What is Yao-Kumagawa
Kumagawa-juku is a post town, a place for travelers to rest, north of Kyoto. Located about an hour away by car, it is a center for business because of access to the sea. This city was designated a historical site by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. However, there is a growing issue of homes becoming empty because of the aging population.
The Japanese countryside is losing a lot of cultural scenery and buildings because the population is decreasing. Especially, common homes and shops are disappearing. Also, because of the humidity and snow, many neglected homes have collapsed.
We consider these old homes to be part of the local resources and work to revive them so that many people can use them. We originally worked in developing retail facilities in Tokyo but in 2018 we moved to Kumagawa-juku to put more effort towards these old buildings. We felt there was more value in protecting cultural buildings.
We moved our company to Kumagawa-juku 5 years ago. Now, we’ve turned 5 old Japanese homes into a shared office, café, and lodging. We manage the lodgings under the name Yao-Kumagawa. There are three homes spread across the town. You rent an entire home so you can feel like you are part of the town. First, come to the check-in counter to hear the rules and get your house key. Once you get the key, the home becomes your personal holiday villa. This is a chance for a cultural experience, not only for foreigners, but for Japanese living in big cities.
We have several food services. For dinner, you can have either an Italian or Japanese meal brought directly to your room. Also, we have a service called “Japanese Hospitality”. A group of women living in Kumagawa-juku will make local food and bring it to your room. It is our most popular option. At 7 p.m., two women will knock on your door and line up the food in your room. Every dish has been eaten in the area for a long time, so please enjoy the local food.
For breakfast, we offer “Okayu” as part of your meal. “Okayu” is local rice cooked with spring water. It is light and easy to eat, a perfect start to your day. For those interested, we have a workshop where you can cook Japanese food with Japanese tools. The workshop is called “Kamado” and you can learn to make rice and miso soup. It is in a separate building called “Kamado” and you start your workshop usingfirewood to start a fire.
Kumagawa-juku is in a valley, surrounded by mountains. In recent years, you can walk the mountain trails. I hope you can experience what a traveler felt, going from the sea to Kyoto. At Kumagawa-juku you can have many cultural experiences: staying in an old Japanese home, eating traditional Japanese food, and walking along beautiful mountain trails. Furthermore, we have a campsite in the mountains that you can stay in, near Kumagawa-juku.
In Japan, many people live in big cities, like Osaka and Kyoto. However, more young people are thinking about the countryside. People are moving because of work and child-raising. Since moving our company to Kumagawa-juku, people have come here looking for work. I think it would be a good thing if more people moved to the countryside. If more people come to the countryside, then I feel we can protect our precious nature and cultural sites. I hope people start to focus more on Japan’s countryside.
Thank you very much!