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Soba Off the Beaten Path – Part 3: Watanabe (わたなべ)

Out of all the all the soba places in Matsumoto I’ve been to so far, Watanabe is my favorite. The shop is run by an older lady that must be around 80 years old. Everything is handmade, from the thinly cut soba noodles to the pickles and other mini side dishes that come along with the meal, to the woodcuts on which the menu is written.

You’ll find Watanabe’s shop in a quaint community called Inekoki, which is on the road to Norikura and Kamikochi from Shin-Shimashima. It is an inconspicuous building right as you go around a corner in Inekoki, so if you’re going here by car, it can be easy to drive right past.

Watanabe's exterior

Watanabe’s exterior

There is no paper menu and all items are posted on cut pieces of wood. The dishes served here include chilled soba served on a basket (morisoba), hot soba with grated Japanese yam (yamakake), and soba with raw egg (tsukimi soba). If you want a taste of old, country-style Japanese cooking, try the sobagaki, which is a kind of soba gruel made by stirring buckwheat flour with hot water until forms a thick paste.

Inside, menu is posted on cut pieces of wood!

Inside, menu is posted on cut pieces of wood!

Below is the chilled soba served in a basket, the simplest way to enjoy the subtle flavors of the buckwheat noodles. It comes with a dipping broth for dipping the noodles (which you can later dilute with the thick water from boiling soba and drink like soup). You can get a regular portion for only ¥450 and a larger one for ¥550. The regular portion is smaller compared to other soba shops, so if you have a big appetite, get the bigger one.

Chilled soba on a basket

Chilled soba on a basket

I loved Watanabe’s hot soba noodles. I got the yamakake soba and the grated yam covers the noodles in a deliciously gooey texture as you eat. My favorite part, though, was the broth. It’s not too strong or salt and you can tell it’s homemade and cooked with care.

Hot soba with grated Japanese yam

Hot soba with grated Japanese yam

For something really unique, get the sobagaki. This is an old-fashioned dish that reminds me of a smooth, buckwheat flavored oatmeal. The fun part is that shop lady brings it out right in the pot it was cooked in! You eat it by scooping out portions with a spoon and dipping it in soy sauce garnished with green onions.

Sobagaki served right the pot

Sobagaki served right the pot

Also, all orders come with a tasty side dish or two, usually something made with seasonal vegetables such as pickles.

Different kinds of homemade pickles and another mini side dish

Different kinds of homemade pickles and another mini side dish

Delicious salted cucumber and myoga that we got served in summer

Delicious salted cucumber and myoga that we got served in summer

The inside of the shop is cozy and decorated with a collection of woodcrafts. The soba shop is directly connected to the shop owners home and if you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go through the sliding doors and through the living room!

Nice and sunny seats

Nice and sunny seats

Hours are 11:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m. There are no particular closing days.

To get to Watanabe, you can use an (unfortunately) infrequent bus from Hata Station or Shin-Shimashima Station (the Nagawa Line) to the Inekoki Nakamachi bus stop or, of course, by car/taxi.

You can see the bus schedule in Japanese here. Basically, if you are shooting for lunch, you can take the first bus at 9:55 a.m. from Hata Station/10:02 from Shin-Shimashima Station, or the later bus that departs Hata Station at 13:17 or Shin-Shimashima Station at 13:24. (The earlier bus will get you to Inekoki before the shop opens though).

By car, just follow the road into the mountains toward Norikura/Kamikochi (map).

Soba Off the Beaten Path – Part 2: Kakesu (懸巣)

For part 2 of the Soba Off the Beaten Path series, I’m going to introduce you to Kakesu (懸巣)—a soba shop/Japanese-style diner that really is off the beaten path. In fact, it’s pretty much in the middle of the mountains!

Kakesu is nestled in a narrow valley on the way to Utsukushigahara Highlands in the Tobira Hot Springs area. It sits right next the Hinokinoyu Hot Spring facility, so you can eat before or after you take a dip in the hot spring. After turning off the main road, the way turns into a slightly precarious, one-lane road through the forest in the mountain valley/gorge.

The entrance of Kakesu, with signs advertising its menu

The entrance of Kakesu, with signs advertising its menu

This shop isn’t an exclusive soba specialty restaurant, but rather a kind of Japanese-style family “diner” that serves soba and udon noodles is Kakesu’s main menu items along with other things. What makes it different from other noodle shops is that they use some unique ingredients, such as homemade sunkizuke pickles and local wild mushrooms. I imagine they’ll also have wild mountain herbs/plants in the spring and early summer, too.

