Situated in a dense, verdant forest close to Mt Takao, Ukai Toriyama is sprawled across a magnificent 20,000m² stretch of land and boasts a collection of quaint private tea houses with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a delightful manicured water garden. There are carp-filled ponds, pine trees, gentle streams, stone pathways, Japanese-style bridges, water wheels and thatched-roof buildings known as Gassho-zukuri, which have been imported from Gokayama.
It truly is an idyllic setting that makes you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time to the Edo period; it’s well worth taking your time to stroll around either before or after a meal.
There are five grand courses to choose from along with a special lunch set, with prices ranging from ¥5,270 to ¥11,880. Each course includes either charcoal-grilled chicken or charcoal-grilled beef (the one exception being the stone-roasted beef course). We opted for the chicken and carp sashimi set, which began with some walnut tofu, boiled leafy greens and chrysanthemum.
That was followed by the Saku carp sashimi which is dipped in cold water and served on a bed of ice cubes. The fish has a crunchy and firm texture that tastes divine. A unique dish that is not widely served in Japan, trying this for the first time was a marvelous surprise. The sauce, a blend of mustard and miso mixed with vinegar, complemented the dish wonderfully.
It was then time for the main: An irori sumibiyaki, which included succulent charbroiled and skewered chicken as well as a chicken wing. Tender and juicy with a melt-in-your-mouth quality, each bite seemed to burst with flavor. This was served alongside fresh roasted vegetables that were cooked to perfection and some amazing fried tofu that had a real crispness to it.
For drinks, we enjoyed barley tea and a few cups of sake poured from an elegant-looking bamboo bottle. Sipping away while looking out at the luscious greenery from our private room, it felt like we were a million miles away from the restlessness of Tokyo despite the fact that Ukai Toriyama is located in the capital. Less than 60 minutes from Shinjuku Station (several semi-express trains run on the hour to Takaosanguchi Station), the area makes for an excellent day trip. You can enjoy morning bathing at the nearby onsen or visit the Trick Art Museum, a maze of optical illusions that’s just across from Takaosanguchi Station. An afternoon hike up Mt Takao can be followed by luxurious dining in natural surroundings at Ukai Toriyama.
Make sure to book in advance and allow plenty of time for your meal. The food is far better appreciated at a leisurely pace. This will also give you a chance to stroll around the retreat that’s especially alluring when lit up at night. The staff will be happy to show you around, including offering a tour of one of the gassho-zukuri buildings, which is often used for wedding parties. On the upper floor, look out for the room that resembles a small museum and includes pictures, ornaments and a pair of Samurai outfits.
All too soon it was time for us to depart, but the resort makes getting to and from the station a breeze with a free shuttle bus that departs every 20 minutes. Fantastic service, great food and stunning views, Ukai Toriyama lived up to our expectations and then some.
Special Offer for TW Readers
Mention Tokyo Weekender when making a reservation and you will receive a complimentary bamboo bottle of sake for two with your meal. For more information, go to www.ukai.co.jp/english/toriyama