Eyes closed, I float to the sound of a mountain stream gushing by. Every last recess of my heart is being cleansed. This is bliss.
A Mountain Oasis in Matsumoto
The August sun beats down as I escape the metropolis to Myojinkan in Tobira Onsen. It’s a long-cherished inn tucked in the upper forests of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture.
Family-run since its inception in 1931, the owners pride themselves on offering cuisine inspired by the local bounty. With this distinct sense of place and all its other charms, it’s no wonder that in 2008, Myojinkan was welcomed into the Relais & Chateaux global fellowship of world-class hotels and restaurants. But guests can still count on the familiar warmth of the staff despite the impressive designation.
You can feel echoes of the past in Matsumoto City. Historic buildings like the imposing Matsumoto Castle give it a rare elegance. In just a 20-minute drive, I find myself on a tranquil mountainside, overlooking the city below.
The clear, fresh air at the banks of the Myojin pond makes me stop and take a deep breath. As I pass through the gates of the inn, I’m welcomed by an outpouring of greenery and an artisan-made wooden table, along with a set of antique sofas. This combination of traditional and modern gives the place a refined harmony that exudes warmth. And it’s incredibly chic too.
There’s also plenty of artwork to discover inside the inn. Traditional Japanese paintings and contemporary art objects are curated for our viewing pleasure.
I indulge in the inn’s selection of excuisitely designed hot spring baths. The onsen are magical at night, but enjoying the vibrant vegetation while bathing during the day is just as much of a treat. The alkaline nature of the water has a mild fragrance and is easy on the senses.
In addition to the large indoor bath, you can choose from two open-concept ones: the standing bath, where the water comes up to your waist, or the lie-down bath where you can soak with your head while resting on a wooden ledge. There’s also the charming outdoor bath that offers mixed bathing; it’s reserved for women within certain hours.
The coziness of the interior of Myojinkan is a reflection of its exterior, which respects the nature that surrounds it. The architects carefully considered the movement of the sun, the flow of the wind, and the natural course of mounain streams when they designed it. It’s a great example of architectural feng shui.
Speaking of harmony, the hallway that leads to the restaurant is a replica of the Matsumoto Castle walls. As I walk into the dining room, I notice the lamps suspended from the ceiling are made of white birch. They exude a soothing warmth. These are the kinds of discoveries that make my stay even more fun.
I’m seated at a table that faces a large glass window with yet another view of lush greenery. My highly-anticipated dinner arrives at golden hour. When I booked my stay, I had the choice of traditional Japanese, modern Japanese, or Organic French cuisine. I chose the French course that highlights the locally grown vegetables.
The presentation is artful and original. Every dish that arrives has as much personality as the last. My soup is a bubble in a large round bowl. The main course is trout poêlé, and it’s no surprise my fish was caught nearby. It’s cooked with asparagus and wild arugula, and the bright colors of the butter-chive sauce make an impression. I learn the chef trained at the Kushi Institute and creates macrobiotic dishes with no refined wheat, sugar, eggs or dairy products. It was interesting to hear this menu is popular with older clients since it’s hearty but healthy. I sit back and taste a couple Nagano wines. Before I know it, it’s dark outside, and I’m completely satisfied.
I step back into my room and my bare feet on the wooden floor feel wonderful. The air is just as crisp as it was during the day. The purifying charcoal layer under the floor boards must have something to do with it. I drift off to sleep knowing that tomorrow, I’ll wake up feeling revitalized after such a good dose of art and nature.
By Mari Kobayashi
February 07, 2017
8967 Iriyamabe, Matsumoto-shi Nagano
Tel: +81 263-31-2301
|Number of rooms||44|
|Internet||Wi-fi available at lobby|
|Check in/out||in 3pm out 12pm|
Additional Information about Myojinkan
Vegetarian option available
Manrai (Izakaya) - 1-4-4, Chuou, Matsumoto, Nagano - Tel:0263-33-3155
Kikuzou (Traditional Japanese) - 4-7-10, Ote, Matsumoto, Nagano - Tel:0263-36-3728
Kuranomukou (Soba / Izakaya) - 1-2-21, Chuou, Matsumoto, Nagano - TEL:0263-36-7880
Sasaki (Soba) - 4-8-3, Ote, Matsumoto, Nagano - TEL:0263-88-3388
Matsuka (Yeel) - 3-2-29, Chuou, Matsumoto, Nagano - TEL:0263-32-0747
Bar Coat (Bar) - 2-3-5, Chuou, Matsumoto, Nagano - TEL:0263-34-7133
Shiduka (Traditional Japanese) - 4-10-8, Ote, Matsumoto, Nagano - TEL:0263-32-0547
Asada (Soba) - 3-10-11, Fukashi, Matsumoto, Nagano - TEL:0263-33-0826