It has been a long, busy autumn. We finally decided to take a break and went to Nagano. Usually, we here at Minamimuki are diehard Toyoko Inn people. We know what we’re getting and we do not pay much for it. As a treat, though, we wanted to go somewhere nice. (Our idea of “nice” is just a little more expensive than Toyoko Inn.)
What we came up with was a walk around Ikenodaira not far from the Komoro exit on the Shinetsu Expressway. We went up above the deserted ski area (no snow yet) and took a walk around the “Ikenodaira Swamp.” I would have translated that one “marsh” myself, and even marsh was pushing it in terms of water, BUT we got a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji from Nagano. Now that was “nice!”
From there, we drove another 15 minutes to our inn for the evening, Tokiwakan. You must check out this link. We drove ten minutes up a mountain covered in terraced fields. We barely avoided hitting an older couple who stopped their little truck in front of us and began opening the doors to get out as we, at the same time, tried to pass them. In other words, it was not a high traffic area. But there at the top of the hill was the Tokiwakan. It was a lovely place full of some of the most congenial staff I’ve met in Japan. The room was lovely, the mountain-top bath (you take a little trolley straight up to get to it) was cozy and well-tended and had a beautiful view. And the food was excellent–freshly made tempura, simmered carp, homemade ice cream and other goodies for dinner, and the usual hotel smorgasbord for breakfast, but nicer (eggs cooked while you wait) and COFFEE.
I hate to say it, but it was worth what we paid for it (which wasn’t all that much in the world of fancy hotels in Japan). In a world with a poor economy and a lack of imagination, Tokiwakan has used its resources to create a wonderful getaway. After all my years in marketing research, I got the distinct impression that the owners pinpointed exactly what customers wanted and figured out to provide it without going bankrupt or charging a fortune. I can’t describe all the details–just go and have a nice time!