On March 11th, all of Japan — and all of the world — shook with the news of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, as well as the ensuing nuclear disaster. At 3:59am the following morning, March 12th, northern Nagano shook with a major earthquake centered on Sakae Village. 688 homes were damaged or destroyed, road and sewar damage totaled 2.069 billion yen, farm and industrial damage was 2.159 billion yen.
In response, the various Chambers of Commerce from throughout Nagano Prefecture made a joint declaration of tourism solidarity. On October 24th in Nozawa Onsen, a special ceremony was held to announce the declaration, with the prefecture’s governor in attendance. I was invited as a Nagano Inbound Ambassador. The power of seeing all the Chamber representatives making the joint declaration was impressive!
After the ceremony, there was a bus tour of the areas in Sakae Village damaged by the earthquake. We saw a lot of houses being repaired but the collapsed ones have apparently been cleaned up. Most of the roads were passable, but a lot of cracks in the road surface remain.
The biggest landslide was next to the town’s main onsen bathhouse, “Tomato no Kuni”. Fortunately the bathing facilities themselves were protected from the slide by a grove of cedar trees. While the prefectural government plans on taking over 10 years to stabilize the slide zone, “Tomato no Kuni” is on schedule to be repaired and open by this December.
Along the main highway is the Sakae Shin-etsu Road Station. I was glad to see an abundance of local farm products and handicrafts for sale. It looks like the villagers have really bounced back from the earthquake.
Until now, my only experience with Sakae Village has been to enjoy the remote Kiriake Onsen. But now seeing the main village has made me want to come back and explore more. The villagers’ lives are shaped in large part by the hardships of deep winter snows, giving the area a unique culture. There is a volunteer organization called Sakae Network that offers tours giving insight into the village’s lifestyle — perfect for further exploration.
Access to Sakae Village is via Route 117 from the Iiyama IC on the Shin-Etsu Expressway, or JR Iiyama Line from Nagano Station (Morimiyanohara Station being the village’s main stop).
For More Info:
http://www.vill.sakae.nagano.jp/bussan/matatabi/ Shin-etsu Road Station website
http://www.sakaemura.net” Sakaemura Network website
http://www.vill.sakae.nagano.jp/skousya/tomato.html“Tomato no Kuni” Onsen website