Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Day 7-9 - Lazy Day & Hirugano Vacation House

We didn't do too much today.  We had to hang around the house today because there were contractors working on one of the rooms, turning it from tatami mats (a common Japanese flooring, kinda like yoga-mat-sized bamboo mats, pictured below) into laminate flooring.
Late that evening, we drove up to the Hasegawa family's house in the countryside, in a small ski resort area called Hirugano.  I really should have gotten some shots inside the house, it's a wood cabin house, done up all country style.  It's actually got 2 floors and quite spacious, especially relative to their apartment in the city.  And did I mention it has an electric massage chair?!?  Awesome!  Throw that on my list of things I want to buy when I'm rich and famous.  Here's a shot of yummy food we ate while up there.
Red miso soup front and centre with matsutake mushrooms.  Most miso soup you get at sushi restaurants in Vancouver is white miso soup.  If the miso paste is made from rice, you get white miso soup.  Miso paste made from soybeans gives you red miso soup.  Each region in Japan is known for a specific blend of miso (white, red or a blend of the two, or even adding different other grains like barley or wheat etc).

On the left, got rice made mixed with matsutake mushrooms.  We brought over like half a suitcase of these prized, expensive mushrooms to Japan for a friend of Megu's, who let us keep a box as well.  They're highly prized by the Japanese for their aroma.

Also have ton katsu (breaded pork cutlet) with cabbage.  A tiny fish with shredded daikon.  This fish took me forever to eat, a kerjillion tiny bones, which is supposed to be opened a specific way which was very much beyond me.

Potato salad and sushi rounded out the meal.  Pretty good!

Another meal, mainly featuring "oden", which I'll quote wiki for: "Oden (おでん) is a Japanese winter dish consisting of several ingredients such as boiled eggsdaikon radish, konnyaku, and processed fish cakes stewed in a light, soy-flavoured dashi broth."
Here's a shot of Happy in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
We took Happy for a walk the next day and took a few pics of the surrounding area.  It's kinda reminiscent of Pitt Meadows, my old stomping grounds, with tons of trees, mountains and huge ditches/dykes.
We wandered across this tiny park which claims to be the high point in this area of Japan, from where water is sent to two opposite sides of the country.
Real life shot below.  Pretty cool!
Pretty tree in full autumn colours.  It was actually cold in Hirugano, only like 12 degrees or something... which reminds me, it's freaking hot in Nagoya.  Like 22-26 degrees.  Like I'm getting a tan hot.  Very odd feeling to be this late in the year and warm, but I'm enjoying the extended summer.
Megu's parents made a reservation at a Swiss-themed restaurant that served the most amazing Japanese food I've ever eaten.  

The first course was a tiny chawanmushi, a typical Japanese egg custard appetizer but this one had pieces of foie gras as well.  Pictured as well, was Hidagyu, effectively the "kobe beef" of the Gifu province, smothered in red miso.  To die for good.  The beef laid upon a giant hoba leaf to shelter it from the flames of the small flammable solid once lit.
The main part of lunch was served in a bento box.

In the top box was grilled, seasoned tai (sea breem), with sweetened fluffy egg, and a lightly pickled slice of lotus root.  The yellow dish had crab meat, eggplant and eel.  The bottom bowl toro (fatty tuna) and spot prawns (super sweet tasting!) and scallop sashimi).  I don't remember exactly what the four tiny dishes were in the last box, but the balance of sweetness and acidity and textures was unbelievable.  One of those "don't talk to me, i'm having a heavenly moment with food" kinda times.  Obviously done by the hands of a master chef with a passion for food.

The next course was freshly hand made and hand cut soba (buckwheat) noodles that you dip in a tsuyu.  Tsuyu is one of the basic Japanese sauces made of dashi, mirin and sweetened soy sauce.  The soba was very good, but didn't live up anywhere near to the hype of the first course, but how could it!
After you eat all the soba, it's customary to add the starchy hot water that the soba noodles were cooked in, into the remaining tsuyu and drink it like a soup.  Tasted surprisingly good, but just for a few sips.

Dessert was a homemade pineapple sorbet that had loads of natural flavour, but the consistency was a smidge icey and the granules could have been a bit smaller to make it smoother, though I'm only being this picky because so much of this meal was essentially perfection.  Great way to end the meal.
Shot of Mrs. Hasegawa, Megu's oldest sister and Megu outside the restaurant being cute.
Later that night, I went to the local onsen (hot spring) with Megu's family.  Basically me and Megu's Dad sitting in various hot tubs for over an hour naked, me barely being able to speak Japanese.  Awesome.  He showed me around the onsen and we made small talk about not being able to see many stars that night and stuff.  I thanked him for everything like letting us stay with them.  And afterwards, we bought milk!  I have no idea why it's tradition to have milk at an onsen, but it is.  This milk was actually from the local farmers, super rich and delicious.  Like eating margarine your whole life and discovering butter.... you're like THIS is what it's supposed to taste like.  Hirugano was awesome though!

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