I found the ryokan in Matsumoto to be a wonderful experience in the onsen district, past the university in the foot hills, quite far from the centre of town.
The building was awesome, dark and foreboding from the front, opening up to expose a labyrinth of structures behind, the design featured within allowing my mind to wander a world I knew little about, I’m sure there are hidden meanings in many of the objects and I was cautious about insulting my hosts. I did linger on the display cases filled with ancient looking crockery and other decorative objects, many that looked as old as the house itself. The house’s ornate features provided much to grab the attention any time I left the superb room, one of the largest guest rooms of the entire trip, with lovely paper lined walls and delicate tatami mats, the seated annex and a separate private bathroom complete with Japanese style plunge bath where a luxury I had not yet experienced.
As we were the only guests on our first night we also had full private use of the in house Onsen, an experience I was happy to have but didn’t want to pay additionally for. I have since found out that hot pools like these turn my stomach in a few moments, not a relaxing experience for me that leads to me feeling queasy for hours afterwards.
Sure this Ryokan experience was a little confusing, due to my ongoing lack of Japanese, but it didn’t really matter it was easy enough to understand through gesturing and context. The hosts fully aware of their roles, and perfectly happy to usher me into mine as required.
Being in a city we decided not to book the Ryokan with the included dinner, but did keep the Japanese breakfast experience on the booking. I am so glad we did, especially as the decision when to take our breakfast was left in our hands.
The first breakfast was served in one of the utilitarian guest rooms on the ground floor, a fact that confused me no end, I was happy to be in this smaller room, it was more intimate than the larger room offered on the second day. I had become a bit better at sitting on the floor level tables, having worked out a partially comfortable sitting position.
The breakfast sets varied each day, on the first day the meal consisted of slightly salty baked salmon, miso soup with carrot, Japanese style egg, grated yam, poached vegetables and chicken, a side salad, vegetable and fish pickles and fried tofu. Of course there was fresh brewed green tea and as much rice as I wanted to eat.
I really love eating like this, with a scattergun approach recommended, so you eat a little of everything with a little rice and vegetable pickle to cleanse the palate. As much of the food is served at room temperature there isn’t a huge rush to wolf thigs down. It is possible to take the time to appreciate the incredibly varied crockery and the very purposeful placement of food.
Breakfast on the second day was equally as elaborate with a perfectly cooked mackerel fillet, sweet and salty, fried and poached dumplings, salted fish roe, delightfully crisp lotus root, a delicately textured steamed fish custard, a side salad, tofu miso soup along with the vegetable pickles, rice and freshly brewed green tea.
Sadly I didn’t have as much time to reflect on the breakfast on this day I had a flight to catch.