Written by Mizzochi
Kagawa Diary - An American Girl Living In Mitoyo
Kat Bralla, a girl from the USA, chose to live in Kagawa during her stay in Japan. How come she didn't choose Tokyo? She told me about all the hidden charms of Mitoyo, the city where she lives in Kagawa.
An American Girl in Kagawa's Mitoyo City
On Mt. Shiude, Shonai Peninsula
"When they told me to go to Kagawa, I misunderstood it as "Kanagawa." It was a typical mistake for a foreigner. Ha ha ha." Kat Bralla, a girl from Pennsylvania, explained to me how she got to Mitoyo with a charming smile.
Kat is working for Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority since 2018.
Mitoyo is located on the coast of Setouchi Inland Sea, which is famous for stunning sightseeing spots such as Shimanami Kaido, the Peace Memorial Museum and Miyajima in Hiroshima, or events such as Setouchi Triennale, one of the largest contemporary art festivals in Japan.
Chichibugahama Beach. Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority
Mitoyo is especially known as a place that allows visitors to enjoy the full beauty of Setouchi Inland Sea.
Chichibugahama Beach in Mitoyo has been named the most beautiful sunset spot in Japan by a travel publication in 2018. Since then, its popularity as a scenic spot as increased, especially among young visitors.
On Mt. Shiude, Shonai Peninsula
The Shonai Peninsula also draws many visitors. They seek its beautiful cherry blossoms and hydrangea flowers.
Mitoyo does boast all these beautiful places. Still I was curios about Kat's reasons to come all the way here so I asked: "Many foreign residents tend to go in big cities such as Tokyo. Why did you choose to live in a rural area?"
Mitoyo - A Paradise between the Sea and the Mountains
Kat (upper right) in her college days
Kat loved studying foreign languages from her childhood. When she was in high school, she watched a Japanese movie by chance."I’d never really heard spoken Japanese before, and I just fell in love with the rhythm and the sound of Japanese."
After studying Japanese at university, she applied for JET Program (*1). At that time, she didn't even know where Kagawa was. But the authorities of the JET Program strongly recommended her to go to Mitoyo in Kagawa. "I decided to leave it up to fate," said Kat.
She visited Mitoyo in August in 2016. Fascinating scenery was awaiting her.
*JET Programme... The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. A Japanese government program that invites foreign young people to teach foreign languages in Japanese schools.
On Mt. Shiude, Shonai Peninsula
"I was amazed! It was like a paradise between the sea and the mountains. It reminded me of Acadia National Park in Maine, one of my favorite places."
Setouchi Inland Sea is known for the beauty of its archipelago. At the same time, the area has small mountains covered in lush greenery. These mountains are called "Onigiri Yama" (Rice Ball Mountains) because they are not very high but rather round. The sea and the mountains create a wonderful view.
With her Japanese colleagues and friends in Kagawa. Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority
Before coming here, Kat was a little concerned about whether people would welcome her. In Tokyo, she met some Japanese who were nervous about meeting non-Japanese people. "Because Mitoyo is a rural area, I thought that this tendency would be more severe."
But it turned out to be very different from what she expected. Shikoku Island, where Kagawa is located, boasts a rich tradition of pilgrimages. Thanks to this, the locals are kind to visitors from the outside. Kat made friends right away in Mitoyo.
She especially likes the closeness among Mitoyo residents. "They often care for me, asking things like "Aren't you tired now?" or "Do you have any troubles?" They sometimes give me what they cultivate in their farms. I love the warm atmosphere of this place."
Kat has been working in Mitoyo for two years already and she fell in love with this city. "I often work with the staff from the Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority, so they invited me to work from their office. This is because they knew that I wanted to continue living here."
With her Japanese colleagues. Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority
One of the major events organized by the Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority is "Awashima Adventure, which is held every year in June. More than fifty foreign residents living around Mitoyo gather in Awashima, a small island in Mitoyo.
On Mt. Jonoyama. Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority
Awashima is one of Kat's favorite places in Mitoyo. "You can see a fantastic view from the top of Mt. Jonoyama. There are unique artworks with this view made by buoys. One of them is the world-famous Missing Post Office that receives and looks after letters you want to write but don’t know where to send."
Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority
The Awashima Adventure is a great chance to make friends in Japan. ”We hold a barbecue, enjoy hiking, and participate in volunteer work for cleaning up the beach together. I made many friends at this event.”
Participants from various countries were curious about this local shop in Awashima. Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority
You also get to feel the serene atmosphere of a Japanese village. "Except Hawaii, in the U.S, there are few inhabited islands. For me, walking around Awashima is a very fresh experience."
* If you would like to find out more about Awashima Adventure or other events in Mitoyo, please follow the Facebook page of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority. They publish here event information in Japanese and English.
Hidden Hiking Trails in Mitoyo
Tsutajima Hiking Trail
"Mitoyo is blessed with many beautiful hiking trails, but regrettably, we haven't published much information about them in other languages. One of my missions in Mitoyo is to show people the hidden beauty and charms of this city."
As an example of hiking trails, she mentioned Tsutajima, an uninhabited island near Chichibugahama Beach. This island has no residents but the hiking trail is well maintained. A major trail-run event is held here every June.
The "Momotaro Rock" on the Tsutajima Hiking Trail. Apparently, it is related to the famous Japanese legend of the hero Momotaro.
"Along the hiking trail, there are unique shrines and monuments, as wellas places with a magnificent view.” To go to Tsutajima, you can take a boat from the Tsutajima Boat Office. The fee for a round trip to Tsutajima is 400 yen. Boarding takes about 5 minutes.
"Mitoyo has many charms that big cities don't have. Once you come here, you'll make unforgettable memories."
For sightseeing information on Mitoyo, please contact the Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority. You might get a reply from the one and only Kat, the cheerful American girl with a charming smile.
Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority
Address: Kagawa, Mitoyo, Takuma-cho, Takuma 1338‐127 (After August 27, 2019, the office will move inside the Mitoyo City Office, in Mitoyo, Takase-cho, Shimokatsuma 2373-1)