Nagano Gotta Eat – Oyaki

While traveling in Japan it is essential to try the local cuisine. Nagano is famous for soba, Nozawana (a pickled leafy green), basashi (horse sashimi), some insect dishes like inago (grasshoppers) and hachinoko (bee larva), and my favorite oyaki.

Oyaki are stuffed dumplings. The dough can be made from flour or buckwheat. It is stuffed with a variety of ingredients like mushrooms, kabocha squash, kiriboshi daikon (dried daikon strips), eggplant, walnuts, azuki sweet red beans, or my favorite, the local pickle Nozawana – a leafy green (photo above left).

We bought these handmade oyaki at a local supermarket. At home we fry them up in a pan with a little bit of oil. A great snack or side dish to a meal.

Nagato Cheese – Nagano

There are a handful of Japanese cheese producers that I am a big fan of and one of them is Nagato from Nagano. It’s on the top of the mountains, the air is clean and crisp and there are cows. For this Minnesota girl, it was like visiting a friend’s home growing up, but with cheese, and a big selection to choose from. And, the area is filled with birch trees (shirakaba), another nice nod to home.

There is the farm, a retail shop, and a restaurant.

My favorite is the tezukuri gouda miso cheese. Cubes of gouda cheese mixed with Shinshu miso. We love this with wine or saké. There is also ice cream, yogurt, and milk. The restaurant serves pizza, cheese and sausage plates, curry, and  cheesecake.

Nagato Farm Bokujo 長門牧場

長野県小県郡長和町大門3539-2

Nagano-ken, Chiisagata-gun, Nagawa-machi, Daimon 3539-2

http://nagatofarm.com/

Access by train and car (in Japanese):

http://nagatofarm.com/access

If you can’t make it to Nagato, then look for the cheese at the Nagano antenna shop in Ginza. http://www.ginza-nagano.jp/en

Marutaka Miso – Suwa, Nagano

In Suwa, Nagano we came across this lovely Marutaka Miso shop. The shop celebrates its 100th anniversary for making miso since 1916. The area is famous for Shinshu miso, made from soybeans and rice. There is also a kome kōji miso, made with extra kōji (aspergillus oryzae) that is aged for a longer time resulting in a sweet and mild miso.

Marutaka also has many other pantry staples including soy sauce, vinegar, sake, and more. It’s a fun shop to visit and there are plenty of products to bring home for yourself and for omiyage for friends.

One of the miso we brought home is this miso mixed simply with green chili peppers. A spicy dip for crudite of daikon, cucumbers, and carrots. We don’t think of heat in the Japanese palate, so this is a fun way to add spice to your table.

Marutaka Kura 丸高蔵

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Takashima 1-8-30 長野県諏訪市高島1-8-30

http://www.suwa-marutaka.jp/map/

10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday

closed Monday. If Monday is a national holiday, it is open and then closed Tuesday.

 

 

Nunohan Ryokan – Suwa, Nagano

When deciding where to stay while traveling in Japan there are many considerations for type of stay. When we can, we try to stay at local ryokan inns with onsen hot springs. Nunohan was put on my radar by a friend who lives in Suwa, Nagano.

We loved it. The ryokan is kid-friendly, had lovely cuisine, and my requirement for any stay a rotenburo, outdoor onsen. For dinner we included a flight of local saké with the full course kaiseki. Breakfast (photo on left) included freshly made tofu, grilled salmon, and much more. The rotenburo and onsen was big and spacious.

Nunohan is on the banks of Lake Suwa. Here is the view from our room. We loved taking a walk on the lake, kind of reminded me of being back in Minneapolis, but this lake is much bigger than the ones in the Cities and here we have mountains.

Nunohan has been in operation for 160 years.

ぬのはん Nunohan

〒392-0027  長野県諏訪市湖岸通り3-2-9

Tel:0266-52-5500(代) Fax:0266-52-5636

http://www.nunohan.co.jp/index.html

Tomiya Soba in Suwa, Nagano

While in Suwa in Nagano we happened upon this local soba-ya near Suwa station. The noren (curtain outside the shop) that said teuchi (handmade) soba caught our eye.

