On fourth day, I woke up to a sound of a rooster at my brother’s cabin in Yamanashi prefecture. It was a chilly morning but I headed for a jog in the narrow mountain roads. As I walk through the dirt road, my brother’s two dogs looked at me with watchful eyes and don’t know what to think of me yet. I crossed a railroad track and started jogging. Now the only thing I feel is the weight of chilly air on my shoulders, sound of birds chirping and my breath. As I started jogging the sun started to rise and in far distance I could see a peak of Mount Fuji with snow on its top. The sun was finally up and along the road I saw cracked chestnuts and ripe persimmons waiting to be harvested. Back at my brother’s cabin, I enjoyed a warm bowl of oatmeal and heaping cup of rooibos tea next to a wood burning stove, and how delicious it tasted. Now my day is in full swing as we took a drive to 200 year old farmhouse that has been converted to an inn.
The farmhouse is about a twenty minute drive from my brother’s cabin, but there were no signs, to tell us that if in fact this is the inn we are looking for. We parked our car a few yards away from what appears to be a path leading to the farmhouse and started walking. As we strolled up the hill next to a vegetable garden with daikon radish and leeks, I can see hanging of about 100 or so of peeled persimmons on kitchen twine ready to be dried for the winter. And along the “nokishita”, or under the roofline of the house were dried Umeboshi are plums that were ready to be pickled. At this time, I knew that we had indeed found the right place.
The 200 year old farmhouse has been converted to a private inn by a professionally trained chef whose family owned the house and farm near by. At the farm grow their own rice, vegetables and fruits in their garden and raise chickens. He also hunts deer and wild boar and forages for wild mushrooms and young bamboo shoots in the mountains to serve their guests for dinner. In his farmhouse kitchen, there is a large stone grinder for grinding buckwheat flour for making soba noodles, and a wood burning stove for steaming rice. I am amazed at the amount of food he makes from scratch from ingredients which are grown on the farm and or foraged in the mountains (one of the only an exceptions is the dried Bonito he uses for traditional soup stocks). He brews his own soy sauce, pickles seasonal vegetables and fermented soybeans to make miso.
The farmhouse serves local sake, craft beers and whisky from the Suntory Distillery nearby.
I have visited the distillery many years ago with my husband and then infant son. This famous distillery is located in the woods at the base of the mountains, and is a must visit during our food tour. Along with guided tours of the distillery and tastings, there is also a restaurant, delicatessen and gift shop. Right now, Japan is making some of the finest whisky in the world, and this is the place to learn about the history and craft of whisky in Japan.
In the evening, I catch an express train back to Tokyo for more meetings with restaurant owners and chefs. As I am boarding the train packed with salary men and women, I realize my travels in Nagano and Yamanashi seems like a dream and now it was time to get back to the reality. I told myself it will only be a short goodbye until I return here next spring.