By the way, sunkizuke pickles are quite a rare find, as they can only be made in cool climates. They are made with turnip greens that are lactic acid fermented without salt (the same kind of fermentation as sauerkraut, but sauerkraut uses salt). These pickles originate in the Kiso area, but apparently the conditions in Kakesu’s mountain valley are also suitable for making them!

The first time I went to Kakesu I tried their special sunkizuke soba noodle bowls: one included wild mushrooms and the other grated Japanese yam. The pickles have tart flavor due to the way they are fermented, which goes well with the soy sauce-based soup that the noodles are served in. If you are a mushroom fan, definitely give the wild mushroom version a try—the mushrooms are picked from the local forests and have a much deeper flavor than regular, store-bought ones.

Hot wild mushroom and sunkizuke pickle soba noodles

Hot wild mushroom and sunkizuke pickle soba noodles

I’m also a huge fan of tororo, or grated Japanese yam. It has a pleasantly gooey, slimy texture that coats the noodles as you slurp them down and gives the soup a thicker texture.

Hot sunkizuke pickle and tororo (Japanese yam) soba noodles

Hot sunkizuke pickle and tororo (Japanese yam) soba noodles

If you like tempura, then you’ll enjoy the kakiage soba topped with a big piece of kakiage tempura, which is made by frying various types of julienned vegetables together.

Hot kakiage soba

Hot kakiage soba

You can also get the above dishes with fat udon noodles instead of soba. Another dish I have my eyes set on are the hot udon noodles with wild mushrooms in a miso-based soup!

Besides, noodles, Kakesu has other kinds of daily specials and other menu items, including Japanese diner classics like oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowls), tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), and grilled fish sets.

One delicious special was the mini hotpot with wild mushrooms and suiton (simple flour dumplings). It was packed with tender, yet pleasantly chewy dumplings and tons of vegetables along with the mushrooms!

Suiton dumpling and wild mushroom hotpot

Suiton dumpling and wild mushroom hotpot

I also recommend the hearty gyusuji (tender beef tendon) stew and butamotsu (pork offal) stew combo. The beef stuew practically melts in your mouth and the pork offal are very tender. It comes with a big serving of rice, soup, and some homemade pickles, too.

Gyusuji (tender beef tendon) stew and butamotsu (pork offal) stew combo

Gyusuji (tender beef tendon) stew and butamotsu (pork offal) stew combo

Kakesu has a very at-home feel, as the family that runs it often have their little kids in the shop with them and there are all sorts of random items around the shop like wooden trinkets, temari balls, and a big collection of manga (which you are free to browse through!). There is both table-and-chair seating as well as tatami seating.

Kakesu's table seats

Kakesu’s table seats

The manga and trinket collection in front of the kitchen window

The manga and trinket collection in front of the kitchen window

One of the shop's cute and random wood-carved owls

One of the shop’s cute and random wood-carved owls

The down side is that getting to Kakesu is not that easy unless you have a car (map). It is 14 kilometers from Matsumoto Station so you will need to take a taxi, rent/have a car, have a friend with a car, or very strong legs and a good bicycle. On the other hand, since the Hinokinoyu Hot Spring is right next to Kakesu you can make a day out of visiting the hot spring and then getting a nice, hot bowl delicious soba afterwards. (Hinokinoyu has an amazing outdoor bath with a view of the gorge, by the way, so it’s well worth checking out! And, it’s only 300 yen.) During the summer you can also go hiking in the area or visit the Utsukushigahara Highland.

Kakesu’s hours are 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Hinokinoyu Hot Spring’s hours are 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Soba Off the Beaten Path – Part 1: Inakaya (田舎屋)

While there are soba noodle shops galore in central Matsumoto, there are some great options you can find off the beaten path, too. Since these shops usually aren’t trying to cater to the troves of tourists coming to the city, you can rest assured you’ll have an authentic experience.

The first place I want to talk about is Inakaya (田舎屋), a soba shop located straight east from Matsumoto Castle on the way to the Utsukushigahara Onsen hot springs area and not too, too far off the beaten path (see below for access info).

