A Walk in Miyama Village
Miyama Kayabuki no Sato (Miyama Thatched Roof Village) is one place in Kyoto prefecture where you can really get away from it all, especially if you go there on a week day. Compared to other thatched roof villages in Japan, it seems to have so few tourist visiting it. Maybe it's because most of the buildings in this village are actually people's residences and there are very few used as cafes, restaurants, guest houses, museums and the like.
In the whole of the Miyama-cho (Miyama town) area which is now actually part of Nantan-shi (Nantan city), so I don't think it's officially called Miyama-cho any more, there are some 250 thatched roof houses. However Miyama Kayabuki no Sato is a concentration of about 50 of these houses in an 18 hectare (approx. 44.5 acres) area in the North of the old Miyama town.
I've had the chance to visit the Miyama area 5 times now, since I moved to Kyoto in 2008, although only twice have I walked in the village. The other three times I went to some other houses in the area and swam in the clean waters of the Yura river at a spot about 2km to the East of the village. I've only gone there during the summer months June-August, and it's a great way to escape the summer heat, as the temperatures and humidity are a bit lower than in Kyoto city.
The photos I've seen of the other seasons look very beautiful. Spring with the cherry blossoms, autumn with the colour change, and winter with quite a lot of snow compared to what we get in Kyoto city and the suburbs. There are also two fire drill days when they test the village's fire fighting equipment one on May 20th and the other on the first Sunday in December, which from the photos and videos I've seen of it on the internet looks quite spectacular. Finally there is a snow festival in February.
I think the main charm of the village and the whole Miyama area is the fact that there aren't too many touristy shops and restaurants, which I guess keeps the crowds away. On the south side of the main road about 3mins walk from the village there is a car park, only local traffic is allowed in the village. At each end of the car park there are places to eat, I've eaten lunch at the place at the East end of the car park twice and it's very good. For ice creams (locally made) I recommend the place at the West end of the carpark. There are two cafes in the village serving drinks and snacks, not meals. At least one house is a kind of B&B, so it's possible to stay overnight in the village. There's also a museum and a bakery, both of which were closed on the two times I visited.
The best way to get to the Miyama area is by private transport, however if you don't mind spending a couple hours to get there from Kyoto city it's possible to use train and bus. During festival times and the hight of cherry blossoms and autumn colours there are some coach buses going there directly from Kyoto station and from some other urban centres around Kyoto. The times I've used the train and bus, I've caught the JR Sagano-Sanin line from Kyoto station to Hiyoshi (note at this station there are no IC card readers, so if you're not someone who's travelling in Japan with a Japan Rail Pass you'll have to buy cash tickets). From Hiyoshi, it's either one or two buses (depending on the time of day) just tell the driver you're going to "Kita-sato" and they'll let you know where you have to change buses if you need to. There are more buses on weekends than weekdays, during the week there's only about one bus every two hours or so! It may be possible to take a bus from Wachi station since it's much closer to Miyama, but I've never heard anyone here mention it.
There nearest station with car rentals is Sonobe which is even further from Miyama than Hiyoshi, but has more frequent trains from Kyoto. The road from Sonobe to Miyama (route 19) is pretty good, so it might be the way to go if you don't want to rely on bus schedules. If you're driving from Kyoto or Osaka there's an exit on the new Kyoto North Expressway at Sonobe. If you don't want to use an expressway route 162 is the way to get there from Kyoto city.
This photo was taken with a Nikon Coolpix P7100 camera. No post processing has been done on this image.