Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden

Explore Japanese nature, small villages and countrysides

Japan is a country of steep mountains surrounding wide flat plains where people have lived for thousands of years. These gentle hills are named Satoyama, the area between mountain foothills and arable flat land.

On the largest plain lies the country’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Biwa, which is not at all far from Japan’s ancient, capital city of Kyoto.

The slopes that stretch down towards the lake have been terraced. Here rice seedlings need shallow water in which to grow, and the neat, meticulously constructed paddy fields provide just this.

Some of them have been cultivated continuously for thousands of years.

Alongside them stand patches of woodland where, for centuries, the people have found their fuel and their food. This is a land that has been touched by people, yet the people tread lightly upon it.

It’s a land that has been ruled for centuries by the demands of the rice, yet it’s still dominated by the rhythmic cycle of the seasons.

Here is a landscape that the Japanese people hold so close to their hearts that it has become their Satoyama; Japan’s Secret Watergarden.

Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden
  • Info
  • Release date2004
  • Full runtime
  • Director(s)Masumi Mizunuma
  • Part of the seriesSatoyama
  • Production companyNHK