Now I am going back to my report on visiting Japan.
When you go to stay in Japan there are many things you really should do (apart from viewing Sakura blossom in springtime). One particular thing you should NEVER miss is staying in ‘Onsen (Hot Spring) Inn’. Unlike the western hotels the evening meal and breakfast are strongly part of the stay and they are rather good ones. Japanese Inns quite often serve very traditional food with lots of local delicacies.
During this time of my stay I went to visit Toba where locates by the sea and went to Ise for visiting one of the biggest Shinto Shrines ‘Ise Jingu’ the following day with my mother.
After checking in to the Onsen Inn we were welcomed with a little Japanese sweet and ‘Matcha’ Greet tea. After resting a little in our own room we moved onto our mission – bathing in Onsen! The Onsen had an outside space which faced to the sea directly.
By the way Onsen is normally a public bath sharing with other visitors. All the Inns have a separate bath for men and women but there are some baths for both genders occasionally.
One thing you should have in your mind is that if you have tattoos on your body you are normally not allowed to get into a public bath in Japan. It is because the people who have tattoos are always associated with ‘Yakuza (Japanese mafia)’ in Japan and tattoos frighten other guests in the public bath.
Anyway, right after bathing we were served very refreshing ‘Yuzu’ flavoured sorbet in the lounge. Yuzu is one of the many citrus fruits we produce in Japan. Because of its fragrant scent it became very popular in the UK recently. Lots of chefs use it nowadays and you hear the name in TV programs like MasterChef of even Great British Bake Off.
In this Inn that we stayed in the dinner was served in our own room.
In the first round some plates were displayed in a Japanese Garden theme with a small bench, fence and gravel. Very imaginative. We Japanese say you should “enjoy food with your eyes” as well as mouth. It means display and colour are very important part of food preparation as well as the taste.
We started from the aperitif ‘Yuzu Sake’ ( ↑ the one in a small red goblet) made with local spring water .
There were ‘Mekabu (seaweed)’ cooked on a grill, some mixed staff with fresh Sea Bream and Prawn. The fresh Bonito Sashimi & Herb with Peanuts Sauce was particularly tasty.
Followed by some slightly more western looking dish with full of local ingredients such as seaweed, prawn, bonito, clams and seasonal horsetail shoot. A hot pot with pork, tofu and vegetable was cooked on a small hob by using folded up Japanese paper ‘Washi’ as a cooking container instead of a pottery pot. Apparently paper does not burn on a fire as long as there is some liquid inside it. It looks nice and easy to tidy up in the kitchen … don’t need to wash up afterward? Clever idea.
The third round we had rice and soup in a tea pot with tofu and some vegetable. We were given a choice of either just local white rice or a local one with 10 different grains. My mother chose white rice and I chose the latter one with good texture. Very tasty!
We were full up after this set of menu so we went to sleep … zzz
We started the following day by having a Onsen bath of course. Very luxurious! Then of course – Breakfast.
Colourfully presented local delicacies and grilled fish came with tasty local rice and Miso Soup heated up in a paper container again. The local rice here was really tasty. I wish I could have eaten more…
After finishing breakfast we headed off to the Shinto Shrine ‘Ise Jingu (Naiku)’. It started raining later in the morning and it turned out to be a very cold day!