For our first short trip by car I took my brother into the mountains of Togakushi (戸隠) to eat lunch at Utsuraya (うづら家), arguably the most famous soba restaurant in Togakushi.

Togakushi is well known for its soba noodles, its shrines, the Togakushi mountain range and ski area, and finally its connection with the ninja martial arts. But we were of course here first and foremost to eat. So once inside the restaurant (there is always a queue outside, no matter the weather or day of the week) we set about ordering. We went for a 大現盛りざるそば (extra large cold soba noodles - photo one) and a かけそば (regular hot noodles), plus a plate of tempura consisting of vegetables and three large prawns (photo two). As always they also provide a lump of raw wasabi root to use as a condiment, which you grate yourself while adding some sugar - shown in photo three.

After lunch we walked up the nearby steps to the middle (中社) Togakushi shrine, shown in photo four. Because of its elevation (somewhere around 1200m) they have already had snowfall, and there were a couple of patches still lingering around the temple. This of course started the inevitable but short-lived snowball fight.

We then jumped in the car and headed up the road a bit to the ninja village (忍者村) where my brother and I attempted to navigate ourselves through the various secret doors and compartments in the ninja trick house (からくり屋敷) which was fun if a little perplexing - I got a bit stuck at one point even though I'd been there once before! One funny memory is my brother attempting to run up the 'strange slanted room' (斜めの不思議な部屋).

As a final mention, there's some great information available on the official website about Togakushi.