Take the rapid train from Okayama Station on the Tsuyama Line for about 30 minutes and you will arrive at the Kita ward of Okayama city. This area is the former Takebe-cho, in the northern part of Okayama city, renamed after the wards were established when Okayama became a city designated by government ordinance in 2007. I visited “Nobue Nouen Koubo”, one of the farm stay inns registered with our company, which opened business in the secluded village of Shimokome in the mountains.
Welcoming buckwheat noodles (instead of drinks!)
Upon arrival to the inn, Yasuo, the owner welcomed me with soba (buckwheat) noodles made from scratch.
Takebe is blessed with mild climates and fertile soil allowing most of the ingredients including buckwheat, green onions and yuzu to be produced locally. The hot buckwheat noodle soup steamed forth citrus vapors of yuzu and the picturesque view of the scattered autumn leaves were signs of winter’s arrival.
Shiro Jinja (Shrine)-Takebe Yahata Onsen (hot springs)-Dinner
I had some time before dinner was served so I visited Shiro Jinja Shrine which gambled roof can be seen from the nearby mountainside. From the shrine, I headed to Takebe Yahata Onsen hot springs where the facilities overlooked the Asahikawa river that flows through the center of Takebe. The alkaline hot springs are clear and free of smell, free flowing not diluted and just the right temperature to soak in the waters for long periods of time. At the outdoor bath you can enjoy the view of Asahikawa river and before you notice, you will be eased of travel weariness.
For dinner, the dishes laid out on the table was focused mainly on vegetables selected from their garden. For some reason though there is no nearby ocean, I was served mackerel sushi! They say that long ago, mackerel taken from the Japan Sea was preserved with salt and carried with the utmost care over the Chugoku mountains to the north of the prefecture and became a representative culinary of the local Takebe cuisine.
Make your own freshly baked oven pizzas for breakfast
At six o’clock of the following morning, Yasuo lights the fire of the handcrafted pizza oven so I can enjoy a breakfast of freshly baked pizza. For starters, his wife Yoshiko shows me how to roll out the dough and flatten it with a rolling pin, then top the pizza with sauce and toppings. Baking the pizzas are Yasuo’s job. At an oven temperature of 500°C (932°F) the pizza placed on long handled pizza peel is carefully transferred to the oven and is rotated for an even bake. It is supreme workmanship as the white pizza dough turns an appetite whetting golden brown and the toasty cheese and toppings are baked just right. I took a big mouthful of piping hot pizza and the thin crust made of rice flour was crisp at the rims and chewy in the center following with aroma of the charring curling up my nose. I tried my hand at making the second pizza. This is a sumptuous breakfast activity that cannot be experienced at home.
Bountiful fresh harvest of vegetables
Another fun activity for guests is picking vegetables. In the fields next to their home, root vegetables, leafy vegetables, potatoes and other vegetation are grown. On the following day of their stay, guests can harvest vegetables to take home.
Relish real life on a farm
Probably the best attraction of Nobue Nouen Koubo is Yoshiko Nobue’s radiant smile. Yoshiko and her husband, Yasuo work hand in hand in creating an environment where all farm activities are a fun experience. Upon retirement they began farming and participated in Okayama city project “Go to Farms to Shop” to provide a venue to sell their harvest at their farm. At the time, there were customers who would bring their own lunches, stay all day and relax. Customers would comment that they should start their own café or farm stay inn as it was so comfortable there. Yoshiko obtained a permit to start a confectionery business and began selling at local events. As she frequented the governmental ward, one day, she brought up her courage and asked about opening a farm stay inn. However as she was told that it was unprecedented in Okayama city, she had the sudden urge to do something about the situation. Yoshiko visited a “Top 100 Mothers Farm Stay Inn” awarded farm stay inn in a neighboring town to talk with the owners. After repeated research, the couple were confident that they would be able to manage an inn. In April 2014, Nobue Nouen Koubo became the first farm stay in registered under the “Less-Regulated Rural-Inns Managed by Families Engaged in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery” for Okayama city and in November of the same year they began to accept overnight guests. The Nobues want their guests to become fond of real life on a farm. In one way or another they want people to know about Takebe, should it be through the region, the agriculture or the farm stay inn. You can feel how much they care for the Takebe region.