Magnificent views befitting the name ‘Sky Village’
Located 75-minutes by car from the Iida Interchange on the Chuo Expressway,
the last 15 minutes of the journey is down a narrow road that is difficult to pass through.
No doubt you will be thinking to yourself, “Is this the right way?”, but keep going and just ahead you will find Shimoguri-no-Sato.
It is precisely because it is difficult to access that this place remains the same.
With a slope of 38 degrees, the settlements and farmland attached to the side of the mountain create a magnificent view
that cannot be seen elsewhere.
Although it has been nicknamed the ‘Tyrol of Japan’, it feels more like Tibet.
Shimoguri-no-Sato is a village created at an altitude of around 800m - 1000m
At present there are 50 households and everyone is involved primarily in farming, growing potatoes, tea and soba.
As to be expected of a countryside village, most of the young people have left for the cities and only the elderly remain.
They continue to work on the sloping fields and are truly admirable.
※ In recent years, the location has become popular as a tourist destination but there are still residents who live here, so please be respectful when visiting.
When I visited this village in the past, I met some elderly women who were harvesting potatoes
and I asked them if the potatoes ever roll away, given that they are working on such a slope.
Surprisingly they laughed and replied that sometimes they do in fact roll away, which is difficult because they don’t stop.
I wondered about how difficult it must be, as even though fields have been made, they are still on a slope and if the soil slips down,
it needs to be moved back again.
Sweet Shimoguri potatoes
Potatoes grown and harvested in Shimoguri-no-Sato are a variety called ‘Shimoguri potatoes’
and they have higher levels of starch than May Queen and Baron potatoes.
They are also quite small, about 5 to 7 cm, and their main feature is that they have a thin skin and remain firm even when boiled
which means they can be eaten with skin.
The most popular dish amongst locals is ‘Imo Dengaku’, potatoes covered in perilla miso and baked.
This dish is also served in the restaurant Hanbatei at the very top of the village for 300 yen.
The sweet and spicy perilla miso tastes delicious with these firm and sweet potatoes.
The Hanbatei restaurant is run by local women and also serves delicious soba noodles, made by hand using local Shimoguri buckwheat flour.
The open view from the south side of the square in front of Hanbatei also offers a stunning vista,
with the ridgeline of the Southern Alps spread out in front of you creating a wonderful panoramic view.
Look out over the Sky Village
The best part about Shimoguri-no-Sato is the Sky Village viewpoint, which looks out over the entire village and is not to be missed.
Park your car in the spaces available at Hanbatei and walk over to the viewpoint, as the road ahead is very narrow and there are no parking spots.
Walk along the paved road for about 100m and you will see the entrance to the path that leads to the viewpoint.
There is a large signpost you cannot miss, and there are also walking sticks that have been left at the entrance.
Follow the path for about 15 minutes and you will reach the observatory which is maintained by locals.
Best seen on an autumnal morning!
The view from here is truly beautiful and there is no doubt that those who see it will be impressed by the greatness of the human activity that takes place here.
The observatory is placed at the perfect angle to see how the village spreads out along the slope,
and as the other side of the settlement disappears into the valley, it seems as though the village is floating.
It is a wonderful sight.
I took this photo a little further back down the road when I was here previously to shoot for a TV channel.
I think it was taken from more of a front angle than the current observatory, which I believe gives an even better view.
Also, the village looks even more spectacular amongst the autumn foliage which can be seen from late October to early November.
The trees are painted in beautiful colors and there are less leaves than in summer, meaning there is a better view out across the village.
Top tips for a great photo
If you want to take a beautiful photo, then midmorning is the best time to visit.
From my experience, this provides sunlight for landscape photos of the autumn leaves as well as beautiful backlight for close ups.
The slope of Shimoguri-no-Sato faces the south-east, so the midmorning sun shines directly on the village.
Furthermore, the ‘Sky Village’ appears during early and midmorning when a dark shadow falls on the side of the mountain.
As the village is difficult to access, make the most of your visit and stay over in one of the available accommodations.
Unfortunately, I have no experience of staying over so I cannot make any recommendations.
Kogen Lodge Shimoguri
4 Japanese style rooms, 13 Western style rooms, 2 meals per night from 7,600 yen
10 Japanese style rooms, 2 meals per night from 7,000 yen
6 Japanese style rooms, 2 meals per night from 6,800 yen
The following site is also linked to live cameras within the village.