Notes from Japan: Miyamasou

November 10, 2013


The drive to Miyamasou is gorgeous. And harrowing. We twist our way up a misty mountain road, through fields, forests and Buddhist shrines.  As we rise higher the road narrows to a single lane, and we drive more and more slowly, peering into the mirrors at the curves to try to see what's coming toward us.

The sounds: waterfalls, babbling brooks, wind in the trees. The leaves are changing, becoming deeper red as we climb higher into the hills.

And then we are at the ryokan. The quiet is intense. A man dabbles in a small stone pond, netting fish. The entire staff rushes out to greet us, ushering us into the small, spare inn. Shoes are removed, tea is brought, and suddenly the entire world as we have known it drops away.  We are in another world, another time. 

The bath is spare, soothing, with a view to the trees and the brook running across the rocks just outside.  We wrap ourselves in robes, put on wooden sandals and make our way up the path to dinner. 

There are seven of us, seated around the chef who stands in the middle, cooking. The food goes from his hands to ours.  Each dish feels like a gift.


First flavor. (Note the lovely mioga.)


Ginko nuts in gingered miso, roasted in a leaf. 


Matsutake mushrooms.


 Shrimp, peanuts, ginko: and hidden away, deep in the back, a single bright red egg yolk.



There are many, many more courses. And then desert:


Persimmon. Grape sorbet. And a single, huge, glazed grape.

Across the road, to another bath, and big fluffy futons.


We wake to rain, which makes the ryokan even more otherworldly than the sunshine. A bath. And then what might be the world's best breakfast.





The trip down the mountain is even more harrowing in the rain. Half an hour down the road big trucks start rumbling toward us, and by the time we reach Kyoto, we're prepared for civilization.  But it's nice to know that Miyamasou is up there on the mountain, waiting.

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  • Elle says:

    Love how Japanese dishes are each like an actual gift, so composed for beauty and appreciation.

  • Nancy King says:

    My husband and I spent a night in Miyamasou with dinner of many dishes (reminded me of Babette’s Feast, the movie; love was in those dishes). The experience was spiritual; I had tears in my eyes being in the beauty of it in every way I turned. You described it so well! I recall walking back to our room via lantern light to our beautifully made up bed with lanterns lit above our heads. We could hear the stream moving outside, feel the cool fresh air through our open door. The lights were lit back in the woods beyond. This experience is one of the highlights of my life! As we left, we waved from our car as the Japanese women who had served us waved back until we were out of sight.

  • Andrew says:

    Just booked a lunch reservation for Miyamasou — I am so excited [nervous] and pumped to check it out. Hope to have as positive of experience as you both.