Jugemu Guest House is about as “off the beaten path” as you can get in central Japan. Situated in the peaceful village of Irokawa in Wakayama prefecture, surrounded by rugged mountains, forests and terraced rice-fields, Jugemu is a complete escape from the bright lights of the major Japanese cities and the hustle n bustle of the well-trodden backpacking route popular with most tourists.
Irokawa hasn’t always been the quiet village it is today though. Two hundred years ago it was a bustling community home to the families of hundreds of miners who worked at the local copper mine. Its close proximity to the historic Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route also meant that it was a popular place for travelers to pass by on their journeys through the surrounding sacred mountains. Once the minerals at the mine ran dry though, the area saw a mass exodus as most of the residents took off in the search for work elsewhere. Those who stayed decided to set up a farming community, growing a variety of produce including rice, tea, fruits and vegetables. The farming community slowly grew in size and the landscape was transformed into the many rows of terraced fields you see in the area today.
In more recent years the population has been on the decline once again as most of the younger generation tend to gravitate towards the fast-paced life in cities like Osaka and Tokyo, leaving their farming families behind. This is where our guest house owners Shinya and Chizuru come into the picture. They discovered Irokawa village in their early thirties and decided to set up a fully self-sustained organic farm there, complete with a guest house where they hope to teach the way of life in rural Japan to their guests. Visitors to the guest house are also encouraged to help with farming and the preparation of the food that will end up on their plate in the evening. It’s a great opportunity to see how a farm works and depending on the season, see how traditional Japanese farming methods are employed out in the fields.
All meals are prepared on site with an incredible amount of time and care put in. As mentioned above, most ingredients are fresh from the farm or sourced locally on a daily basis. Rice is cooked the traditional way, in a wood-burning oven – this is also something guests can try themselves.
It’s not all about farming and food though! There are plenty of other activities available for those who like adventure, including hiking tours, cycling tours and a variety of scenic walks along ancient village roads, through thick forests and past outstanding waterfalls. There are also other activities available in and around the village including yoga sessions and calligraphy workshops at the local temple. Some of these activities don’t follow a set timetable, it depends entirely on the season and availability of local residents. If you get the chance to participate in such activities though we highly recommend you snap the opportunity up!
The guest house is small and accommodates only one group of up to five people at a time. It is detached from the main house meaning you have privacy and space to completely relax. The cost to stay at Jugemu is 7500 yen per person per night, this includes both breakfast and dinner. They will also prepare a packed lunch for you to take on your travels at request, for a small additional fee. Vegetarian options available upon request. Check in is from 14:00, and check out is until 10:00.
Please note Jugemu accept payment in cash only, and there are no ATM machines in the village, so make sure you are well prepared!
Due to the nature of the mountain roads Jugemu Guest House and Organic Farm is best accessed by car, it is approximately one hour from the nearest town, Nachikatsuura. It can also be accessed by local bus, from Kii-Katsuura train station to Irokawa Village, which takes approximately one hour. If you tell the bus driver you’re staying at Jugemu, he/she will stop right outside the house for you!