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First stop, Matsumoto, Japan

Japan, I have been looking forward to going back for such a long time! ‘The Mother’ and I have not been to Japan together, I have previously gone with some girlfriends to ski and with my parents, and spent a good three months in Kyoto in a boarding school so I can ‘perfect’ my Japanese. Needless to say, that, I didn’t end up doing Japanese for my High School Certificate and have forgotten most of my Japanese. One good thing though, it was one of the best thing that happened to me during high school and made some wonderful memories and friends.

Our first stop in Japan was Matsumoto. We arrived in Tokyo and took the JR Shinonoi Line, the train took about 2.5 – 3 hours, I can’t exactly remember as I passed out and slept most of the way. Matsumoto is located in Nagoan Prefecture on Honshu, main island of Japan. It boasts ‘a surprisingly metropolitan atmosphere while maintaining historical sites and traditions’. The streets are super clean, so clean that ‘The Mother’ would eat off it, and the people are extremely friendly! Apparently the region is famous for delicious apples and soba (buckwheat noodles).

We stayed in a cute little hotel call Dormy Inn, in the heart of Matsumoto. As ‘The Mother’ checked in, I was going through a couple of pamphlets and something caught my eye ‘the Staffs recommendations for eating out’ – PERFECT! Unfortunately, I didn’t really do my research on Matsumoto so was happy to have found this little information – check out the drawing below, it is pretty neat!

We got there early, so thought we would check out the castle, completed in 1614, it is considered one of Japan’s top three castles. The scenery from the castle is quite breath taking, the photo below really doesn’t do any justice! It was truly magical and mind blowing.

You can enter the castle, admission is around 600 yen, and climb to the top of the stairways. From there, you can see the whole view of Matsumoto town. Below is a little sneak peak of Matsumoto town from the top of the castle, gorgeous.

The castle is located 15 mins from Matsumoto station and admission ticket also includes Matsumoto City Museum on the castle grounds, with artefacts documenting the history of the city. I really do love the scenery below!

First stop, lunch! Recommended by the staff of the hotel – Pork cutlet and Japanese curry – Takuma (Tonkatsu and curry) and my goodness, it was one of the best Japanese curry I have ever had!

It’s a very casual place that serves pork cutlet and Japanese style curry. I am not a huge fan of curries usually, but I have taken a liking to Japanese curry, and had to try in Japan. We started with a salad, fresh fruits with vegetable drizzled with mayonnaise. I certainly enjoyed it but ‘The Mother’ just ate the fruits. He is not big on mayonnaise and didn’t particular like the cabbage!

I opted for the pork katsu curry, and it was sensational. It was quite a large serving, which suited me fine – the bigger the better, I was ravenous. The pork was tender and succulent, the batter was light and extremely crunchy, even after it was poured with curry sauce. The sauce was wonderful, it was slightly spicy and not sickening, I could have easily drunk the sauce on its own, but that would seem a tad wrong!

‘The Mother’ is not so big on Japanese curry, so opted for something smaller. He ordered the pork loin, half size with curry. The batter was exactly the same, just a different cut of pork and it was just as good as mine. The difference is I don’t think I would have been satisfied with this, it was just too small! Yes – I can eat!

The whole meal came to 1650 yen, which is about AUD$22 which I thought was pretty good!

Deliciously full, we thought we would wonder around the town. We found a park, which was walking distance from the hotel. We sat there for a while admiring and soaking up the view. It was beautiful. Life was good, things were great, if only we could stop time.

We went back to the hotel and rested for a bit before heading out for dinner. ‘The Mother’ wanted yakitori, something he enjoyed and we found this cool yakitori place near our hotel. The place was buzzing, lots of diners, and since we didn’t have a booking, we sat by the bar, which was no problem at all! I can see the chefs in action.

We started with Tsukune – chicken skewered meatballs with quail eggs in side. Tender chicken and the surprise of a quail egg which was cooked to perfection was just amazing. We both really enjoyed this dish.

I couldn’t help but order fried chicken wings – hot deep fried chicken wings. They were tasty, I sense that they were battered with beer as it had a strong beer flavour. It was spicy and crunchy, and absolutely soft and juicy on the inside. It was a winner!

Next the chicken skins – these were crunchy and soft at the same time. Tiny chicken skins barbequed with salt. It was good.

The pork neck salad was incredibly! Ever since that pork neck dish at Gi Kee in Hong Kong, I have to order it if it’s on the menu. The pork neck was deliciously succulent and tender and was absolutely wonderful. I could have easily eaten the whole thing on my own!

The skewered rolled pork meat and mini tomatoes was ‘The Mother’s’ favourite. He loves the juicy roasted tomato that bursts in your mouth.

The grilled chicken breast filled with yuzu flavoured chilling was nice but nothing to rave about. The yuzu sauce was delicious but the chicken breast was so so.

Last but not least, just a stick for me, as I could still eat, chicken thigh carcass meat with pong vinegar was the perfect way to end. It was so tender that it required absolutely no chewing, and just melted in your mouth.

It was a fantastic meal, we both certainly enjoyed the meal and was absolutely stuffed. The meal costs about 2500 yen, which is about AUD$33, which isn’t too shabby at all!

For dessert, we thought we would get something from the convenience store. There are so many different types of ice cream that ‘The Mother’ wanted to try as many as he can. I was a tad full but couldn’t help but have some of his crème brule ice cream. Chocolate coated, with crème brule flavoured ice cream – it was just to die for! I loved it! I probably should have got one for myself but knew I would be sick.

Matsumoto is a beautiful city, it is Nagano-ken’s second largest city and has been around since at least the 8th century. I love the view of the Japan Alps and it is a transit hub for Japan Alps National Park and Kiso Valley. I would recommend going there, but don’t think you need to stay more than a day, two max.

Next stop, Nozawa Onsen for a day of skiing.

GA’s ratings on Takuma: 8 / 10

Takuma (Tonkatsu & Curry)

1 Choume, Chuuo

Matsumoto, Japan

Ph: +81 263 35 6434

GA’s ratings on Yakitori: 8 / 10

Fukashi, Matsumoto,

Nagano, Japan