One of the best things about going on a road trip where nothing is really planned is that you can take as many wrong roads as you like and in doing so you can find some pretty amazing places. On the second night of our trip we were staying in a cabin in a camp ground and needed to go somewhere for dinner so we studied the area a little and decided on a pretty standard restaurant a few kilometers away. FORTUNATELY I took a few wrong turns and although we were heading in vaguely the correct direction we stumbled across an udon noodle shop on the way and on the spur of the moment decided to try there instead.
It turns out that this restaurant was another example of a city family that had moved to the countryside after retirement and they had started the restaurant a couple of years ago. They do no advertising so were wondering how we stumbled across it..... my bad driving! Anyway, the food was great (the son and mother make the udon by hand), there were no other people in the restaurant and best yet the owner carved noh theatre masks.... He spent a lot of time telling us how they are carved, little snippets about secrets of the trade and best of all let us try them on. Apparently it is very unusual to be allowed to look at the back of these masks (trade secrets....) and to be able to actually touch them is virtually unheard of. It was really interesting to learn a bit more about the intricate painting process, the tiny details which make each mask unique and the different angles that they should be held in order to convey the intended emotion of each mask. The owner was particularly proud of the mask in the top right of the top collage - proudly pointing at the beard and then pulling on his ponytail..... nothing like putting your whole self into your craft!
I would definitely recommend this restaurant.... if only I could find it again!