| Centrip Editorial Board
Authentic Farm Stay in South Nagano
In the southern part of Nagano Prefecture lies Toyooka Village, known for its year-round harvest of fruit and matsutake mushrooms in the fall. Toyooka Village is proud of the spectacular panoramic view of the Central Japanese Alps and the Ina Valley from Fukushima-Teppen Park.
In Toyooka Village is a unique inn called Farmer's Guest House Higashi. Only one guest per day can stay at this inn. The building is an old farmhouse over 100 years old, and the owner, Mr. Mibu, a hunter, provides the best game meat, mainly venison. He also arranges custom plans for the best countryside experience for each guest, according to the customer's desires and the season.
Below are details on the Autumn plan perfect for families.
Check-in At Farmer's Guest House Higashi
Farmer's Guest House Higashi is 30 minutes by car from the Iida Interchange on the Chuo Expressway (about 20 minutes from the Zakouji Smart Interchange), and stands alone in the middle of a village road stretching from the center of Toyooka Village, spreads out in the lowlands along the Tenryu River. This traditional farmhouse remains mostly in its original form, is more than 100 years old, and is used as accommodation.
Open the sliding door at the entrance, pass through the earthen floor, and go up to the room, where you will see an irori (open hearth). Separated by sliding doors, the six rooms in the farmhouse feel bigger on the inside.
When you step out in front of the house again, you will see fields and a stream in front of you, terraced rice paddies in the back, and mountains surrounding them. The most appealing thing about Farmhouse Guest House HIGASHI is the opportunity to stay in an authentic farmhouse, just like the ones depicted in Japanese folktales.
Pick Chestnuts with Kumagoro the Hound
After checking in and dropping off your luggage at the inn, it's time to start your activities. The day begins with a walk with Kumagoro, the inn's mascot dog.
Kumagoro is a sturdy hound weighing about 25 kilograms. Kumagoro is a rescue dog, Mr. Mibu took him in three years ago, and they have been living together ever since.
Hounds usually run in the fields and over mountains, and they get plenty of exercise on their walks! The pace Kumaguro sets is so fast that children can barely keep up, and they get exhausted after the 30-minute walk. The walk under the autumn sky is pleasant as you look out over the fields with budding fruit.
A special autumn-only treat during the walk is picking up chestnuts. On the way, Mr. Mibu guides you to several secret chestnut-picking points. Carefully peel off the spiky shell and take out the chestnut. Some are surprisingly large, and you will find many on the walk.
But the chestnut experience doesn't end there. At Farmer's Guest House Higashi as soon as you return from your walk chestnut peeling begins.
As you peel the chestnuts together, you get instructed on the finer points, like how to recognize chestnuts with insects and using peeling scissors. For the children, as it was their first experience, it was not easy until they got the hang of it. Sometimes they ended up with chestnuts about half the size they should have been. Using the peeled chestnuts, Mr. Mibu cooks chestnut rice for dinner. It is a real luxury to be able to eat rice with chestnuts you picked yourself.
Catch Freshwater Crabs
After chestnut picking, head out to catch some freshwater crabs. A vegetable field spreads out in front of the Farmer's Guest House HIGASHI, and a gentle stream flows next to the field. The clear water is full of creatures. When you move a large stone out of the way, you will see a freshwater crab scurrying out from behind the stone.
We caught and released many freshwater crabs during our short hour-long river excursion. They are unique to the clear river waters, so it is important not to disturb their environment. The children were sad to leave, as they were excited to play in the river, something they don't normally do. Their clothes were soaked!
After playing with king crabs, visitors experience harvesting vegetables in a field next to a stream. Farmer's Guest House Higashi grows a variety of vegetables without agricultural chemicals.
While learning about seasonal vegetables that are ready to eat, everyone carefully picks them. We picked eggplant, okra, tomatoes, and green peppers and looked forward to eating the vegetables we harvested later!
Dinner by the Hearth
After fully enjoying activities in the mountains, rivers, fields, and other rural areas, we returned to the inn for a rest. The children ran around the house, looking for rice grasshoppers in the paddies behind the house, and enjoyed their time at this traditional Japanese house to the fullest. During this time, Mr. Mibu prepared dinner.
He lights the charcoal in the hearth and slowly grills an amago trout. Little by little, the savory smell of the grilled fish filled the room, whetting our appetites.
The food around the hearth was diverse, including venison, pork, river fish, wild vegetables, and mushrooms. Moreover, Mr. Mibu prepares all of the food by himself.
Every dish was delicious, but the most notable was the venison. Mr. Mibu is involved in the entire process, from hunting to cooking. He knows venison inside and out and provides guests with the best venison dishes. The venison dishes he prepared for us included marinated venison, venison tataki, and venison spare ribs. We enjoyed these dishes without any gamey smell.
For dinner, we had rice cooked with chestnuts we picked up on our midday walk. It was delicious and filling! The meal fills you up fast, even though I was full, I could have had just one more bite.
After a very satisfying dinner, the children were already sleepy after taking a bath. They went to bed early, listening to the sound of autumn insects.
We started early the next day to prepare for our activities before checking out. I am grateful to Mr. Mibu for preparing breakfast early in the morning. The breakfast was a healthy and hearty vegetable-based menu. The stewed eggplant was harvested yesterday and was delicious!
Kumagoro Takes us to a Waterfall
After breakfast, the dog, Kumagoro, took us for a walk again. Today's walk was a little detour to Narita Fudo Waterfall, which takes about one hour. We enjoyed the scenery of the farming village along the way while trying our best to keep up with Kumagoro, pushing ahead at the same quick pace as before.
The harvest season was just around the corner, and the scenery of golden rice paddies was beautiful.
A river used to flow through the area where this paddy field now stands. To secure the land for rice cultivation, long in the past, they redirected the river. It is hard to imagine the hardships endured farming in this narrow mountainous terrain. It resulted in artificially creating Narita Fudo Falls.
Narita Fudodaki Fall is a waterfall with a 12-meter drop. It is not a very large waterfall, but watching the water cascading down the steep slope is beautiful.
It is quite a challenge descending the slope to the waterfall basin, 100 meters away. Little by little, you get closer to the waterfall, climbing over rocks and jumping over streams. The children seemed to be having a lot of fun. The footing is challenging, but the current around the waterfall basin is not too deep, and you can get close enough to the waterfall to touch it.
The check-out time at Farmer's Guest House Higashi is 11:00 a.m. Because the inn is limited to only one group per day, we enjoyed a satisfying one-night stay for adults and children alike, enjoying a unique farm stay experience with all the support we could get, and tasting the best game.
The cost is ¥8,000 per person per night with two meals per person for a 4-person stay, and upgrading to the banquet plan is an additional ¥1,000 per person. Also, all the experience options described in the article are part of the room rate. Other experiences are available, depending on the season, but may require an additional fee.
Since only one group per day is allowed, reservations can be difficult to make during the summer season. If you are looking for an authentic farm stay experience while feasting on wild game, make your plans early and head to Toyookaoka Village. For more information on the many tourist attractions of Toyooka Village, please refer here.
On a final note, in Japan, changes in natural conditions and a decrease in the number of hunters have led to the spread and growth of deer populations. Their increasing numbers cause a lot of damage to crops, so deer are exterminated as "vermin." About 90% of exterminated deer that discarded.
Mr. Mibu, the owner of Farmer's Guest House Higashi, is actively involved in the wild game business and provides information to reduce the needlessly discarded carcasses. A stay at Farmer's Guest House Higashi may give you a chance to rethink how humans interact with nature through delicious game dishes.