Inakaya's entrance

Inakaya’s entrance

I’m a little partial to Inakaya because it’s the first soba shop I visited when I moved to Matsumoto, but they definitely serve some high quality soba! They make their soba noodles by hand using soba flour from the Kaida Highland area in Kiso, Nagano and you can see the soba noodle making room on your right when you walk in the door.

Inakaya serves a variety of both chilled soba and hot soba in soup, and like many classic soba shops, you can get a side of crispy tempura on the side. The simplest way to enjoy the soba is the plain chilled soba which has a great texture and delicious, subtle flavor. It gets dipped into a concentrated dipping soup (tsuyu), which after you’re done eating, gets diluted with the thick water from boiling the noodles so you can drink it like soup. Another, more luxurious option is to get the chilled soba with the duck dipping soup, which includes a small, but tasty piece of roast duck.

Chilled soba with duck dipping soup

Chilled soba with duck dipping soup

There is also a hot version of the duck soba noodles:

Hot soba noodles with duck

Hot soba noodles with duck

If you’re a fan of tofu (in particular, fried tofu), then you’ll love the hot tanuki soba (yes, that would be the same tanuki from Super Mario!) which features a big, fat, juicy piece of fried tofu in the soup. Similarly the hot kizami soba has slices of fried tofu with green onion in the soup.

Tanuki soba noodles

Tanuki soba noodles

Kizami soba noodles

Kizami soba noodles

Other types of soba are sansai soba noodles which are served with wild mountain herbs and plants, soba with grated Japanese yam, and tempura soba.

The shop itself has a cozy, country-style atmosphere with a wood-burning stove in the middle of the restaurant and old Japanese folk masks hanging on the walls. Most of the seating is on tatami mats with low tables, but there are also a couple of regular tables with chairs.

Inakaya's wood burning stove

Inakaya’s wood burning stove

An old "otafuku" mask on the wall

An old “otafuku” mask on the wall

The good news is that if you want to try Inakaya’s excellent soba, it’s not too hard to get to!

The shop is only about 2 kilometers from Matsumoto Castle, so you could easily get there by bicycle in 15 minutes or in 30 minutes by foot. From Matsumoto Station it’s 2.7 kilometers, so it’ll take a few more minutes from there. It is also accessible by bus: just take the Utsukushigahara Onsen line bus to the Souza bus stop in front of the Delicia Supermarket (this bus departs both from Matsumoto Station and Matsumoto Castle/City Hall).

Shop Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

I’ll be posting about a couple more soba shops you can find “off the beaten path,” so keep an eye out! 😉

Gonta: Your Dango Destination in Nakamachi

If you find yourself walking down Nakamachi Street in need of a snack, you should check Gonta’s dango stand, a little gem hidden down one of Nakamachi’s side alleys. (But, be careful because they are only open on weekends and holidays!)

Gonta's dango stand

Gonta’s dango stand

If you’ve done your Japan research, you probably know that dango are a kind of sweet, mochi-esque rice “dumpling” often served on skewers. Mitarashi dango, which are slathered in a sweetened soy sauce syrup, and the multi-colored hanami dango (cherry blossom viewing dango) are especially common.

You can get both mitarashi and hanami dango, as well as other kinds at Gonta.

Part of Gonta's dango lineup

Part of Gonta’s dango lineup

Seductively glistening mitarashi dango

Seductively glistening mitarashi dango

Their full line up is shown in this menu (I’ll translate below):

Gonta's dango menu

Gonta’s dango menu

  • Mitarashi dango ¥90 — Plain dango slathered with sweet soy sauce syrup
  • Gohei mochi ¥300 — A hefty, regional treat made from pounded rice, glazed with a sweet sauce, and grilled. Gonta’s version is made with egoma seeds, walnuts, and peanuts.
  • Danhei ¥200 — Three smaller dumplings similar to gohei mochi, but with a sesame seed sauce
  • Shinshu-hei dango ¥100 — Flat grilled dango with a Shinshu (= Nagano) miso-based sauce
  • Pota-pota mochi ¥150 — A flat, round dumpling with a toasty sweet soy sauce and piece of nori seaweed
  • Kibi dango ¥70 — Dango made with millet (no sauce)
  • Yomogi dango ¥70 — Dango made with yomogi, a kind of Japanese herb (no sauce)
  • Also available but not shown on the menu: Hanami dango and anko (sweet bean paste) dango

I haven’t tried all of Gonta’s selection yet, but the past weekend I did try out the danhei, kibi dango, and Shinshu-hei dango. Each had its own interesting texture and flavor, plus the price is quite cheap.

