Smoke gently rises from the chimney of a farmhouse across the valley. The only sound you hear is the trickling stream and a chorus of birdsong. The air is crisp and fresh, infused with a hint of pine from the forests surrounding you. This is what awaits you at the ‘Kinoko no Sato’ farmhouse bed & breakfast, an idyllic rural retreat deep in the mountains of Tokushima Prefecture.
“I heard Madonna eats this type of food,” says Satoko Kawamura with a bright smile as she brings out yet another immaculately presented dish. “That small pink nut on the top of the vegetable sushi comes from inside the core of a plum and these mushrooms were picked a few hours ago.”
The meal was an assortment of dishes cooked to perfection. All the ingredients were homegrown or locally sourced. It was whole food, no preservatives and no additives. Like the setting, it was natural in every way.
Satoko and her husband Junichi run ‘Kinoko no Sato’, which translates as ‘Village of Mushrooms’. It is a farmhouse bed & breakfast on the side of a mountain overlooking the picturesque Misato valley.
As you approach the B&B, roads become narrower and the mountains and bamboo groves begin to encroach on both sides. A challenge for even the hardiest driver. But, Junichi has driven these roads all his life and navigates the dips and bends effortlessly. Luckily, he offers to pick up guests without a car from the nearest JR train station eight kilometers away.
The farmhouse B&B is a format growing in popularity throughout rural Japan. The hosts are typically local residents who open their houses for guests. For the price of a cheap hotel room, you receive a delicious meal, a warm futon, and you can get to know your hosts. It’s a perfect antidote for travelers who long for something more personal than booking into a hotel room. This is the quickest way to meet real Japanese people and experience life in rural Japan.
The Kinoko no Sato opened for guests eight years ago and was one of the first in the prefecture. Now, there are over 20 farmhouse B&Bs in the region. But what sets Kinoko no Sato apart from the other farmhouses is its dedication to ‘macrobiotic’ food.
Originating in Japan at the end of 19th century, this diet consists mainly of whole grains, cereals, vegetables and little or no meat. It was popularized in the West in the middle of 20th century by George Ohsawa and now boasts followers around the world – including Madonna. The diet has a strong focus on balancing different types of food, avoids processed or refined ingredients and does not use dairy products. Very close to vegetarianism, the diet is said to benefit both physical and mental wellbeing.
“All our meals are made with seasonal ingredients and because we pick or grow everything ourselves, we can explain exactly what’s in each of the dishes,” explains Satoko. “It takes effort, but it’s worth it so the guests can feel confident they’re eating safe and healthy food. Things you buy in the supermarket contain MSG or other things we don’t know about.”
As for sleeping arrangements, the guest bedroom is a sizeable tatami room, with shutters that slide open to reveal a panoramic view of the valley. Next to the room, the sound of gently trickling water and tiny splashes reverberate as a rock pool brims with freshwater fish ready for the plate. In front of the room, small blue nets hang on a washing line, drying out slices of shiitake mushrooms in the clean mountain air.
Although the Kawamuras are not well versed in English, they communicate the best they can with smiles and gestures. Not that a lot needs explaining about the freshness of the food, the clean air and the beautiful landscape.
Kinoko no Sato Farmhouse B&B
Address：Tadaira 199-1, Misato, Yoshinogawa-shi, Tokushima-ken, 776-0000
- Different flowers are in bloom throughout the year. If you want to see fireflies, you should visit in May/June.
- Email or phone in advance for Junichi to collect you from JR Yamakawa Station.
- They also offer practical workshops such as noodle making. These have to be requested at least three days before your planned stay.
Words and Photography By Tom Miyagawa Coulton
Food Photography by Hiroaki Itakura
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