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The Nagano Prefecture is a beautiful part of Japan, especially during the cooler months. Don’t just stay in Nagano city – it’s worth exploring the countryside even just for a day. If you can’t get yourself out there during winter, where snow-capped mountains make for a pretty Instagram photo or two, then walks through the region’s forests and orchards in all their vibrant autumn foliage glory is the next best thing.
Unfortunately, rural Japan can be a bit of a black hole when it comes to finding places to eat. During my stay in Shibu Onsen, I spotted only one izakaya and a couple of gift stores selling Japanese snacks and confectionery (think red pepper and apple Kit Kats) – unfortunately, these were the only places where I could effectively grab a feed if hunger struck.
Or I could grab a soft boiled egg that’s slowly been cooked using the hot spring water. I spotted a few of these on the streets of Shibu Onsen – they were found just outside the ryokans. You chuck in a 50 yen coin (equivalent to 50 Aussie cents) in the bowl and grab yourself an egg – yup, the honesty system was at play here.
Most ryokans (Japanese guest houses), however, provide some sort of meal option for guests. At Senshinkan Matsuya, the ryokan that I stayed at, breakfast is included in the room cost and if you wanted dinner, an extra charged applied.
Don’t get me wrong, I love soft boiled eggs but this was a much better option. Unlike last night’s dinner, Senshinkan Matsuya’s breakfast spread had an almost even east-west distribution. There was yoghurt with plum compote (as in most Asian countries, I did find the ‘plain’ yoghurt too sweet). There was a piece of red grapefruit. There was a lettuce salad as well as spinach, seaweed and miso soup with daikon. And then there was a piece of pan-fried salmon fillet and a ham omelette with steamed white rice on the side. To top things off, there was black coffee with a tub of creamer should you feel like white coffee.
It was a lovely breakfast; it was delicious and filling but without being too heavy. At the end of it, it was time for me to check out. My kind hosts then gave me a lift to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park where I would spend the rest of the morning. Tmomi and Keiko, thank you so much for your kind hospitality during my stay at Senshinkan Matsuya.
I probably took about a hundred shots like these guys. Unfortunately, they’re still sitting in my SLR and I’m too lazy to upload them.