Kaneyama is a small town in the north east of Yamagata. It offers visitors a glimpse into a rural side of Japan that has remained largely unchanged for generations. Surrounded by rice fields and forest-covered hills, it is a world away from the bright lights of Tokyo, and life here moves at a far more leisurely pace. It has four very distinct seasons, typified by hot, humid summers and heavy snowfall in winter. The ever-changing landscape is part of its beauty, and there is always something new to see, whatever the time of year.
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I spent three years living in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher on the JET Programme, not knowing what to expect but with images of Tokyo, geisha and Mount Fuji in my mind. I was placed in Yamagata prefecture in a small rural town that I couldn't find in any guidebook. I learnt to snowboard, climbed mountains, tried my hand at ikebana and kyuudo and koto, dressed up as a samurai, karaoked til the early hours, become obsessed with onsen, and had countless other adventures and experiences. For a relatively small country, Japan has so much to offer, and I love nothing better than exploring - particularly heading off the beaten track and into the beautiful countryside. I set myself a personal challenge to visit each of the 47 prefectures, which gave me a great excuse to do a lot of travelling. Although I've now ticked them all off, there's still so much I want to see. Japan will always be my second home and and I'm looking forward to discovering and learning more for a long time to come.