IZAKAYA Sakae may be one of the newer restaurants in Hirafu, but its owners are some of the longest serving business people in the village. 73-year-old chef Masayuki Sakae and his wife Sada opened one of Hirafu’s first pensions, Ryokan Sakae, in the 1960s. The old lodge sadly had to be demolished recently as it was getting too old, and the Sakais weren’t able to rebuild on the site. So they sold up and moved just to Izumikyo, on the outskirts of Hirafu. They started the quiet izakaya (Japanese tapas restaurant) two seasons ago. For those who have never eaten at an izakaya, Sakae is a great introduction as the menu is fairly simple with photos of everything, meaning first timers won’t be overwhelmed. Izakaya Sakae is next to Maru in Izumikyo II on the free Hirafu shuttle bus route.