"Senmaida are a feature of remote areas of Japan that used to be common, but are now increasingly rare since so many of them have been abandoned and have reverted to forests or used for orchards or for crops less labour intensive than rice. A senmaida landscape is exceptionally beautiful, the first time it comes into view it takes your breath away. You can take good photos, but no photo can ever quite capture the scale, the intricacy, or the rustic charm of an living yet ageless landscape."
This description comes from the superbly informative website ( http://www.yamasa.org/japan/english/destinations/aichi/horai_senmaida.html ) of my language school.
Last summer, on the northern coast of the Noto Hanto peninsula, I took a bus from the town of Wajima out to one of the most famous examples of senmaida ('1000 rice paddies'). The following images perhaps serve to confirm that the camera cannot do the landscape justice.
Here, not for the first time in Japan, I saw a small snake.
During Golden Week, I also visited the area around Kanaya, famous for its tea (Shizuoka's green tea is the most famous in Japan) and wasabi. There's a particularly attractive stretch of the JR Tokaido line, east of Kanaya, which is flanked on both sides by intricate senmaida-like tea fields.
And, here on a well-preserved stretch of the old Tokaido road, what did we see? Again, a snake. Snow came close to stepping on it.
This time, a large one: 2.5-3m, we estimate. It unhurriedly eased itself off the path and into a hole in the stone wall.
As formidable as they may look, these snakes are harmless. (There is only one venomous snake in Japan, a non-aggressive adder which also poses little risk.) But from the look on Snow's face, at the time, you wouldn't have thought so.