The food at any ryokan in Japan is a feast to be heartily enjoyed, and one of the highlights of any stay. As you travel around the country and even around each region, there are different styles to experience. At Tatsumikan in Minakami, they have a very traditional style of cooking that has historical roots. It is as delicious as it is interesting.
This style of regional cooking is known as irori kensan-yaki which is to grill ingredients skewered on the end of a sword over the indoor hearth. This practice also took place outdoors when the samurai traveled from place to place, which was known as kensaki-yaki.
This form of grilling is the centerpiece of the dinner at Tatsumikan as seasonal, local ingredients are served up on skewers ready to be grilled. The dining room has a wonderful smoky aroma when you first enter it, and there are several styles of seating, from chairs around a table top grill, to hearths set into the floor and surrounded by tatami mats.
The charcoal is of a very special type that has been sourced from an artisan producer (and is one of the few things at the dinner that is not local). It gives off very little smoke but an intense heat that enhances the flavor of the food.
The spread features many local specialties from the surrounding mountains and rivers, as well as rice grown locally. A local sake served in a container made of bamboo and chilled over a bed of ice is the perfect accompaniment, as you carefully grill your food and dream of being a samurai on the road!
A stay at Tatsumikan is well worth it at any time, but the dinner is an experience in itself and worth the journey alone.