Nagano – a temple, a ryokan and a kaiseki dinner
So after Matsumoto it was time to visit Nagano.
When travelling near the big new year holiday, you learn that food is hard to come by…
Had to queue up for 30 minutes for this bowl of ramen, not because it was especially good (it was ok) but just that there seemed to be almost nothing else open.
We also found out that the ninja museum was closed… One of the main reasons we had decided to visit Nagano… Sometimes the English information lies… So instead we went off to Zenkoji – a famous temple in Nagano. According to the old guy who was queuing with us in the rain for ramen, there is nothing else to see in Nagano except for that temple. How lucky for us…
This is the main approach, lined by many shops selling the usual tourist goods.
Lots of pink and frilly things for those so inclined.
One of the guardians of the temple.
And here is Zenkoji itself.
Originally constructed in the 6th century, it was “recently” rennovated in the 1700s.
Its grounds were also immaculate.
It also houses the first ever Buddhist statue brought to Japan, although you only get to see a copy of it for a few weeks ever six years… Talk about being protective. That’s even worse than trying to see the Japanese emperor! At least you get to see him once year and he isn’t a copy.
It was also a popular spot for the tour/school groups.
Luckily we managed to find a quieter area to contemplate…
What to eat next. The soba icecream was sadly not as good as the previous night…
We then took the dark dark train to our Ryokan. Trains are every 30 minutes in Nagano. Quite a change from 2-3 minutes in Tokyo!
I find ryokans to be very relaxing. There is nothing like kicking back in a tatami room.
Taking a dip in an onsen (Japanese natural spring bath).
And then settling down for a special special meal prepared for you to be eaten in your own private room.
So this is dinner. Let’s get you and the food more acquainted.
The vegetables plate. You grill this on your own grill and then eat it. Was particularly impressed by the leaks. Had this great sharp fresh taste.
Smoked salmon. This has to rate as the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had. The smoky flavour is very delicate but doesn’t overwhelm the taste of the salmon unlike others I have tried. I was quite surprised to see this though. Thought I would be getting some sashimi! I guess at Nagano its hard to get access to the sea.
Fried fishy. Gollum wouldn’t approve as he likes things raw. Also oysters wrapped in cabbage. Unfortunately the fishy was a bit burnt and the taste of the lettuce overpowered the oyster.
Roasted mussels. alright, but nothing special.
Roasted ginko nuts. Yum!
Fish eggs jelly. Quite good.
Pickled vegetables. Ok but nothing special.
This was some strange fish/flour mashed food with peppers. It was quite interesting. The closest thing I would compare it to would be to a deep fried fish ball crossed with a fried dough ball. One of the better items.
Also a more mysterious dish, but very good. Pumpkin and snow peas in a viscous liquid mixed with some white things (egg white?)? Very delicious as the sweet taste of the pumpkin was well complemented by the slightly salty sauce.
Snow peas with miso paste. Interesting, but nothing to shout about.
Now, I may have managed to bore you but now.
But I am saving the best for last.
So, this is a piece of beef. If you have been reading my other posts, you will have noticed that I am a bit obsessed with Japanese beef (wagyu). So this might look like any other type of meat.
BUT – this is actually apple fed beef. Imagine the silky melt in the mouth consistency of top grade Japanese beef with a hint of apple. Simply excellent. A bit different from the Kobe variant which is fed on beer. This is a more healthy variant. Now hopefully that type of diet will rub off on me.
The grill for the goods.
And preparing the beef before its demise in my stomach.
In sum, I would rate the dinner 7/10. There were some stand out items, such as the beef, pumpkins soup and weird fried thingy. However, the rest of the food was rather ordinary. Especially taking into account that this is not a cheap place (along with ryokan accommodation its over 17000 yen a night) I was honestly expecting more as my previous two ryokan visits had excellent food.
Anyhow, until next time.