in winter months. Other activities you may enjoy vary depending on the area, and may include traditional crafts and the type of outdoor nature activities only possible in the countryside. And remember, this type of trip can also be enjoyed with your whole family!
HOW TO PLAY
Many farmer’s inns are located in mountainous areas. These areas give you an immediate sense of the changing seasons, with blossoming flowers in springtime and the verdant green of summer. You will likely see Japanese farming villages in a new light as you take photographs on your walks or simply gaze at the gardens in between other activities. Thus, simply relaxing and taking in the quiet unavailable in bustling cities is another pleasant way to spend your time here.
It is often the case that you will actually be living together with the farmer’s family, so you should refrain from being too noisy or doing whatever you like without first consulting them.
Further, such inns do not provide the high level of customer service normally found at hotels and other tourist accommodations. Therefore, you should take care to do your part, such as helping to wash the dishes after meals and by keeping your own room clean during your stay.
During the course of your stay of several days, you will doubtless experience the bountiful nature, cuisine, traditions, and lifestyle of Fukushima. So, come stay at a farmer’s inn in Fukushima, and perhaps you will discover your second home, a place where you will wish to return again and again in years to come.