Left to right: Danhei, Shinshu-hei dango, and kibi dango

Left to right: Danhei, Shinshu-hei dango, and kibi dango

The kibi dango had a pleasantly chewy texture with a subtly sweet taste. As expected, the Shinshu-hei dango had a miso-flavored, yet sweet coating that was slightly toasty due to be grilled. The danhei dumplings had a softer texture (which I believe is from being made with pounded steamed rice) and had a richer sauce that had a nice touch of sesame seed flavor.

Also, since the dango are stuck through skewers, they are easy to carry around while strolling around Nakamachi and Nawate. There are also a couple of small tables to sit at in front of and inside the futon shop that Gonta is attached to (if you happen to need some really nice futon bedding, you can get that there!).

Cute figurines on Gonta's counter

Cute figurines on Gonta’s counter

To find Gonta, walk down the alley that’s diagonally across from the Kurassic-kan.

7th Matsumoto Pub Crawl

Matsumoto Shiromachi (Castle Town) Baru (Bar)


bar crawl

Drawn by the medley of options and undeterred by the cold, I savored the flavors of the 7th Matsumoto Pub Crawl. With 70 venues offering great selections, it was tough choosing where to go and required a bit of strategic planning to get some of the dishes before they were sold out. Although some of the places I had hoped to visit sold out early in the evening (e.g. the pub with the sea urchin dishes), I was not disappointed with my other selections.

If you purchase your tickets in advance, you get a booklet of five tickets for ¥3,500. Non-alcohol booklets were also available for ¥3,000. One ticket was good for a specially paired set of one food item and one drink item. You also had the option of forgoing the food item for two drinks instead. I used up all of my tickets, but those that don’t can still redeem them for a slightly cheaper value for about one week after the event.

I went with a full-course style for the evening. Below you’ll find the five places I visited.

1. Shiki Shunsai Bar Ichi


Raw Oyster in a Ponzu Citrus Sauce

The oyster was very fresh and the wine had just enough sweetness. Both table and counter seating is available. The staff were very friendly, offering a nice atmosphere for drinking alone or in a group.


2.Yakiniku Bansankan


Kalbi with sides of kimchi and lettuce

The beef was tender and the kimchi had a nice kick to it. It seemed difficult to get the attention of the staff, but it could have been because of the large crowd.


3. Cafe Dining Gaku’s

roast beef

Roast beef with mashed potatoes

I lucked out by getting one of the last servings of roast beef. It was delicious! The mashed potatoes were light and fluffy and paired nicely with the meat. The wine was full-bodied and smooth. The bright red walls and lighting created a nice ambiance. Additional seating is available on their second floor.


4.  Hogyoku


Massaman curry and chige motsunabe

Hogyoku is a Thai-Japanese fusion restaurant. Both their chige motsunabe (kimchi and offal hot pot) and massaman curry were fantastic. The chilled hard cider balanced out the slight spiciness of the dishes. The seats are comfortable leather couches, and a spot near the window offered a nice view of the area.


5. Mukokuseki Dining Ku



I decided to end the evening with dessert, so I headed to Ku for their parfait. A nice mix of chocolate and vanilla ice cream and sherbet topped with chocolate cake and whipped cream awaited me. Counter and table seating is available. The background music consisted of more recent pop and electronic dance music making for a fairly energized atmosphere.



Event organizers posted updates on their Facebook page throughout the night so that participants would know when places were running low or had run out of their dishes. Keep an eye on their page for the next event! It is scheduled for Tuesday, June 5, 2018. I know I’m looking forward to participating!

¥500 Meal Deals around the Greater Matsumoto Area


¥500 de Dozura!? is a gourmet coupon book that offers great discounts at restaurants, cafes, and bars throughout the central Nagano area. I’ve used the book a number of times in more than one area and not only have I gotten some nice discounts, but I’ve found places that are worth visiting even without the book.

WHERE can you go?
The Chushin (central Nagano) version introduces places in Matsumoto,  Shiojiri, and Azumino! The page number of the restaurant corresponds to the number on the map. A number of locations can be found on Nakamachi Street, just south of the Castle.


The red area is the area to the east of Matsumoto Station.

