Situated roughly an hour south of Kumamoto City is the quaint countryside town of Misato-machi – famous for a series of old bridges that date back to the 1800s, also famous for being home the longest set of stone steps in all of Japan that lead to an ancient temple… and now, steadily gaining recognition for it’s sausages! Homemade organic sausages!
Meet Laci, originally from the Czech Republic, he now resides in Kumamoto, running Sausage Fest, a small restaurant in the heart of Misato-machi, where he serves freshly produced home-made sausages alongside other classic and contemporary European influenced dishes. All of the dishes on the menu use locally sourced produce and ingredients.
Laci, owner and chef at Sausage Fest
Fresh home-made sausages using organic Kumamoto Pork
Laci started his cheffing career in the Czech Republic at the age of 16, within just a few years he found himself in London working the kitchens of various high-end restaurants, focusing mainly on French cuisine. With the knowledge and skill he amassed during his time in London, he then relocated to Tokyo in 2008, where he spent almost a decade managing the residence of the Ambassador to Holland, where he organized and oversaw the catering of numerous events with VIP guests from around the world.
In 2017 he decided to leave the neon lights of Tokyo behind and start a new venture in rural Kumamoto, focusing on two of his passions – charcuterie and craft beer. He now serves a selection of dishes at his restaurant to both locals and visitors to the area alike. Naturally, the organic home-made sausages are the most popular dish on the menu, but by no means the only thing one can order at Sausage Fest. Laci also serves local seafood and offers a number of vegetarian options as well. He also has craft beer on tap, beer that he has helped develop with a local brewery.
Pickled Egg to start, at Sausage Fest, where presentation is everything
Organic Shiitake Mushroom Soup at Sausage Fest
The desserts at Sausage Fest are also a real treat! With a constantly changing selection of home-made cakes and sweets on the menu, repeat customers can try something new time and time again.
Home made Chocolate Cake at Sausage Fest
- SAUSAGE FEST
Heads have been turning across Kumamoto since Laci started Sausage Fest and the locals have taken note - he now supplies his fresh sausages to a number or restaurants and establishments across the prefecture, and hosts regular pop-up events at different locations in Kumamoto City.
The Michelin Guide even noticed his hard work and passion, and now feature Sausage Fest in their Bib Gormands listings for Japan. This in turn has created more hype surrounding Laci and Sausage Fest, bringing curious customers from far and wide.
Sausage Fest, Misato-machi
Sausage Fest, Misato-machi
You can check Sausage Fest out yourself six days a week during the following times, walk-ins are possible although we highly recommend calling ahead and making a reservation.
Tuesday – Thursday: 12:00 – 15:00 (14:30 last order). Dinner by reservation only
Friday – Saturday: 12:00 – 15:00 (14:30 last order). Dinner served from 17:00
Sunday: 12:00 – 15:00 (14:30 last order). Dinner by reservation only
You can also keep up-to-date with Sausage Fest on their homepage and over at Instagram:
Homepage www.sausagefest.jp Instagram - @ssgfst3333
The Wider town of Misato-Machi
3333 Stone Steps
So, what are some other reasons to visit Misato-machi? Well you don’t have to look far, located almost exactly opposite Sausage Fest is “Nihon Ichi Ishi Dan” (lit Japan’s number one stone steps) – the longest set of steps in all of Japan! There are a staggering 3333 steps in total! This grueling set of steps, winds steadily up the side of a mountain, through a series of forested areas, passing by a number of rest spots and small out-houses, stones are placed every few hundred meters with information about your progress carved into them. Once you reach the top, which generally takes about an hour, you have another kilometer of fairly flat stone path to walk before finally arriving at your goal, Shaka-in – an ancient Buddhist temple that has stood on these grounds for over one thousand years!
The bottom of the set of 3333 stone steps
The main Shaka-in Temple
The hike up is relatively covered overhead by thick trees, but there a few lookouts towards the top of the trail that allow for fantastic views across the valley, towards the ocean. These are also good places to rest your legs between each stage of your journey.
Once you arrive at the top you can enter the temple, where there is a large painting, suspended from the cieling depicting the discovery of the plot of land upon which it is built, we are not sure of the exact date of the painting, but at a guess we would say it is well over a hundred years old.
A spectacular view from the trail leading to the temple
Shaka-in is also an excellent place to get your Goshuin-cho signed
- Japan’s Number One Stone Steps / Shakainmisaka Yuhodo (Shakainmisaka Promenade)
- Kumamoto Shimomashiki-gun Misatomachi Sakamoto
Three Stone Bridges of Misato-machi, and a mysterious Tunnel
At the junction of Shakain River and Tsuru River in Misato-machi sit two stone bridges that intersect at a right angle, they are referred to by the locals as the Twin Bridges. To the right of the bridges is a large Ginko Tree that arches over the bridges making for some great photography come autumn when the leaves are changing colours. Also through autumn and winter, when the sun is sitting low in the sky, every day between 11am and noon as the sun moves around and sits perfectly behind the bridge, an unusually perfect heart shape can seen reflecting in the water, this is also popular with photographers, and young couples alike who believe witnessing the natural phenomenon will bring good luck to their relationship.
One of the Twin Bridges in Misato-machi
Byond the Twin Bridges the scenery is spectacular
And just a couple of kilometers up the road sits Misato-machi’s third stone bridge, Reitaikyo, built in the 1840s, which straddles the Midori River. It has been designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan. This is also a popular spot for photography enthusiasts, considering stone structures are few and far between in earthquake prone Japan.
Looking upriver towards Reitaikyo Bridge
Also, in the area is this rather mysterious disused train tunnel in the middle of a forest. Its octagonal shape is somewhat unusual, and the surrounding forest that is slowly encroaching gives it a rather eery feel – definitely one for the urbex photographers among us!
Unwind in the Local Hot Spring Bath
Finally, as your time in Misato-machi draws to an end, what better place to relax and unwind than at an open air onsen hot-spring bath overlooking the rugged countryside? Located inside Misato-machi’s roadside Michi-no-Eki is Samata-no-Yu, a public bathing facility that features two outdoor bathes, indoor bathes, a foot bath and also a Shiatsu style massage facility.
Samata-no-Yu are open seven days a week (closed every second Thursday of the month) from 10:00 – 21:30. Access to the bathes starts at 500 yen for adults, cheaper for minors. They also sell food and drink in their restaurant and café.