Passed down from person to person through the ages
The image of Japan that comes immediately to mind may be of metropolises like Tokyo, but two-thirds of Japan is covered by forest, making it one of the most forested countries in the world. Towns and villages throughout Japan have protected the bounty of this natural environment through the ages. In Nishi-Awa farmers carry on the traditional farming methods that shaped the scenery since antiquity. Steep slope agriculture, a traditional recycling-based farming technique that requires no agricultural chemicals, has been in use for over 400 years. The traditional dietary cuisine, focused on the heirloom crops of grain, buckwheat, and tubers, remains a part of the lives of the people of "Sora (sky)".
Japan, a mountainous country, also has many rivers, numbering over 35,000. Many of these are rich water sources that contribute to the flavors of local cuisines.
There is a culture of protecting the clean waters of the upper reaches of the «Maze River», and the river is home to the finest ayu (sweetfish). Various techniques are used to catch ayu, among them the traditional tomozuri (fake friend fishing) and hiburiryo (fire fishing), both pleasures to watch. In hiburiryo bonfires are built on the riverbanks and torches hung from bamboo poles are swung by fishermen as they move through the river. Ayu swimming through the waters are surprised and try to flee, getting trapped in the nets. The people of the Maze River area, with their deep respect for the bounty provided by the river, have passed on this traditional fishing method through the years.
It is said that there are over 88,000 shrines and 77,000 temples in Japan, closely tied to peoples' lives and beloved parts of Japan's culture. Tsuruoka's shōjin-ryōri (vegetarian dishes) includes many dishes named after locations with religious significance. After enjoying the bread of life of the holy mountains, you can visit the actual carefully protected sites and see the traditions passed down through the ages with your own eyes.