HOW does it work?
All items listed in the book are ¥500 and you can visit each place up to three times! Some locations even offer additional coupons on your second or third visit. The book can only be used by one person at a time, so if you go with a friend or family, be sure that everyone has their own copies.

WHEN can you use it?
Volume 8 of Dozura is valid from now through April 7, 2018. Many locations serve both lunch and dinner and even offer the discounts on weekends, but certain time restrictions, such as lunchtime only, may apply.

WHERE can you buy it?
Typically bookstores and convenience stores carry it, and I picked up a copy at Tsutaya. The closest bookstore to Matsumoto Station is the bookstore in the attached Midori department store. Maruzen is also just a few minutes down the road from the Oshiro (castle) Exit, but you may find it at a convenience store as well. The book itself costs ¥980.


Books are in Japanese only.

In addition to local Japanese fare such as sushi, takoyaki, and soba noodles, you’ll also find a variety of other food and drink. Desserts are also on the menu!



¥1,180 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 70


¥780 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 50


¥750 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 58


¥830 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 25


¥750 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 40


¥750 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 123


20180215_125529 20180216_194616

Look forward to a growing list as I visit more locations, and find places you’ll want to keep going back to!

Matsumoto Recommended Eats: Nagomi ごはんや和み


One of the places that I highly recommend people eat at in Matsumoto is Nagomi. This family run restaurant serves delicious, healthy meals with great portion sizes and at reasonable prices. The staff are very friendly and attentive. There is even a small play kitchen for children to use. They offer healthy takes on dishes like Taco Rice and local specialties such as Sanzokuyaki “Bandit Chicken” prepared with fresh ingredients.
It can get busy during lunch, so if you’re pressed for time, try to get in early!


Taco Rice (miso soup and side dish included) ¥900

Their special (pictured below) lets you choose from three main items and is accompanied by salad, an orange slice, and other side items that change regularly, all for ¥1,000.


Main Item “Bandit Chicken” – Thigh Meat

The chicken is very tender and juicy with just the right amount of breading.


Main Item “Crab Cream Croquette”

Two large croquette with a flavorful, creamy filling.

For an extra ¥500 you can get a set drink of your choice and their assorted sweets plate that lets you try 3 desserts selected by the chef.



If you’re interested in just an afternoon snack, they offer an a la carte menu in addition to  various cakes and parfaits including a sweet take on a tofu parfait, a chocolate parfait, and more. Drinks paired with a food item are discounted.
You can also look forward to a variety of cocktails and other alcoholic beverages if you stop by later in the day.

You can even get recommendations on other cafes in Matsumoto while you’re there! This large map on the wall can be used as a reference. (Nagomi is marked with the red dot.)




Mon − Sat: 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (last order 8:00 p.m.)
Closed: Sundays & 1st Monday of the month

Location & Access

They are located just down the street from the Matsumoto AEON Mall.
4-7-16 Chuo, Matsumoto 390-0811

Walking: About 20 min from Matsumoto Station, about 15 min from Matsumoto Castle

By Bus: Take the Town Sneaker bus that runs along the Eastern Course. Get off at Hinodecho in front of AEON Mall. One way costs ¥200.

Find them on Facebook.

*Please note that they do not accept credit cards.*

“Morning” Places to Get Breakfast in Matsumoto

Referred to as simply “morning” in Japanese, breakfast at restaurants in Japan can sometimes be hard to find. The following are all within walking distance from Matsumoto Station. While this is not a complete list of all breakfast-serving facilities in Matsumoto, it should hopefully give you some options that you find to your liking.

Local Restaurants



One of the earlier opening restaurants in the city, this traditional coffee shop is just down the street from Matsumoto Station. The classic decor creates the perfect ambiance for easing into the day.

Breakfast available: 7:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Closed: Tuesdays

Price: Drinks are ¥390 and food items are ¥50 to ¥100 with the purchase of a drink.

Some English spoken, English menu available, cash only, will be non-smoking from January



Connected to a traditional Japanese inn along the Metoba River in the Nakamachi area, this coffee shop is over 60 years old. Sit back in some of Matsumoto’s traditional furniture and enjoy their slightly acidic, aromatic coffee.

Breakfast available: 8:00 a.m. (9:00 a.m. in the winter) to 10:00 a.m.

