September 27, 2017
See the previous post for description and photos of the gassho-zukuri villages – Ainokura, Suganuma and Ogimachi.
We arrived in Ainokura in the rain just before 5PM. Not knowing where to park or if you could drive in this tiny village we stopped at the town parking lot. The attendant spoke English and asked us where we were staying. He gave us a map and told us we could park at the gassho-zukuri (thatched roof house).
He directed us to Choyomon, our home for the night, but with all the buildings looking relatively the same and all the names in stylized kanji it was difficult to find. We finally asked and were directed to a house with no name on it other than the stylized kanji.
Our cheerful hostess welcomed us in the house without even asking who we were. She ran off to pick-up some Japanese guests but was back in 5 minutes. She explained later that she runs the place by herself. We were six guests in total, us and two Japanese couples.
Our room was good sized and we had an outer room for our bags and such and an inner room for the bedding.
The futon mattress laid out after dinner was thinner than at other places and not as comfortable.
Meals were in the main room, just outside our bedroom, where there is charcoal fire pit. Small fish were arranged around the coals. I presume dinner.
We took a brief walk before dinner as the rain had subsided and bit and we didn’t know how much rain we would get the next morning. We had only the evening and the next morning to explore the town, all of which was to be rainy.
The town can be walked in about ten minutes. If you take photos along the way it might take as much as 30 minutes, 45 if you’re a real enthusiast. It’s a charming place with a good concentration of the gassho-zukuri grass roofed structures the region is known for. Surrounding the buildings are homestead gardens including rice, vegies and flowers, although a bit past at this time of year. Surrounded by misty mountains it’s lovely nonetheless.
The house is quite simple with a main room, guest bedrooms and a shared toilet and bathroom. The small bathroom was for just two people, perfect for a couple.
Dinner is casual, all of us seated on the floor around the fire, but good with all the trimmings of Japanese dinner – small plates of vegetables, shashimi (one kind of fish, but very fresh) the cooked trout from the fire, tofu, tempura, etc.
It was fun watching and talking with the Japanese. My language skills are very limited so it’s hard to do more than answer the basic, “Where are you from? “ or “Have you eaten natto?” and so forth. Still a good time with lots of laughter.
On a curious note, our sake was served in a sake carafe with the usual little glasses but theirs was served in a nearly full 8oz water glass. I asked if it was sake. They said,”yes”, but further inquiry or explanation was beyond my language skills.
Breakfast is also served next to the fire pit and includes the typical Japanese assortment of vegie dishes, scrambled eggs, tofu, rice and green tea. Again, if you are a coffee addict I strongly advise bringing your own.
The Japanese guests started breakfast a bit after us. We noticed that they got raw eggs instead of scrambled which they broke over the hot rice and mixed in. Sounded pretty good if I could just figure out how to ask for it.