Matsumoto / NaganoTake a trip to a 100-year-old traditional house in Shiga, where the beauty of the satoyama remains: Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture

The three-story atrium living room at "Satoyama villa Honjin". You can feel the history in its dignified appearance.

Shiga, located in the northeastern part of Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, is surrounded by mountains on all sides and rich in nature. During the Edo period (1603-1868), the post town Hofukuji-juku was on the route taken by the feudal lord of the Matsumoto clan to and from Edo during his visits to the shogunate (the shogunate had the feudal lord reside in Edo for a certain period to control each clan). As a result, Hofukuji-juku prospered as a key transportation hub. Enjoy a retreat to this old private house restored in 1913 from the Ozawa family building, which was once the main lodge at Hofukuji-juku. How about a cycling tour to enjoy the nature and history of Shiga, meditation at a temple, gomagyo, or other activities offered here?

Satoyama villa Honjin

The roofed area on the left is the grand entrance used by the feudal lord

Satoyama villa Honjin is a renovated accommodation facility housed in the former main building of the Ozawa family. It was used by the feudal lord of the Matsumoto domain as a resting place during his visits to and from the feudal domain. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1908, and the present building was restored to its original condition in 1913. The earthen floor has a kamado (fireplace), and the living room has a 13-meter-high atrium with magnificent zelkova beams that attract the visitors' attention. We recommend relaxing by the sunken hearth.

The sunken hearth was discovered during the renovation in 2020. It is as if you have traveled back in time!

There are three types of guest rooms, each with beds, baths, toilets, and mini kitchens, all comfortably equipped to accommodate guests while preserving the atmosphere of more than 100 years ago. The rooms are tastefully decorated with chests of drawers and blinds that were once stored in a warehouse, creating a wonderful fusion of the past and the present.

Tonosama Garden View Junior Suite, which is said to be the room where the feudal lord and his retainers gathered for meetings.

The Kamenoya Annex is a Western style detached house built on the grounds, with stained glass and other Western touches. In the morning, it is used as a breakfast venue for guests, and from 10:00 a.m., it opens to the public as a traditional coffee shop. With a selection of food, desserts, and drinks, it is a perfect place to take a break.

Rich and firm custard pudding made with locally produced eggs for 600 yen and coffee for 600 yen and up.

A stay at "Satoyama villa Honjin" is full of unique experiences like a room in which the lounge and bedroom are connected by a corridor, or a renovated room which was once used by a feudal lord. Enjoy a memorable stay in a nostalgic atmosphere.

Satoyama e-bike tour

The tour will stop at scenic spots and highlights along the way, and will be led by a professional guide.

The cycling tour around Shiga on an e-bike, an electrically assisted sports bike, is a great way to experience the nature and history of the satoyama. Starting and ending at the Satoyama villa Honjin, there are four different courses with varying durations and difficulty levels. The courses range from a leisurely beginner's tour to a full-fledged course that crosses mountain passes, allowing you to choose according to your strength and experience. Enjoy the exhilaration of riding an e-bike through the peaceful countryside, viewing the snow-capped Northern Alps, and riding through the satoyama.

Enjoy cycling with a dynamic background scenery of 3,000-meter-high mountains

This example is the "Shiga Historical Exploration" course, which starts from the Hofukuji Road to view the Northern Alps over the fields then follows the old Zenkoji road to Shiga Canyon. At the starting point, Satoyama villa Honjin, participants will be briefed on how to use the e-bikes.

After getting instructions on how to turn on the power, operate the gears, and how to ride, we are finally on the road!

From the signpost inscribed with Zenkoji/Kobo Daishi along the old Zenkoji road, a 5-minute ride up the mountain road will take you to Shiga Canyon. Huge mountainsides with exposed layering of sedimentary rock create a powerful sight. The Shiga basin is visible in the distance.

Shiga Canyon, which reminds us that Shiga was a sea about 13 million years ago. Watch your step!

With an e-bike, you can comfortably tour the ups and downs of the satoyama. Custom-made tours to the spots of your choice are also available upon request at the time of reservation. Experience the comfort of the clean air and the breeze on your face as you enjoy the peaceful scenery.

Hikariya Higashi

Chef Yuki Takahashi has 25 years of experience in Japanese cuisine. The chef himself sometimes gives explanations about his cuisine.