Price: Starting at ¥550 for a set meal

Some English spoken, English menu available, cash only, non-smoking


Paneterie Marunaka

A bakery run by friendly women. Morning set options include toast, tiny sandwiches, or a bagel. All sets are accompanied by a salad, drink, and your choice of yogurt or a hard boiled egg.

Breakfast available: 7:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Price: Starting at ¥497 for a set meal

Some English spoken, menu includes pictures, cash only, non-smoking


Nakamachi Cafe


Open slightly later in the morning, this cafe sits in a renovated storehouse and serves pancakes and waffles all day. They also serve their very own specialty-blend coffee.

Hours: Weekdays: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. / Weekends/holidays: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (last order for food 30 min before close, 6:00 p.m. close during winter months)

Closed: Thursdays

Price: Pancakes starting at ¥750, waffles starting at ¥600 (tax not incl.)

Some English spoken, English menu, cash only, smoking section available


SWEET Co. (Temporarily closed until April 16)


Located on Nawate Dori (Street), this bakery was opened in 1924 after the company was founded in Seattle in 1913. Their breakfast includes a bread buffet with a variety of bread and your choice of drink. One of the breads contains peanut butter, so those with nut allergies should ask about the selection of bread.

Breakfast available: 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Price: Starting at ¥650

Some English spoken, English menu, non-smoking, outdoor seating available


Coffee Ito


Breakfast available: 7:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Closed: Mondays & the first Monday and Tuesday of the month

Price: Starting at ¥550

Wi-Fi available


Agatanomori Tea Room

Located within the Former High School Memorial Hall in Agatanomori Park. It is quite far from Matsumoto Station, but within walking distance from the Matsumoto City Museum of Art. Offers cakes and traditional Japanese desserts as well as full meals.

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed: Mondays



Located within Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu which is a 5-10 minute walk from Matsumoto Castle.

Breakfast available: 7:00 to 10:00 a.m.

Price: Coffee starting at ¥500


Chain Restaurants

Gusto – Ohashi Store

While Gusto usually lets you order individual items off of a menu, this Gusto is affiliated with Hotel Richmond and is buffet style only. Various Western and Japanese dishes with English name cards.

Breakfast available: 6:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Price: ¥1,200 unless you have a hotel meal voucher.

Credit cards accepted, non-smoking


Vie de France

Located on the first floor of the Matsumoto Station building, right next to the escalators on the Castle (Oshiro) Exit side. A variety of freshly bake bread with optional side items such as hard-boiled eggs and yogurt. The morning coffee blend is discounted slightly.

Breakfast available: 7:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Price: Starting at ¥330 for a set meal

Credit cards accepted, non-smoking



A cheap, fast food restaurant specializing in gyudon (beef bowl) that is open 24 hours and located just across the street from the station. Here you’ll find only traditional Japanese breakfasts that include salmon, rice, miso soup, sausage, eggs, and more. Coffee is not on the menu, but you’ll be served some hot tea instead.

Breakfast available: 5:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Price: Starting at ¥360 for a set meal

Cash/Suica cards only, non-smoking, English menu



Also located just across the street from the station with fairly standard McDonald’s breakfast food. Open 24 hours.

Credit cards accepted



Located on the third floor of the Matsumoto Station building.

Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Credit cards accepted



Just a few blocks from the station, morning sets include toast, sandwiches, and more.

Breakfast available: Weekdays: 7:30 to 11:30 a.m./ Weekends: 9:00 to 11:30 a.m.

Credit cards accepted, smoking room available, outdoor seating available


How to Make Your Own Oyaki Dumplings

When I first sunk my teeth into an oyaki dumpling (one of Matsumoto’s local food specialties), I was instantly addicted. Oyaki are fat, round dumplings that are made by stuffing a flour-based dough with various fillings, and then steaming and briefly grilling or pan-frying them to give the outer skin a bit of nice crisp. They remind me a little bit of Chinese dumplings, except that oyaki are plumper, less oily, and their dough skins are usually thicker.

A batch of homemade oyaki!

A batch of homemade oyaki!

The fillings for oyaki are most commonly vegetable-based, being made with Nozawana greens (a local vegetable), eggplant, mushrooms, and daikon radish. There are also sweet versions made with kabocha squash/Japanese pumpkin and sweet bean paste.

If you’re in Matsumoto or other places in Nagano, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on some oyaki, as they’re sold in oyaki specialty shops, souvenir shops, supermarkets, and sometimes even convenience stores. But what to do when you go back home and you wish you could have just one more bite of a tasty oyaki dumpling? Well, we’re in luck because they are surprisingly easy to make at home!