Nagano is famous for growing soba buckwheat so we try and eat as much soba as we can while in Nagano. During our visit in spring there is also a lot of sansai (wild mountain vegetables) in the mountains. The shop owner hand-harvested the slightly bitter sansai that he fries up as tempura, a great partner for the earthy soba noodles.

The shop is very casual. The walls are lined with autographed square cards from famous visitors. Service is friendly. Soba is also usually also a meal that is affordable, even if the noodles are made from scratch.

A kind follower of the blog posted this message on our Masumi brewery blogpost about Tomiya Soba:

“It’s a soba shop just on the south side of the train tracks. Hook a left out of Kami Suwa stn., walk to the end of the building, go left under the underpass and its on your left. Great place! Very friendly owner and tasty food–especially the horse bacon!”

Arigato, Jason-san!

Teuchi Soba Dokoro Tomiya 手打ちそば処とみや

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Kogandori 3-8-10 長野県諏訪市湖岸通り3-8-10

English website:

http://sobatomiya.com/menu_english.html

Please confirm the hours of operation with the restaurant.

Nagano Masumi Brewery

We love Nagano. It’s just north of Tokyo, easy to access by train, and here you’ll find delicious food and great sake. Suwa is a city that is accessible from Tokyo by train, about two hours from Tokyo on the express train, Azusa. Not the shinkansen, but it passes many stations along the way.

Here is some information on Suwa, a city that sits between a lake and the mountains. There are five sake breweries all within walking distance of the city center, and all conveniently located near each other. You’ll see the breweries in the map below around C2 and D2.

http://en.go-centraljapan.jp/lsc/lsc-upfile/pamphlet/01/40/140_1_file.pdf

In the city of Suwa, we like to stay at a ryokan with an onsen (hot spring bath). In the city there are a few sake breweries where visitors can come in for a tasting. Our favorite sake brewery in Suwa is Masumi. Masumi’s rich history dates back over 300 years.

The tasting room is beautiful. The sake is oishii. The portfolio is big, including some fruit sakes like yuzu and ume (apricot).

masumi-flight

Flights of sake at Masumi

The sake tasting room is spacious and there are several sakes to taste through. If the sake is too heavy to carry, it can always be shipped to your home or hotel. The staff are friendly. Masumi is exported, so this is good news if you come across a sake that you like. There is a good chance you can also buy it overseas.

Masumi Miyasaka Brewing Company 真澄 宮坂酒造

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Motomachi 1-16 長野県諏訪市元町1-16

http://www.masumi.co.jp/english/

 

 

Tsuruya Supermarket in Nagano

Nagano Oyaki

Nagano Oyaki

We love visiting local supermarkets when we travel. Tsuruya is a chain of supermarkets in Nagano that has been on our Go List since it was featured on a television program. It has a strong private brand (PB) program that is very popular with their customers. These items on this blogpost are all PB products from Tsuruya.

First of all, we picked up some oyaki. These are flour-based dumplings that are stuffed with different fillings. We picked up sansai (mountain vegetables), piri kara nasu (spicy eggplant), and Nozawa-na (pickled Nozawa greens). The expiration date for oyaki is often a day or two so we picked up enough for dinner on the day we came back to Tokyo. These do actually freeze well. To cook them up we just put them in a hot non-stick pan and grill on both sides.

Tsuruya jam and juice

Tsuruya jam and juice

Nagano is a big producer of apples and we picked up a refreshing apple juice. There was a big selection of jams, including kyoho, an aromatic Japanese grape and a lovely black sesame paste that has a little sugar in it (not in the photo).

Tsuruya private brand products

Tsuruya private brand products

There were some dried fruit, including lemon and apples. We also loved the karinto, traditional Japanese sweets that came in flavors like apple and gobo (burdock root). The karinto were well received by friends as a small gift from our travels. I only wish I had bought more.

Tsuruya Maruyama Coffee

Tsuruya Maruyama Coffee

I was so happy to find Maruyama Coffee Tsuruya Original Medium Roast Blend. Maruyama Coffee is a popular coffee shop that is based in the resort town of Karuizawa in Nagano. It is a well-balanced up with a refreshing acidity and round flavors.

Tsuruya has shops in some of the bigger cities in Nagano. The one we visited was in Matsumoto. The Tsuruya website says that it is opening a shop near Iiyama station which is on the new Hokuriku shinkansen line. Very exciting news. Worth a detour on your way to Kanazawa.

