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Shimoguri-no-sato: A Japanese Shangri-la

Amid the soaring peaks of southern Nagano Prefecture, a solitary hamlet clings to a mountaintop, seemingly suspended in both space and time. We visited Shimoguri-no-sato, where crops grow abundantly on steep slopes 1,000 meters above sea level, and the villagers continue to observe the ancient harvest rite that served as inspiration for Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away.

Hot Springs and Snow Monkeys: Four Seasons in “Hell Valley” (Photos)Kobayashi Hideki (Photographer)

Japanese macaques are unusual among monkeys in preferring a cold habitat to a tropical or subtropical one. Like most Japanese, these “snow monkeys” like nothing more than soaking in a hot-spring bath in winter. Here we showcase Kobayashi Hideki’s photos of these endearing creatures.

Fireworks by “Hanabishi” Masters Blossom in the Night SkyIzumiya Gensaku

Traditional firework makers, or hanabishi, have thrilled spectators since the Edo period (1603–1868). One of the preeminent firework craftsmen today is Aoki Akio, who comes from a long line of outstanding hanabishi. Izumiya Gensaku takes a look at how Aoki is bringing this old craft into the twenty-first century.

Obusedō: A Tradition of Chestnut Sweets and Local Culture

Located in Nagano Prefecture, the town of Obuse is known for its confections and chestnuts. It also boasts a unique culture, with influences dating back to Edo-period icons like the artist Katsushika Hokusai and many family-run businesses located there to this day. In recent years, these businesses have come together to restore the historical atmosphere of Obuse, ensuring that its rich past stays relevant into the future.

Glorious Fireworks Color the Autumn Sky

The Nagano Ebisukō Fireworks Display, held alongside the Ebisu festival each November, is famous as the last fireworks display of the year. This exclusive video, taken over the course of a day, whisks you to a front-row seat at one of the most breathtaking displays of pyrotechnical wizardry in Japan.

A Journey Along Japan’s Rivers (Photos)Ōnishi Nariaki (Photographer)

Rivers large and small crisscross the length and breadth of the Japanese archipelago, supporting ecosystems, sustaining livelihoods, and creating invigorating scenes of natural beauty. From Hokkaidō in the north to Okinawa in the south, we look at the diversity of Japan’s rivers.

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