After I had declared my love for the oyaki, my neighbor and a soba shop owner here in Matsumoto generously offered to teach me how to make them. So, I figured I should share with everyone else too!

My neighbor demonstrating how to fill the oyaki.

My neighbor demonstrating how to fill the oyaki.

The best thing about oyaki is that once you know how to make the simple dough, you can stuff them with any kind of filling your heart desires. I’ll go over the basics below.


  • 250 g (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 150 ml (just a bit less than 2/3 cup) warm water
  • Steamer (Any kind will work. If it’s small you’ll just need to steam in batches)
  • Working surface for working with the dough; e.g. wooden cutting board, clean counter, etc.


  • Stir-fried vegetables and/or mushrooms
  • Mashed kabocha squash/Japanese pumpkin sweetened with sugar
  • Thickly sliced Japanese eggplant rounds, smeared with miso paste (also good if you mix in a little sugar into the miso paste). You could also chop the eggplant into cubes instead. Keep it raw, as it will cook when steaming.
  • Sweet red bean paste
  • Ground or chopped meats, seasoned how you like (e.g. salt, pepper, chopped onions, spices, etc. or think Chinese-style dumplings!)
  • Any kind of cooked leftovers that you think might taste good stuffed into a dumpling 😉
  • Japanese-style ingredients include kinpira gobo (spicy carrot & burdock root), unohana (okara & vegetables), hijiki seaweed cooked with vegetables, etc.


  1. Measure out flour in a medium bowl and gradually mix in water until the dough comes together. It shouldn’t be very sticky and wet, but it also shouldn’t be crumbly-dry.
  2. Cover the dough with plastic wrap to prevent if from drying out and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Place the dough on a working surface dusted with flour. Roll it into a long, thick tube shape and cut the dough into 10 equal sized pieces (around 20 g, if you’re measuring).
  4. Form each piece of dough into a round ball.


  1. Flatten a ball of dough and stretch it into a thin, circular skin. Try to keep the middle slightly thicker than the outside. You want to be careful not to stretch it super thin or the skin could tear when stuffing, but if the dough is too thick, it may end up chewy.
  2. Place the skin in the palm of your hand and put a good dollop of your filling into the middle.
  3. Begin folding over the sides of the skin until it completely encloses the filling. Use your fingers to pinch or press the skin together so it creates a seal.
  4. Repeat for the remaining dough balls until all oyaki dumplings are finished.
  5. P.S. It may seem hard at first, but the more you do, the better you’ll get!
Folding over the sides of the skin to seal the dumpling. This one is stuffed with eggplant slices, miso paste,  and shiso leaf

Folding over the sides of the skin to seal the dumpling. This one is stuffed with eggplant slices, miso paste, and shiso leaf


  1. Prepare a steamer so the water is boiling by the time your oyaki are ready to be put in. You can optionally line the bottom of the steamer with greens (lettuce, kale, etc.) or something like wax paper to help prevent sticking, but usually they are fine without.
  2. Without overcrowding, place the oyaki in the steamer. They get a little bigger as they cook, so leave some room in between each one or else they dumplings will stick together and the skin will tear when you try to take them out (do it batches if necessary/have a small steamer).
  3. Steam for 20 minutes and remove to a plate
  4. To get a nice crisp texture and color on the surface of the dumplings, grill or pan-fry each side on each side. This is optional.
  5. They are ready to eat! Oyaki also taste great after they have cooled down.

Oyaki in the steamer

Oyaki in the steamer

Grilling oyaki in a frying pan

Grilling oyaki in a frying pan


  • Freezing: Cooked oyaki freeze very well. Just wrap each one in plastic wrap and freeze. When you’re ready to eat, you can simply microwave them until they are warm.
  • Refrigerating: Cooked oyaki will stay good for a few days in fridge. Wrap in plastic or put in a container. You can eat them cool, microwave, or re-grill when you’re ready to eat.

I hope you enjoy!

Make a whole bunch and freeze for later!

Make a whole bunch and freeze for later!

Okinado: Old-fashioned “Western Food” from the Heyday of the Showa Period

There are tons of the so-called “western-style,” or yoshoku, (洋食) restaurants in Japan. I always find this name a little troublesome because while yes, they certainly don’t serve your typical Japanese food, I think a more appropriate description would be something along the lines of “Japanese-style western fusion.” In fact, some dishes are actually Japanese inventions inspired by the west.

