The Quiet Sacred: Japan’s North

The Quiet Sacred: Japan’s North

Monday October 28th, 2019 0 By Lena Fritzsche

It seems like I’m about to become famous. 😉
Recently, I participated in a video shoot for which I travelled through Yamagata and Iwate prefectures along with other expats living in Japan. We, four people from France, Italy, the US and Germany, got to know Japanese handicrafts, nature and old myths and mythical figures off the beaten track.

If you also feel like getting to know the culture and nature of Tohoku, visit the website The Quiet Sacred.

To introduce the beauty of Tohoku to foreign tourists, I was asked if I would like to participate in a video shoot. Of course, I wanted! It was a super nice experience.

The journey started for me by bus from Sendai to Shinjo, Yamagata. Since I had an appointment in the morning, I could not drive together with the others and came a little later.

In the meantime, my colleagues had the pleasure of making small artworks from rice straw: a bookmark, a little cat and a bracelet. They were so kind as to make a piece of each for me, too. Since then, I have often worn the bracelet. That’s why it’s a bit worn already.

The young artisan who showed them the technique leads a very interesting life. He is self-sufficient and committed to preserving ancient traditions, knowledge and craftsmanship and transmitting them to future generations. A look at his website is worthwhile.

northern Japan

We stayed in a farmhouse and were feasted. Therefore it needed no overcoming to smack “Oishii!” smiling at the camera.
Our hostess had prepared soy meat for us, which tasted deceptively like real meat for me. Because I wanted to try to make soy meat myself, she gave me a pack for home. Thanks a lot for this!

The next day we enjoyed nature a bit and then drove on to Tono in Iwate.

Tono is known for kappa – mythical creatures that live in waters and like to kidnap children. They carry a bowl on their head, in which they hold water. It is said that when the water flows out, they can not move. For that reason, it is advisable to bow low to them. Because the kappa is a polite creature, they would respond to the bow and the water would flow out. Another way to appease Kappa is cucumbers. These are greatly appreciated by Kappa and gladly accepted. To test this out our expat troop went “kappa fishing”. Although we have not seen any of the creatures, a cucumber was suddenly disappeared without a trace …

Boat trip on the Mogami River
Kappa live in the river and love cucumbers.

The next day, in a historic farmhouse, we listened to an old and somewhat scary narrative about a young woman who wanted to marry her horse, after which her father took very drastic measures. The story explains how silk spinning and weaving developed in Tono.

If you ever come to Japan or even live here, visit Tohoku, the north of Japan. There are beautiful, enchanting places that are far too underestimated. The locals are looking forward to seeing you!