Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Hida Takayama

Takayama is a very sweet town, quaint (as you will see in the pictures). The call it little Kyoto - I guess how Kyoto used to be (but hard to imagine that because Kyoto is a sprawling city). There were surprisingly very sophisticated restaurants and shops there. The area sort of looked like some of the towns leading up to Lake Tahoe (with some bamboo stands thrown in for authenticity). The specialty is Hida Beef, very marbled, like Kobe but I think tastier. Melt in your mouth good. To recap, I stayed one night at a not so great hotel that had a very high quality onsen (hot spring) bath on the ground floor. This made up for the smoky room and 1970's decor and not so hospitable staff (seemed like they catered to China tour groups). Anyway, I took 3 baths and was only there for one night (one before dinner, one after dinner, and one in the morning). The quality of the shampoos etc were top notch (a little detail some of you may appreciate). Anyhoo, of course I made some onsen faux pas' (plural) such as thinking the line of slippers at the entrance was for us to use (since their was a shoe rack on the opposite side of the room where i removed my shoes). So there i was, walking around in the slippers, and the attendant kept trying to figure out where I got them (from my room?) and she put them in the locker room. then i figured out that they were someone else's slippers (belonging to the hotel, but worn to the onsen by a guest). hahahaha. that's when i just chalk it up to dumb american or something along those lines (don't worry, not giving us a bad name or anything). Good thing i had been to Kabuki hot springs in SF, as onsen etiquette is a little different than one may think.

I had a great hida beef dinner and tried to communicate for a while with the couple who owned the restaurant. for the most part, not much english was spoken in Takayama. They served me their local cold sake in a cup the size of a tea cup (large), and, of course i had two (there was a lot of food to wash down, you know). I wandered the streets, like a ghost town at night (sunday night) and found a little french cafe where i had a beer and made friends (nice locals). the owner spent a year in paris and you would never know you weren't in a french cafe except there were very few people in there and the toilet pipes were decidedly japanese (see picture). I promised to go by Masai-san's yakitori ya the next day.

I know some of you have seen the japanese movie "water under red bridge" (hiromi, david, rebecca...) - i have become convinced that Hida takayama is where it was filmed! (although, on further research it is not true...) However, it looks exactly like in the movie. i will rent it when i return.. those of you who haven't seen it, you should, as it is very trippy and okay, has a sexual theme.

I changed to the coveted Ryokan the next day (couldn't get two nights there). It was amazing. 3 beautiful baths to choose from; one housed in an old storage house (but completely redone) top class. again, i took 3 baths in 12 hours or so (one before dinner, one after dinner, and one in the morning). you could say i was squeeky clean while in Takayama!!! For those of you not schooled in onsen; it is not really taking a bath in the literal sense, as you bathe before you go in. it is just a really clean natural spring hot tub (and not "just" a hot tub, believe me you, gorgeous natural rock, views, clean). I was served dinner from 6:30 - 9:00. About 12 courses (i kid you not). i was so full, i couldn't eat any of the rice or udon which they brought near the end. The Hida beef course was served raw with a grill that sits atop a ceramic vessel with charcoal in the bottom. i can't wait to buy one of these when i get back (i think i've seen them in japantown) now that i know what they are for. that was totally amazing, grill your own seared rare served with ponzu sauce!!!! you may be thinking right now that i'm a little too much of a food aholic and that is okay because it is true true true.

i was comatose when i left the dinner (but it ended with amazing 13 layer crepe layered with pastry/custard creme). (and some fruit)

i passed out after the onsen.

The same grill apparatus was used the next day with my snack before the train. the local specialty which i had to try is called hoba-miso.. It is black miso that is sweetened with sugar and sake. it is served on a magnolia leaf that is sitting atop the grill. Mushrooms and green onions are put on that, then whatever it is you are grilling is placed next to it. In this case, it was more hida beef (hahahahaha) i'm not kidding, cut into slices and grilled and you mix all the miso, onions and maitake mushrooms together and eat it with the beef. Okay, i'm definitely importing that dish to the states!!!!! I was able to procure some local miso from the "farmer's market" outside of my Ryokan this morning. Boy, what a varied mix of stuff I am putting into my luggage!

I had a final coffee at Cafe Flore where i dropped off a Pizzeria Picco T-shirt for Masa (as a thank you for the magazines), before the driver (in a western style old huge mercedes) dropped me at the station.

More in the next post from Kyoto.

1 comment:

  1. Great bolg! I plan to be in Takayama in November. What is the name of the Ryokan you stayed at?
    Thank you!