Tag Archives: nagano

Japan 2014 – 43 Pizza at Good Life Cafe in Iida City, Nagano (2014-10-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 DEC 2015

We were lucky to be able to spend a day alone with Terrance before the wedding, and having already enjoyed some morning activities that included smacking baseballs at a batting cage in Ina, he next took us for a spin in his delightful new car to show us his daily commute to the school that he teaches at.

IMG_20141010_132036 terrance brown's car parked at good life cafe in Iida, nagano, japan

It’s a long drive, but with beautiful mountain countryside scenery wherever you look, one can’t really complain! However, it wasn’t just scenery or a school that he wanted us to see, instead, his ace up the sleeve was a stop in Iida, more specifically, a stop at a little place called Good Life Cafe.

IMG_20141010_132030 ryan lotter and terrance brown at good life cafe in Iida, nagano, japan

The unassuming Good Life Cafe is a pizza and pasta restaurant run by Bobby Shipley, and is said to be the only genuine New York style pizza place in the entire Nagano prefecture!

In other words, if you want good pizza, then you go to Good Life Cafe.

IMG_20141010_134812 best pizza ever at good life cafe in Iida, nagano, japan

Their menu is fantastic, the pizzas are indescribably good, and washing it down with some good Japanese spirits and beer – well, what more could you ask for?!

Not that we were finished with the tourist experiences yet mind you. After an enjoyable drive back to Komagane, a visit with his soon to be parent-in-laws (which is tricky given that neither Ryan nor I speak Japanese), the next stop for us was our very first ever visit to a proper Japanese onsen (hot spring bath).

(Note: Because everyone is naked, I have no photos of this awesome evening experience – just in case you are wondering about the distinct lack of photographic evidence!)

In truth, the bath experience was really enjoyable – relaxing and leaving your feeling like a million bucks afterwards – even if you kind of have to get over the fact that you are completely naked in a room full of naked strangers, all rather intrigued because as a foreigner you kind of stick out like a sore thumb. (Thankfully though, a decade of Virgin Active gym had me more or less okay with this! :P)

Right. So only photos of the pizza in the gallery then…

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”36442,36443,36444,36445,36446,36447,36448″]

Related Link: Good Life Cafe

Japan 2014 – 40 Nagano Soba Noodles at Zcobo (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 DEC 2015

Still in the mountains of Kiso Valley, Nagano, following our walk about the heritage town Narai-juku, we next enjoyed a scenic drive to Zcobo, a fancy restaurant completely tucked away in the mountain forest.

IMG_20141009_130931 mountain forest at zcobo restaurant, nagano, japan

Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat and is also synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup.

Nagano prides itself on having the best soba noodles in the whole of Japan, and as such Yuko was eager for us to try this rather famous dish of theirs!

IMG_20141009_131006 terrance brown and ryan lotter at zcobo restaurant, nagano, japan

The restaurant is a bit of a gem actually, completely isolated and set in the middle of a mountain forest. The furnishings are modern and welcoming, and after relying on Yuko and Terrance to pick out some dishes for us from the Japanese menu (which surprisingly, didn’t have pictures – unusual for Japan, where seeing the food that you are to order is a bit of a thing. Or at least, I don’t remember these menus having pictures. It’s been a while, so I could be wrong.), we eagerly received our vaunted soba noodles.

IMG_20141009_133258 soba noodles at zcobo restaurant, nagano, japan

At this point I have to be honest. The cold, buckwheat noodles were not something that I particularly enjoyed, and I didn’t get very far into my big bowl of noodles. (That said, I’m a simple South African man who seldom likes anything that isn’t meat and potatoes. So I take the blame for this one!)

However, the experience itself was great, and now at least I can say I’ve eaten Japan’s famous soba noodles. (Needless to say, Chantelle is quite jealous).

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”36390,36391,36392,36393,36394,36395,36396,36397,36398,36399,36400″]

Related Link: Soba Noodles

Japan 2014 – 39 Narai-juku, the Japanese Heritage Post Town (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 DEC 2015

After a good night in Ina, followed by a quick stroll around town in the morning, Ryan and I were picked up by Yuko and Terrance, who were to be our tour guides for the day. With them was Hester and Terry, Terrance’s parents, who also happened to be on holiday in Japan for the wedding period.

IMG_20141009_113926 brown family at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

The first destination for the day was to be the famous post town of Narai-juku, a nationally-designated architectural preservation site which basically means that the town is being kept such that it looks exactly like it did back in the Edo Period (between 1603 and 1868).

DSC07840 at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

During the Edo Period, Narai-jujku marked the half way point between Kyoto and Edo to travelers along the Nakasendo Route. It was the most wealthy post town of the Kiso Valley (as well as the most elevated along the route), and was sometimes referred to as “Narai of a Thousand Houses”.

(This becomes quite apparent when you look at the sheer number of preserved houses compared to other similar post towns along the route.)

DSC07842 steam locomotive display at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

The drive out there from Ina is quite scenic, the majestic wooded mountains making for landscape that isn’t something I’m familiar with, and on arrival you are greeted by a massive steam locomotive (on display), and handed a rather informative little pamphlet.

DSC07844 wooden buildings at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

The little town (ignoring the tiny cars parked along the main road) is a fantastic look back at the architecture of the era, and there are loads of bustling curio shops stretching from start to finish of the preserved building strip.

Shrines, marker stones, wells, pretty flowers, curios – basically there was more than enough things of interest to make for a genuinely pleasant excursion.

IMG_20141009_111246 ryan lotter, terrance brown and yuko at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

(Also, I bought two beautiful red polished, small wooden bowls – a trademark technique of the area – which happened to be the first keepsakes that I actually bothered buying on this rather fantastic holiday believe it or not!)

IMG_20141009_120914 shrine at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

Oh, and with all the new people to take photos of, I got perhaps slightly camera trigger happy:

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”36314,36315,36316,36317,36318,36319,36320,36321,36322,36323,36324,36325,36326,36327,36328,36329,36330,36331,36332,36333,36334,36335,36336,36337,36338,36340,36341,36342,36343,36344,36345,36346,36347,36348,36349,36350,36351,36352,36353,36354,36355,36356,36357,36358,36359,36360,36362,36363,36364,36365,36366,36367,36368,36369,36370,36371,36372,36373,36374″]

Oh, and we got to spot another comically endowed Tanuki garden ornament, which was by far my favourite little character on this whole trip! :)

IMG_20141009_112117 tanuki with pumpkin at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

Related Link: Narai-juku

Japan 2014 – 38 A Stroll around Ina, Nagano (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 DEC 2015

Having enjoyed a fun evening out in Ina, Ryan and I woke up with a little bit of time to kill before we were to be picked up by Yuko and Terrance for an outing.

In other words, out we went for a short stroll around our immediate area!

DSC07828 modern art dragon sculpture in ina, japan

Ina is of course a completely different kettle of fish compared to the big modern city of Tokyo and the culturally rich Kyoto, and as such there was of course a lot less interesting things to be seen.

DSC07887 nude lady statue outside of ina train station, japan

Smaller buildings, more countryside, fewer landmarks – still, even out here their seeming penchant for old bronze statues of naked ladies seemed intact… :P

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”36294,36295,36296,36297,36298,36299,36300,36301,36302,36303,36304,36305,36306,36307,36308,36309,36310,36311″]

Related Link: Ina | Things to Do in Ina