11th May 2019: Narai

On this day, we took a cute two-car train to Narai.

The train to Narai, waiting in Matsumoto

Narai is a former post town: a place where travellers would stop for a break in their journey along one of the routes connecting Kyoto with Tokyo.

It is also exceptionally well preserved, with the appearance that a Westerner expects from “old Japan”: a quiet high street, low wooden houses, panels, and archetypal Japanese implements and ornaments everywhere you look at.

Tree in Narai
Tree in Narai

The fact that it is essentially perched on the mountain adds a lot to the ‘scenic’ feeling—I couldn’t stop thinking that we had somehow entered a painting!

Trees, trees everywhere

We walked all the way along the main street, browsing the shops, deciding we were not “the target” (we have really no need for random knick-knacks), and taking lots of pictures.

One of the restaurants we did not have lunch at

But once we reached the end of the street (and the town), we were starting to get a bit hungry.

We had already seen lots of interesting, picturesque looking restaurants but it was hard to choose any in particular, so we just chose one almost at random: こころ音.

Traditional hanging iron teapot—this was in the reception area

We removed our shoes as is mandatory in these places, and entered the dimly lit space. We were guided towards a big table in the dining room; there were some guests quietly eating their food in a table further away from ours.

I ordered warm soba noodles with mushrooms and mountain vegetables; I think this variety is called “Sansai”:

Warm soba noodles on broth
Warm soba noodles on broth

These were the first soba noodles I ate in Japan… and they were amazing! The stock had a really deep flavour, and the vegetables were so fresh and tasty.

I enjoyed this lots, lots, lots.

There was a half-open panelled door leading to the rear patio and its greenery on our left side. We could also hear the noises of the kitchen; it sounded very domestic, of vegetables being chopped, food being cooked, and kids laughing and playing drums with a wooden spoon on the hanging pans and pots.

Since we had “completed” Narai, we decided we’d come back to Matsumoto and find somewhere to have a coffee!

One last close-up look at the mountains before leaving Narai…

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