Located in Yaba-Hita-Hikosan Quasi-National Park, Yabakei has a beautiful gorge selected as one of the 100 top scenic areas in Japan. Ura-Yabakei is a part of Yabakei, and Minshuku Fuchinoue stands right in the middle of the vertical cliffs and the lofty trees of one of the most attractive places in the country.
A minshuku is a type of traditional Japanese guesthouse, moderately priced and including home cooked meals. I had never before stayed in an actual minshuku, and my first experience became one of my fondest memories. Fuchinoue is run by an old couple, and if you are lucky, you will be able to see their adorable grandchildren as well. The family is filled with love, and is very caring towards their guests. I had a pleasant surprise when the grandchildren helped me carry my luggage. Furthermore, as I prefer not to dine alone, they even joined me during meals throughout my stay and made for warm company. After a while at the guesthouse, I fell into the illusion of thinking that I was part of their family.
The rooms are all Japanese tatami-mat style, and each one is pretty spacious. From every room you can see the beautiful scenery of the high cliffs and trees of Yabakei, as well as the brooks running through the deep green rice fields. You can see the same view while you bathe in the hot spring at the minshuku, where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
One of the best parts of my stay was the meals. Fuchinoue has several dining courses that you can choose from, but not ordering the soft-shelled turtle course would be missing out on a lot. Ura-Yabakei is famous for soft-shelled turtles prepared using the hot spring water, and it is said that soft-shelled turtles from this area lack the peculiar odor common to turtles. So although I was doubtful on trying this extraordinary meal, I actually enjoyed it very much. It didn’t have the odor I mentioned, and it tasted rather like some sort of fish full of collagen. It was delicious. In addition, most of the food they serve is homegrown and fresh, so you can enjoy a local taste of each season.
My memories in Yabakei are filled with all the activities I did with the grandchildren of the guesthouse. They showed me to the henhouse and we fetched some fresh eggs, fed the rabbits, and even went fishing together along a nearby stream. I enjoyed these activities in particular with the children, but at Fuchinoue there are a variety of activities available each month that you can experience, such as milking the cows, digging potatoes, and making yuzu kosho (a citrus flavored spicy seasoning).
As for a trip with your family, friends, or even by yourself, Minshuku Fuchinoue is a fantastic place to stay. You will come in touch with the warm hearts of the host family and feel the magnificence of nature. I highly recommend that you visit Yabakei during the fall season, since the scenery with the autumn leaves is particularly striking then. Visiting Minshuku Fuchinoue is pleasant throughout the year. It’s not just about the great scenery, but also the fun experience and the encounters with the lovely people you will have there.