by Chew Yan Qiao
There is a Chinese saying [一次生，两次熟] which means ‘foreign at first, but familiar the second time around’. If you’ve read the article I wrote previously, you will know that it was my first experience with minshuku. Coming back the second time, it already felt nostalgic and welcoming. Although it was a different minshuku, the omotenashi from the locals was real and heartwarming.
My stay this time was with the Ikarashi elderly couple, who are the 5th generation owners of the 150-year-old house. Looking at the interior, you could already feel the historical presence and authenticity of the old house. They had the pictures of their first three-generation owners hung up on the walls, evidence of their legacy.
The use of wood to construct the house gave it a homely vibe and I seriously would not have minded staying for another few more days if I could!
The rooms were as I imagined them. With the pictured traditional sliding door, the interior was pampered with furnishings from a hundred years ago, left by their ancestors. I was so kandō (感動, touched) simply looking around at my surroundings; It was as though I was appreciating pieces of artwork that had lived for many years and had stories to tell.
Food is my one and only…
The dinner — I was blown away multiple times. I simply could not understand how they could prepare so many dishes! Just take a look at the goodness below↓↓↓
At the start, six little dishes were placed in front of us and we thought it was more than enough for our dinner, but NO… our hostess Mrs. Ikarashi brought out not one, not two, but four more little bowls… that’s right, four more awesome dishes, so we had 10 dishes in total! By the time we were finished, I had developed a second stomach to fill all the food. Although the dishes may seem simple, the seasoning was perfect and resonated well with my taste buds.
We had to wake up early as we had a tight schedule, but Mrs Ikarashi had already prepared breakfast and was waiting for us to eat. While we were still full from last night’s amazing dinner, I had to finish up the grand variety of food displayed in front of me no matter what.
The presentation was so beautiful and appetizing. The miso soup warmed my belly, the white fluffy rice called my name; the egg yolk from the sunny side up was waiting to burst in my mouth, the crispy grilled salmon was inviting me to savour it and the crunchy sound from the pickled eggplant was music to my ears. (Sorry, these descriptions are the only way to bring out the emotions I felt at the time.)
Harvesting experience in Japan
Do you know why Japanese people always say ‘itadakimasu’ before their meals? In layman terms, it is a simple phrase to give our gratitude to those who have made the meal for us, to those who have worked hard to harvest good crops, for good weather so that farmers can have good harvest in year and for everything else that helps make it possible for food to be laid in front of us.
This was my first time experiencing farming and I was extremely excited and it was a rare opportunity to get my hands dirty. What’s more, I would get to enjoy it in my favourite country too!
With the help from Iide Town staff, we went to help the Suzuki family’s rice field which is about a 5-min drive from our minshuku. We had 6 volunteers altogether (my Thai friend, 4 Japanese culinary institute students and I) helping out. The Suzuki family taught us the know-how on harvesting crops such as the correct techniques to cut the crops and how to
tie them up together.
Although we were amateurs, the Suzuki couple were really helpful, giving us tips and advice. Between the six of us, it took us almost an hour to clear four out of the 100 rows of rice crops in the paddy. Later, I asked our guide how long would it take for Mr. Suzuki to clear one entire field, and he replied saying that if it is a pro farmer, just 6 hours would be enough. My jaw dropped with amazement and in my head, I was already saluting him.
Nevertheless, it was a great workout for the whole body (especially for the core muscles). Sweating it out during the nice autumn weather was awesome and I felt that I had lost an inch off my waist!
Onward to the next season!
Overall, this trip was really fun and enjoyable. Albeit short, it was very fulfilling. The journey that I had will not be forgotten and I’m already looking forward to my winter trip next year. Be sure to look out for it and do check out our website for more write-ups about Yamagata!
Nōka minshuku ikarashi honke
Minshuku Ikarashi Main House
89 Shirakawa, Iide-machi, Nishiokitama-gun, Yamagata, Japan 〒999-0432
☎ +81 238-77-2088
Price: 1 Night 2 meals (includes farming experience activities ), 6,800 yen
For reservation: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out my previous write-up on my summer trip experience