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Alternative to Kyoto

Three reasons why Hino is more enjoyable than Kyoto

Have you ever heard of a town called Hino?

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Probably not, but I am sure you’ve all heard of Kyoto, since it is the old Japanese capital and the most popular tourist destination in Japan. Hino on the other hand is hardly visited by anyone, and not known at all, even though it is only one hour and a half from Kyoto.

Hino town is located in the south east region in Shiga prefecture which is next to Kyoto. Hino is famous for Omi Hino merchants, one of Omi merchants.

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Omi merchants were active during the Edo period and the Meiji period. They were merchants from Shiga who conducted their business outside. Many of Omi Hino merchants, for instance, travelled to Kanto and opened stores there while leaving their families behind in Hino. They became quite successful and built mansions for their families back home. Many of these houses still exist today and they have architectural significance. Famous ones are used as museums.

You can experience authentic Japanese culture in Hino

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I suppose a lot of people like visiting Kyoto because you can experience Japanese traditional culture there. In that case, you can enjoy Hino, because you can also experience Japanese traditional culture here. There are many old traditional style houses in Hino like those in Kyoto. Let alone the houses that used to belong to Omi Hino merchants.

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Many people still live in those old houses and tradition is part of our daily life. People who have visited Hino after visiting Kyoto have told me that traditional culture you see in Kyoto is part of tourism while it is ingrained in everyday life here.

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You can experience rural Japan in Hino

It is often said that you shouldn’t go to London if you want to see real England, you shouldn’t go to Pars if you want to see real France. Well, the same thing can be said about Japan. If you want to see real Japan, don’t go to Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, but go to the countryside.

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Hino is a small rural town with a lot of rice fields. Rice fields in my opinion are symbols of Japan since they cover most of our land except mountains and cities. Rice is our main grain and therefore how it is produced is very much part of our culture.

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For me, not seeing rice fields is almost like not seeing Japan. You can’t say you’ve visited Japan by just buying cameras in Akihabara, eating ramen, going to manga cafes in Tokyo, or even visiting temples in Kyoto.

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In Hino, you can take a walk or ride a bike along rice fields listening to the sound of frogs. You may be able to try rice planting or harvesting if you visit at right timing. If you stay with local farmers, you get to experience some kind of work on their farms throughout the year.

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There are mountains, rivers, forests around the town and you can go walking and cycling there as well. 

There are people who are interested in alternative ways of life in Hino

If you are one of travelers who are seeking deeper aspects of travelling, you may want to visit alternative places to regular tourist spots. Hino has some interesting cafes which are run by new comers to this town.

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They moved to Hino because they wanted to live in the countryside or are interested in Japanese traditional culture. They renovated old traditional style houses and started cafes or workshop spaces. Some of those houses used to belong to Omi Hino merchants.

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As a matter of fact, I run a group called Local Network. It consists of about 20 people who are interested in alternative ways of living, such as organic farming, natural parenting, art, alternative medicine, yoga, and so on. Some of our members run those cafes and spaces.

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Environmental movement is very active in Shiga. There are many people who are interested in alternative ways of living in neighboring towns, too. The Organic Market is held once a month in Otsu, the Full Moon Market is held on every full moon in Yasu, and so many other things are going on.

country cycling and walking

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