Deep Dive Into Nara Part 3 – Totsukawa Village

Totsukawa Village 十津川村 is the largest village in Japan when it comes to area, however it has only just over 3,000 residents and 96% of it is mountainous. It is bigger than all 23 wards of Tokyo combined, and also Biwa Lake. Out of the 3 destinations on this trip, Totuskawa Village is the one that really made an impression. There is so much to explore and the nature is absolutely stunning.

Tanize Suspension Bridge 谷瀬の吊り橋
I’ve mentioned that there are many mountains and valleys in this part of Nara. Part of what makes that tricky for daily life is passing the valleys. In 1954, the residents of Totsukawa Village offered up their own savings of about 200k to 300k JPY per household to build this invaluable bridge. It is 297m in length, which is almost as long as Tokyo Tower is tall, and it is the longest bridge for daily usage in Japan.

The bridge crosses Totsukawa River which is 54m below the suspension bridge. You can see people camping along the riverbank on sunny days to enjoy the nature in this area.

Soba restaurant FUAN
Just nearby the suspension bridge is a popular local soba restaurant “Fu’an”そば処 風庵. They serve both hot and cold soba noodles, topped with locally grown vegetables such as mushrooms. What I love about this restaurant is that there is a balcony outdoor seating area right by some really tall sycamore trees. It’s as if you are dining in the tree tops and enjoying the best of what nature has to offer.

Totsukawa Village has a thriving forestry industry, so to see unique and original furniture made from local wood, we headed to this furniture factory. Other than large items such as chairs coffee tables, they also have smaller items such as coasters and wooden toys. There’s also a coffee shop you can enjoy a drink on weekends.


Since Totsukawa is filled with mountains, valleys, and trees, it only makes sense to make use of the natural environment! In 2020, Jolan Ferreri who grew up in the French Alps brought in this French-style tree top adventure park to Japan. He wanted to allow adults to enjoy playing in nature amongst the trees and interact with nature, and thus Kuuchuu-no-mura or Village in the Air was born.

There are 5 areas ranging from 4 ~ 12 meters above ground, and anyone from 3yo onwards can enjoy. The areas include a reading corner, relaxing corner with cute large animal plushies, a drink and snack corner, and even a suspended swing bed. We thoroughly enjoyed in and were giddy like kids, running up and down the rope bridges, exclaiming in excitement about whatever it is we found and saw. 1.5hr went by as if it was only 15 minutes!

Totsukawa Onsengō - Yunotani Senkei 十津川温泉郷 湯之谷 千慶
With a history of over 570 years, Totsukawa Onsengō has been loved for a long time. It is said that the onsen has been used by sword wounded warlords of the Sengoku period and travelers on the Kumano pilgrimage. What’s so special about Totsukawa onsengō is that it was declared Japan’s first Gensen Kakenagashi Onsen 源泉掛け流し, or free-flowing hot springs. This means that the water gushes out from the underground source directly and flows without any artificial heating, filtering, recycling, or importing. Due to this you can enjoy the benefits of the minerals in the water as is without it being watered down quite literally.

We arrived at the onsen close to sunet and the sun was shining beautifully through the individual buildings that make up the exclusive room. Each room is spacious with in-room onsen baths, both indoor and outdoor so you can enjoy the onsen experience in your privacy. The outdoor bath is located in the small private Japanese garden in the back of your room, and can be accessed through both the large balcony doors or directly from the indoor bath area. The onsen water here flows at about 50℃ so make sure you mix the water well before dipping in as the cooler water would have settled on the bottom. The most recommended method is to dip in for 3 minutes, rest a bit and dip for another 3 minutes.



For dinner I head back to the main lobby, where I checked in. The dining area is just up a few steps on the left, equipped with private rooms. As with all Onsen Ryokan experiences, dinner and breakfast is included. Dinner features a 7-course meal with ingredients sourced locally, with items from the mountain, the river, and the ocean. The menu changes seasonally, but the luxurious-beef is included for dinner as their main teppanyaki (stone-grilled) dish. Another notable dish is mushroom from Totsukawa area. It is steamed and served in a teapot. First you pour out the fragrant soup in a tea cup to enjoy it, then you can open the tea pot lid to enjoy the mushrooms. I thoroughly enjoyed each dish and can feel the freshness and hospitality of Nara prefecture prepared into this multi-course meal.

Roadside Station Totsukawago (Morning Market) 道の駅 十津川郷
After a good night’s sleep, we continued exploring Nara by visiting the morning market that is held in Totsukawago at the Roadside Station. The morning market is full of boxed lunches, sweets, breads, and other items all handmade by local people. I chose some daifuku and mochi for our road trip. I wish I could bring the Daikon home but I still had about 5 days of travel ahead of me so maybe next time. Next to the Market you can also find ashiyu (足湯) - Japanese public bath in which people can bathe their feet absolutely free of charge. The morning market is held only on Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays, and major holidays (such as GW). (For details, please check the Totsukawa Village website.)


Tamaki Shrine 玉置神社
Deep into the mountains is Tamaki Shrine. It sits near the summit of Mount Tamaki at about 1,067m tall. The mist clouds over the trails through tall sacred trees as you walk through the forest path to get to the shrine. After about a 15min walk, we finally reach the shrine’s main hall. The tall stone tori gate greets us, and a long set of mossy stone steps lead up to the prayer hall.

Between the prayer hall and the shrine office are several large Japanese Cedar trees, the oldest one being a 3,000 year old sacred tree which stands over 50m tall. At the shrine office ther are plenty of omamori (amulets), ema (wooden plaque for wish writing), and goshuin (official shrine seal dated for proof of visit). It is said that you can only reach Tamaki Shrine and successfully visit only if the gods allow, and since I don’t know when is the next time I’ll be able to visit this place, I purchased a Goshuin, an amulet for the wallet, and an Ema to take home for my collection.

Dorokyo Tour Kawabune Kawasemi 瀞峡川舟観光かわせみ
After the shrine visit, we continue to the furthest southern point of Nara, where the boarders of Mie and Wakayama prefectures meet. A river, Kitayama River, acts as the border. The water was the deep turquoise green, surrounded by a magnificent valley of trees. This spot is known as Dorokyo Gorge 瀞峡, and the best way to see it is on a boat tour. We saw a lot of small waterfalls, stone structures caused by earthquakes and other forces of nature. There’s also kayakers along the way, and I really admire their strength as the water in the river became turbulent further downstream.

Concluding this trip, we had some delicious curry at Doro Hotel 瀞ホテル which has seats with clear glass windows overlooking the beautiful Dorokyo gorge below. This place is fitted with all kinds of retro elements such as a gas lamp, which brings you back in time. There’s also 2 gorgeous Japanese maple trees just outside the left side of the windows, forming a perfect orange framing for the turquoise waters below.

The magnificent nature of Nara’s countryside has really captured my heart. From the taste of persimmons, to a dip into natural hot springs, and seeing the beautiful mountains and valleys, there is really so much more to enjoy in Nara than just the deer park. I really hope those of you who are reading will one day get the chance to experience what Nara has to offer. It is a place perfect for you to rest and immerse yourself in nature.

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