Posts Tagged kaiseki

April 4, 2006 part 1 – Family Ryokan experience

Today was the start of two days of family togetherness in Izu. The Penpal and her family were taking my parents and I to a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Izu Peninsula.

I met my family at the hotel, and we were picked up in our two car convoy by The Penpal’s parents. Once again the men were in my future father in-law’s car with me translating, and the women were in The Penpal’s car with her translating. Their car was smaller but had a much better translator.

izu-statue

We hit a few sightseeing spots in Izu to show off the beauty of the mountainous peninsula before heading to our destination – Yado Ryokan Hanabusa in Izu Nagaoka. The “yado” is for pottery – one of the features of our inn was traditional pottery lessons; we’re doing that tomorrow.

Pottery Ryokan Hanabusa

Pottery Ryokan Hanabusa

The landscaping around Hanabusa was beautiful, with cherry blossoms, rocks, and those beautifully crooked old trees that seem to be everywhere in Japan.

Each family got their own room complete with sliding wooden doors, tatami floors, low tables and cushions, and a fantastic view of mountains and trees out the window. My parents enjoyed the traditional decor, but were also happy that the room came with a modern, non-threatening bathroom.

After unloading our luggage, we went to the dining room for one of the most amazing dining experiences of my life. The food was kaiseki ryori, which involved a lot of fancy, small dishes that looked more like art than food. We weren’t really sure what we were eating most of the time, but everything was delicious. My mom specifically asked about a soup containing tender, flavourful white fish. The Penpal informed her that she was enjoying fugu, the poisonous blowfish that was made famous by Homer Simpson.

fugu_-_blowfish

The only food that wasn’t to everyone’s liking was uni, raw sea urchin. Uni is one of those foods that people either love or hate, with no middle ground. My dad bravely took half of a bite into the meat that had the same colour and texture as something you might cough up when you have a bad cold, said “no way”, and offered the rest to me. I ate it, and then got to eat almost everyone else’s uni as well, which was fine by me.

Other than the uni, everybody loved all the food they ate. We moved from the dining room to the lobby to chat for a bit. There was a piano in the lobby, so we all convinced The Penpal to play a song for us. She played Moonlight Sonata beautifully which attracted a small crowd of other guests. After a few songs she tried to leave the piano, but the guests and hotel staff wouldn’t let her until she had played some more. Yes, my future wife is awesome!

We could have ended the day at this point and considered it a success, but we still hadn’t tried Hanabusa’s onsen yet. My dad didn’t yet understand what I was getting him into…

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December 3, 2004 – Restaurant in the hills

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Today I had an early shift at Mishima NOVA. I was the only teacher working in the morning, which was an unusual experience. At Kawasaki NOVA there was always a minimum of 4-5 teachers at any time. Despite being the only person there, the teacher’s room still seemed tiny.

My third lesson of the day was empty, so I got the staff to ask the students from my second lesson if they wanted to stay. Three had other plans, but one stayed for another lesson. I think I earned some brownie points from the staff for helping sell a lesson.

After work, I went out for dinner with The Penpal and her parents. It was our first time to all have dinner together, so they took me to a nice restaurant in a fancy mountainside hotel. The hotel is called “New Wel Sunpia Numazu“, and it is one of several government owned hotels across the country that are funded by pension money. The hotel is an investment using national pension funds, and offers discounts for members of the pension plan. In addition to hotel rooms and a restaurant, there are also meeting rooms and sports facilities. The whole facility is located on the side of a mountain and offers fantastic views of the city all the way to the ocean.

We ate kaiseki, which is a multi-course traditional meal with many small dishes. I am not really sure what I was eating, but it was all delicious.

It was great to get out and have dinner with The Penpal’s parents, but I learned that I really need to improve my Japanese if I want to communicate with them. I would like to be able to have more of a conversation without relying on a translator.

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