Get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, stay in a lovely restored farmhouse in the middle of the Japanese countryside and enjoy the most wonderful vegan food created with ingredients grown just a stone’s throw away. If this sounds appealing, Cherie no Hatake is the place for you.
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Akitakata is an expansive rural “city” that lies about an hour north of Hiroshima city. Birthplace of Mori Motonari, one of Japan’s most famous 16th century clan leaders, and a center for the spectacular and resurgent folk art that is Hiroshima Kagura, the there is no shortage of culture in Akitakata. It is also working hard to attract new blood to help support its communities and make up for is rapidly aging population. These efforts are still in their infancy, but iju-sha I-turners (people who trade life in the city for country living) are starting to move to Akitakata.
The Kurisu family are one such family. In the sleepy valley of Yanbe, that lies in the shadow of the mountain on which Mori Motonari’s castle stronghold once stood just outside the town of Yoshida, they have refurbished an old farmhouse and are ready to welcome guests from around Japan and overseas. At Cherie no Hatake, for a couple of days at least, you can forget your worries, relax and fall into the slower rhythm of rural life. Best of all, you eat very well and for traveling vegans it feels like you have landed in a Japanese food paradise.
We arrived in the late afternoon and, after setting the fire to warm up the water for the evening bath, we retired to the beautifully restored and elegantly furnished 100 year old farmhouse and a enjoyed a glass of wine in front of a cozy wood burning stove while we chatted to the Mariko and Nobuaki Kurisu and their two young children peered curiously from behind the paper doors.
Delicious smells started to come from kitchen and sure enough a steady stream of the most incredible vegan treats began to emerge. All the food was impeccably presented, made with local ingredients (much of them grown in the fields just outside). Some of the vegetables were completely new to us, but they were all absolutely delicious.
We were first treated to a yummy plate of appetizers with a wide range of textures. Next came a platter of roasted multi-colored carrots served with a place of mashed potato, followed by scrumptious tempura.
The strawberry tempura was a revelation.
Then, it was time for boiled vegetable dumplings, served up by Nobuaki. I think I may have shed a tear.
It was such a relaxing evening and it was a delight to play with the little ones who soon forgot their shyness, switch entertained us with jokes, riddles and little games.
After a soak in the wood fire heated goemon-furo bath (we loved Cherie no Hatake’s modern version of often cramped traditional farmhouse baths) we settled down for night, Japanese style, under comfortable futons, warm, well fed and happy.
We rose early and started our day with a stroll up the valley as the morning that enveloped the deep forests that cover the surrounding mountains. Pretty even in the fallow winter season, the valley must look splendid when filled with green and lined with flowers.
We wandered along a narrow road that gives local farmers access to their fields and into the forests, exchanged a cheery greeting with an elderly lady on her own early morning constitutional and passed by an ominous-looking wild boar trap.
Back at the farmhouse we were greeted with freshly, brewed hot coffee, followed by an outstanding breakfast. Again all 100% vegan.
After a mid-morning visit to the resting place of Mori Motonari and his ancestors located deep in the woods on the side of Mt Koriyama, we were ready for our final culinary experience. This time we were in the driving seat, making our of vegan pressed sushi.
Mariko led the way, showing us how to layer the rice and vegetables which we could select from a rainbow-colored smorgasbord of locally-sourced produce, all expertly prepped and dressed ahead of time. She set the bar high, but frankly, with such amazing ingredients, it would be hard not create something tasty (however it might look!).
We recounted all the wonderful food we had enjoyed while eating our creations, accompanied by vegan miso soup and tea. It was time to say au revoir to Cherie no Hatake. The country air, lounging in the farmhouse and all the healthy delights we had eaten left us feeling recharged, energized and ready for a new week. I look forward to returning.
Cherie no Hatake are now accepting reservations through Air BnB. The packages offered may differ slightly to what is described above, so please click below to check out more details.
Cherie no Hatake
Address: Yanbe, Yoshida-cho, Akitakata-shi, Hiroshima-ken 730-0035
Address in Japanese: 730-0035 広島県安芸高田市吉田町山部