Bounty of the Wild North: Cape Soya, Hokkaido
Cape Soya lies at the northernmost tip of Hokkaido Island. Located at a latitude of 45 degrees North, the landscape in this area is very different from the rest of Japan, and it is sometimes known as the "Ireland of Japan." Year-round, it is swept by strong winds and has an average annual temperature of about 7 degrees Celsius. This makes it a suitable habitat for plants that can only be seen at an altitude of around 2,000 meters in central Japan. The Okhotsk Sea is one of Japan's most fertile fishing grounds. Sarufutsu Village is known for its scallops, and more of the shellfish are landed here than anywhere else in Japan. The local fishermen release baby scallops in the sea water and leave them to grow for five years until maturity. These shellfish are prized for their meaty texture and rich flavor. This area also has a distinctive inland ecosystem, with some fascinating wildlife. One of the most remarkable is the itou (Japanese Huchen), the largest freshwater fish in the country, which is now critically endangered. In this edition of Journeys in Japan, John Moore explores the wild nature of Japan's northernmost tip. He sees for himself the bounty of the ocean, even in this harsh climate. And he tries his hand at fly fishing, in the hopes that the may come face to face with the mysterious itou fish.
Okayama: Into The Deep Red
It's spring in Okayama, which facing the Inland Sea of Japan in the south and the Chugoku Mountains in the north, is blessed with abundant nature. In this edition of Journeys in Japan, John Moore and his daughter Ruadh visit the area, which has a long history and rich culture. They look for "the traditional reds" of Japan. In Fukiya, they appreciate the earthy-rough townscape. They taste a steamed sea bream dish the locals eat on joyous occasions. The fish's scales are a reddish ink, so people often call it "cherry blossom sea bream." The father and daughter also visit a swordsmith and observe how he forges a blade from the flaming red tamahagane, or raw carbon steel.
Hokkaido: Summer Gardens Under The Northern Sky
Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, turns into a paradise of flowers in spring and summer. After the harsh winter, plant life erupts in all its brilliant glory. It's a wonderful place to discover gardens. The 250-kilometer highway from Asahikawa to Obihiro passes close to eight notable gardens. That is why it has come to be called the "Hokkaido Garden Path". Each garden has its own individual character, setting, and vegetation. Anthony Wood is a photographer form the United States who has lived in Japan for 10 years. His home state, Minnesota, has vast and abundant nature, much like Hokkaido. At the beginning of this trip, Anthony focuses his camera mostly on the beautiful flowers in full bloom. But as his journey continues and he meets the people behind the gardens, he trains his lens more on them. On this edition of Journeys in Japan, Anthony embarks on a road trip through the far north of Japan, in search of beauty.
Iwate Winter White
Deep in the north of Japan at a mountain temple, a festival called the Somin-sai and nicknamed the Naked Festival, has been held for around one thousand years. British actor, Dean Newcombe, travels to Oshu, in southern Iwate, to join in this enigmatic festival. First he takes in some of Oshu's other ancient winter rites. And then he visits a Zen training temple to practice asceticism to focus his mind for the harsh festival. The finale of his trip, the Somin-sai, was an experience beyond Dean's wildest dreams.
Akiu: in the Footsteps of a Legendary Warlord
The warlord Date Masamune rose to power during Japan's Warring States period in the 16th century, and went on to control a large area of Tohoku (northeastern Japan). Thanks to his rule, the castle town of Sendai developed into the largest city in the region. It is now a major industrial, economic and cultural hub for the region. Date Masamune was highly skilled in the military arts, but he was also known for his love of literature and his progressive thinking. He enjoyed composing waka (Japanese poetry), and loved sophisticated banquets. He also had a great interest in the world outside of Japan, and he sent special envoys as far as Europe. Even today, Date Masamune remains one of Japan's most popular historical figures. On hunting trips, the warlord would often visit a place called Akiu, where he would relax in the pools of natural hot-spring water. To this day, the area remains a popular resort where people come to ease their stress and fatigue-just half an hour by car from the Sendai city center. Peter MacMillan is a poet and printmaker from Ireland. He is also a university professor who teaches comparative literature and linguistic art and expression. In this edition of Journeys in Japan, Peter arrives in Akiu on the cusp of spring. He discovers the history and natural beauty of the area. He hikes in the hills, meets a local artist and immerses himself in the same hot springs that were such a favorite of Date Masamune.
