Heading up the lifts at the Hatsukaishi side of Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort, across the slopes from the Twin Towers builiding, you can see into a couple of the restaurants that line the slope. This year there is a new one open for business. It has been unoccupied for years and just sits there gathering vast piles of snow as it slides off its pitched red roof. It was bought by an Australian couple during the green season, carefully renovated, and now serves possibly the best value lunch on the whole ski field.
Depending on the snow conditions you can ski to the front door (or trek a path through the snow) and up the stairs onto the wooden deck. This is sure to be one of the best places to be when the weather warms up in spring as it has awesome views down the Uonuma Valley, across to Maiko Ski Area, and off to Mount Hakkai in the distance.
The restaurant and welcome are both warm and cheerful. There are a scattering of tables with chairs and benches, and some high stools at the counter. The menu is simple with a daily special served up with local Koshihikari rice and pickles, as well as a drink of your choice (beer, wine, or a soft drink). We went to Hiiragi as we'd had a friend who had eaten a delicious, thick leek and potato soup the day before. Our menu consisted of a chicken curry, and juicy homemade hamburger. If you get a taste for the beer over lunch you'll be happy to learn that this is also the cheapest place to buy draft beer on the mountain. Our lunch was great and we liked it so much we went back in the afternoon for a muffin and a hot coffee from their Nespresso machine.
We got chatting to the Australians in charge and learned that the owner happens to be a Feng Shui expert and consultant. The restaurant is designed with these principles in mind.
Great food, fantastic views, and a really friendly welcome on the slopes of one of the area's best ski resorts.