Japan is not just about incredible powder – the warm hospitality of the locals and huge range of delicious food make it a must do for those who enjoy quality dining experiences.
The area surrounding Madarao sees some of the heaviest snowfall in mainland Japan, so it may not be immediately obvious that this is prime farming land. Some of the Japan’s highest quality produce comes from the valley’s below the ski resorts of Nagano and Niigata Prefectures.
The Madarao area is famous for fresh regional produce like the highest quality rice, noodles and sake thanks to the superb water quality from the Japanese Alps, fertile soil and proximity to the Sea of Japan to the north.
In Madarao some of the local specialties include Okonomiyaki (Japanese noodle pancakes) to homemade cold soba noodles, Shabu-Shabu (traditional hotpots) and fresh sashimi. International flavours are readily available too with authentic pizza, delicious burgers and more. There is something to get everyone’s taste buds tingling in Madarao.
Some of the Kuma Lodge favourites in Madarao village include:
Donguri-Tei is beautifully set in a wooden cabin accessed by a candlelit walkway. Locally owned and operated by a brother and sister team – Donguri-Tei is a delicious Japanese BBQ that serves up Yaki-niku (fried meat) and Shabu-Shabu (meat and vegetable hotpot).
Maroudo is another locally owned and operated restaurant a few minutes drive from Kuma Lodge. They serve very good traditional Japanese cuisine with soba noodles, fresh sashimi, sukiyaki and shabu-shabu hotpots. The owners also run a successful Izakaya spot in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
A fun experience dining in a Mongolian Yurt – serving modern Japanese cuisine. Australian owned and staffed by internationals. A great place to hang out for a drink and some music after dinner. Only a two minute walk from Kuma Lodge.
Rudolf is a Japanese take on traditional Italian food with tasty pizza, pasta and casual Japanese share plates – Izakaya. The husband and wife team that run Rudolf speak some English and love sharing their restaurant with guests.
Jazzy’s is a funky spot that pays homage to Western Jazz. The Cafe is small, locally owned and run by ‘Mr Jazzy’ who is a great chef. The food is casual Japanese Izakaya style with Japanese share plates, and a few Western meals. The steaks are also very good.
This locally owned and operated place serves up gourmet burgers if you are keen for some Western food. This restaurant originally started in Hakuba where they had great success, so they opened up a new venue in Madarao, February 2018. Unjaune is new to the local scene, but has already become very popular.
Sakura is right next to the village center and the top of the beginner ski area. They serve up some delicious Japanese pancakes – Okonomiyaki and Teppanyaki food. The open plan log cabin with a roaring fire is a great setting to sit back with a drink and watch the chefs prepare the food in front of you. A firm favourite for many Kuma guests – for the food and the service from a lovely older couple who have lived in Madarao for decades.
Aki’s locally owned and operated, just across the street from Kuma and right next to the beginner ski runs. They serve some tasty pizza and fried meats on occasion – the wagyu is popular along with Japanese staples like ramen and curry. Aki’s is also the base for Nagano Outdoor Sports where Aki runs backcountry tours and ski lessons.
Most of the restaurants are within short walk of Kuma Lodge or we will arrange return vehicle transfer for you. Some restaurants will pick you up and drop you home as part of the booking for no extra cost.
For an on-mountain lunch there are a range of classic Japanese cafeteria’s and a great authentic ramen restaurant. Check out Tirol, Aki’s, Banff or Restaurant Heidi on the Madarao Restaurant Map or Ski Trail Map.
Dining outside of Madarao:
A short shuttle bus or taxi to neighbouring Iiyama offers a vast selection of restaurants and bars, with world famous Nozawa Onsen also within a 30 minute drive. In Nozawa you can enjoy the historic town with multiple small public onsen hot baths to soak the aching ski legs pre or post dinner.
In Iiyama, the Kuma Lodge team highly recommend:
This is a truly unique dining experience. Kamakura serves up Noroshi Nabe (Hot Pot), served with locally grown Iiyama rice-balls inside an igloo village. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner throughout the latter half of the winter season. Bookings are essential so check with the Kuma team about organising an outing to Iiyama.
This is a great place to sample some of the best noodles in Japan! Tomikura-soba is well renowned for the fine texture of the noodles which are semi-translucent and have an al dente bite. We also recommend you try the Sasazushi – a vegetarian-friendly treat made up of seasonal flavours from Niigata.
Iiyama has a whole range of restaurants including the classic ramen and soba noodle hotspots, yakitori, sushi, tempura, Izakaya, some western and other asian flavours – along with 27 karaoke bars! Check back soon for more information with another feature on the surrounds of Madarao.
Drinks & Nightlife:
Madarao is far from the party scene and heavy drinking culture of large resorts like Niseko. If you would like a bit of a night out – Kuma Lodge can steer you to some great spots to enjoy a glass of wine, cold beer or whisky with new or old friends. With just 21 guests per night staying at Kuma, often our guests choose to eat together, socialise and explore what the village has to offer.
Nagano/Niigata prefectures have some of the best Sake in all of Japan and even a local whisky distillery to explore if you are looking for something other than the world famous Japow! Drop Bar, Shaggy Yak, Jazzy’s or multiple other small watering holes stay open later for fun times and good music.
For those who have plucked up the courage, a private karaoke room resides in the basement of the Madarao Kogen Hotel and can be booked for your group singalong. Kuma manager Scott says “I’m still banned after torturing eardrums with my duet of Nirvan’s “Smell’s Like Teen Spirit” after too many Sapporo’s!”
Kuma Lodge Concierge Service:
Culturally in Japan it’s considered rude to run late to a booking reservation, so we do our best to ensure all guests are on time to each dinner. Many of the restaurants are only a few minutes walk from Kuma Lodge. If it is bucketing down powder our team can easily coordinate drop off and pick up with the local restaurants.
If you want to explore the surrounds of Iiyama, Nozawa Onsen or Myoko for dining, or to explore a new mountain – our team can help you get where you need to go.
The Madarao Experience:
A normal day for Kuma guests starts with a hearty cooked breakfast with fresh seasonal fruits, toast, cereals and juices, a hot tea or coffee then straight out to enjoy the powder skiing at our doorstep.
Numerous on mountain cafeterias and small restaurants are accessible for a ski in, ski out lunch experience with plenty of hot chocolate or beer stations to refuel. Aki’s pub – next door to Kuma Lodge is a fantastic spot to wind down as the lifts start slowing for the day, enjoy a cold Japanese beer on the snow watching the sunset over Mt Madarao and beyond.
After enjoying the sunset, most guests return to the lodge for a quick shower or a long soak in one of the local onsen hot baths, some socialising – reliving the epic snow from the day before everyone heads off to their various dinner reservations. After some great food, laughs and a few drinks – you head to bed ready to do it again tomorrow!