Monday, October 14

Gifu & Matsumoto {Travel - Japan}

The view of Mt Fuji from the highway without its snow cap, which disappears in summer!

Hi friends!
We are back from our little trip over the weekend, it was fantastic! As you may know, we went to Gifu prefecture (to Gifu city to visit my friend and Seki city for a knife festival) then headed north to Matsumoto city in Nagano prefecture. Here below are a few pictures from this memorable trip, enjoy!

Healthy o-bento for our lunch on Friday...

We left Tokyo on Friday morning and traveled south to Gifu city for most of the day - we took our time with several breaks along the way... such as a cool picnic that the Mr. had prepared in the morning. We arrived in Gifu city at around 4pm and were greeted by my friends.

We were staying over at her place and since she runs a restaurant [ Ukiyou no sato ] we also had dinner there. Oh my, was it memorable! The main dish was a local specialty, a sukiyaki with a  miso paste base (instead of the usual soy sauce base). The soup was much thicker and had a richer taste, and the ingredients were also extremely good - different types of mushrooms, cabbage, eggplants, tofu, chicken, pork and beef. All locally grown!

No proper Japanese dinner starts without "nama biru" or draft beer!

The cooking pot was also very different from the ones I had seen before - much flatter.

While the ingredients are cooking slowly, you must beat a raw egg in your bowl and dip your food in it before savoring it. I couldn't follow that step however because I am really not a big fan of raw eggs...

We were also served a special dish made from a seasonal fruit, the khaki. My friend Chika-chan has lived and worked in Italy 10 years ago (where we met) so from time to time she brings some italian flavors in her Japanese cuisine. The khaki, which is a bit sweet, was filled with a bechamel sauce and grated cheese and served hot. Delicious!

We had also tasty sashimi as well as a tofu based custard, so smooth and served slightly warm, delish! I don't have a photo of the custard unfortunately, I must have forgotten to take one... The sashimi (picture below) were very artistically served and so fresh, but I had enough with three slices - not a huge fan of raw fish... 

It was slightly difficult to wake up the next morning as we tasted and enjoyed vintage sake together with our meal and late after while talking with our friends... We had an exciting day ahead of us however, as we were heading to Seki city for a festival dedicated to knives. Seki is a much smaller city located 20 km from Gifu among rice fields and nearby mountains. The atmosphere was very festive and kids friendly - many games and activities organized for kids, and there were many shows as well. The access to the city's museums was also free.

 Above: scenery around Seki city, a street booth selling dried fish, 
another one selling whistles and last,  a fishing game for children.

The last stage of our trip involved a very nice city nestled among the Japanese Alps in the Nagano prefecture. Matsumoto is famous for its 16th-century-old castle which we were lucky to visit during our  one-day stay (my advise is to go as early as possible in the morning!).  Although completely empty and very crowded with visitors, the castle has a remarkable architecture and is well-worth a visit. We were blessed with a gorgeous weather (morning and evening were chilly though) which allowed us to tour the city by bike.

Matsumoto castle was built in 1504.

Shopping highlights in Matsumoto are Nawate street (first photo below), which is a row of small shops around a common frog theme. I spotted an antique shop there as well I wish I had had the time to explore!

Nakamichi street has well-restored traditional kura-style houses, homes to some really gorgeous craft shops, restaurants, galleries or cafes. This a lovely place to hang out around lunch time, as it has many restaurants. We initially wanted to try out the soba restaurant Nomugi on a side street but there was a queue (must be good!) so we opted for an izakaya called BUN instead. Food was delicious (see photos below) and we highly recommend to try out their fried chicken and soba dish (not pictured, sorry)!

Izakaya BUN:

Continue to explore the city and hop next to Takasago-cho street, where you will find several shops dedicated to the traditional Japanese dolls. Enough cuteness to get started a collection! 
Also there, a super cute cafe called MoiMoi (review coming soon) that we tried and approved: another option for lunch, or simply a great spot to stop for coffee and sweets.

We stayed at Seifu-So Inn in Matsumoto, and we couldn't have been happier with our pick: it's a great place to stay if you like simple, clean and fuss-free accommodation. It was also super kid-friendly which was a life-saver as our kids can get really noisy at times. Check it out if you are planning a trip to Matsumoto.

View of Yamanashi vineyards on the way back to Tokyo...

We headed back to Tokyo early on Monday morning to avoid the traffic jam which would inevitably occur later in the afternoon. We passed by the Yamanashi vineyards - stunning view! We will make sure to be back and explore more of these next time... will you join us?


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