First time to go to Poco-a-Poco again since getting back to Japan, and the first time to visit at lunchtime. At lunch they give out coffee, which was nice to have with their lovely large プリン dessert.


Caught a kids’ musical performance inside Nagano station this morning

A ramen at 330am, after a heavy night of drinking, prevents a bad hangover. It’s official!

Although, in hindsight, it was a little too fishy for me. It's the special at the moment, at 花月 in 権堂.


Took a trip out to Kawanakajima for lunch, to visit Kanaya for ramen

His 特製ラーメン (ramen special) for ¥850 (£6.50) comes with three slices of meat and an egg. Since the last time I came, a year or so ago, he's added onions on top. As we left, though, the master came out and gave us some bad news; he's going to leave the shop at the end of December due to health issues. He suggested that there could be somebody taking the shop over, but it was a bit of a shock, because the master of Kanaya studied his ramen making from the master of Buaiso, now Ichibun. With him leaving, the old ramen taste I used to enjoy all those years ago at ラーメンぶあいそー could be no more. That's sad.


I ordered the 'gonbutonkotsu' (great pun that) ramen at ¥800 (£6) with an egg added for ¥100 extra. Then afterwards I had to order more of the fat noodles for ¥100. I liked it a lot, especially as I'm a fan of the thick noodles.



Joined the Nagaden FXA gym today. It has the nicest machines I’ve ever used!

Thanks to a friend of mine, I got a discounted rate for the first three months, and didn't pay any joining fee. The machines in the gym are excellent; I guess they must be some of the newest LifeFitness have to offer.

Not only do they have touch screens and are usable in many languages, but every cardio machine has a 17"-or-so Sharp AQUOS flat screen bolted to the top, with a remote control and headphone extension cable. Underneath the control area there is even a port/cable to charge an iPod/iPhone, and a USB socket, for saving progress etc. Pretty cool!

On the way out though, something clicked as I realised that they have built their swimming pool on the first floor *above* the ground-floor car park. Even if it's a quarter of the size of a full olympic pool it must weigh more than 500 tonnes(!), so surely it would be safer to have the car park above the pool?


For lunch today we went to a small place just out of town. It costs just ¥400 (£3) for their ramen, which is surprising in itself, but the most surprising thing is that they give a bigger portion to men (男盛), and a smaller portion to women. That could never happen in England, as they would get in trouble for sexism.

Ramen at Yoshiya


Can anybody explain this? Everybody gathered outside the building, and fire hoses being fired out of the windows!


Today I was taken to an old curry restaurant called Yamagoya (山小屋), down a small side alley off the main road in Nagano city centre. It was excellent. Their lunchtime set menu consists of three choices of curry with rice, and all come with soup, salad, and afterwards ice cream and coffee.

I chose the most expensive curry with bacon, potato and chicken katsu, for ¥895 (£7). I thought it was really superb, not really like the "normal" Japanese curry, but with more of a rich taste closer to a non-spicy curry you might get in the UK. If anything I'd have liked it a little more spicy, which you're able to order for ¥105. Next time I might pay an extra ¥105 for the larger portion (中盛り), although they also do a much larger (大盛り) portion for ¥210.

All in all, a great find for my curry needs!

A London Bus in Nagano!? Seems to be a bar. Maybe they have Guinness (yeah right).

All-you-can-eat 焼き肉

Tonight being the 8th of the month, the restaurant called 八方園 (pronounced 'Happouen') does a 食べ放題 (all you can eat) dinner of 焼き肉 (grilled meat) lasting 90 minutes for 2980 yen (about £20) including a drink. We went along with a couple of friends of ours, Taro and Miho, and after all opting for a beer as our drink, then proceeded to order copious amounts of meat to cook to our liking on the grill in front of us.

What was interesting though was the セセリ (pronounced 'seseri' - the light meat at the bottom of the first photo). None of us knew what it was, so we asked the lady and were told it was meat from the neck area of chickens. It was certainly very tasty and we enjoyed more than one plate. We ordered a plate of everything on the menu just to try them, but I think everybody's favourite was the ハラミ ('harami') coated with salt (塩) and lemon sauce; it was fantastic!

As a really kind gesture once we'd paid the bill, perhaps because we were the last people remaining in the restaurant, we were brought free strawberry ice cream. I'd love to go back again, but unfortunately we won't be around for the 8th of next month!

Tuna salad and doria at Ichibun

Well of course I wanted to bring Liz, my visiting friend, to my favourite eaterie Ichibun! The master seemed prepared too, as he surprised us with a couple of new dishes.

