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     Deep into the forests of Hayakawa-cho, there exists a small village split between the foot and peaks of Mount Fujimi. Today we took the 15 minute ride to the top and experienced firsthand the history and culture of the town dubbed the Machu Pichu of Japan. 
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The upper village of Mogura

     Our trip up to the Mountain top village (Mogura) was aided by a tour guide from Healthy Misato tours who just so happened to live on the lower half of the village (Arakura). Once arriving at the top, we met an elderly woman who is called endearingly called Reiko Sensei by all the upper and lower village residents. After chatting for a while, she brought us on a brief walk up to the community center where we had a feast for lunch. We were able to enjoy both a boxed lunch prepared by our tour guide with Hayakawa-cho sourced vegetables, as well as additional side dishes prepared by Sensei from her own garden. It was all very delicious and as we watched Reiko Sensei prepare the food for us we couldn’t help but think ‘Ometenashi, Yamanashi’.

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       After eating such a big meal it was no helping the fact that we had to laze around for a bit afterwards. The energy happily drained from each of us, or at least until we heard a somewhat familiar tune coming from loud-speakers outside. All of my group save for me then quickly dashed out the door. No, it wasn’t an ice cream truck, but rather a traveling green grocer. The upper half of the town only consists of 17 people and so there are no grocery stores unless you go down the mountain. So to help give upper residents food, a truck drives around on the regular selling fresh food from its trunk. 
      Unfortunately, I had caught a cold that morning and was in no condition to rush out the door. And so I stayed back with Sensei and our guide. It didn’t take long for Reiko Sensei to notice I had caught a cold, and so she kindly prepared two drinks just for me. One pinkish drink was a hot tea made from adding pickled bamboo root to hot water. Even though I’m not a fan of Tsukemono (pickled dishes) I was slightly scolded by Sensei that nutritional value comes before taste. As expected from a woman heralded as Sensei by all the residents! The second drink however, was much more to my liking. This one was just a couple of tea spoons of Hayakawa-cho produced honey melted into some hot water and it was absolutely delicious!

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Pickled bamboo root (L), honey(R)

         Looking back, I’m a little glad I was feeling under the weather at the time. Because I was sick not only was I able to enjoy the delicious Hayakawa Honey but I was also able to hear from Sensei and our guide about how the upper residents remained so healthy. Despite being rather up there in age, Reiko Sensei was about as energetic as a spring chicken and mentioned with pride that even still she was the youngest in Mogura. Nevertheless, due to their age it is very important that they take good care of themselves. But it is no surprise that this small village without a grocery store was doctor-less as well. Furthermore, it takes 15 minutes to get to the bottom of the mountain and another 45 to get to the nearest hospital. So if there was ever an emergency, unfortunately they would most likely succumb to death before an ambulance could even arrive. 

        Due to this fact, the elderly of the town all strongly relied on one resident whose name unfortunately I was unable to catch. Although he held no degree in medicine and never practiced as a doctor, everyone went to him for medical advice. According to Sensei he was so amazing that with just one look at you he could tell what your problem was and what medicinal herbs you would need to get better. Clearly, he knew what he was talking about as the towns youngest was a bright and bouncy lady in her 70s. 

       After talking for a while our group returned from their little grocery shopping trip outside of the community center and we went on to our second portion of the day. I had also started feeling much better from the honey I received from Sensei and medicine from another member in our group. It was time for a walking tour of this mountain top village. As we walked around we were immersed more in more in the stories from Sensei. One thing I found out was that not only is Hayakawa honey rather famous, it’s also quite expensive. No wonder it was so delicious! But it was also quite interesting to find out that despite this, the people of Mogura love bee’s and raise them like pets as they freely harvest their honey as much as they like. Yup that’s right, the honey I had earlier was harvested by Reiko Sensei herself! As we walked through we also got to enjoy the beauty of the nature and although I’m not much of an outdoors person, I really liked gazing into the thicket that seemed to extend inwards infinitely.

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Sensei at the old Shichimenkan temple     

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The forest grove behind the temple

       Later on, we also reached a small temple which apparently was where naughty children were locked up and punished in the olden says. Sensei said that even now she gets a little scared when she approaches the area. But surprisingly the temple grounds were also used as a field for any sports meets held by the local elementary school and there was even a small pool at the foot of the shrine (although it is now with the aging population it used primarily as part of the towns irrigation system).

       In fact, the one school they had was turned into the community center we were just in and now when children in the lower village reach schooling age, they travel out far to a neighboring more populated town. When asked why such an area as this was populated in the first place, Reiko Sensei had told us that when it was first founded hundreds of years ago the Hayakawa River was prone to floods and it was extremely dangerous. Thus as a countermeasure they decided to build the settlement on the highest peak they could construct on and ever since then the settlement has continued. However, during Japan’s Taisho period (1920s) with the calming of the Hayakawa, the lower village was created and promptly inhabited by those inconvenienced by mountain top life. Unfortunately this shift marked the beginning of what is most likely an approaching end to Mogura village and as no one in the village is under the age of 70 it will most likely end with this generation.    

      I personally love history and to walk through the streets of Mogura and hear stories first hand from one of its residents I really began to understand what it means to say ‘living history’. If you ever have a chance I greatly recommend it as there really is a plethora of things to be learned from Sensei and the other townspeople.

Thank you Reiko Sensei for the wonderful experience!

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Our guide on the far left, Reiko Sensei in the yellow and our group minus me

Hayakawa Town Nature Guide Tour
Minami Alps Eco Village
Healthy Misato
( External link )

Published on

  • November 11, 2019


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