By Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright ©2011 All Rights Reserved
Hattoji is the only place that I have been to in Japan, where I rarely saw another person when walking for about two hours along the roadway, surrounded by lush greenery. Very occasionally, a sole car would pass me and the driver would wave with a friendly smile. I discovered a little friend to chat to while I was walking on one track. A small green frog that sat on a rock croaking and it was happy to be photographed from front and back.
Located in Okayama prefecture, Hattoji is an historical city in traditional rural Japan. I stayed at the Hattoji International Villa, an absolutely delightful place to reside while I explored the surrounding countryside. According to the Hattoji International Villa website, http://www.harenet.ne.jp/villa/villa/hatto.htm the villa was originally built over 120 years ago, as a kayabuki thatched-roof farm house. When I was there a Japanese lady with her American husband and baby were also staying there. All four rooms are Japanese traditional style, with tatami mats and futons to sleep on. There is a fully equipped modern kitchen, for guests to cook to their heart’s content. We also enjoyed our meal sitting around the traditional Japanese fireplace and sharing travel tales.
To add to the total rural experience, bathing in the very deep goemonburo (traditional Japanese bath) that resembles a caldron is a real treat and oh- so relaxing. You can of course have the water at the temperature you choose and traditional showers are available too.
Hattoji thrived over 1200 years ago as a center of Sangaku mountain Buddhism and followers lead an ascetic life in an effort to purify themselves of society's excesses. Dating from 728, monks gathered here at the base of Mt. Hattoji (elevation 539m) and built an impressive complex of temples, monasteries and accompanying buildings. Because Hattoji has retained its traditional appearance, it was the setting for the black and white movie, Black Rain by Shohei Imamura. Source: http://www.harenet.ne.jp/villa/villa/hatto.htm
The rustic village of Hattoji is surrounded by the mountainous forests, I saw the traditional thatched roof farmhouses. The happy frogs croaking night and day from the rice paddies and birds chirping from the trees were often the only sounds I heard during my stay at the villa.
One tip for Hattoji, you need to buy your food in the village of Yoshinaga, which is where you catch your bus to Hattoji. Although there are a couple of great restaurants in Hattoji, Cowboy Joes plus the restaurant with the cow statue out the front, there are no supermarkets or places to buy food supplies. There are really friendly folks at the Supermarket near the Yoshinaga station to stock up on food supplies. The bus to Hattoji, leaves from the stop opposite Yoshinaga Station.
For bookings of rooms at the Hattoji villa http://www.coinn.org/XXvilla_vacancy/cld.php
Details of transport and tourist attractions see http://www.harenet.ne.jp/villa/villa/hatto.htm