(English to follow.)
先日は、暖かいおもてなし ありがとうございました。温泉も とても温まり、お料理も美味しく頂きました。天候が悪い中 『戸隠』を薦めてもらい 思っていた以上に神秘的な風景に感動しました。名刺をもらった山口屋のお蕎麦も美味かったです。観光した、善光寺も黒部ダムもとても感動しましたが、一番の思い出は？と、問いかけると『戸隠』に、亀清さんに宿泊してなかったら、行かなかった場所でした。
In Japan there is a concept called "omotenashi". Usually translated as "hospitality" or "service", it is integral to the overall concept of a ryokan. The secret behind omotenashi is to simply provide a guest with what they want. However, the problem is in 'reading' a guest to ascertain what it is they want. And for some, the guests themselves don't realize what they truly want. Sometimes, it requires a bit of serendipity, as with this recent example.
A husband and wife arrived by car and didn't seem to be in a good mood. After checking them in and showing them their room, as I poured their tea they told me that all the places they had driven to and planned on seeing that day were still closed for the winter. There has been an unusually large snowfall this year so many places are late in opening for spring. As it had been a disappointing trip for them so far, accordingly the staff and I decided to do a more hands-off approach to serving them.
At check-out, the wife mentioned wanting to eat soba (buckwheat noodles -- Nagano's specialty). Our favorite place for soba is Togakushi, the area above central Nagano City that is famous for growing some of the best buckwheat in the country. There is something special about eating soba noodles at Togaushi made from the clear mountain water and in the fresh mountain air. Our most beloved restaurant is Yamaguchi-ya. The dining area features a picture window with a stunning view of Togakushi Mountain. We had run out of brochures for Yamaguchi-ya so I had recently requested them to mail us some more. Just then a package arrived and, low-and-behold, it was the brochures from Yamaguchi-ya. Our proprietress handed one to the guests, and off they went.
Yesterday we received a thank you e-mail and pictures from the guests. Apparently they had enjoyed a relaxing stay at our inn with the onsen baths and our chef's cuisine, but the highlight of their trip was Togakushi, especially the soba at Yamaguchi-ya and the spiritual nature. The picture shared here is the one they took of the cedar trees lining the path to Togakushi Oku-sha, the Inner Shrine.
If we had asked the guests at the start what they wanted, they probably wouldn't have said "Togakushi". But through a bit of serendipitous omotenashi, the guests were able to overcome the disappointing start and make a memorable trip.