Tsuruya Supermarket

Matsumoto-shi, Nagisa 1-7-1

松本市渚1-7-1

Nagano Ohmachi No no Hana Soba 長野大町 手打ちそば 野の花

Nagano No no Hana soba

Nagano No no Hana soba

No no Hana in Ohmachi is a quiet soba shop where the master makes the noodles from scratch. It is far from the station so a taxi would be needed if you don’t have a car. Here is the kamo seiro, soba with a duck and leek dipping sauce.

Nagano No no Hana tempura

Nagano No no Hana tempura

The menu (Japanese only) was quite extensive and had many small dishes like homemade konnyaku with a mustard miso dressing, and vegetable tempura. I love this beautiful presentation of the basket with the tempura on the folded paper. I was hoping to have sansai tempura, mountain vegetables, but it was still quite cold in this part of Nagano and the sansai season had yet to begin. We were told we were a few days away. This speaks to the master, who has a friend who harvests the vegetables from the wild. While the supermarket was selling sansai, it probably came from another part of Japan.

Teuchi Soba No no Hana 手打ちそば 野の花

Nagano-ken, Ohmachi-shi, Taira 8000-501

長野県大町市平8000-501

0261-23-3684

closed Wednesday

Nearby:

Azumino Okina Soba

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Planting a Vineyard in Nagano

Vin d'Ohmachi

Vin d’Ohmachi

My first work in the wine world was at Coco Farm and Winery, just north of Tokyo. I had left New York City a year after 9/11. Coco Farm and Winery is an amazing home to students with developmental disabilities and autism. My new home was the perfect transition out of New York City. The students work at the winery every day. There were about a dozen of us working a the winery and one of those was Yano-san. Yano-san was a salaryman in Tokyo, but every weekend he would come up to help at the winery.

Yano-san of Vin d'Ohmachi

Yano-san of Vin d’Ohmachi

Yano-san eventually left his job in Tokyo and worked at Coco Farm for ten years. He and his family is now in Ohmachi, in northern Nagano. We went up to help him plant his vineyard for Vin d’Ohmachi. Yano-san could not have picked a more beautiful backdrop, the Kita Alps, which are in the background.

It takes a village.

It takes a village.

There were many friends and family on this beautiful weekend to help plant the grape trees. We planted gewurtztraminer and cabernet franc on this day. It was hard work as the soil had lots of big rocks in it. Good luck, Yano-san. Looking forward to someday drinking Vin d’Ohmachi with you.

Here is a nice blogpost in Japanese from that day.

http://blog.livedoor.jp/omachi_wine/archives/43785562.html

Nearby:

Azumino Okina Soba

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

I have always been fascinated with the snow canyons of the Kita Alps (North Alps) between Nagano and Toyama prefectures, also near Gifu. We were in Ohmachi, Nagano to help a friend plant a vineyard for wine so jumped at the chance to visit the famous Alpine Route. The snow canyons only open to the public from mid-April It can be accessed from Ohmachi in Nagano or from Tateyama in Fukui. We started our journey at 8:30 a.m. and it took a combination of electric buses, cable car, and a ropeway to get to the top of the mountain. We finally arrived at 11:00 a.m. to Murodo. From here visitors can walk into the snow canyons. It was even more impressive than I imagined.

Tateyama Kurobe Snow Wall

Tateyama Kurobe Snow Wall

Here you can see how tall the walls are, even higher than a bus. The brochure below says that the snow canyons are around through May and then starting in June they get smaller. http://www.alpen-route.com/en/wp-content/uploads/leaflet.pdf There were busloads of tourists. I highly suggest going first thing in the morning and heading straight up to the top and then taking your time coming down. On our way down we saw that there were long lines for the cable car and ropeway. You have the option of going all the way through, so starting at one end and going to the other. We opted to start and begin our journey in Nagano. We started at 8:30 a.m. and spent about 45 minutes at the top before heading down. It was about a five-hour journey from start to end. From Ohmachi station there is a bus that can bring you to the base of the mountains. There is also a taxi. The round-trip journey from the base of the mountain was about 10,000 JPY ($100 USD). There are restaurants and some light snacks along the way, but when we go back I would buy food from a convenience store and take it with us. Nearby eats: Azumino Okina Soba