Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Shinjō Village and Gaisen Zakura Street’s Cherry Blossom

Shinjō Village (新庄村) is a village located in Maniwa District, Okayama Prefecture. While the village itself doesn’t have many attractions, it was still able to attract large crowds of visitors each year in spring! If you come to West Japan during the cherry blossom season, the Gaisen Zakura Street in Shinjō Village is one of the places that you wouldn’t want to miss out (=゚ω゚)ノ.

For the foodies who love rice cakes, make sure you drop by the roadside station close to Gaisen Zakura Street. You will be able to find rice cakes made from one of the best glutinous rice. There are even noodles that also use rice as one of their top ingredients!

If you enjoy taking a stroll in the forest or hiking up the mountain, you should extend your visit to the village to Mt. Kenashi. You can even take a nap in a hammock on one of the trails (´▽`*).

Gaisen Zakura Street (がいせん桜通り)

This part of the Shinjō Village was originally one of the many post-stations for travelers to rest throughout their journey. In 1906, to celebrate the victory of the Russo-Japanese War (日露戦争), 132 cherry trees were planted on the two sides of the street.

The trees were planted every 5.5 meters from each other. And as the trees’ branches grew longer, a natural tunnel was slowly formed!

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

Nowadays, whether it is spring or summer, we get to walk underneath this beautiful tunnel when we visit this quaint village (*´ω`). Even in autumn, while the cherry trees’ foliage color isn’t as bright as the maple trees, the dark brown leaves about to fall are a unique kind of beauty that will be difficult to find elsewhere. This is especially true with the old Japanese buildings as the background (^_-)-☆.

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

Just so you know, although located in such a remote area, Gaisen Zakura Street is actually ranked third in Okayama Prefecture as the best place to observe and admire cherry blossoms!

One of the best things about the street is the cherry blossoms in this area usually bloom one or two weeks later than those in Okayama City. So, if you happen to just miss the flowers in there, this could be your ultimate backup plan!

We all know how unpredictable the cherry blossoms season can be (´▽`*).

Cherry Blossom Season in Gaisen Zakura Street

The season is usually between mid to late April each year. During the season, the Gaisen Cherry Blossom Festival (がいせん桜祭り) is held on a Sunday in mid-April.

Bike Rental at Gaisen Zakura Street

If you love cycling, at Sakuraya (咲蔵家), you can rent a bike from them for 500 yen for 2 hours for normal bikes or 700 yen for 2 hours for electric-assisted bikes! While the street itself isn’t long, cycling in nature close to the street is one of the most enjoyable things to do!

It is also a brilliant resting space at zero cost. It also has FREE WIFI (≧▽≦).

The opening hours are from 8:30 am to 5 pm daily except from the end of December to the beginning of January.

Staying at Gaisen Zakura Street

Staying at Gaisen Zakura Street is cheap!

There are currently two options:

  • Farmer’s House – Hatago Satomatsu (旅籠 里松)
    • A maximum of 6 people can stay here
    • From May to September, it is 3,500 yen for adults and 2,000 yen for children (from the age of 4 to elementary school students)
    • From October to April, it is 4,000 yen for adults and 2,000 yen for children
    • The Farmer’s House may be able to reserve you a spot at the restaurants or café close by for your breakfast and dinner. Please enquire when you book your stay
    • For booking, please call +81-867-56-3044
  • Guesthouse – Iyashi-no-Yado Yamanami (癒しの宿「やまなみ」)
    • A kitchen with a fridge, various tableware, and cooking utensils are available for all guests to use
    • The laundry corner has a washing machine, dryer, and detergent. There are also clothes lines for those who don’t want to use a clothes dryer
    • As the guesthouse was originally a dormitory, apart from male and female toilets, there is also a toilet catered to the disabled
    • Air conditioning isn’t available, but guestrooms are equipped with a fan or an oil fan heater
    • Shampoo, conditioner, body soap, and a hairdryer are available. Towels are not included
    • There are both Japanese and Western-style guestrooms. For those who aren’t used to sleeping on a harder surface, consider booking a Western-styled room that comes with a bed and mattress. The Japanese futon beds might not be as comfortable as it isn’t as soft as a mattress
    • Price-wise, it is 3,000 yen for those who are in junior high school or above, 2,000 yen for elementary school students, and 1,000 yen for young children
    • To reserve a room, please call +81-867-56-2626. You may be required to fill out a FORM, which you can CONTACT US for assistance if you are unable to read Japanese

How to Get to Gaisen Zakura Street

From JR Chūgoku-Katsuyama Station (中国勝山駅), you can take Maniwa City’s Community Bus – Maniwakun (まにわくん) and get off at Shinjō Murayakuba (新庄村役場) which takes around 40 minutes.

