Haruno off the beaten path
Away from the hustle and bustle of city life is where you really start to understand and appreciate the heart and soul of Japan – in Haruno Northeast of Hamamatsu City you will find yourself in a part of Japan you may never have believed existed.
Despite Japan’s traditional image as a thriving metropolis filled with millions of people much of the Archipelago is largely mountainous and sparsely populated. Shizuoka is no exception – up to 70% of the total landmass of the prefecture is covered in mountains and forest.
45 mins North of Hamamatsu City is the small town of Haruno (now part of Tenryu-ku, Hamamatsu) situated on the banks of the Keta River – a beautiful slow moving stretch of water that is abundant with wildlife.
For the people who live in this area of Shizuoka it is a simple, peaceful existence and the locals have, for many generations, established a close relationship with the rich natural environment that surrounds them.
The abundance of water and the temperate climate makes Haruno a great location for growing some of the best green tea in the world and a trip to this part of the Prefecture is not complete without visiting one of the local green tea plantations to learn more about Shizuoka’s number one export.
A chance to understand and learn how green tea is grown, cultivated, prepared and the best way to prepare and drink green tea to ensure that you get the best possible taste.
The mountains surrounding the town of Haruno, like many mountainous areas of Japan, are teeming with wildlife and hunting has been a way of life for many in the town for generations.
Recently a cottage industry for wild game meat is slowly starting to grow and shops that stock it, or restaurants that have Deer or Wild Boar on the menu are becoming more ubiquitous in this area.
A trip to the Haruno area of Hamamatsu would not be complete without visiting the 2 major tourist spots in town – The 8m tall Tengu mask and the Akihasan Hongu Akiha Shrine.
Tengu is a red faced demon looking creature with a long nose that is seen as protectors of sacred forests and mountains so it seems appropriate that Haruno township would have one of the largest Tengu masks in Japan.
Throughout the Haruno area this symbol of the forest and mountains is a common sight which symbolises the local people’s respect for the nature that is around them.
The Akihasan Hongu Akiha Shrine has stood near the summit of the 866m high Mt Akiha for more than 1300 years and is an embodiment of the connection between the people and the nature around them as a way to appease the god of fire, Hinokagutsuchi, which is said to be enshrined here.
People come from all over Japan to pray for protection against fire which is an ever present threat in the area.
Every December the Akiha Fire Festival is held which is a truly spectacular experience – the festival includes 3 traditional dances using a bow and arrow, a sword and a sacred flame that has been burning in the shrine for thousands of years.
Ways to enjoy your time in the mountains of Hamamatsu –
- Hire a car – this will give you the flexibility to get around and really explore the area
- Camping – there are many camping grounds in the area and camping out is a great way to enjoy the nature
- Try the Wild Game – both deer and wild boar on the BBQ is delicious!
- Relax in nature – Park up next to the river and enjoy!!
- Cruise down the slow moving river in a pack raft, kayak or inner tube to escape the summer heat
- Visit one of the local Green Tea fields in the area – some of the best tea in Japan is grown here
For more information on Akiha Shrine please check Shizuoka Guide