A FISHING BOAT CRUISE To round it all off, climb aboard a fishing boat and take a cruise in the Sea of Japan. ASCETIC BUDDHIST MONKS FILE PAST THE FIVE-STORY PAGODA The approach to the mountaintop shrine is paved with stone steps that pass through two rows of sugi (cedar) trees which are more than 350 years old. While making your way up to the shrine, make sure to pause at the magnificent five-story pagoda. The natural beauty is striking enough to have earned a three-star rating in the Michelin Green Guide Japan. THE ASCETIC CUISINE OF THE THREE MOUNTAINS OF DEWA Since ancient times, Buddhist shugendo ascetics have handed down vegan practices developed deep in the Three Mountains of Dewa. In order to survive the harsh winters of the mountains, the yamabushi (literally, “those who prostrate themselves on the mountain”) developed ways of preserving vegetables and herbs to last through the lean months. As a result, ascetic cuisine is sometimes referred to as “life-sustaining food.” These healthy, delicious, yet simple meals are created with ingredients gathered from the foot of the mountain, and are distinctive even within Buddhist cuisine. Consumed with gratitude for the blessings of nature, this spiritual food purifies both the body and the soul. THE SUNSET SEEN FROM THE SHONAI COAST On the Shonai Plain, expansive agrarian scenery stretches out to the feet of Mount Gassan and Mount Chokai, and the ochre rays of the sun setting over the Shonai Coast are breathtaking. Cherry blossom lovers will delight in a visit to Tsuruoka Park, one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom spots. CHERRY PICKING Experience living cultural treasures such as traditional grains and fresh fruit by harvesting them by hand or learn how to pound buckwheat for soba. DADACHA-MAME, THE KING OF EDAMAME The dadacha-mame is considered Japan’s best-tasting edamame (immature green soybeans) due to its unique aroma, sweet flavor, and full umami. MOSO-JIRU, A TRADITIONAL SPRING SOUP MADE WITH BAMBOO SHOOTS The dadacha-mame is considered Japan’s best-tasting edamame (immature green soybeans) due to its unique aroma, sweet flavor, and full umami. The Atsumi turnip is another local favorite, grown in swidden fields made with fire-fallow farming techniques. Local food culture is marked by miso soup with seasonal ingredients, premium local rice, and full-bodied sake, all of which are deeply imbued with the flavors of the region.