Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trains, Trains, and.......Trains

Today was not a very exciting day, and was spent in transit. We woke up and did the usual pastry thing for breakfast, but I went with another individually wrapped banana instead. However, I did finally find a place that sells American-sized coffee, and ordered myself a large iced for the train ride to Osaka. (Despite the ubiquity of coffee in Japan, every vending machine and kiosk plying the stuff, actual coffee houses and restaurants only serve it in very small quantities. Even when the cup is big they only fill it halfway...)
From Osaka we boarded another train to Odawaru where we were met by Yoko and Naoko, and had lunch at a small lunch court that sold Tempura, Fried Noodles and Ramen. There were two options with the Ramen; Shoyu (soy broth) with pork, and Miso (miso broth) with pork. I went with the miso, which came topped with slices of the roast pork, bamboo shoots, scallions and kimchi. It was a rich, salty broth, whose slight miso-funkiness clung to the noodles and made for a tasty, but very filling soup.
Next we took another train to Hakone, a resort/mountain-getaway city an hour outside of Tokyo, where Yoko's family owns an apartment. There we took a cable car up the incredibly steep mountain, and then walked the incredibly steep path about 10 minutes to said apartment which had a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains.
After a walk to explore the area and a relaxing visit to the bathhouse, it was time for dinner, beer, wine, and of course, sake. The meal was an easy affair, being prepared foods bought at the market, but was quite a spread. Naoko had made a special stop at a factory in Hakone that apparently produces a large amount of the Kambogo (fish sausage) supply in Japan, and purchased some especially for me. Also there was a plate of fresh vegetables to be smeared with miso paste, fresh edamame and two salads; one a sesame-garlic spinach and cabbage salad, and the other a cold "bean noodle", carrot and chicken salad with rice vinegar. To top it off there were also fresh pork shumais (little steamed dumplings) and gyozas (fried dumplings), and also chicken and liver yakitori skewers.

After a long day of training and another good meal, it was time for bed. I slept on the balcony and listened to the cicadas echo in the mountain night until the mosquitoes did me in.

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