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Sake and Salmon: Just a typical night in Murakami


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The entrance of Ishidaya ryokan in front of Murakami station

Ishidaya Ryokan is located literally across the road from Murakami station, making it probably one of the most convenient places to stay in Murakami. The exterior looks homely and inviting and even displayed a tasteful show of christmas lights, in keeping with the seasons. The main entrance glowed with dimmed, warming lighting, creating the perfect blend of comfort, elegance, refinement and Japanese style.

Momiji decoration in Ishidaya Ryokan

 

Noren in Ishidaya Ryokan in Murakami city, Niigata

 

My Experience in Ishidaya Ryokan, Murakami

We were greeted at the entrance by two exceedingly welcoming ladies wearing traditional Japanese Kimonos. They will tell you all you need to know about the Ryokan, Murakami and can give you some excellent recommendations. They were amazingly hospitable and helped to make our stay really comfortable and homely.

Mount Fuji decoration pottery

We decided to pay before we were shown to our rooms simply to get that formality out of the way, but there was also the option to pay before we left the next day as well. Although technically a Ryokan, the traditional Japanese hotel did their best to cater to everyone’s needs and offered a choice of a traditional tatami room (¥7,800 per person including breakfast) or a room with a bed (two beds to be precise! – ¥8,800 per person including breakfast). The room with a bed was bigger considering it was probably meant for more than one person. But, if you’re after a truly Japanese experience, the tatami room is for you. The huge amount of squishy layers makes sleeping on the floor ridiculously comfortable. It’s also completely customisable to how you are feeling, can be placed anywhere in the room and you don’t have to ever worry about falling off it. In addition, since you’re on the floor, you have a multitude of space to roll around in during your sleep, which feels really freeing. Simply put on the traditional Japanese Yukata available in your room, set up your pile of squishy futons and snuggle under for a long and peaceful sleep.

Ryokan Tatami room with Futon set

Beds aside, all the rooms are very similar in their layouts. Each of them comes with a traditional style Japanese teapot, all the green tea you can drink (in classy powder form), a hot water kettle, a TV, aircon and extra heating appliances. As a nice added touch, they had already turned on the heating in our rooms a little while before we arrived, meaning our rooms were already cosy and warm from the moment we stepped inside.

Interior of Ishidaya Ryokan

Tea is available in the room

Something I really loved about this Ryokan was the style. The shared bathrooms were exquisite and the sinks were incredible. The rooms all had their own individual names and beautifully arty matching pictures. I, in fact, took pictures of almost every single one on the top floor. The attention to detail was fantastic, from the small cut out flower stencil designs on the stairs to the blue glow of the dining area. Everything glistened with the essence of ultimate peace and relaxation. I don’t know if it was the atmosphere, my traditional Japanese styled room or the amount I had walked that day, but I had one of the longest and best sleeps here that I have had in a long time.

Nice sink in Ryokan

 

Kappo Chidori Izakaya: The Salmon and Sake will blow your mind!

Salmon dinner set in Chidori restaurant

Before long, we needed some sustenance, so headed out to grab some dinner in a remote, yet fairly famous family run Izakaya called Kappo Chidori. The izakaya was only a peaceful 15 minutes walk through the serine streets of Murakami. In fact, i’m pretty sure we only saw about one other person as we walked, which was another thing I absolutely love about the place.

Chidori Izakaya interior

The restaurant was warm and inviting and, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We entered and were greeted by a lovely lady who could speak very good English and who explained the menu to us in detail, including the differences between Niigata’s famous sake. We took her recommendation and ordered ourselves a glass full. I have had sake before in Tokyo a few times and never really thought it was very good, but this was different. You get a quick kick from the strength of the alcohol as you fist swallow and then a smooth, pleasant aftertaste that makes you go back for more. It’s strong and dangerous stuff because it is simply such a smooth pleasure to drink. You can drink it as a shot if you like, but I would much rather sip this delightful beverage and savour each after taste. I was simply blown away by how good it was, as I had never expected to like sake this much. It’s definitely something you should try in Niigata.

Izakaya staff will serve you tasty Sake made in Niigata!

This restaurant also specialises in salmon dishes, with salmon dispersed into the menu in more ways than I knew were ever possible. While the simple poached salmon fillet was probably my favourite, it was incredibly interesting to experience all of flavours available in just one single salmon. They use every single part as respect to the salmon that died to create food for us and I think that is an incredible thing. Try dried salmon, orange salmon eggs and even venture into the realms of the stomach, lungs and even the heart if you can. It’s truly is an exciting and interesting tasting journey, particularly if you’re from a place like England.

Ikura don and Miso soup

The hosts at the izakaya really made our time there special. We even met up with and took photos with the fun man from the tourist information centre who came to introduce himself to us. We took photos and left the place with our stomachs and our hearts completely filled.

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Breakfast time at the Ryokan: My first Natto encounter

When I finally awoke in the morning, it was time for breakfast. The breakfast is included in the price of the room and is, in keeping with the style, a traditional Japanese breakfast using healthy, locally sourced ingredients, and of course salmon. Breakfast begins to be served at 7am, but when we had arrived the night before, we were asked what time we would like ours (7:30). When we arrived downstairs at 7:30, it was already laid out exquisitely on the table in the restaurant area for us. We simply sit down on our Japanese cushions and sunk our feet under the table onto a soft, warm and squishy blanket. Another delightful Japanese lady was hovering around behind the counter in case we needed anything, but was not in any way intrusive. My friend even asked for some natto, because she wanted some, and I got my first ever taste, much to the amusement of my Japanese hosts. It actually isn’t as bad as everyone makes out. In fact, it’s entirely edible.

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The breakfast consisted of salmon, rice, miso soup, salad, daikon (raddish) and some other side dishes. I have to say that, even though I love my pancakes, there is something about miso soup that is just so satisfying in the morning. The way it warms you from the inside out is something I can only liken the feeling of alcohol as it enters your system. Only this is much much better. The texture of the soft, fresh rice and the warmth of the entire meal are something I could definitely get used to. And, let’s face it, it’s much healthier than pancakes and kept me filled up until around 1pm that same day.

 

Information

Ishidaya Ryokan

Plan:

Tatami room / ¥6,800 or ¥7,800 per person  *high season +¥1000 ( New year, Golden week, and Obon )

Bed room / ¥7,800 per person

*Including breakfast and tax

*All rooms are non-smoking.

Official Site: here (Only in Japanese )

Japanese style restaurant Chidori

Lunch: 11:00-13:30 (LO 13:00) ; Dinner: 17:00-23:00 (LO 21:30)

Close: Wednesday ( lunch time ) and Sunday

Official Site: here