How do you define “beautiful”? What makes a beautiful village? There is one organization, “Nihon de mottomo utsukushii mura/the most beautiful villages in Japan”, (Japanese only site: http://www.utsukushii-mura.jp/ that has set a few guidelines and based on those guidelines has named 33 villages to this special list. Among other criteria, the village must have a population under 10,000 and a low population density, must have beautiful scenery and natural resources that remain undeveloped, and must have a festival, architecture, or cultural resources that have been been preserved over time. Of the 33 villages on the list, 6 of those are in Nagano-ken and one of those is my neighboring Nakagawa-mura. On my way to visit a friend who lives there, I took a picture of the logo-sign.
The best way, if not the only way, to get to this place is by car. Get on the Chuo Expressway going towards Iida-city. Coming from the north, exit at Komagane I.C. or from the south at Matsukawa I.C. then follow the signs for Route 153 towards Iida. From either exit, Nakagawa is about 20 minutes. There is no train station. The nearest train station would be Iijima station on the Iida train line. From there you can take a taxi. For any of our overseas visitors who are really interested, let me know if you are in the area and I can be your personal guide for half a day.
“Beautiful” is a patchwork of culture, history, and tradition against the backdrop of natural scenery that remains largely untouched.