Kyoto Area Guide: Miyama 美山,京都府
Miyama is a remote, rural, highland area 30km north west of Kyoto city and best known for its traditional thatched (kayabuki) houses. Most of these are local people's homes, but some have been converted into museums and places to stay.
Kayabuki no Sato かやぶきの里
Miyama is a collection of small villages and hamlets spread out along the Yura River valley and surrounding by mountains up to 1000m in height. The village is still home to traditional crafts people including carpenters, thatchers and basket makers.
Kayabuki no Sato ("thatched house village") has the most buildings with kayabuki ("thatched roofs") - around 40 - as well as the Miyama Folk Museum, with exhibits of local farming implements and information on how the traditional houses are constructed. The original building burnt down in 1912 but was reconstructed as a museum in 2002. The museum's hours are 10am-4pm December-March and 10am-5pm April to November; admission 300 yen.
Very close to the Miyama Folk Museum, the Little Indigo Museum features the art of Hiroyuki Shindo.
There are a number of small atmospheric shrines in and around Kayabuki no Sato including Suwa Shrine, which is over 600 years old with many ancient trees.
The largest settlement in Miyama-cho is where Highway 162 meets Highway 12, and there is a post office, a bank and school here.
There are also two small museums here: the Kayabuki Art Museum (美山かやぶき美術館) and, almost next door, the Nantan City Miyama Regional Museum (南丹市美山郷土資料館). The Kayabuki Art Museum has changing exhibits of local crafts including pottery, painting, glass and wood carving. The Regional (Folk) Museum has traditional tools and folk crafts on display. Admission is 500 yen for both museums.
Ashiu Forest 芦生の森
The Ashiu Forest in Miyama is a large primary forest with a huge variety of flora including such trees as Siebold's Beech, Cryptomeria japonica and Japanese Red Cedar, preserved and administered by Kyoto University. The forest is also known for its variety of ferns. Ashiu Forest is inhabited by significant populations of wild monkeys, bears and deer.
Much of Ashiu Forest is off limits to anyone but researchers or those on a guided tour. Guided tours can be booked at the Miyama Town Nature Cultural Village (Shizen Bunkamura Kajikaso; 美山町自然文化村 河鹿荘), a lodging/hotel/cultural center in Kayabuki no Sato.
Accommodation in Miyama
To fully appreciate the pristine nature and laid-back tranquility of Miyama, it serves to stay overnight or longer to see a side of Japan completely removed from the frantic pace of life in the big coastal cities.
These include Miyama Nature and Culture Village Kajikaso, Chinzen-rou, Isobe and Kigusuriya at the top end of the ryokan scale and more homely, cheaper inns such as Miyama Futon & Breakfast, Harimaya, Matabe and Kanbe and the Miyama Heimatt Youth Hostel (Tel: 0771 75 0997). Information on various accommodations is on the official Miyama website below or contact us if you need help with booking a place (for a small fee).
Festivals & Events
There are various craft and vegetable markets in Miyama such as the weekend Furiiku Omaru Market and the Sunday Miyama Yamazato Market.
Festivals include the Kayabuki no Sato Snow Lantern Festival in late January, early February, when the village is illuminated with snow lanterns at night. There's a Rice Planting Festival in mid-May by women in traditional costume followed by kagura and a parade (Gionsha Kagura) on June 14 at Yasaka Shrine. Yasaka Shrine also hosts a mikoshi (portable shrine) parade in early October.
Access - Getting to Miyama
The easiest way to get to Miyama is by hire car from Kyoto or Kameoka. The scenic route is on National Highway 162 via Takao. Allow about 90 minutes for the drive more during the autumn leaf viewing season in Kyoto.
Alternatively take the Kyoto Jukan Expressway (National Route 478) towards Fukuchiyama and exit at the Sonobe I.C. From here take National Highway 19 to Miyama.
By train from Kyoto Station take a JR Sagano Line (Sanin Line) train to Hiyoshi Station via Sonobe (45 minutes). This journey is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. From Hiyoshi (and Sonobe) there are buses to Miyama.
JR buses from Kyoto go to Shuzan via Takao (covered by the Japan Rail Pass). From Shuzan there are local Nantan buses to Miyama. Infrequent local buses connect the different villages in the area. Your accommodation may well pick you up in Sonobe if you are staying in Miyama.
Hard core cyclists can do the journey there and back from Kyoto in a day.
Kyoto Miyama Tourism Association
Shimo 23, Miyamacho Agake
Nantan, Kyoto Prefecture 601-0722
Tel: 0771 75 1906