Minshuku Jinzaemon

2016.05.13

Report on American travelers’ Ichinomiya Springtime Visit

[District:Chubu]

Viewing the Garyu Sakura Tree (Garyu Cherry Blossom Tree) at Ichinomiya, Takayama City

Our organization, The Organization for Urban-Rural Interchange Revitalization, disseminates experiences on green tourism in English on the net. An American couple who wanted to experience staying at a farm stay inn happened to come across our English language website, arrived in Japan. The lodging they chose to stay at was Minshuku Jinzaemon in Ichinomiya, Takayama City, Gifu prefecture. Takayama city is a popular spot for foreign travelers and the JR Takayama station where I went to meet them was bustling with foreign travelers who just disembarked or were waiting for the next train. On the wall of the waiting room was a world map where travelers could stick a little red dot to show which country they came from. It was interesting to see that most of the red dots concentrated around Europe.
The travelers were Jennifer and Andy from Portland, Oregon USA. They came on a 3- week visit which took them to Nara, Mount Koya, Hiroshima and then to Takayama city. Takayama retains a traditional touch like few other Japanese cities, especially its old townscape.
Upon arrival, Jennifer and Andy strolled through the historic district of Takayama. They showed interest in its preserved streets and beautiful traditional buildings. Takayama has a special charismatic atmosphere that differs from Kyoto. From there, they took a 20 minute cab ride to the mountains of Ichinomiya and visited the Hida Ichinomiya Minashi Shrine and were able to see the spectacular Garyu Sakura Tree at peak bloom. They were impressed to find that the Garyu Sakura Tree was about 1,200 years old. Andy, trying to capture the memories of the Garyu Sakura Tree at its peak, took a multitude of photos.


The waiting room is packed with Westerners.
Taking a stroll through the old town of Takayama
Getting a feel of Japanese culture
Jennifer and Andy taking selfies with the Garyu Sakura Tree


Their first time at a farm stay inn

Taking a short drive from the center of Ichinomiya and we arrived at Minshuku Jinzaemon. Jennifer got out of the car and took in the undeveloped woodland and how the inn magically blended into its surroundings and let out a “wow!” I wondered what was her impression was of staying at a Japanese inn.
We were shown our rooms, restrooms, bath and other facilities and we bathed and relaxed in our rooms while dinner was being prepared.


Exterior of Jinzaemon
The ridgeline of Mt. Norikura is seen in the background
Entrance
The gathering room with an irori (hearth) where you can pass the time away


Tasting local Hida Takayama cuisine

One of the features that Jinzaemon is famous is its meals. For dinner we were served piping hot freshly fried handpicked wild plants made into tempura, homegrown Koshihikari brand rice and vegetables among other Hida Takayama regional dishes. We could feel the owner’s heartfelt hospitality. Jennifer and Andy were very interested in the ingredients of the food served and were tremendously satisfied with the meal. Andy tried the doburoku (home brewed sake). The emphasis of the doburoku was a dry sharp taste. Jennifer especially liked the Houba miso (miso grilled on magnolia leaves) served during breakfast and she topped her rice with the sweet and spicy miso with a charred aroma and carried it to her mouth.


Sitting Japanese style while waiting for the meal to be served
Seasonal handpicked wild plants made into tempura and other dishes served for dinner
Taking photos of doburoku
Breakfast with miso grilled on magnolia leaves on the left


Interview while sitting around the irori

Jennifer and Andy

■What do you think of farm stay inns?
“I think they are wonderful. We get to wear a yukata and bathe in a Japanese bath. We especially found the meals delicious. We are very satisfied as we were able to try food that we have never eaten before.”
■Why did you decide to stay at a farm stay inn?
“In Portland, in our daily lives we are very environmental conscious. We ride cycles and participate in the farm-to-table movement. When traveling in Japan, we selected busy urban areas like Tokyo and Kyoto while on the other hand we wanted to do something just the opposite by staying in a quiet rural environment by staying in a farm stay inn. We googled the keywords “Farm Stay inn” and hit upon the English language Green Tourism site. And that is how we came to emailing your organization.”
■What should rural areas do to attract more customers?
“I think Mt. Koya is a good example. At the dorter there are people that can understand English. You can reserve your stay using the online form, filling in the dates, number of persons and select the dorter according to your budget. They well-organized and are prepared to accept foreign tourists. Of course SNS and the word of mouth is the best way to advertise its charm.”
■Can you give us any suggestions on what the inns can do to make foreign tourists more comfortable?
“For instance, having English or symbols that anyone could understand for things that is only written in Japanese, like the shampoo and conditioner at the baths. It would be nice to have instructions on how to take a Japanese bath. Also, it would be good to know if the inn would pick you up at the station or not as many tourists wouldn’t be driving their own cars.”
You could tell that the couple were very environment conscious, speaking of vertical farming, farm-to-table and other subjects on American sustainable and community-supported agriculture. They also made the time spent in conversation after dinner a meaningful one as I was able to ask them about recent trends.


Kiwako Taniguchi, owner of Jinzaemon

Photos taken at departure with Kiwako Taniguchi.

The host of Jinzaemon, is Kiwako Taniguchi. She kindly accepted the reservation for the couple. Many repeaters fall in love with the inn, the meals, Mr. and Mrs. Taniguchi’s personalities and it is not unusual for the Japanese repeaters to bring their foreign friends. On the day of this interview, a group of 3 Japanese and 3 French came to stay and I could feel that farm stay inns are evolving into a more international environment.
On the day of departure, Jennifer gave the owner, Kiwako Taniguchi, a letter expressing her gratitude. “Only when you accept foreign travelers will you blessed with such a heartwarming thoughtfulness,” said Kiwako. “That is why I work hard at pleasing my visitors,” she cheerfully chirped.


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