Tuesday 4 August 2015

Nagano - Oshi Ryokan (Japanese hospitality at it's finest) - Part 3

This is part 3 of a series of blog posts about a recent trip to Nagano.  You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

On my travels around Japan I stay in a fair few hotels which vary in style from a simple business hotel to old traditional Japanese ryokans.  I often make a mention of where I stay if the place is especially nice.  Never have I dedicated a whole post to where I stay.....until now.

At the end of my last post I finished by talking about taking a bus from Nagano city to Togakushi.  This is where I was to spend the next 2 nights.

When I had been planning this trip, I was originally going to stay in a hotel in Ueda city where Yuuki and Miwa were staying.  However, we were not able to find a hotel room as Ueda city was having it's festival on that weekend, so I had to look elsewhere for a hotel.  I found a place called Oshi Ryokan right in Togakushi, which was where we were going to be the next day anyway, so I went ahead and booked a couple of nights there.  Oshi Ryokan is in a 250 year old building, and in a country with as many earthquakes as Japan has, that is an achievement in itself!

From the moment I booked, the owner of the ryokan Mr Hidenori Oshi, was in contact with me checking to see if I wanted dinner included in my stay, and providing me with a link to the bus timetable for the bus I needed to catch to get from Nagano City to Togakushi.

When I arrived in Nagano I gave the ryokan a call to let them know when I would be arriving.  Hidenori answered the phone and spoke great English!  He told me to make sure I would arrive with an empty stomach because dinner would be served when I arrived and that there was a lot of food!

I got onto the bus which spent the next hour winding through the mountains outside of Nagano.  Hairpin after hairpin bend followed as we made our way up into the Japanese Alps.  This was the area of Japan that had hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, so there was no shortage of mountains around.  I got off at the stop I needed and Hidenori met me at the bus stop.  We walked the short distance back to the ryokan and the first thing I noticed was the beautiful thatched roof.

I asked how often the roof had to be changed and was told that it is replaced every 40 years and that it is done quarter by quarter with each quarter being done per year so the whole roof takes 4 years to replace.

We went inside and during check-in, Hidenori noticed where I lived in Tokyo and mentioned that he himself used to live in the same area, so we spent some time talking about the things that were still in the area.

Next, I was taken to my room, a beautiful, traditional Japanese room complete with tatami flooring.

I love tatami flooring!!

Next up was dinner.  Each room at Oshi Ryokan has it's own private dining room and I was lead into mine, again, a lovely traditional Japanese style room.

Dining rooms, like the one above, are double dining rooms with both sides separated by a screen.  The second night I was in a dining room like this one, sharing it with an English guy who lives and works in Majorca.  We got talking to each other over the screen which was removed next time Hidenori came in.  The first night I was in a completely private room.

I walked into the dining room which already had the first course ready to go.  Sashimi and fresh tasty melon (described to me as mountain sashimi!).  Both dishes were delicious and fresh!

I may have forgotten to take photos of one of two of the courses, I was too busy enjoying them!  Next up was, quite simply, one of the best fish dishes I have ever tasted!  Now I grew up around fishing towns and did quite a lot of fishing myself when I was younger, so I know a little about eating fish, but this one was like nothing else I have ever tasted!

Simple, yet so many flavours happening inside my mouth.  I would have been happy having this for every course!

Next was some deliciously tender Shinshu beef.  Again, simply cooked which allowed the flavours of the beef to come through beautifully.

The vegetables were beautiful, crisp and fresh too.  It was around here that I started forgetting to take pictures......  I remembered just in time to take a picture of some soba noodles that were served.  Togakushi is quite famous for soba.

With that, dinner was finished and Hidenori came in and we started talking.  He is a very interesting man who has a few different jobs, including being a Shinto priest!  Now there is something I have always wondered about Shrines and Temples and it is something that I have mentioned on these pages before.  What better time, place and person to ask than right here and now with Hidenori.  I asked him why Temples and Shrines are so quiet and peaceful.  The sounds of the city outside seem to fade away to nothingness.  He smiled at me and said that it is because of the wood.  Temples, Shrines and their structures and gates are all made of wood and wood blocks the noise.  He said it is done so that the Gods can hear us talking to them.  After all,  what point is there talking to the Gods if they can't hear us.  Such a simple, yet deep explanation.

Dinner finished I went back to my room and, a few hours later, fell asleep on the comfortable soft futon.

Morning soon came, which meant breakfast and after the dinner the night before, I was looking forward to breakfast!

I'm not a vegetable expert, but this (whatever it was) was good!

simple, yet delicious salmon,

bacon and egg with a little salad on the side,

miso soup,

and some yogurt and coffee to finish things off.

That breakfast of champions set me up nicely for a day of walking around the shrines in the area (which I will cover in the next post).

Dinner that night and breakfast the next morning followed a similar, delectable pattern.  I can definitely say that the food alone is worth the nightly cost of the ryokan.  

There is also a beautifully deep bath to sink into (up to the neck) to wash away the aches of walking through the mountains.

The next morning before I left, I wandered around for a few last photos.

I reluctantly said goodbye to Hidenori and his wife and left to catch the bus back to Nagano city.  (Thank you very much for your hospitality, I will be back!)

It truly was a great way to spend a couple of nights, and at 9,000 yen a night, including breakfast and dinner, an extremely reasonably priced place to stay, especially when you consider the level of customer service and Japanese hospitality (omotenashi) that you experience when staying here.

If you find yourself heading to Togakushi (and it is a naturally beautiful mountain getaway), look to Oshi Ryokan first for accommodation.  You will not regret it!

Thanks again for having a read.  I hope you are enjoying this mini series of posts on Nagano.  If you are, please leave a comment below, and keep an eye out for part 4.

See you next time.


  1. This ryokan looks absolutely fabulous.The setting,food etc. would make anyone more than content.In the last photo,can you tell what the Kanji is saying?Where I stayed in Oyachi cho,there was an enclosed veranda,looking out on a gravel courtyard.....but how much better is this!...plants/greenery etc.The price seems really good...I can understand why you would like to go back and no doubt you will be driving some business their way.Makes me want to pack up my bags and return!!...slowing up now...like the Dons.They are a train wreck at the moment.Hird has been confirmed as coach for 2016....have my doubts though!You have introduced me to a new word "omotenashi".I am wondering how you would use it in a sentence.Could you use it as in"Thank you for your wonderful omotenashi, Hidenori san?Perhaps you could romaji this for me!

    1. Hi Noel,

      it was a really nice place to stay, the setting was very peaceful and Togakushi as a location is simply wonderful!

      What do they say about coaches who receive the Board's support, it is a sure sign they are on their way out? They are running the risk of losing members the way they are going I think. Of course the hardcore members will stay, but the ones on the verge, this may drive them away.

      I don't know what the kanji says on the last photo, and as far as omotenashi goes, I have only ever heard it referred to as a concept, the spirit of omotenashi. I will check for you, or maybe if any of my Japanese readers see this, you are welcome to help out!

    2. Hi Noel,

      I asked one of my students about the kanji in the last photo. Apparently it says "The God of Light".

  2. Absolutely love the fact that the wood is what blocks the sound out!

    1. Isn't it amazing, in this high tech world, in which Japan is one of the most advanced countries, it is something as simple as wood that gets the job done!