Japan’s Kansai region is full of amazing destinations. Of course, world-famous cities Kyoto and Osaka are located here, but that is not all that Kansai has to offer. In Hyogo Prefecture, you can take a trip back in time in an area that still has many remainders of Japan’s Golden Age of cultural bloom, the Edo Period. Tamba Sasayama used to be a transportation hub in the Edo Period, hence its strong reminiscence of the era. It is only a little over one hour from Osaka to Tamba Sasayama, so taking a day trip to see what this historically and culturally rich area has to offer is highly recommended. Let’s see what there is to see, do, and taste in Tamba Sasayama!
Places of Interest in Tamba Sasayama
There are many places of interest in Tamba Sasayama, but because most of them are located close to each other it is easy to see many in a short period of time. The Sasayama Castle Ruins including the Sasayama Castle Oshoin are at the heart of Tamba Sasayama. Oshoin’s architecture is an impressive example of the building style of the Edo Period. Aoyama Historical Village has interesting and interactive exhibitions in which you can learn more about life during the blooming period of the area. In the Kawaramachi Tsumairi Merchant Housing District they faithfully reproduced the landscape as it was in the Edo Period, including a lack of above-the-ground electricity. Strolling the quaint street will bring you right back in time, and the shops and cafes along the road are inviting.
The Kasuga Shrine boasts an outdoor Noh theater stage where performances of this very traditional style of theater performing art are held regularly.
As one of the Six Ancient Kilns is located in Tamba Sasayama, a visit to the Museum of Ceramic Art should definitely be on your itinerary. Promoting both ceramic and porcelain culture, you can learn a lot about the traditional crafts while enjoying some beautiful pieces. If you want to get hands-on with making your own pottery, you will love Tachikui Pottery Village, where you can not only buy ceramics in one of the many small shops but also experience making your own to take home.
The Fukusumi Area
A 20-minute drive east from Tamba Sasayama is the Fukusumi area, which is a historical post town on the route between Tamba Sasayama and Kyoto.
As the area is very nicely explorable by bicycle, the town’s entrepreneurial residents have made rental of bicycles quick and easy. It is truly a nice experience to ride around the picturesque townscape while stopping at shops and cafes on the way.
There are two shrines in the neighborhood that are worth a look as well. The Oujiyama Makekirai Shrine (literally ‘hate to lose’ shrine) is a favorite destination for anyone who needs luck in business or a victory. Red torii gates are reminiscent of the much larger Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, and it is easy to take beautiful pictures here. The Sumiyoshi Shrine has a beautiful small rock garden that is similar to the garden of the famous Ryoanji in Kyoto. And if you want to make it an overnight trip, Fukusumi is one of the best towns to stay at in the area with many beautiful small-scale accommodations run by passionate locals.
Tamba Sasayama Gourmet Local Specialties
Every region in Japan has its own specialties, resulting in a vast variety of local dishes all over the country. Tamba Sasayama, of course, has its very own gourmet specialties as well. You have probably heard about regular edamame (soy beans), but how about black edamame? This healthy treat is harvested in October when it is still green, and by December it turns black and get its sweeter, fuller flavor.
Another delicacy from the region is Tamba beef, one of the many regional types of Wagyu beef. Considered one of Japan’s finest, Tamba beef is characterized by a rich and sweet flavor that beef-lovers will surely enjoy.
As for local tipples, if you’re a beer drinker you should not leave the area without having tried the region’s craft beer. Tamba Sasayama Tabinijo Brewery recently opened a rustic beer pub, the Sumiyoshi shrine does beer garden events occasionally, and Zigzag Brewery comes with new small batch brews regularly. If you also like sake, a fermented drink based on rice, you will like the local high-quality Tamba sake. Sake has been brewed in the region for centuries, and all this expertise coupled with the tasty regional rice and access to plenty of fresh water results in an excellent sake brand with a refreshing taste.
Crafts have long been a part of Japanese culture, and Japanese artisans often spend their whole lives perfecting their particular craft resulting in beautiful and high-quality products. In Tamba Sasayama, the history of ceramics goes back more than 800 years, and Tamba yaki or Tamba ware was and is widely used throughout the country. Traditional Tamba ware has a distinct style that can be recognized by the reddish-brown base and greenish-brown glaze.
As mentioned before, sake brewing is another craft that is strongly linked with Tamba Sasayama. The area counts numerous breweries, most of which have direct stores that can be visited by tourists who want to try and buy the freshest sake. Another regional craft that has flourished is cotton production and processing. Tamba Momen cotton is of a high quality that was used for work clothing that needed to be durable.
Festivals of Tamba Sasayama
Traditional festivals (matsuri) have been an important part of life in Japan throughout the centuries. Here is an overview of the most important festivals in Tamba Sasayama throughout the year:
Kaibara Apotropaic Festival: held on February 17 and 18 at the Kaibara Hachimangu shrine to pray for protection of the gods
Wisteria Festival: held between early to mid May at the Byakugou-ji temple to enjoy the sea of purple Wisteria flowers
Dekansho Festival: held on August 15 and 16 around the site of the Sasayama Castle Ruins. This is a large folk festival that includes traditional dance, music, stalls, and fireworks.
Tamba Tachikuiyaki Festival: held in the middle of October in Tachikui Pottery Village to promote local pottery
Tamba Momiji Festival: held between early to mid November at the Entsuji temple, Sekiganji temple, and the Kogenji temple to enjoy the vibrant red autumn leaves
How to Get to Tamba Sasayama
The easiest way to get to Tamba Sasayama is by taking a direct train from Kita-Shinchi Station (next to Osaka Station). The JR Touzai-Gakkentoshi Line goes straight to Sasayamaguchi Station in 1 hour and 14 minutes. Alternatively, if you come from Shin-Osaka station you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line for 3 stops to Amagasaki Station, and then switch to the Fukuchiyama Line that takes you to Sasayamaguchi Station in one hour.
Upon arrival at Sasayamaguchi Station, you can either take a taxi or a bus to the Kasugajinjazen Bus Stop which takes around 15 minutes. This is right in the middle of Tamba Sasayama’s sightseeing district.
Tours in Kansai
If you want to enjoy your trip to Kansai to the max, doing a private tour is always a good idea. Whether you live locally or are a first-time visitor to Japan, a local guide can add elements of fun, education, and peace of mind to your trip. We offer both city highlights and unique tours throughout Japan by experienced guides, including Kansai. Would you like some examples? Check out our Kyoto Food and Drink tour, Total Kyoto Experience, Kyoto Trekking tour, Osaka Exploration tour, and Nara tour.
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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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