[Feature] Asahi Town in Autumn! Day trip with apples and wine
Yamagata Prefecture is shaped like a person’s face view sideways.
Right in the vicinity of the “cheek” is Asahi Town.
The town is famous for its thriving apple cultivation, but it seems that there are other interesting places and delicious things, so this time I asked help from its mascot character Momoiro Usahi.
My heart was pounding as I went to see if he would come to the meeting place, and there was a pink rabbit with big eyes…
This time, I will introduce the charm of Asahi Town in autumn, along with Asahi Town’s unofficial mascot character Momoiro Usahi!
1. Asahi Town
First, let me briefly introduce what kind of place Asahi Town is.
・Birthplace of Bagless Fuji apple
Asahi mountain range, which is said to be the Alps of Tohoku, and Asahi Town, located at the foot of the mountain, is famous for its apples.
In particular, it is the birthplace of apples called Mutaifuji, or Bagless Fuji, because they are grown without a bag to protect them, and their taste is exceptional.
With a good balance of sweetness and sourness, and a crunchy texture, these Bagless Fuji apples that are grown in the sun have a delicious taste.
Many people from inside and outside the prefecture come for these apples during harvest time.
・ Unofficial mascot character Momoiro Usahi
In introducing Asahi Town, we must not forget this mascot character.
It is a pink costumed that has no personality, track, or expression.
Today, Asahi Town is as famous for its pink rabbit as it is for its apples.
Many people are healed by its relaxed actions and behaviors that are not overdoing it or trying too hard.
Momoiro Usahi originally started in 2008 as a research project brought in by a graduate student of Tohoku University of Arts and Science titled “Research to boost the local area internally using a character with no individuality.”
*From the official website of Asahi Town
As a mascot character, he promotes Asahi Town through various activities while incorporating ideas of the residents.
He is a popular figure in Asahi Town, appearing on many items such as goods, sweets, even mailboxes and stamps.
2. Recommended sightseeing spots
Now, let’s have Momoiro Usahi introduce us to the charm of Asahi Town.
I came to the meeting spot at the Air Shrine.
I visited in early November so it was just the season of autumn leaves and I’m already a little moved by the beautiful colors.
Then, I found a pink rabbit who was completely relaxing!
Please guide me step by step.
■ Air Shrine
・What is the Air Shrine?
Before going to the Air Shrine, I would like to introduce a little bit of its background.
The Air Shrine is the only shrine in the world dedicated to air.
As far back as 1973, Chiyoo Shirakawa, a resident of Asahi Town, said, “Working in the clean air of the mountains is less tiring than working on flat ground. It is the blessing of the clean air created by rich nature. Let’s build an air shrine in the town and appreciate the air and the nature that creates it.” (Quoted from the air shrine pamphlet) Many people agreed with the purpose of building the Air Shrine, which was to appreciate the blessings of nature and cherish the blessings of nature.
The Air Shrine was built as an environmental monument with a new concept that is unique in the world.
By the way, there is a path to climb to reach the air shrine.
When I climbed up chasing after Usahi, who had gone away, a pillar like an object appeared on my right.
When I asked the person who accompanied me, this is a monument that represents the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) that make up all things, and the photo shows “earth.”
It is unusual to have such a monument on the approach to the shrine.
There are four more others besides the one shown in photo here, so please look for them when you go.
When you arrive at the shrine, there is a 5m square stainless steel plate enshrined there.
The surface is like a mirror, and you can feel that the surrounding trees are reflected and the beauty is doubled!
It’s a pretty spot!
・How to worship
The method of worship is also different from ordinary shrines.
There is a board with instructions on how to pray, so let’s take a look!
① 2 bows
② 4 claps (chant spring, summer, autumn, winter in your heart)
③ Spread your arms in a V shape and take a deep breath, thanking you for the clean air.
④ 1 bow
I visited the shrine with a pink rabbit to appreciate the beautiful nature and clean air.
Every year in Asahi Town, June 5, which is World Environment Day, is designated as “Asahi Town Air Day” by ordinance, and the “Air Festival” is held on that day and the nearest Saturday and Sunday.
At the air festival, the diety enshrined in the basement of the main hall of the shrine is displayed.
Surrounded by fresh green beech forest, it looks like it will be a very mysterious event.
Of course, the pink rabbit will also participate.
The autumn foliage at Air Shrine is wonderful, but the green in early summer is also exceptional.
I wanted to enjoy the scenery that changes with the seasons.
By the way, it is closed in winter, so please be aware that you cannot go to the Air Shrine in that season.
■ Asahi Shizenkan Cottage
I also stopped by Asahi Shizenkan, which is located near the Air Shrine.
From spring to autumn, we recommend staying at a cottage and enjoying a barbecue with friends, or going mountain climbing or trekking.
In winter, you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding at the snow park.
