Hello again! Welcome back! Max here again!
This picture makes me look fairly professional but actually, I’m only the guy carrying the camera…
Anyhow! Today I thought I would write about Minamioguni-machi since it’s the place I’m living and If you are reading this blog, then some basic information should come in handy. But first I want to clarify that I myself am also fairly new to this town and don’t even know nearly enough to say that I understand even half of it yet. So the information in this post is what I have learned so far and from here on I hope to learn much much more and share that knowledge with everyone through this blog.
With that said, let’s start off with where Minamioguni is located?
The area marked in red above is Minamioguni-machi! Located slightly above the Aso caldera, a cauldron-like volcanic feature formed by the land collapsing as a result of volcanic eruption(loooong ago), but more on the caldera another time. If you zoom out you can see that Minamioguni-machi is a part of Kumamoto prefecture which is located in the southern part of Japan known as Kyushu.
So what do we know about Minamioguni-machi? Let’s start with its most famous aspect, onsen! Or in English, hot spring. Especially an onsen-area called Kurokawa-onsen is very famous and considered top-class in Japan.
The picture above is from one of the ‘Ryokan’, traditional Japanese style inn, belonging to the area Kurokawa-onsen and it’s called Sanga. In Japan, there are many different onsen-“towns” that gather under a common name and thus forming an association to promote a common goal. Kurokawa-onsen is one such place. The history of Kurokawa onsen is very fascinating and I will definitely write about it more closely another time but for now, I will settle here.
Next! Let’s have a quick lesson to understand this complicated name and why I switch between calling it ‘Minamioguni’ and adding ‘machi’ at the end.
This fairly confusing picture is my own attempt at simplifying the name but clearly, I have failed horribly! The name contains four kanji:
南=South 小=Small 国=Country 町=Town
In Japan, you often add 市=City, 町=Town or 村=Village at the end of the name for clarification. But in speech, it’s very common that people drop the last kanji and only use the more “unique” part of the name, in this case, Minamioguni. If you return to the map above you can see that there is a place called simply Oguni(小国)-machi right above us. That is the reason for the kanji for “south” at the beginning of the name. Actually, many people in Kumamoto have a hard time keeping these two apart and simply call both towns Oguni and believe them to be the same place.
What more? Minamioguni, and the entire area of Aso, is famous for its very delicious Aka-cow meat.
The Japanese name translates to red cow but the English translation is ‘Japanese Brown’. These cows are famous for their resistance to cold and ability to graze large areas of grassland by themselves. Since they are plentiful in the area and graze on the mountains you get a very unique-looking landscape with mountains covered in grassland. The picture above is not actually taken in Minamioguni but there are plenty of Aka-cows there as well! Sorry〜
Let’s keep going! Minamioguni is also blessed with many passionate farmers, in part thanks to the high-quality of the water which is perfect for agriculture.
The farmers of Minamioguni take big pride in the vegetables they grow and put in a lot of care resulting in some of the best vegetables I have ever tried. And the great part is that since the farmers of Minamioguni have such a strong passion for what they grow they are often very happy to share! Many of them run restaurants or lodgings where you can enjoy home-made food from fresh ingredients. And depending on the season there are events that let you enjoy not only the food, but also interaction with the local people and the beautiful nature. The pictures above is from one such event!
The last thing I want to mention is Sugi, also known as Japanese cedar tree!
Forestry has been an important part of both Minamioguni and Oguni for a very long time. The climate of the area has given birth to a particularly high-quality species of cedar called ‘Oguni cedar’. There is alot of love and respect towards the forest and the nature in Minamioguni. The people nurture and care for the forest and use the wood to produce different products. Some products are even exported outside of Japan. The regular forestry has also given birth to quite the unique and beautiful mountain landscape covered by cedar trees which makes you feel like you are in a movie by studio Ghibli.
If I’m lucky maybe I’ll find someone to teach me how to be a lumberjack!
Anyhow, for now I think I’ll settle here. Of course this is only a small part of everything that Minamioguni has to offer. And to be honest, everything mentioned here deserves a complete post of its own. But before I can write that and share it with everyone I need to learn more and understand this fantastic place better myself.
This post was a bit longer than the last one so thanks to you for reading this far! I hope this has given some insight to the wonderful town of Minamioguni. See you next time and leave a comment if you like!