Tobira Onsen Myojinkan

IMG 1581

Nestled away above Matusumoto city in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan, Tobira Onsen Myojinkan, or Myojinkan for short is one of the most unique Ryokan experiences I’ve had in Japan.

IMG 0016a

Sitting high up in the “Alps of Japan” as many call them, the Nagano mountains provide a cooler climate for summer Onsen visits, and gorgeous scenery out of every window on the entire property– not to mention one of the most gorgeous settings and views for an bath I’ve ever seen.

IMG 1627

I took this picture above hiking through the deep and cool forests that surround the Ryokan. The tall pines and moss made for such a peaceful place to reflect.

IMG 0023

One unique attribute of Myojinkan is the variety of Onsen experiences you can experience during your stay. Some rooms have a private Onsen, but it wouldn’t be right if you didn’t visit the numerous different bath types throughout the property. My favorite bath by far was the unusual Standing Bath pictured throughout this article in a couple of different images. This bath allows you to stand submerged in hot healing water and view the landscape out of an almost postcard-like windowframe. From this vantage point you could hear the rushing water of the river below, smell the forest which was almost close enough to touch, and fully relax. Total bliss.

IMG 0029

Another beautiful shot of the standing bath, with its clear as glass water. Piping hot.

IMG 0390

The property shares boundaries with Japanese National Forest land– which I made sure to hike in and around. This forest-as-a-neighbor creates even cleaner water and air surrounding the property. Pictured above is the fully outdoor bath, great for star or moon gazing.

IMG 1645

Out of every window beautiful colors!

IMG 1620

A small figurine I found walking through the woods behind the Ryokan.

IMG 0130

Another bath, this time an indoor modern onsen.

IMG 0100

The living room inside a standard guest room.  Good for a cup of tea, or hours reading a book.

IMG 0090

Like other traditional Japanese Ryokan’s, you sleep on a simple futon over tatami mats.  My favorite! However if you prefer a Western style bed, they offer that as well.

IMG 0247

Cherry Blossom season right up against the cedar baths. Magical.

IMG 0271

How about that view during dinner?

2012 09 06 09 21 56

A picture I took of the rushing water under the Ryokan. It was so clean and clear. No wonder the baths felt so cleansing.

IMG 0292

Owned by the Saito family for generations, this 45 room Royokan did one thing better than any Ryokan I have ever visited, and it’s an important one: The food was stunning. Generally, a ryokan’s food is simply traditional Japanese Kaiseki served in your room. While this is always delicious, after a meal or two it starts to feel a bit repetitive. Myojinkan however boasts three different kitchens serving Kaiseki, Modern Japanese and an Organic Macrobiotic French. All are served in their own incredible spaces (rather than in your own room), by master chefs Mr. Masahiro Tanabe (Executive Chef of the French Macrobiotic Cuisine) and Mr. Manabu Kanda (Japanese Cuisine, Modern and Kaiseki).

IMG 0312

Taking food photos was a lot more difficult given the darker setting of the restaurants, but I did my best where I could below.

The Kaiseki style meal started with a small glass of wild grape wine– no doubt from a local farm only miles (or less) from Myojinkan. Appetizers followed, a jellied seasonal vegetable concoction with young corn, lotus root, green soybeans, small onions, tomatoes, prawn, graded pumpkin and egg yolk. An interesting and light star to what turned out to be a total feast. (Pictured below)

Other assorted seasonal appetizers included an eel sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves, amber egg, corned bean curd, asparagus, octopus and pot steamed cold egg custard with boiled sweet potato and lemon sauce.

For soup, I enjoyed a delicate mix of sea eel, been curd, mitsuba, Japanese citrus and plum pulp from an umeboshi plum. On my menu, I scribbled the words ‘what an inspiration‘, as I had never tasted or tried anything like this in my life.

Raw fish was served, Shinsu salmon, carp with yam, prawn and squid.

That evenings grilled dish was salted and grilled sweet fish (caught in the river just below the property), followed by a seasonal vegetable stew of mushrooms including winter melon, taro stemp, gumbo, small potato, zucchini and local green onions.  Sweet fish is so popular they actually even offer bait, tackle and rods to guests if you are up for the sport of catching your own dinner!

As with every Kaiseki meal, we ended with rice, miso soup and japanese pickles. The rice was incredible– and included sixteen kinds of grain!

Desert (with hardly any room left in my stomach) was tofu tube cake and rice flour dumplings, insides included bean jam and pieces of fruit.

What follows are a selection of some of my favorite dishes from each meal I experienced  over three nights at Myojinkan.

2012 09 05 18 06 03

Uni Ikura in broth from the Modern Japanese menu.

2012 09 05 18 06 18

Delicious!

2012 09 05 18 13 57

Tastes of different local flavors at Modern Japanese.

2012 09 05 18 14 03

Flash fried river crab over local corn.

IMG 1649

Most Ryokan’s kick you out during the lunch hour, telling you to basically ‘go fend for yourself‘ at lunch time.  Because Myojinkan is 30 minutes from Matsumoto city, and there are literally no possible places to walk to, they offer a basic soba or udon lunch set if you decide to stay in for the day.

It’s worth staying in for the day, I promise.

This local Nagano soba was one of the most delicious cold soba lunches I’ve ever had.

IMG 1578

Fresh cooked squash, mushrooms, baby corn.

IMG 1659

Local wasabi, daikon and scallion (every cold soba lovers perfect compliment).