First up was a salad of まぐろ (tuna) on dressed cabbage, which was scoffed in an instant. Then he brought us a ドリア (doria), made with rice and seafood and covered with melted cheese. Finally after we had ordered and consumed a couple of our regular dishes (ramen etc) he brought us a complimentary dessert of lemon ice cream with berry compote and home-made strawberry jam. And as always everything else was 500 yen a dish (about £3.50).

Hopefully Liz was convinced of Ichibun's calibre after that. (I'm seriously going to miss Ichibun's food!)


I took my friend Yuzo for lunch today to Misoya (みそや), a popular miso ramen (味噌ラーメン) restaurant in front of Nagano station. There are only counter seats available, and at meal times you often have to wait for a seat. Today we were lucky though and got a seat straightaway.

While I'm not so keen on 'ordinary' miso ramen, this one I really enjoy. It has quite a lot of garlic in it, and a reasonably strong flavour. The pork meat (チャーシュー) is also very tasty, and the soup goes very well with the plentiful beansprouts and green onions on top. But I can't quite pin down why I find it so enjoyable, I just do.

Anyway it's just 650 yen (about £4) and well worth a visit if you need to eat quickly around Nagano station.

Ingresso, for great Italian food in Nagano

Ingresso (イングレッソ) is a small Italian restaurant and wine bar owned by Mario (as he's been nicknamed), a portly Japanese guy with a great sense of humour and a real passion for Italian food and wine. He learned to cook in Europe and then opened the restaurant in its current location near Nagano station just over a year ago, having first run it in a different part of town.

At lunch time his complete lunch menu comprises starter, Italian-style bread (and olive oil), a pasta dish, and finally dessert and coffee for 900 yen (about £6). That's what we went for today (and in fact every time), as although there is also the option of just taking the pasta (and bread) for 600 yen (about £4), where's the fun in that!

Today's starter was a wonderful truffle quiche with rocket. I then opted for the gnocchi, which came with a tomato and spinach sauce liberally spread with parmesan cheese, rather than the spicy tomato spaghetti with Italian sausage. I had that myself last time I came and it's great; unusual to be able to eat such sausage here in Japan.

Finally was dessert of panna cotta with golden kiwi and fruit compote, with which I drunk an espresso.

There is a blog which Mario frequently updates. I'll definitely be visiting again for lunch in the next couple of weeks.

Surprises for dinner at Ichibun

The master of our favourite local diner, Ichibun, brought out a couple of surprises tonight when we visited.

First he brought out a large dish of pork stew, with which he served slices of fresh baguette. The meat was so amazingly soft and tender, and the taste was really delicious. We were all so surprised that he'd made it for us, and then... it was gone in a flash!

We also ordered his potato okonomiyaki (made by adding potato to the normal flour and egg mix) and his Indian-style curry, plus a salad of daikon and scallops. (I took no photos of these.)

As a dessert he surprised us yet again by producing home-made warabimochi (蕨餅), a jelly-like substance made in this case with just potato flour and water, and covered with a sweet black-sugar syrup and soybean flour. My mother-in-law then quizzed him on how it's made, and we couldn't believe how easy it sounded; just potato flour and water!

Finally, the master brought out a miso ramen (味噌ラーメン) for us to share. Nice! Although by this time I was seriously full, so couldn't eat much of it.

I'm really going to miss Ichibun and the 500 yen (about £3.50) lunch and dinner dishes.

A couple of new dishes for dinner at Ichibun

Tonight we went to Ichibun like many times before, and we got to try a couple of great new dishes.

 First was a jacket potato with spinach and ham. Second was a thin okonomiyaki with tomato ketchup and mayonnaise on top (which we spread over the top before eating).

 Finally after the usual ramen we were given some deliciously sweet yoghurt-flavour ice cream to finish with.

Six-dish feast at Ichibun

Due to a chain of unforseen events involving a thunderstorm and the consequential stoppage of all outbound trains(!) we ended up at Ichibun again this evening.
After stepping inside we were immediately given a dish of おから (okara - fried soy pulp and vegetables) - I wish I'd taken a photo but unfortunately I was so surprised to see it (as I love the stuff) that I wolfed it down before I remembered to take one. After seeing the evening menu we immediately decided to try the モヤシのオイスターソース炒め (bean sprouts and pork fried in oyster sauce) and salami pizza and they were great, particularly the bean sprouts as they were really salty (I love salty).
Of course those were just a starter really (erm) so we then went with 生姜焼き (pork in ginger on rice) and their ramen. Finally the restaurant owner brought us out desserts of home-made orange-flavour jelly (again no photo due to wolfing, sorry) which was a great finish.
The whole meal cost us 1800 yen (about 12 quid), superb.

牛丼 and 中華そば at Ichibun