For the bus service’s timetable, refer to HERE. As these are written in Japanese, please use the bus stop’s Japanese name to read it.

Roadside Station Gaisen Zakura Shinjō-Juku (道の駅 がいせん桜 新庄宿)

Just like any other roadside station in Japan, the Roadside Station Gaisen Zakura Shinjō-Juku, which was re-opened in 2018 after a complete renewal, is where you will find a complete range of the village’s specialties. It also serves as the village’s market for the villagers to source their daily necessities.

Inside the station, there is a resting area perfect for anyone who would like a coffee break. The coffee here is only 100 yen, and they might be serving tea for free! (Don’t quote us on that, though!)

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

Himenomochi Ricecake (ひめのもち)

The temperature difference in summer between the morning and night is significant in the village. This is the perfect weather to grow glutinous rice.

So when you visit Shinjō Village, don’t forget to grab a few rice cake desserts from the shops in the Roadside Station! The rice cakes are all made from locally grown glutinous rice – Himenomochi, the best type of glutinous rice (=゚ω゚)ノ.

For photos of the various kinds of rice cake desserts available for purchase, please visit their official website HERE!

The rice cakes are made from the factory next door to the Roadside Station. Apart from the rice cakes, they even produce different kinds of noodles that include Himenomochi as part of their ingredients! This means that the noodles are just going to be extra chewy (≧▽≦).

The noodles produced in the factory can also be purchased from the shops in the Roadside Station for anyone who wants to grab a few packs home!

Light Meals and Cafeteria at Roadside Station Gaisen Zakura Shinjō-Juku

From the shop, they also have a few takeaway menus. While it is mainly coffee, soft-served ice cream, and other soft drinks, they do make margarita pizza that we vegetarians can eat (=゚ω゚)ノ.

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

Inside their cafeteria, there are a couple of rice or noodle menus. But if you are strict with your vegetarian diet (i.e., no dairy, eggs, or both), you can only purchase inari sushi or zenzai (sweet red bean soup with rice cake). The stock used for their noodle soups will most likely contain seafood extract, and the curry rice in Japan usually contains traces of meat.

 As their menu changes from time to time, if you plan to enjoy a meal there, you can also utilize our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarian article to order a delicious meat-free meal!

Fudō Falls – Shinjō Village (不動滝 – 新庄村)

Especially if you are renting a bike from Gaisen Zakura Street, you should definitely cycle your way to Fudō Falls!

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

There are quite a few Fudō Falls scattered in Japan. The Fudō Falls here at Shinjō Village is a collective name for two waterfalls: the Medaki Falls (女滝) at the downstream and the Odaki Falls (男滝) at the upstream.

The Medaki Falls is surrounded by beautiful nature that gives you a different impression and vibe depending on which season you go. Autumn, in particular, is extra stunning. So although the Medaki Falls would split into two smaller waterfalls from the top, it does have its own unique charm.

Hiking upstream for around 100 meters, you should see the Odaki Falls, a two-tiered waterfall with a height of 38 meters. It is a lot more magnificent and impressive with the amount of water pulling down in front of you!

This is particularly true just after a rainy day, so time your visit if you can!

Mt. Kenashi (毛無山)

Whether you are a total beginner or an advanced hiker, Mt. Kenashi has a hiking course for you!

Kenashiyama Yamanoie (毛無山山の家)

© Maniwa Tourism Bureau

Most mountain trails start at Kenashiyama Yamanoie, an accommodation facility renovated from a traditional rural house with a thatched roof.

During the daytime, from 10 am to 3:30 pm, you can also utilize the house if you wish to cook yourself a delicious lunch or if you wish to lie down in one of its tatami mats room (=゚ω゚)ノ.

The house is available for visitors to use from April to November. Reservation is essential, so you will need to call +81-867-56-2628. Please note the costs below.

