A Labor of Love: The Inagawa Town Volunteer Tourist Guide Association
Inagawa Town, in southeastern Hyogo Prefecture, is easily accessible from Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto. Named after the north-south flowing Ina-gawa River, the town is a treasure trove of beautiful natural scenery and history. Foe this article, we interviewed Ms. Nishio, the head of an organization that promotes Inagawa Town attractions, the “Inagawa Town Kanko Volunteer Guide no Kai” (Inagawa Town Volunteer Tourist Guide Association), about activities and highlights in the area.
Inagawa Town Kanko Volunteer Guide no Kai (Inagawa Town Volunteer Tourist Guide Association) The establishment of the volunteer guide association was sparked by two events. First, in 2003, Inagawa Town was certified as a model district for the “Historical Road,” a route where visitors can experience the history and beauty of the Kansai region. Then in 2004, the Prime Minister certified a regional restoration plan called “the plan to revitalize the clear-stream village of the Taiko Legend and Mokujiki statues.” On one hand, an information facility was constructed for the popular tourist spot, the Tada Silver and Copper Mine, and on the other hand, the volunteer tourist guide organization was launched in 2007. As a participating member since inauguration, Chairperson Nishio not only studied Inagawa Town tourism during the training period but has also visited popular Kansai destinations to learn from tour guides and invited bus guides to give her detailed training, such as where to stand and how to use her voice.
Yukyu no Yakata Museum Mokujikibutsu Statues
There are usually around 30 members in the Volunteer Guide Association, representing a wide range of age groups from those currently working to others who have been retired for several years. Even more surprisingly, only one of the members was born in Inagawa Town. All others moved here from elsewhere. “We’re from different places, but what I can say we have in common is that we love Inagawa Town,” says Chairperson Nishio, who is also one of those who moved here.
Activities In addition to standard tour guide duties, they also provide tourist information at the roadside station booth, and guide visitors at various venues during events. Among tour guides, 80 to 90% of the guides are for the Tada Silver and Copper Mine, which has been designated as a national historic site. During the tourist season, volunteer guides are stationed there to provide information. In addition, the Volunteer Guide Association has also selected the “Eight Famous Places of Inagawa” in collaboration with the Inagawa Town Kanko Kyokai (Tourism Association), and offers tours to these famous places.
Guides at Work
the Tada Silver and Copper Mine, the Ginzan Area
At the Tada Silver and Copper Mine, silver and copper were mined and smelted from the latter half of the 12th century until the mine closed in 1973. Blueprints, raw ore and mining tools of the Tada Silver and Copper Mine are on display at the Tada Silver and Copper Mine “Yukyu no Yakata” (“Museum of Eternity”). In addition, you can wander inside the tunnels of Aoki Mabu (Mine Shaft), 600 meters north of the Yukyu no Yakata.
Address: 4-1 Nagayamae, Ginzan, Inagawa Town, Hyogo Access: From Nose Electric Railway Nissei Chuo Station, take the Hankyu Bus to Ginzanguchi or Shirogane-2 and walk about 20 minutes.
Mt. Oya, the highest peak in the Hanshin area, provides a magnificent panoramic view as one of the “Eight Famous Scenic Views of Inagawa.” In early summer, the hillsides are carpeted in hydrangeas.
Address: 1-1 Onogadake, Kashihara, Inagawa Town, Hyogo Access: Shin-Meishin Expressway → Kawanishi IC → about 30 minutes by car
Inagawa Town recommendations from the volunteer guides Set amid expansive natural surroundings, 80% of Inagawa Town is designated as the Inagawa Valley Prefectural Nature Park. “In this environment, surrounded by mountains and the Ina-gawa River flowing north to south through town, the water, air, and fresh vegetables grown here are all wonderful,” says Chairperson Nishio. However, that is not the only the attraction of Inagawa Town. Besides the heritage of the Tada Silver and Copper Mine Ruins and the Mokujikibutsu (Buddhist Statures) around the Historical Road, other attractions include the artistry of Inagawa Sculpture Road with about 170 sculptures placed around town, dishes made with wild boar meat, and the unique bakery in Inagawa Town known as the “Ina Pan” bakery.
Inagawa Sculpture Road was created and donated by the sculptor Masao Suzuki, who hoped that these artworks based on the theme of love would “foster a love of hometown.” The sculptures standing throughout Nissei New Town have become part of the neighborhood, loved by townspeople of all ages. “In the residential areas some of them are set up as parking buffers of cars, and each one has a different expression, which is interesting,” said Chairperson Nishio.
Another recommendation from Nishio is the “Irori Chaya Sato no Ie” (the Country Hearth Teahouse), a quaint restaurant in a former samurai residence enveloped in the aura of old Japan. Gather round the hearth and enjoy cuisine made with Inagawa ingredients such as dishes made with wild boar.
Address: 23 Uchigaichi, Shima, Inagawa Town, Hyogo Access: From Nose Electric Railway Nissei Chuo Station, take the Hankyu Bus to Sugio stop and walk 3 minutes
On the Inagawa Bread Map, why not find an interesting Inagawa Town bakery and go have a look? Available at the Inagawa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hyogo Prefectural Hanshin North Area Tourism Promotion Council, the Roadside Station Inagawa, the Takarazuka Kita Service Area, and other listed stores.
During the interview, as Chairperson Nishio described the volunteer guide group activities and the charm of the town with such pleasure and enthusiasm, her love for the town was obvious from beginning to end.
Seishikan Byobuiwa (Sheer Cliff)
Inagawa Town is a place shaped by the forces of nature and history, where the scenery of ancient Japan lives on. Take a trip here and enjoy the warm welcome of volunteer guides led by Nishio who love Inagawa Town!
↓ Click here for applications and inquiries to the Inagawa Town Volunteer Tourist Guide ↓ Inagawa Town Volunteer Tourist Guide Association Office TEL: 072-766-8707 FAX: 072-766-8902 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org