All About Japan

Promoting the Healing Power of Nature

| Hiking , Tohoku Resorts

The town of Kaminoyama, situated in the southern end of the Tohoku region in Yamagata Prefecture, is about two-and-a-half hours from Tokyo by the Yamagata Shinkansen bullet train, and sits in a valley that faces a popular ski resort destination, the Zao Mountain Range, to the east.

About eight years ago this small town with a population of just over 30,000 began the Kaminoyama Onsen Kurort project, a venture meant to reinvigorate the region by enhancing public health and promoting the influx of nonresidents to the town.

“This project is proof of how widespread walking as a healthful habit has become among residents,” says Kei Sasaki of the Kurort Promotion Division’s Office of Strategic City Planning in the town’s government office. However, with a bemused smile, he adds, “The word Kurort is German, and it refers to a high-quality short-stay wellness and leisure area, but many seniors seem to think it refers to walking itself, and say, ‘Well, I’m going off on a kurort.’ ”

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