Typical dishes you might find at yoshoku restaurants are curry and rice (was curry even Western to begin with??), hayashi rice (tender chunks of beef in a thick, demi-glace-ish sauce over rice), omurice (tomato-y fried rice wrapped up in a super thin egg shell), and hambaagu (basically a delicious, Japanese version of Salisbury steak).

That being said, even though yoshoku technically translates to “western food,” it still offers you an authentic Japanese experience—one that dates back to the Meiji Restoration (late 1800s).

In Matsumoto, one of the best places to get your fix of yoshoku is a restaurant called Okinado. While not quite as old as the Meiji Restoration, Okinado has been around for a long time: it opened its doors in 1933 at the beginning of the Showa Period, first as a coffee house and then later adding a full menu of “western-style” food in 1957 that included curry rice, hayashi rice, sauteed pork, and other items. It is family owned and is now with its third generation owner.

Entrance to Okinado, complete with plastic food display

Entrance to Okinado, complete with plastic food display

Today, Okinado still serves many of their original dishes and compared to some other yoshoku restaurants, I’d say their menu items tend to be more “fancy,” if you will. For example, they boast fresh, locally sourced ingredients and their hayashi rice sauce is apparently cooked down for an entire week!

A few days ago, I went with a couple of friends so we got to share and try a few of Okinado’s most popular dishes: the napolitan pasta (a spaghetti-esque dish with a ketchup-y/tomato-y sauce and stir-fried vegetables), omurice, and hayashi rice.

Out of the three dishes, the omurice was my favorite. The thin egg shell was perfectly wrapped around the nicely flavored rice, plus it had a portion of their special hayashi sauce on top along with another kind of white sauce. The hayashi rice was pretty good too, though the sauce had quite a strong flavor that reminded me of coffee (they may actually use coffee when cooking it). You could tell the sauce had been cooked for hours and the beef was super tender.

The napolitan pasta, on the other hand, was a little disappointing, as it seemed like the spaghetti noodles were just mixed with stir-fried vegetables, pork, and a bit of tomato-ish sauce (nothing like spaghetti sauce though). Not that it didn’t taste good, but I was looking for something a little more unique.



Pouring the chunky hayashi sauce over hot rice

Pouring the chunky hayashi sauce over hot rice

Napolitan pasta packed with veggies

Napolitan pasta packed with veggies

Other dishes that looked good (on other people’s tables) were the hambaagu/hamburger steak and fried pork dishes (katsu), though they are more on the expensive side. There are also combo plates that let you try two or three different dishes on one plate. I didn’t get to to try any this time, but the desserts looked very enticing too, especially the custard pudding!

More than the food, I loved Okinado’s atmosphere—still housed in its original building, it looks as if it were stuck back in time in the heyday of the Showa Period. Old-fashioned decor, manager in suit vest and bow-tie, vintage diner seats, heavy ceramic lights above the tables…it really gives you a good sense of what Japan might have been like when it was in love with all-things-western. Plus there is a great view of Nawate Street and Yohashira Shrine from the big windows!

Inside the restaurant on the first floor

Inside the restaurant on the first floor

Spiffy ceramic lights hanging about the tables

Spiffy ceramic lights hanging about the tables

Okinado is located in Nakamachi, which is a 10-minute walk from either Matsumoto Castle or Matsumoto Station. It’s on the corner across the bridge from Yohashira Shrine. Budget-wise, it will cost you 1,000–1,500 yen for most meals, though the meat-heavy dishes are closer to 2,000 yen. You can go for both lunch or dinner.

Weekdays & Saturdays: 9 am—3 pm, 5:30 pm—8:30 pm (L.O. 8 pm)
Sundays & Holidays: 9 am—6:30 pm (L.O. 6 pm)
(Google Map)

By the way, you can check out more photos on Okinado’s website. It’s in Japanese, but the photos explain themselves :)

Outdoor menu with 3 recommended items for the day: Volga Rice (omurice topped with fried chicken and hayashi sauce), Omurice (rice-stuffed omelette), and Napolitan pasta

Outdoor menu with 3 recommended items for the day: Volga Rice (omurice topped with fried chicken and hayashi sauce), Omurice (rice-stuffed omelette), and Napolitan pasta

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