"Hikariya" is a renovation of a prestigious merchant house Hikaruya, built in 1887. Spatial designer Kunikazu Takatori led the design planning for the renovation. The former main house with an attractive Japanese appearance, "Hikariya Higashi" offers Japanese cuisine. The restaurant is a Japanese-style room with tatami mats laid out in a relaxing atmosphere with high chairs and low tables. The vegetables and Koshihikari rice used in the cuisine are grown and harvested in the restaurant's own farm and paddy fields.

A historical building designated as a National Tangible Cultural Property. A French restaurant is located on the west side.

Marubako Zen, one of the lunch menu, is kaiseki dishes arranged in a three-tiered lunch box. The lower tier features tempura made from seasonal vegetables, while the middle tier is a colorful selection of vegetables, meat, and fish. The upper tier features sesame tofu and sashimi.

Marubako Zen (4,000 yen) is available only by reservation on weekdays. It comes with homemade Koshihikari rice, miso soup, and dessert.

Only kaiseki dishes are available at night. For lunch, 3 types of kaiseki dishes and 3 types of set menus are available. The dishes are prepared with broth made from kombu (kelp) and bonito, and are lightly seasoned to bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients. Enjoy seasonal delicacies in an elegant Japanese-style room.

Toukouji Temple

Meditate facing the garden spread out beyond the window. Cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves in fall are magnificent.

Toukouji Temple is a Shingon Buddhism temple that is said to have been founded by Kobo Daishi (Kukai) in 824-833, who enshrined a hand-crafted statue of Yakushi Nyorai here. The visitors can experience meditation, hand-copying of sutras and Buddhist images, sutra reading, and Homa rituals. The temple offers these programs in the hope that they will help visitors to reflect on themselves and open their hearts and minds. The time spent in the quietness of this mountain temple will surely be a special experience for you. Also not to be missed is the Ranma in the main hall, which was painted by Kano Baigen.

The main hall was built more than 200 years ago, and it is where the principal image of the temple, Dainichi Nyorai is enshrined.

Visitors experience Gomagyo (Homa ritual), in which they light a fire in a furnace that resembles the mouth of a Buddha and throw offerings, gomagi, and wooden cards with wishes written on them into the fire to pray. Once the prayers begin, visitors sharpen their senses while feeling the flickering of the flames, the sound of wood crackling, and the aroma of smoke wafting through the air.

At the end of the prayer after burning incense at the altar, wooden cards with wishes written on them are thrown into the furnace.

A meditation session is also recommended to open the mind and relax. After receiving explanations on proper sitting posture, eye contact, and hand signs, visitors are encouraged to repeat the breathing technique of inhaling through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth to regulate their minds. The meditation session can be held at any time, so please contact the center in advance.


Coffee with a rich aroma made from home-roasted organic beans is brewed one cup a time in front of you.

Musubuichi is held every Friday in the Shiga branch office of the Matsumoto City Hall by local business owners in the Shiga area. With an emphasis on organic and local production for local consumption and waste reduction, the market features stores selling bento lunches and sandwiches made with local ingredients, organic coffee, vegetables, and other foods. One of the popular items is “roast pork bento" which features local organic vegetables and homemade roast pork made from free-range Azumino pork sold by "sabou Shiga". Their green kitchen car is a landmark of Musubuichi.

Local Hazekake rice is used in "roast pork bento" (1,000 yen)

"Shi Mugi An" sells gluten-free fénétra and tarts made from rice flour, potato starch, and corn flour, as well as brownies and cookies. In consideration of the environment, all products are sold by weight, without individual wrapping.

Conversations with shopkeepers about the best ways to eat and preserve the food is one of the joys of Musubuichi

Dai Musubuichi, a larger scale of the market, attracts many people and is held four times a year on Saturdays in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. As the concept of "Connecting people, goods, and smiles of Shiga" suggests, you can experience the joy of interacting with local people at Musubuichi.

Access information

Access to Shiga, Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture:

Approximately 30 minutes by car from JR Matsumoto Station.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change. Unless stated otherwise, prices do not include tax.
*Unauthorized reproduction of material in this article is strictly prohibited.

About “Countryside Stays“

If you’re looking for a new way to experience Japan, sign up for a farm-stay experience through the Countryside Stays Japan program and participate in traditional rural-lifestyle activities in recommended countryside locations.


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