Aomori: Out of This World
Aomori, the northernmost prefecture of Japan's Honshu main island, has a number of enigmatic places that feel a world apart. On Journeys In Japan, poet Arthur Binard explores the area's sacred spots. He passes through more than 200 torii gates leading to a Shinto shrine, encounters fantastically-shaped giant rocks, and visits a sacred borderline of this life and the afterlife, as well as a temple with 2, 000 stone Jizo statues. He discovers the mysterious traditions of Aomori.
Manazuru: Good Living By Design
Manazuru has thrived on quarrying and fishing since olden times. On Journeys In Japan, Kyle Card discovers this small coastal town near Tokyo and its simple attractions, which remain intact not by chance, but by design. The vibrant, civic-minded residents are behind Manazuru's nostalgic landscape.
Nanyo, Ehime: Water for Life and Fun
The Nanyo area of Ehime Prefecture is blessed with abundant water. It lies on the west coast of Shikoku Island, looking out on the Uwa Sea and bathed by the warm Kuroshio Current. Along the coast, rainfall levels are typical of most of Japan. But inland, the Onigajo Mountain Range receives substantially more rain, with some 2,700 millimeters observed each year. Much of that water flows quickly down to the sea, molding the topography of the area. The Yakushidani Valley is among the most beautiful in the country. Thanks to its many waterfalls and watercourses, it has become a popular destination for canyoning. Carved out of the steep slopes, the Izumidani rice terraces are known for the quality of the grain that is grown there, which is attributed to the purity of the water flowing down from the mountains. Offshore, the warm water from the Kuroshio Current mixes with the nutrient-rich fresh water from the mountains, making an ideal habitat for coral and a remarkable variety of marine life. On this edition of Journeys in Japan, Michael Keida follows the flow of the water, from the mountain slopes down to the ocean bed.
Murayama, Yamagata: Local Delicacies, Local Pride
Each season in Japan brings its own special delicacies. When early summer arrives, that means it's cherry season. Seventy percent of all the cherries grown in Japan come from the Murayama district of Yamagata Prefecture, close to the Mogami River. The soil and climate here are perfect for cultivating the fruit. The moisture drains into the river system, and there is a wide fluctuation between the day and night-time temperatures. The cherries grown here are of high quality, with a distinctive sweet-tart flavor. Since the old days, buckwheat has also been an important crop in this area. Local farmers have long produced soba noodles from their own home-grown buckwheat. Many of them have converted their homes into restaurants, and customers come from afar to enjoy the fragrance and firm texture of their specialty.
Tottori: Sculpted By Nature
On this episode of Journeys in Japan, actor Dean Newcombe from Britain explores the natural wonders of Tottori, including the majestic Tottori Sand Dunes. He meets farmers growing rakkyo, goes fishing for flying fish with his guesthouse owner, and hangs out with washi craftsmen.
Deep Into The Unspoiled Forest: Shirakami Sanchi
Shirakami Sanchi is a vast region of forested mountains in northern Japan, straddling the border of Aomori and Akita prefectures. It is home to one of the largest virgin beech forests in the world, which has had barely any human impact over the centuries. That is why the core area of Shirakami Sanchi has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993. On this edition of Journeys In Japan, Catalin Munteanu visits this ancient forest, which is also a popular destination for trekking and river activities, such as rafting. Catalin is from Romania, a country that also has extensive beech forests and is keen to see how they compare. Catalin encounters the Mother Tree, a beech thought to be 400 years old, where he is guided through the forest of Shirakami Sanchi. He meets the people who live there and explores this beautiful mountain area in early summer.