As sunlight filters through the worn window panes and warms the faded wooden floors it almost seems possible to hear the echoing laughter of children moving through the narrow halls on their way to class. The chalk board and bookshelves, world maps and wooden toys lie just as their owners left them, when this space’s time stopped. However, though Daigo’s Former Uwaoka Elementary School is no longer filled with the rows of students it taught for decades, the air is permeated with appetizing smells and little cries of delight from the adult patrons crowding the ancient classrooms.
With the pastoral scenes of lushly vegetated mountains forming a dramatic background, the Former Uwaoka Elementary School seems a little out of place with the mass of new model cars in the front lot. Opened in 1879, this wooden-frame schoolhouse operated for over a hundred years, finally closing in 2001. Inside one can still see the old fixtures and décor, and a trip through the halls is quite a fascinating glimpse into another era.
In order to make use of this beautiful old building and help bring back visitors to the northern regions of Ibaraki Prefecture, Uwaoka was chosen to host this year’s special gourmet event. Once a year a historical site is chosen to be the setting for an eatery that makes use of local products and labor, with the help of a famous chef, to promote the area and give an economic boost. This year Uwaoka has been transformed into the Delicious Hometown School (Oishii Satoyama Gakkou), an Italian restaurant under the guidance of Hidaka Ryouji, the owner-chef of Tokyo’s Acqua Pazza.
The menu is filled with local delicacies, such as Okukuji spring chickens and Daigo’s famous apples, and the fragrances wafting from the kitchens are as attractive as the beautifully arranged dishes. Thick, butcher block tables are framed with ikebana in fall colors, and sitting in the old classroom in the heat of the fading autumn sun while dining on carbonara is an exquisitely picturesque way to spend an afternoon. Offering both lunch and dinner service in full-course menus, as well as several live jazz music performances and art events, this is one class you do not want to be late for.
The Satoyama restaurant is open from October 6th to December 9th, 2012, but reservations must be made in advance and the lunch openings are growing few and far between so you’ll have to be fast. Whether you want to visit the former filming location of dramas like NHK’s Ohisama, see how the children of yesteryear spent their days, or dine on some innovative local food that gives back to the community, you will find much to like in Daigo’s new Italian renaissance.
Reservations can be made online or by phone, from their website
For more info about Daigo, please visit our homepage!