IMG 1575

Fresh daikon radish cut, grilled and served with fresh lemon.

Finally, when you visit Myojinkan, be sure to spend an afternoon in Matsumoto and visit Matsumoto Castle, some of the local Apple or Grape farms, and try the local Nagano grown soba noodles. I fell in love with the local artisan cuisine here and can’t wait to visit again.

Myojinkan is 2.5 hours by train from Tokyo. It’s best to arrange transportation directly with the front desk at the Ryokan. They run a daily shuttle service to and from Matsumoto station or surrounding airports.

It’s easy to book Myojinkan through our friends at The Ryokan Collection. Tell them we sent you and enjoy!

 

Nara Doggy Radio

Doggy radio

Doggy Radio is a functional limited-edition art object created by world-renowned contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara, in collaboration with How2work & Sayer Studios.

Doggy Radio is limited to a strict run of 3,000 pieces, and each one includes a metal dog tag with its unique edition number. In addition, each doggy comes beautifully and safely packaged custom designed container with an exclusive easy-to-follow manual illustrated by Nara himself, as well as an USB cable and a power supply with international outlet adapters for easy and convenient use.

Leva Task Lamp

ITRE LEVA 1ITRE Leva dettaglio 2ITRE Leva SL1

Must have. This task lamp is kicked up a notch with the Leva, master Architect Massimo Iosa Ghini’s latest creation for Leucos USA brand ITRE.

Its structure is composed of beech wood with a natural enameled finish and edgy steel components. An LED beams through its unconventional diffuser. Made of opal white Poly(methyl methacrylate)(PMMA), this diffuser boasts a subtle grid of orbs through which much of the light is delivered.

Goyard’s Brand Book

Goyard book 05

Michael Williams has a great post entitled The Greatest Brand Book Ever Made about the incredible book recently published by Parisian publisher Devambez about Goyard and their 160 years of history. Only 233 editions were made, and they each cost a whopping €6000– available by special order.

Each book is painstakingly made by hand by the finest artisans in France and comes in its own individually numbered, fully custom Goyard case.

It’s been incredible to see this brand manage their growth so meticulously.

Sumally

Sumally com

Sumally has been described as the Pinterest of Japan. I don’t actually agree, because they’ve done a remarkably good job separating items into Wants and Haves. A secretly powerful tool to turn commerce on shortly.

After using it for a few days, it seems it’s the place where the most influential Japanese designers, cultural icons and locals are sharing objects of fascination in their life. The caliber of curation happening here is pretty high. Check it out, I’ll be watching this one.

Back on the radar…

I’ve been off the radar the past few weeks, apologies. With the launch of Valet, and travel in China, visiting Beijing and Tianjin, and all over Japan in Tokyo, Nagano, and up in Hokkaido in Sapporo. Lots of reviews and pictures coming soon. Amazing trip.

Introducing Valet

Valet Login thumb 620x369 45801

Well, the cat is out of the bag. I decided to start another company called Valet back in January, and this past week we told a couple of friends, who told a couple of their friends, who told the whole world that it was now live. We had an overwhelming response. Completely blown away.

The concept is pretty simple. As readers of this site know I spent the last few years traveling around the world living in and out of hotels in more than 20 countries. I noticed two things that I wanted to turn into a product I could sell.

The first was that most great hotels were willing to part with some of their normal rate and give me a break as a creative professional, an online influencer, a writer, and an entrepreneur. I thought, wow, would they do that for other people like me?  I found inspiration within other businesses I saw that were exploring this model and breaking away from the standard online travel agent business.

The second part was that in all these new cities I went to, I found finding basic intel about where the design-centric crowd gets their coffee or spends their time incredibly tricky. There are a myriad of sites you can search, but most of the time I’d end up on Twitter asking who has tips for XYZ foreign city. So, I started to tap my local friends and influential types in different places to see if they would be willing to share their favorites with a closed group of people– and the answer was an overwhelming yes.

We launched with city guides in two cities, New York and Tokyo (I write this from Japan). More than 130 places in New York and 40 (and growing as I write this) in Japan. I tapped people from all different walks of life to be curators. We launched with about 80 hotel partners that gave 10-20% and sometimes much more off their normal rack rates to us. Some of the deals are exceptional, some of them are okay and will be getting much better. I knew I had to start somewhere.

I also knew this was a product I had to charge real money for, and keep gated behind an application process to protect the partnerships and the curators from too much exposure.

This is totally 1.0. Many more hotels are coming and many city guides will follow. Tread softly, be nice and send feedback.  We have big plans for exploring what the 21st century travel agent might look like.

This wouldn’t have been possible without my partner in crime Aaron Rutledge, the incredible design duo Ian Coyle and Duane King, and identity master Takashi Kusui, as well as a few other people who were working behind the scenes to get this going. You know who you are.

More reading here: Inside Valet on Cool Hunting, Skift News and Beta Beat.

If you signup, put down you’re a reader of my site in your ‘Facts’ and I’ll do my best to get you in faster.

B&W: Concert For One

Concert for one

Been loving my B&W P3′s, or as they call them ‘A Concert for one…’

real-life.jpeg

Fantastic design and form factor, and works great with all my iOS devices for entertainment and calls.  They come with a great hard case to keep them save in your hand luggage when you’re on the go. If you’re shopping, these are worthy for consideration.

Load more articles
Loading next 10 posts.