  • Daytime use from 10 am to 3:30 pm: 10,000 yen on weekdays. It is free if you come on weekends or public holidays but you will potentially be sharing the facility with other visitors. If you would like to reserve the whole house, the cost will be 10,000 yen
  • Staying overnight at Kenashiyama Yamanoie from 4 pm to 9:30 am the next day: 15,000 yen for up to 5 guests. For an additional guest, it will cost 2,000 yen per person. Note that the house has a capacity of 15 people

For a photo of the house, check out the official website HERE.

Yurikago-no-shōkei (ゆりかごの小径)

© Okayama Prefecture Tourism Federation

For those who enjoy a relaxing walk in the forest for its therapeutic benefits, the Yurikago-no-shōkei, just a short walk from Kenashiyama Yamanoie, would be a perfect choice!

The 2 km trail is all covered by thick forest. With the majority of the passageway being covered by humus (which is softer and easier to walk on), this may be an ideal choice for the elderly (=゚ω゚)ノ.

And when you want to take a rest, there are hammocks on this trail available for you to enjoy a little nap in (≧▽≦).

For a really relaxing stroll for this loop course, it may take around 2 – 2.5 hours.

Kohan-no-Shōkei (湖畔の小径)

If you prefer to walk on mainly bituminous roads or you are accompanying someone in a wheelchair, then Kohan-no-Shōkei is perfect for you (=゚ω゚)ノ.

The 4.5 km loop course can be completed in around 2.5 hours. You will be trekking around the lake formed by the Doyō Dam (土用ダム). Luckily, the tree tunnels on this trail would block most of the sunlight so that you wouldn’t be sweating under the sun, especially in the summer.

The Mountain Trails on Mt. Kenashi

© Maniwa Tourism Bureau

If you want to observe and immerse yourself in the magnificent scenery from mountain peaks, you would definitely want to hike up to the summit of at least Mt. Kenashi!

From there, you have a couple of choices as to what route to take. Either back down through the trail you came from, or you can trek across to Mt. Hakuba (白馬山) next to Mt. Kenashi. From the peak of Mt. Hakuba, a trail leads back down to Kenashiyama Yamanoie.

From Mt. Hakuba, if you feel even more adventurous, you can trek even further to Mt. Kanagayasen (金ヶ谷山) and Mt. Asanabewashigasen (朝鍋鷲ヶ山)!

All the trails mentioned above can be referred to in THIS MAP. The map is in Japanese but each spot is marked with numbers with the distance between the spots and the required time specified in the table. Please use the Japanese name of the peaks to read the map.

  • Mt. Kenashi (毛無山) and Mt. Hakuba (白馬山) are directly located underneath the table.
  • Yurikago-no-shōkei (ゆりかごの小径) is marked by the little shaped raindrop next to Kenashiyama Yamanoie (毛無山山の家).
  • Kohan-no-Shōkei (湖畔の小径) is marked by that pink line that surrounds Doyō Dam (土用ダム).
  • The first course that hikes up to the summit of Mt. Kenashi is suitable for beginners and will take around 90 minutes for a one-way journey.
  • If you want to trek from the peak of Mt. Kenashi all the way to the summit of Mt. Asanabewashigasen, it will take around 5 hours.

Throughout the mountain trails, you should encounter many beautiful and giant cedar trees! As you will be trekking in the forest, the trails are mostly natural settings as opposed to artificial. We recommend that you stay on the main pathways at all times so that you won’t be stepping on any plants or flowers along the way.

Tips:
☛ Please remember to bring along insect repellent if you don’t want to be stung or get bitten by bugs in the forest!
☛ If you are hiking to the summit, please look for the signs that say “山頂” which means summit.
☛ The required time for each course on the map is just an estimate. We would recommend you allow at least 30 minutes on top of the time specified on the map.

Find out Where Else to Go around Shinjō Village

Daigo-Sakura-Maniwa-Okayama-Japan
Click the photo to find out how to get to this gorgeous spot!

Maniwa City, which is just located next to Shinjō Village, is one of the best places to be during the cherry blossom seasons. Scenic spots such as the cherry blossom tunnel and a gigantic cherry tree (a thousand years old) up on a hill are the places you won’t want to miss out on when you visit Japan.

There are even a few places where you can enjoy the cherry blossoms and autumn foliage at the same time (*’▽’).

And if you happen to come to Japan during the summer, let the fireflies in limestone caves or along the river astonish you during the evening before you rest up in your hotel room (=゚ω゚)ノ. Find out more about the city from our Maniwa City article!

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