There are times when one’s expectations are met, there are times when one’s expectations are exceeded, and once in a while time’s that one’s expectations are left far behind by a spectacular reality.
After leaving the populated area around Totsukawa-mura’s Village Office and driving up a steep one lane mountain road through a forest, my business partner and I came to the tiny rice growing mountain hamlet of Musashi over 1,000 feet up in the mountains of Nara. Silver-gray light from the full moon spilled down the slopes of the mountains illuminating the rice fields, wooden farm houses, Meiji-era elementary school and the Omori no Sato House, our accommodation for the night.
Modern amenities, 19th century architecture, and western and Japanese style décor have never met in so beautiful and distinct a way. Omori no Sato is a fully renovated and refurbished Meiji-era farmhouse. Modern roofing, rain gutters, a power line, glass sliding doors and a metal chimney have replaced the thatched reed roof and rice paper windows that would have been present during the Meiji-era, but beautiful new pine or cedar wood was used on the entirety of the exterior, and a nod was given to tradition in the rice paper screens in the entry door windows. The rich wood construction continues inside, with the exception of the tatami mat sleeping and living areas, and the brick floor of the wood burning stove, all the floor surfaces and some of the walls are made of cedar or pine giving the Omori no Sato a warm and welcome feeling. The sleeping/living areas are 6 tatami mat Japanese rooms divided from each other and the kitchen and dining area by shoji sliding doors. The kitchen and dining area reflects a western mountain cabin or ski lodge with its wooden countertops, wooden dining room table and chairs, wood-burning stove and glass sliding doors, but the preciseness and crispness of the lines and corners of the drawers and countertop, the colorful vertically aligned brick-like tiling of the wall behind the sink and stove is a perfect expression of modern Japanese styling, and the dark wood-framed tokonoma alcove (where sits the TV, phone and internet and WiFi router), and the wooden steps up to the tatami rooms give a smile and nod to the tradition that built the house to begin with. A modern toilet and washroom, a fragrant white cypress wood bathtub, a wooden deck, wireless internet and a full kitchen complete the package at Omori no Sato.
In the area immediately surrounding the Omori no Sato there is an unmanned food and country goods stand selling cup ramen, canned juice and some locally produced art pieces, and the historic Musashi Elementary School (site of the yearly Musashi Bon Odori Dance festival every August 14th), and there are easy walks and small hikes to shrines, mountain streams and views of the nearby valley in the surrounding Musashi area. Further away in the vast expanse of Totsukawa-mura unsullied mountains and rivers, hot springs, and mountain temples and shrines await. A car (or motorcycle) is recommended for taking full advantage of all the area has to offer.
Omori no Sato has two rooms to offer, the Gyozen western style room accommodating up to 2 people for ￥7,000/person/night, and the Yakemine mixed Japanese and western room (where I stayed): ￥16,500/person/day weekdays or ￥18,500/person/day weekends/holidays for one person; ￥9,000/person/day weekdays, ￥10,000/person/day weekends/holidays for two people; ￥8,500/person/day weekdays, ￥9,500/person/day weekends/holidays for three people; and ￥8,000/person/day weekdays, ￥9,000/person/day weekends/holidays for four people. Two breakfast plans and three “Taiken” (experience) plans are also available upon request for an additional fee. An English language homepage and a Japanese-English bilingual reservation page is available and straightforward to use, but the amount of English spoken by the caretakers is most likely limited.
Being this far out into the country there is nothing to do but at Omori no Sato but relax, and take life one day at a time, making it the perfect retreat from the rush of city life. Happy travels!