Misoya, Nagano, Japan

After the big night the previous day where I started at the Leffe Bar, then ate at Terako Machi and continued on at James Nagano Beer Market I was running a little slow and only had a quick coffee in the morning at Beck’s.

I started getting peckish mid afternoon and I found a ramen restaurant rated as one of the best in Nagano just a 3 minutes walk away from my hotel in a little side street opposite the station.

I stood almost directly outside the restaurant while I tried to get a GPS fix and waited for my mobile data session to be reestablished as I didn’t quite know whether the place I wanted was on the ground floor (which is was) or in the building above.

The ramen as this restaurant was probably the best that I had during my trip. The broth was just sublime and the combination of flavors only enhanced the taste.

I almost ordered a second bowl!

A large Asahi helped me wash down my meal and I began to feel alive again.

Terako Machi, Nagano, Japan

I first headed off to the Leffe Bar just after it opened and was the 2nd person there. I had a couple of beers but really wanted to head to a yakitori place that I’d walked past a couple of time.

I headed back towards the station and went into the restaurant for what would become one of my top 2 favorites evenings of my trip.

Walking in I was seated in the only spare seat at the counter in this small restaurant. There was probably 10 seats downstairs and a small area upstairs.

It soon became apparent that there was no English menu, and the staff didn’t speak any significant amount of English either. But I could see into the kitchen, I could see what the others were eating, and I had a decent mobile internet connection so I could use Google Translate.

With a certain amount of pointing to the translator on my phone and some pointing to other dishes I managed to find out that the only meat served was chicken – that was fine by me, I just needed to make sure I didn’t end up ordering anything, umm, dodgy.

I managed to order 5 sticks of chicken thigh yakitori and a draft beer. I was proud of myself!

I also managed to order some chicken breast yakitori. I patted myself on the back!

The locals were certainly amused at my antics and they were soon trying to talk to me using google translate on our phones. And we had what conversations we could.

And then they insisted I share their sake with them and they helped me order more food. The owner also shouted me a sake. I then bought some sake over the protests of my new friends for us to share.

What had started off as just popping in for a quick meal turned into a 3.5 hour experience of great food, sake and local hospitality.

As I left with one of my new friends I took him upto the bar I had been the night before, James Nagano Beer Market to repay his generosity for sharing his sake with me with a couple of beers.

A magnificent evening! And then staggered back to my hotel.

Meijitei, Nagano Station MIDORI, Nagano, Japan

I’d made a lazy walk up the main drag of Nagano to Zenko-ji Temple before the temperature skyrocketed but walking back towards Nagano Station had me searching for the shadows due to the intense midday sun.

As I approached the station I jumped into the shopping mall adjacent to the station mostly to get some relief from the sun, but as I walked though I saw a good collections of restaurants up on the 3rd floor.

Towards the south end I noticed a tonkatsu restaurant that had a huge queue of people waiting… I wanted my pork schnitzel curry so walked up and got my name on the waiting list. I stood out like a sore thumb being the only westerner waiting.

After about 20 minutes or so, the staff worked out that I must be the next person on the list after noone was responding to them calling me in Japanese. I was shown to a seat at the counter just inside the front door. If you look at the main photo on the tripadvisor page for this restaurant I was sitting where the guy in the dark suit is sitting, next to the Christmas Tree.

I ordered one of the specials – tonkatsu curry, miso soup, pickles and salad, and the obligatory long neck of draft beer.

The beer turned up pretty quickly and I think I inhaled it due to being so parched. My lunch took about 15 minutes to arrive as it was freshly cooked.

The combination of the curry, schnitzel, salad and soup were just right and certainly filled my void.

I can certainly see why this place has been rated in the top 15 restaurants in Nagano, and why there was a queue of people waiting to get in.

Beck’s Coffee Shop, Nagano, Japan

If you’ve arrived by the Shinkansen in Nagano then I can almost guarantee you’d have seen Beck’s even if you don’t remember it. Beck’s is the coffee shop next to the tourist information centre just across from the Shinkansen entry and exit gates.

I’d wandered in looking for a coffee but they had a breakfast special on that would give you a small bacon, eggs and toast along with a coffee for ¥390! And that was including tax!

The coffee was reasonable, as were the bacon and eggs.

If you’re waiting for a train, and you don’t want to wait on the platform, you can wait here while you have a coffee and snack, and all train departures are shown on a couple of TVs on the wall so you won’t miss your train.

Certainly not the best coffee in the world, but it did the trick to wake me up.

James Nagano Beer Market, Nagano, Japan

Central Nagano is relatively small and easily walkable as I was to find out.

I’d searched the internet and found a couple of small craft beer places in Nagano, and I headed out just after 5pm thinking I’d be up for a 15 minute walk or so, but after heading out from my hotel, crossing the road and walking about a minute I was standing just across the road from James Nagano Beer Market!

I headed up the stairs to find a couple of people already enjoying a beer and sat at the bar.

Looking at the menu there was an impressive list of local beers which I decided I should try out.

Over the next couple of hours I managed to try a number of very good local beers including

while also trying a couple of the small, almost tapas-ish food items including a small jar of Japanese pickles and a reasonably good fried chicken with sweet chili sauce.

The bar staff knew their beers well and were happy to help me find beers that I had not tried before.

Highly recommended.