Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 22 - Back to Hirugano!

On a whim, we drove up to Hirugano, Megu's family's second house in a ski resort area.  On the way up, we went for takeout burgers at Mossu Burger!  They packed everything tidily and you can even get half onion rings/half fries!  Awesome!!
I got a chicken burger with a rice bun instead of bread!  It was pretty tasty, but a smidge small.  The picture below was snapped really quickly and doesn't look that appetizing, but it was good!  
I got it with a "Pepsi", but it seriously tasted like messed up Mitsuya Cider.  Mitsuya Cider is described by wiki as a Japanese carbonated soft drink that tasted like a mix of Sprite and Ginger Ale (but WAY WAY better!!!).  It's much less sweet, more refreshing and tastes awesomer.  Yes, awesomer.

The next day we had hot pot for lunch.  Hot pot is so easy, you just chop up a bunch of veggies and meat, basically whatever you have lying around and throw in some dashi (Japanese fish soup stock), with a splash of sake and soya sauce if you feel like spicing it up.  Then at the end when you've eaten everything, you throw in a bunch of rice and maybe an egg and make congee (Chinese rice porridge).  Except Japanese people don't call it congee, they call it ojiya.  Anyways, it's yummy :)

After lunch we headed out for the day for a day trip to a World Heritage Centre, Gasshou Zukuri. 

On the way, we stopped by a ginormous dam in the area.  Japan was in desperate need of more electricity back in the 1950's or so I believe, so after 7 years of protests, they were able to convince the locals to let them flood the area and compensated them well.  They moved two 400 year old Sakura (Cherry Blossom) trees so they wouldn't be flooded to preserve a piece of the village, and here's Megu with one of them.
Moving them was a pretty monumental undertaking and there's even a video at a local museum we went to, explaining the process.  Sakura trees are notoriously hard to move and moving trees this old and size has never been attempted since.  Pretty cool!  If we were here in Spring, we could see the cherry blossoms.  Considering I'm going to be working in tax and audit for at least the next three years and likely way more, it could be years before I get to see the legendary japanese Cherry Blossoms!  Such is life.  Looking forward to it eventually though :)

Here's a shot of Megu standing on said monstrous dam.
The next picture was awesome because I actually got to use stuff I'd learn after pouring hours reading photo blogs.  I wanted to shoot the shot facing the water cuz it was gorgeous, but the sun was behind her, leaving her face very shadowed.  I turned on my flash, but turned it down to its lowest setting, basically just using "fill flash" to fill in the shadows but not over-expose her, (you know that typical point and shoot "white face" kinda look when the flash overexposes everything).  Stoked!
A shot of me at the picturesque dam.  Megu is actually a much better photographer than me because she's been an artist for almost 10 years.  She has a much better eye for design and balance in a shot, though I'm slowly getting better.
We made a small pit stop at the museum at the damn.  We even got to play with an interactive museum display in the shape of a fish (with a cherry blossom propeller, so japanese-y)
Mr and Mrs Hasegawa, older sister and Megu having fun with the Fish!
We finally made it to Gassho Zukuri and took a few shots overlooking the village.  It's a World Heritage site recognized by UNESCO because the village housing has been preserved for hundreds of years with their thatched steep roofs, which help them survive the crazy winters in the area.  Here's a shot I jacked from the internet with the first floors of the houses completely covered by snow.

Here's a shot of Megu's parents overlooking the village from the hillside.
We had lunch once we made it down into the village in one of those traditional houses, if by traditional they meant FREEZING!
Pretty basic, rice, tofu topped with bonito flakes, soba noodles in tsuyu sauce, pickled veg, red miso paste toasting over a small fire and a tiny fish.  The fish had been soaked in a sweet syrupy kinda sauce.  I literally had to bite its head off for the first bite.  I ate the whole freaking head.  Apparently that's normal in this part of the world, but I don't remember eating fish head growing up.  It was fine tho, but I was more grossed out in my head knowing that I'd eaten fish head.

We wandered around the village and grabbed some treats.  I think Megu is holding sticky rice treats on a stick, as well as Hida beef.  It's like Kobe beef, but not from Kobe!  Freaking amazing tasting cow.  
We paid a small fee and took a tour of a very large house which showed how people farmed back in the good ol' days, made silk using silk worms, all sorts of fun stuff I'm glad I don't have to do.  This is a shot I took from inside that house.
Here's a crappy shot taken by someone inside the house who was trying to sell us pictures he shot with his absurdly expensive camera.  It's part of the tour.  I look drunk as hell.
Photoesque shot of water pouring into a bucket.  Gooooo bucket!
We headed to a hot springs, but along the way we stopped at these giant wheels powered by water.  Except they didn't really work.  So Megu and I decided to shove the GIANT one around by hand... hard work but after a few minutes it was spinning around pretty good!  Good times :)
We went to another onsen (hot spring) on the way home.  The beauty of hot springs is you always go naked, so you can go spur of the moment, don't need to worry about swim trunks!  This one was rather small but gorgeous.  There was an outdoor area with a giant waterfall that stretched like 30 feet that you could sit under and let the water pour down on you.  I must admit I really didn't get "the point" of going to the onsen before, but it seems like it's mostly to meditate and unwind.  Chilling outside in a beautiful hot tub, full moon, beautiful waterfall, steam pouring off the water and blowing up to the night sky.... pretty sweet.

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