Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Last weekend my lovely friend Alexis came to visit me. Alexis is a Californian Jet with a penchant for cooking and art currently hailing from Gotsu. Gotsu is a town about three hours from me boasting an aquarium named AQUAS with beluga whales that blow "bubble rings of happiness". She was enticed to my tiny town by its promise of beautiful 紅葉 koyou or Autumn foliage. And although Okuizumo doesn't have happiness spouting beluga whales, we sure did find some koyou.
She arrived Friday night and we attempted to eak out sustenance. Which is hard when most of the restaurants and all of the grocery stores close at seven. But we found success in a place in Yokota called Takina. We even got to sample a curious beverage they called "Tampopo Coffee" which is a cross between tea and coffee brewed from dandelion roots. Strange but surprisingly good.
On Saturday we got in to the Autumn spirit by going apple picking. We went with my friend, Nozomi, who regrettably turned out to be one of the only unpunctual Japanese people known to mankind. She overslept and delayed us for over an hour. Sigh. Luckily the weather was impeccable- blue skies sunshine as far as the eye can see.
My town is actually only about fifteen minutes from the prefectural border to Hiroshima, so we ventured to a town in Hiroshima called Takano that has a place called Apple Road. It's as magical as it sounds. There is an entire road featuring many apple orchards where, for the price of 600 yen, you can enter and pick and eat as many apples as your stomach can hold. Now since a single apple in the store is not only 1. absolutely tasteless as well as mealy and 2. about 300 yen a pop, this place was great. Unfortunately, we ate too many apples and suffered stomachaches the rest of the day. A lunch consisting of three and a half apples is much too much fiber for a stomach used to rice and fish. Sigh. But darn it, it was worth it.
Yesterday I made applesauce in my ricecooker with yuzu instead of lemon peel so life is good. My whole apartment smelled like apple pie.
On Sunday,rainy rainy Sunday, we tread in to lands no westerner has tread before (or should tread again)- a Tokiwazu Concert. Now, for all of you who have never heard of Tokiwazu, and that is most certainly all of you (because a lot of Japanese people have never heard of it before) it's a combination of shamisen- a traditional Japanese intstrument kind of like the banjo but more "elegant", and traditional throat singing that sounds suspiciously like a meowling cat. Not only that, but the songs are of course all in Japanese. NOT ONLY THAT, but it is sung in Old Japanese, which is the equivalent of an ESL student trying to read Shakespeare; even great English speakers are not entirely sure of what's going on in Shakespeare because old English has little to no semblance to modern English. Same with old Japanese. The verb forms and kanji are all kinds of crazy. NOT ONLY THAT, but we had to sit in seiza the whole time on tatami mats in an unheated room in the mountains. It was a good cultural experience I'm sure, but . . . never again. We actually left the concert early to explore the grounds (the concert was held at an old Tatara museum) and search out some more koyou. We were not disappointed. Everywhere we looked there were red and orange and yellow trees stoichly waiting in the melancholy rain. I was glad Okuizumo put on its autumn best for my friend from afar. On the way home we stole persimmons off a roadside tree and reveled in our delinquency. After returning we decided to cook dinner at my apartment, having exhausted all three of the restaurants my town offers. We made creamy vegetable corn soup and grilled garlic fish with rice- a lovely meal for a grey day.
Autumn has always been my favorite season.
Special Thanks to Alexis for coming and for skillfully taking pictures for me to unscrupulously steal.
And thanks to apples for being so very tasty.