Rural experience learning traditional herbal medicine at a thatched hamlet in Miyama, northern Kyoto
Miyama is located 1.5 hours away from Kyoto city, known for its well preserved thatched hamlet .
Traditional knowledge on wild plants, utilization of natural resources are still alive in this village, along with the landscape with full of natural beauty.
Thatching roofs with Japanese pampas grass (Miscanthus sinensis) has been handed down from generations to generations for more than 500 years. The grass land for harvesting the materials of roofs is maintained by community people as a communal treasure. It requires to replace in every 30-40 years, but actually this lifespan is good to transmit their skills to the next generations. After replaced, the grass can be used as organic fertilizer or mulching for agriculture.
Now, a lot of thatched houses are renovated into restaurants, ateliers, shops and accommodations. It is especially nice to stay overnight to experience peaceful rural life away from crowds in the daytime.
Traditional knowledge of ethno-medicine and wild plants in the mountain community
Precious wisdom have forgotten in pursuit of convenience these days. Yasuko, a representative of somokusha teaches traditional knowledge of ethno-medicine to city people mainly from Kyoto and Osaka. She learnt these knowledge from local ground-mothers.
When we arrive in the somokusha garden, the staff showed us around the garden, and we harvested several kinds of wild plants for making tempura and medicinal herb tea.
Somokusha produces various products by using dried wild herbs harvested in their garden.
We learnt how to process and blend wild plants, and had meals together with the staffs.
Permaculture garden "Earth Garden"
Also, Miyama is designated as an "organic farming village" in Japan, and there are several interesting groups promoting organic and permaculture life style. A lot of young people shifted from cities to Miyama, engaging in organic farming, organizing workshops and events to experience rural life, hunting, and natural crafting.
One of the educational garden "Earth Garden" is one of those.
Ms. Chisa, the garden master explained about ecosystem, diverse functions of biodiversity, and seasonal changes over the years in her garden. Researchers from all over the world visited her garden so far, and she showed us their experimental data.
There are many interesting activities to visit in Miyama, so I recommend staying overnight in thatched house minshuku (home-stay type accommodation) to learn and communicate more with local village people. It will be unforgettable experience for you.