A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

David Attenborough's Satoyama

As featured on the BBC

A few years ago the Japanese national TV station, NHK, produced a film about life in the special areas where mountains slopes ease out and farming starts - these areas are called Satoyama and are often typified by terraced rice fields on the lower slopes. Shiga Ken has a lot of Satoyama landscapes around the area I live in, made extra special be the fact that on the side not bounded by the mountains we have the vast expanse of Lake Biwako. Maybe that's why the producers chose this spot, and maybe that's why David Attenborough decided to act as producer (and voice) for an English language version of the film.

You can see most of the English language version here (I say most as part 1 of the 6 parts is missing, but the rest is there) -


As it turns out the location where this film was made is only one train stop along the line from where I live, and thanks to the increased interest in the area following the film there are now regular eco-tours around village focused on how the water from the mountain streams is harnessed by the local people.

So I rallied the Takashima JETs, called in my friends Yoshii San and Kusuoka San to act as translators, and arranged a tour.


After meeting at Shinasahi train station we walked down to meet our tour guide and started by sampling the local spring water.


We were then taken to several local houses where we could see how the water is run into special 'kabata' that the local people use for washing food and dishes. The kabata are like stone troughs located just outside the house, though many residents have pumps and heaters to use this water in the house as well. They also have a very eco-friendly method of getting rid of the scraps, huge koi in the separate part of the kabata!


There are also a lot of koi in the waterways outside the houses, which we got to feed :-) Interesting fact #4'693 - Koi have teeth, not in their mouth, but half way down their throat somewhere around the level of the gills!! Live and learn.


Koi weren't the only creatures we saw though; in fact it was a bit of a sub-urban safari. We also encountered grey herons, black kites, crayfish, land crabs and in one of the kabata there was a soft shell turtle and a giant salamander - an amazing creature that's unique to Japan.


We also had a chance to check out the local temple and shops, like this sake brewery.


Another local speciality on sale here is 'funazushi' a kind of fermented fish meat that's made by laying down the fish to... mature between layers of salt and rice. I didn't try it but I've been told it's more like blue cheese than fish. Andrew was the only person brave enough to buy any!


For me it was a strange feeling, after years of jealously admiring David Attenborough and all he's seen and done, to discover that the site of one the programs he produced was so nearby. The world isn't a place that's always happening somewhere else, sometimes it's right on your doorstep.

MEANWHILE - in the Batcave Haru and I were still gearing up for the Japanese reception party that we'd be holding in November.
So here is a bit of a teaser for next time. Some photos from the dress and kimono trials that we had to go to choose what she'd wear. Write ups of the kimono photo shoot in Kyoto and the reception party will be coming in the near future, but between now and then you can all have fun trying to guess which kimono and which dress Haru chose.



Posted by DKJM74 17:45 Comments (1)

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