Tsumago, Kiso Valley – A Ryokan Experience – 2

Dinner and breakfast are part of the ryokan experience which came with the booking. I had made prior arrangements with my want’s and don’t’s. They accepted this request. We looked forward to dinner. We were back early from exploring the laid back town and streets of Tsumago. We wanted to savour the rather large room we had. We sat at the veranda slouched on the rattan chair with a cup of green tea and enjoyed the garden and mountain views. Then we moved on to the cushions at the low table. With our legs stretched out on the tatami floor and our back against the wooden backrest, we felt relaxed while consuming yet another cup of tea. After a long shower in the common bath, we were ready for dinner. Lee Cheng enjoyed her “onsen”, a cypress hot tub.

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In a communal dining area on the ground floor, Catherine, our American dining host, dressed in a surgeon’s blue overalls, explained each dish and its origins in English. Fine displays of delicacies were already laid on the table. We looked forward to this ryokan dinner experience. Each dish had its unique flavour and taste. Like most Japanese taste – sweet, sour, tangy and salty were represented here as well. Presentation was immaculate. Sometimes, I hesitated to dissemble the artistically assembled dishes. Bit by bit, as we consumed seemingly small amounts of food, we were getting full. We managed to complete the 8 courses and the fabulous desert. The food was delicious and satisfying indeed. It was quite unlike dining at a restaurant. The atmosphere, unhurried, being served and attended to plus a fabulous meal. The total ryokan experience – stay and dinning was beyond comparison. It ticked all the boxes. It was not opulent but just the way they are. We strolled in the quite streets wearing the “geta” and later dressed in our “yukata”, crept into our comfy futon beddings. It was good feeling indeed.

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“In total, there were 8 courses (yes 8).

The first course was a platter…: roast chicken piece, rainbow trout
sashimi and many more nibbles…….fermented bees and green tea soba
sushi…..lightly salted fried fish with lemon and pickle……

Then the 2nd course ….pickled mushroom and cucumber with the
perfect acidity and sweetness to tingle our taste buds.
3rd…was winter melon served on a pumpkin sauce with a mushroom,
prawn and green bean shavings on top. Our hot plates of beef and miso
were close to being cooked…..
but…the 4th course – tempura, The batter was extremely light…..
Now, our beef (which …were fed apples …beer and massaged) was
cooked…..with veges and a light and tasty miso soup..
A light soup flavoured with mushroom and chicken ball…
7th course…rice stick with sweet savoury sauce. By now we were
getting quite full……
The next course was desert…..green pandan cake, light and fluffy,
grapes and apples that looked like rabbits. Also …frozen coffee cup
with cream on top….
……headed back to our room
……and one of the best dinners I had ever eaten in my life”

– Navindd

“The next day….breakfast was every bit as good as dinner …breakfast – fried salmon, egg rolls, a variety of pickles, azukini beans, seaweed with soya sauce and rice….miso soup….full and satisfied”  – Navindd

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After a delightful breakfast, we once again looked around our ryokan. Bills settled, the staff bid us farewell, as we left idyllic and atmospheric Tsumago for Nagiso by a local bus. From here, we caught an onward train to Nakatsugawa and then to Nagoya on an ordinary train. Kiso Valley had indeed been a very pleasant and enriching bygone era experience. To have walked and resided in the very places Daimyo, Samurai and merchants during the Edo Period is gratifying. Even more pleased that the people had maintained not only the buildings of that era, but also the atmosphere (although touristy).

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