There are 18 cottages with 3 types to choose from: 10 people, 6 people, and 4 people.
All the buildings are equipped with baths and toilets, and the kitchen is equipped with basic cooking utensils, so you can bring your favorite ingredients and enjoy it like a home party.
Feels like a villa!
You will have a wonderful time with your friends and family.
Also, if you want to relax and enjoy yourself, the hotel is recommended!
Please enjoy yourself with a plan that suits you.
■ Sawaradaira Terraced Rice Fields
Next, he showed us the scenery of Sawaradaira Terraced Rice Fields.
It is a view spot where you can overlook the vast terraced countryside.
It seems that various expressions will appear depending on the season and the time and weather.
I visited just after the harvest was finished, and it was around evening, so I felt a little nostalgic!
During the rice-planting season, the water-filled rice fields sparkle and give a different atmosphere.
In addition, from June to July, Asahi Town’s flower, the himesayuri (rosy lily), also blooms, making it possible to see even more beautiful rural scenery.
■ Asahi Town Wine Castle
Next, we went to Asahi Town Wine Castle.
It’s certainly a castle-like building.
The wine castle has a vineyard where wine grapes are grown.
The climate of Asahi Town is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, with large temperature differences.
This climate is suitable for growing fruits and produces good quality grapes.
Wine Castle Early October
As soon as you enter the wine castle, you can see the glass factory in front of you.
If you are lucky, you can see how the wine is actually bottled.
If you go further inside, there is a shop.
Asahimachi Wine is a talented group that wins awards at domestic wine competitions every year.
We have a wide range of wines that match various dishes, such as high-quality red wines with rich flavor and fragrant aromas, and white wines with the fresh and fruity taste of grapes.
You can also taste the wine in the store, so you can find the wine you like and buy it.
・Asahi Town Wine Festival
By the way, every year on September 23 (Autumn Equinox), the Asahi Town Wine Festival is held, where you can enjoy wine to your heart’s content.
There is also a grape stomping competition, and it seems to be quite exciting.
The advance ticket comes with a barbecue set, so you can fully enjoy wine!
It seems that wine is prepared for the total number of visitors in terms of 1 liter per person.
It’s a perfect event for a pleasant autumn.
In 2022, it was canceled due to the COVID 19 pandemic, but I just hope that it will be held again soon.
■ Asahimachi Roadside Station (Apple Forest)
The last place I visited was the Asahimachi roadside station.
If you take a picture of this roadside station from above, it looks like an apple.
This alone is quite unique, as expected of the hometown of apples.
I asked Momoiro Usahi what he recommended at the roadside station.
・Recommendation #1: Apple
Of course, speaking of Asahi Town, it is most known for apples.
In addition to the shop inside the roadside station, there are many apples on display outside too.
There is a wide selection of varieties, and the timing of when they line up over the counter varies depending on the variety, so you can enjoy apples for a long time.
Recently popular are “Takoku” and “Shinano Sweet”.
Of course, the Bagless Fuji apple is also popular.
Bagless Fuji apples are written as Sun Fuji when displayed over the counter.
It means Fuji apples grown in the sun.
・Recommendation #2: Usahi Market Bag
The second recommendation is the Usahi Market bag.
It is a slightly larger than usual eco bag with a pink rabbit design.
It looks like it will hold a lot of apples!
It is also convenient for regular shopping.
There are other goods designed with pink rabbits, so why not buy them as souvenirs?
・Recommendation #3: Soft-serve ice cream
The third recommendation is the apple soft-serve ice cream sold at the Apple Market outside.
After all, speaking of roadside stations, soft-serve ice cream is one of the most popular item found there.
Here there are some that are topped with apples and others that contain grated apples.
The soft-serve ice cream is a must-buy not only in hot weather, but also in cold weather.
If you go to the roadside station, please try it.
・Recommended by the editorial department: gravitational burger
I was a little curious about the attraction burger, which is sold in limited quantities.
It is a hamburger with patties made with 100% Yamagata pork and apple slices from Asahi Town.
If you are interested in this popular item that will be gone by noon, please try it once.
3. To all viewers of VISIT YAMAGATA
I received a message from the Asahi Town Hall.
“From now on, Bagless Fuji apples, which are the main variety of the town, will be at their peak, and there will be a lot of people buying apples.
Also, on November 19 (Sat.) and 20 (Sun.), the Asahi Town Industry Festival will be held for the first time in three years at the Asahi Town Gymnasium and Parking Lot.
Seasonal Bagless Fuji apples, fruits, furniture, wine, and other specialty products from Asahi Town are available, as well as events such as apple fairs and apple bobbing that children will love.
To everyone reading this article, Asahi Town has a lot to offer, so please come and visit us. ”
This time, we introduced recommended spots in Asahi Town, but we haven’t been able to tell you everything yet.
Asahi Town has many other attractions.
Also, I would like to visit in spring and summer.