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The main attraction of Hino is Satoyama and rice paddies are part of it. 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.
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.
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 the right timing. If you stay with local farmers, you get to experience some kind of work on their farms throughout the year.
One easy way to explore rice fields is to go cycling. I call it Satoyama cycling. If you rent a bicycle at Hino Tourism Association, you can cycle on the Omi-Hino-Merchant-Street all the way to the entrance of Watamuki Shrine. Then you turn left to cycle toward the shrine. Just before the gate of Watamuki Shrine, there is a narrow road on your right. You go on that road and it will take you to 477 which is a busy road with some cars. You cross 477 and go on the road leading to the rice field area. Soon after there is a small crossing and you turn right and cycle toward mountains. Now you are in the middle of rice paddies, and you can enjoy the view, the smell and the sound of the frogs if you are visiting late spring to early summer.
You can continue cycling until you come to a road leading to an agricultural theme park called Burume-no-oka. If you are a little tired, you can turn right there and go to a crossing called Nishioji-crossing. You cross there and go into a road between a community center and a kindergarten. Then you’ll come to another road at the end that is the Omi-Hino-Merchant-Street. You turn right there, and you can cycle back to Hino Tourism Association.
If you have more energy, you can cross the road leading to the agricultural theme park, and continue cycling toward the mountains. You are cycling in parallel with 477 and the Omi-Hino-Merchant-Street, and therefore you can turn right anywhere and get to the Omi-Hino-Merchant-Street. There is also a narrow path along 477, and you may want to cycle on it on the way back.
If you are really into cycling, the best thing is to bring a mountain bike. Then you can cycle in some hilly areas.
If you get on the road leading to the agricultural theme park, you can cycle on a pavement to go up to the theme park. You pass the park and continue riding your bike all the way to a tunnel. You go in the tunnel, and when you come out of the tunnel, you’ll see some houses. That is Kono area. You turn right there cycling through the village, and there is a road leading to a place called Saimyoji. You want to take that road. It is uphill and hard, but it is a great exercise. You’ll be riding in the middle of a mountain, and probably you are the first foreign person to ever cycle on that road. Mind you; my Dutch friend ran on that road once. Yes, he ran and didn’t cycle, so that still makes you to be the first one to cycle-haha.
After a heavy workout( you can always stop and push your bike up when you are really tired, nobody is watching you, you know-haha), you arrive in Saimyoji. Actually you arrive near the foot of Mt. Watamuki. You can take a rest there, there is a restroom, too.
From there, you are in heaven because you can cycle downhill all the way to Kitabata.
From Kitabata, you can get on the farmer’s road in the middle of the rice fields again.
It is slightly downhill, too and you can cycle very comfortably all the way to the road leading to the agricultural theme park from Nishioji crossing. It takes about 1 hour and half to do this round of mountain bike ride. If you want, you can cycle down all the way to the area near Watamuki Shrine, too.
Tomorrow, I will talk about how you can experience a farm life here.