we made a last minute change to our itinerary, dropping unazuki (would have required a rushed scenic rail journey through the kuroge gorge) & realising that we didn’t need too many days at the alpine route, picked kamikochi (上高地) which was an excellent choice. 🙂
we wanted to catch the 1020am direct bus from matsumoto to kaimikochi to arrive at our taisyoike (大正池) ryokan bus stop (which was right outside the ryokan) at 12pmon 14.10.2013. hence we planned the journey to arrive at matsumoto in the late afternoon of 13.10.2013.
with that we managed to cover the entire easy 14km 4hr+ walk all the way to myojin-ike (明神池) pond & back to hotel in time for a nice bath & kaiseki dinner.
the ryokan service was EXCELLENT. first we booked directly with the ryokan at 14000yen pax for 2nights. but then my wife saw there was a 10% discount if we had made the booking via http://www.kamikochi.org/special-offers & quoting the website. i called the ryokan & they gave us the 10% discount anyway so it was 12600yen pax & 25200yen for 1 night. will talk about the service again later. 🙂
we had the western room with attached bath & toilet so back to the usual ryokan routine. the yu 湯 (japanese for hot water ie onsen baths) was small c/w green-tateyama & most ryokans we had been previously (at hokkaido, tohoku, arashiyama, tateyama, hakone etc) but it was ok.
the kaiseki dinner though was a huge let-down, way below par!
though we could not read japanese, the menu had looked decent enough like most kaisekis we had. but ingredients & quality were just not there.
the sashimi were just average (those from supermarket were fresher & sweeter). the zensai was ok.the yam & sausage items were ok. the iwana shioyaki (岩鱼盐烧) was quite good i guess but not much our kind of food. the meatball with soup was ok. the duck again non-descript. the ham on hot plate (they seemed to like to wrap meat in leaf over a heated plate) was much ado about nothing. the beef was quite poor really, not tasty & probably cooked at wrong temperature w/o proper browning & maillard reaction ring. at least the grapes were nice japanese grapes – sweet with a bit of wine flavour – & squeezed right out of the skin. 🙂
in all, a rather poor dinner, despite so many items. c/w many jap dining places in Singapore! nothing like the kaiseki we had come to know.
we were wondering what we might get the next day – & it was actually worse.
there was nothing to be said about the second night kaiseki dinner on 15.10.2013. only the cured salmon & sayori (flying fish) was good. the iwana 岩鱼was back this time in a miso paste grill. the beef was back this time a greater disaster – never had beef with batter like pork, fish or lamb cutlet (of course there is beef wellington but that’s quite different a pastry & not a batter).
well, kamikochi is such a lovely place, walking aorund the lake enjoying the reflections at taisyoike pond, looking at the mist on the still active yakedate & hiking round the lake to kappa bridge & myojin-ike. the ryokan room & bath were ok & the service was excellent. they came to inform us during 15.10.2013 dinner about typhoon approaching tokyo on the day of our departure 16.10.2013 & likelihood that morning shinkansen originating from tokyo would be cancelled. on the morning when we had to wait opposite the hotel to catch the bus coming from kamikochi terminal about 10 minutes away, they brought us 2 umbrellas and told us we could leave them on the bus stand when we boarded the bus. 🙂
so some gain some loss. however we still felt mostly loss as japan’s service is legendary & so is the ryokan room, bath & food, and for this trip, the good food we had were all from kyoto & matsumoto restaurants & not from the ryokans, except perhaps (ironically) the (non-ryokan) mingshuku senjusou. 🙂