Countryside Cooking with Village Grannies

Suwa Area Chino CIty

Visit a lovely rural village up in the mountains and discover the distinctive local food tradition together with cute local grannies.

In the foothills of the Yatsugatake Mountains, at an elevation of over 1,000m, lies a cluster of small farming villages straight out of a Japanese fairytale. Here, you can still find century-old farmhouses and pastoral scenes untouched by modernization. This nostalgic rural area is known as Yamaura, which means “in the mountain’s shadow,” for its unusual position so close to the mountain peaks.

In the Yamaura, the food culture is tied to the land and its seasons. The locals still lead a life in harmony with nature, adapting their farming activities and eating habits to the climate.

As the region is located at such high elevations, this also means embracing long, piercingly cold winters and coming up with ingenious solutions to preserve food throughout the year.

The local food is quite different from the Japanese cuisine everybody knows and loves, featuring many unusual dishes you won’t find anywhere else. If you want to explore a more intimate side of Japan and its undiscovered flavors, you can join this cooking experience deep into the mountains of Nagano with cute grannies as your hosts.

Heading toward the Yamaura

Frozen daikon radish—an important preserved food in the mountains

The activity takes place in a village high up in the mountains, and the road to get there is somewhat long, albeit very scenic. The terraced rice fields that pave the way toward the massive range of the Yatsugatake mountains show a different look every season. In spring, when flooded with water, they reflect the mountains’ elegant silhouette, while in summer, they shine golden under the sun.

If you have a car, the guide will be waiting for you at the village. If you are coming by train, though, they will pick you up from JR Chino station and give you a lift to the activity venue.

Meet the Grannies

Local grannies talk about the ingredients they use in their recipes

There are two versions of this experience, a long one which lasts three hours where you can prepare a full meal, and a short one which lasts one and a half hour where you can make a teatime snack.

If you have reserved the short version, the guide (who speaks English) will be present for the entire length of the activity. If you have chosen the long version, instead, the guide will be with you for the first 30 minutes to walk you through the day’s schedule and menu, then you will receive a translation device to communicate with the grannies. *You can extend the presence of the guide by paying an extra fee.

Once at the village, the guide will show you to the grannie’s house, where you will begin the experience. After you make yourself at home, the grannie will briefly explain about the region and its climate, the local culture, and the current season. Then, she will introduce you to the day’s ingredients and menu.

Get to know your Ingredients with a Short Farming Experience

Picking fukinoto (butterbur sprouts) in spring

Seasons play a significant role in the local culture. Before you start cooking, you can get a taste of the season by doing a short farming activity.

If your journey happens to fall during spring, you will probably forage some wild herbs to go with your meal. In summer, chances are you will pick some fresh vegetables in the grannie’s field to use in your recipes. In autumn, you might make dry persimmons or pickle some veggies. In winter, you will either make shimi daikon (freeze-dried, preserved food made by hanging daikon outside for several weeks) or miso.

Hanging daikon radish to freeze outdoors

Some of the food you make during this part of the experience, such as pickles or miso, you can bring home as a souvenir. Other food which requires a few weeks to be ready, such as dry persimmons or frozen daikon, you have to leave in the village. In this case, though, your host will give you some from her own stock. (We can also deliver it to you when ready for an extra fee.)

Cook Traditional Japanese Dishes with Local Experts

Carefully preparing vegetarian sushi rolls with Grannie's help

After you have warmed up by trying out the farming task, it is time to cook.

If you’re taking part in the long version, you will prepare four dishes, including a rice dish, a soup, and two side dishes (or one side dish and one dessert). If you have gone for the short version, instead, you will make one or two snacks to go with tea, either sweet or savory.

The menu, like the farming activity, depends on the time of year. Below are some of the most representative local recipes you might try your hand at:

Say "Itadakimasu!" and Dig in


When everything is ready, it’s finally time to eat. Take a seat at the table and enjoy your delicious meal while chatting with your host. The translation device comes in handy at this point, letting you ask your host all the questions that come to your mind.


Countryside Cooking with Village Grannies

Operating Period Year round
Time Organized by request (1.5h for the short version, 3h for the long version)
Reservations Necessary (via Chino Tabi Website)
Price 3,000 yen per person (excluding tax)- for the short version
5,000 yen per person (excluding tax)- for the long version
*Discounted price for children under 13 years old


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