Welcome to an entrance to the local lifestyle. Offering a food experience as part of the agricultura
Ashigawa-cho is a community in the mountains, close to the sky. There are no convenience stores or vending machines here but there is an original landscape of a Japanese mountain village and welcoming smiles of the locals. “Ashigawa de Classo” is a Japanese style guesthouse that Mr. Makoto Yamamoto, who moved to Ashigawa-cho 4 years ago, runs with his partner and they offer a hands-on agricultural experience to their guests. The ordinary life you see here is certainly something extraordinary in your eyes…
Mr. Makoto Yamamoto was born in Tokyo. He moved to Ashigawa-cho in 2014 and opened “Ashigawa de Classo” in July 2017, making a use of a 300 year-old traditional Japanese style house. He works towards his goal, which is “to provide people an opportunity to turn their eyes to the local community”, and designs a stay where people can experience the local lifestyle in Ashigawa-cho.
Discover an original landscape of Japanese countryside in the mountains.
Ashigawa-cho is located between the Kofu Basin and Mt. Fuji. Fuefuki City is known as a fruit production area but this community, with a population of under 400 people, is where you can see a different side of Fuefuki City. Cherry blossoms in spring, fresh green leaves in summer, colored foliage in autumn, and snowy scenery in winter. This area is also known to have Japanese lily of the valley to be growing in colonies and you can see them flowering in the gardens of many houses in early summer, and we also hear that you can come across the night sky filled with countless twinkling stars throughout the year here.
Kabuto-zukuri (helmet shaped roof) style houses are scattered in the area as if they’re embraced in the deep forest. “Ashigawa de Classo”, a guesthouse where they offer an agriculture experience, blends in so well with the town’s scenery so it’s easy to miss it as you pass by.
“I wanted people to experience the nature and life in Ashigawa.”, says the owner of the guesthouse, Mr. Makoto Yamamoto. He’s kept almost every element of the 300 year-old traditional Japanese style house in its original state such as an earthen floor, a sunken hearth, a veranda, a tiled bathroom and low-beamed ceilings, and it gives you a glimpse into life of people who used to live here. We hear that “The only place we renovated in this house to open it as a guesthouse is the kitchen.”
“An acquaintance of mine introduced me to Ashigawa-cho and I moved here around 2014. Time flowing here is something different and special, and it makes visitors feel relaxed. You see a grandma, who lives by herself, seems to be really enjoying life here with a big smile on her face, which I think is one of the characteristics of Ashigawa-cho.”
More than 60% of Ashigawa-cho’s population is “the elderly (people aged 65 and over)”.
“In this area (Oshuku), the youngest resident is in his 40’s, I think. The local elementary school has a total of 6 students.” Mr. Yamamoto talks about the tough reality of their marginal village.
This is a depopulated area where the population is aging and the birthrate is declining rapidly. Even in those circumstances, Mr. Yamamoto says, “I don’t really find it inconvenient living here.”, which we think is because bonds between people in this community keep the quality of their life and the level of happiness high.
“An agricultural experience” through food. A memory of a delicious experience remains in your mind forever.
Because Mr. Yamamoto’s not originally from here, he notices how precious something is here, which people from this community find ordinary. One example is food. Those delicious dishes you get with homegrown vegetables, herbs and fruit are never ordinary.
The dish Mr. Yamamoto prepared for us has marinated homemade bacon and ham and grilled seasonal vegetables, which are plated beautifully.
They serve a 3-course meal named “Ashigawa de Ogosso (Ogosso means a feast in Yamanashi dialect)” which consists of an appetizer, a main course, homemade bread and a dessert.
“That gives you a surprise, doesn’t it? In a traditional Japanese space like this, where you can feel the way local people live, you wouldn't expect to have innovative cuisine. But almost all the ingredients we use are from this area. Some are what we grow in our field and garden, others are from grandmas in the neighborhood or other people in the community. Today, semi self-sufficient life and exchange economy still exist here in Ashigawa. You can cook delicious food rich in flavor without relying on luxurious ingredients.”
Local dishes like “Hoto (a hot pot noodle dish)” as an example, could always taste similar no matter where you eat them, and they wanted to offer local food in different kinds of dishes, which is how they started serving “Ashigawa de Ogosso”.
Food leaves an impression on people’s minds. I’ll be happy if we can get people to have more interest in Ashigawa-cho with this agricultural experience through food we offer here…”
Someone’s ordinary life is something extraordinary for another.
Everything in the course meal is homemade including the dessert.
“In the current season, we serve a homemade gateau chocolat with 2 different kinds of gelato, one is made with an early-ripening variety of peaches grown in a greenhouse and the other is made with homegrown mint. You might think we always have seasonal ingredients available here but it’s more like we can get nothing else but the seasonal ingredients here, hahaha.”
The food they offer has been receiving good feedback and Mr. Yamamoto remembers how he felt happy when he saw this female guest really enjoying the meal they prepared.
“One of the charms of Ashigawa-cho is that it doesn’t have a sense of isolation like countryside in the mountains generally does, and it gives out the positive and welcoming vibe for visitors to come and blend into the nature. When guests go and help harvest crops as part of the agricultural experience, you see the locals treating the guests to some tea and giving out some of the crops to them. This is something that symbolizes this community’s culture of hospitality. What I hope is that through these interactions with the locals and experiences in nature, it gives visitors an opportunity to get to know the community more deeply and to turn their eyes to the community.”
Although everything is all put together in city, there are things you can’t experience in city here. The “country life” you experience here might get you thinking about “how you can enrich and enjoy your life”.
There are no convenience stores or vending machines, but how about making Ashigawa-cho your next destination?
“Ashigawa de Classo” is a guesthouse where they incorporate the local lifestyle and offers you a hands-on experience. Time you spend here is surely going to be an experience like no other which makes you open your eyes to new life options.