By Paul Walsh
Sera's mountain environment enjoys an abundance of sunshine, and its clean, pure water, rich soil and large night and day temperature variations which is ideal for growing crops. Japanese pears, apples, grapes, and blueberries are some of the tasty treats visitors to the area can look forward to. Local grapes are also used in the distilling of locally made wines. Several parks in the area specialize in growing a variety flowers and turning entire swaths of the landscape into canvases of incredible color depending on the season.
Imakoyasan was once a manor home belonging to Go-Shirakawa, Japan’s 77th Emperor, with its 12 branch temples helping it remain an influential center until the end of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) when the power of the samurai began to expand.
Imakoyasan is especially beautiful in the spring when the sakura along its approach path are in full bloom, and in the autumn when the maple trees around its pond burst into fiery color. Being relatively unknown and remote ensures a lack of crowds.
With grapes sourced only from local farms, Sera Winery makes perhaps the freshest wine in Japan. Tours of the wine production factory, from mashing to bottling, are available but are best enjoyed between September and November when the wine-making process is in full swing. Sera Winery brews several varieties of red and white wine including their signature Honey Venus sweet or full-bodied white, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, rosé, and more.
Visitors even have the option of creating their own unique label for their wine as a souvenir of their visit or as a gift. Sera Winery also has a restaurant, a gift shop, and the Yumekо̄gen Ichiba Market which sells locally produced fruits, vegetables, local crafts, and workshops.
Hatsuka Ebisu Matsuri
Held on the 20th of August every year in the middle of downtown Sera, the Hatsuka Ebisu Matsuri (festival) features a parade of beautifully carved wooden floats, known as "danjiri." Each danjiri was constructed by and is representative of a different area of Sera-cho. Each one is pulled by a team from the area it represents, and each team creates their own unique dances and chants for the festival. There are also outdoor stalls offering delicious Japanese festival food and games.
Flower and Fruit Kingdom Dream Festivals
Every spring, Sera Yume Park hosts "Flower Kingdom Dream Festival" over a mid-April weekend. The event features two days of live traditional and modern music and dance performances, games and other activities. Over every "Shūbun no Hi" (Autumnal Equinox Day) weekend (Sept 22nd-23rd in 2018) Sera Yume Park has hosted the Fruit Kingdom Dream Festival which features child and family oriented activities and events like live traditional music and dance performances, an outdoor local food and crafts market, fruit peeling olympics and pony rides for children, and much more.
Farm stays at a local family farm house (nо̄ka minshuku) offer visitors the chance to experience the life of a Sera local first hand. There are 13 nо̄ka minshukus in Sera-cho, each one offering a its own unique countryside farming workshops and experiences such as planting and harvesting various crops (depending on the season), picking mountain vegetables, cooking traditional meals, wood and bamboo craft, and much more. The average one night stay with dinner and breakfast starts at just ¥8,400/person.
The Mejika Nо̄ka Minshuku is English friendly, offers gelato (¥600/person), mozzarella cheese (¥2,000/person), and butter (¥500/person) making workshops, and horseback riding (¥800/person) experiences.
One night with two meals starts at an economical ¥6,600/person. Book your farm stay with Mejika, or browse from a number of alternative farm stay options.
Public Experience Workshops
Workshops related to farming, traditional cooking, fruit picking, crafts and more are also available, and can be booked (Japanese only) from the official site.
Sera is about 70 km east of Hiroshima City. As there is only one train station located on the eastern periphery of the area it is recommended that visitors rent a vehicle. Japan allows visitors from a number of countries to drive if they acquire an International Drivers Permit from their country's issuing authority before departing.
Hiroshima and Fukuyama are the closest large cities to Sera. From Hiroshima take the Sanyo Express Tollway and get off at the Mihara-Kui Interchange, and head north on Hiroshima Prefectural Route 25. From Fukuyama, take the Sanyo Express Tollway to Onomichi Junction and then take the Onomichi Expressway to Sera.
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Seven years of exploring and playing in the wilds of Japan! Now I'm Japan Airlines's Tourism and PR Ambassador in Nara Prefecture and the Regional Partner for Nara Prefecture. It's been my experience that there's little if any awareness of Nara and its importance outside of Japan. My goal: remedy that