October 22, 2012 by Dan
Eating and sleeping in Shirakawa-go deserved its own post, mainly because it was, I think, the closest we came to doing such things in a traditional Japanese fashion. I use “traditional” here in the very confused way that I’ve been using it throughout these travelogues; it means that the way things are done and presented is seen as traditional by most. Whether or not it’s authentic or real in the sense that we think of such things in the States (what is an authentic dive bar, anyway?) really doesn’t apply.
So…our first meal was at one of the two standalone restaurants in town (there are also snack bars and things) – it was a beautiful place with low tables on raised platforms, and a whole cupboard area where you leave your shoes. We sat in the back, with a view of the green meadows and a little burbling creek. Burbling, for the record, is very relaxing. J wasn’t as hungry as I was, so she got a specialty udon, and I had the set lunch. J’s Udon was delicious-looking:
And also included a bonus of an entire soy-cooked herring. With eyeballs.
My set lunch included about twelve different things, all very small, and mostly very good. My fave was the little burner with an aluminum foil pad on top of a leaf, where I self-grilled a small bit of Hida beef with miso sauce.
Mine also included an entire fish. Yummy, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to eat the head and the brains. I’m still a bit picky that way.
So, lunch was successful. We had arranged to stay at Furusato, a traditional grass-roofed Minshuku inn. Well, we hadn’t arranged it – the proprietors speak very little English, so the helpful staff at the Rickshaw in Takayama had taken care of it for us. It only took us about thirty minutes to find Furusato – it’s more like a very small bed and breakfast, with only a couple of rooms.
Notice the lack of sign? That completely flummoxed us – by now, we were used to hotel signs that were bilingual – a little English next to the katakana. No dice here – in order to confirm that this was, in fact, a place to stay and not just a little house I had to go through the phrase book, figure out the characters for “Furusato” and then compare them to what was written on the side of the little house. Jackpot! I felt very accomplished.
Furusato was absolutely delightful. Our hosts could not have been friendlier, more accomadating, or positive. We settled in to our traditional room (tatami mats, futons) and realized happily that we’d slept on futons for the entire previous week. My back felt great. We changed into robes (man, I wish that hotels in the States were as obsessed with robes and slippers as Japanese folks are) and immediately made tea.
And then we went to dinner, in our robes, promptly at six. The hostess was ecstatic to see us in our robes.
“Very good!” she said, as loudly as we’d heard her speak. We were so excited to have done something right. It was like getting a tough answer right in freshman history class, but without any of the attendant peer-group scorn.
Look familiar? It was very similar to lunch, but just a little bit better. The big burner is for grilling that delicious Hida beef, the fish was perfectly cooked, and all of the little vegetables were at the least interesting, at the most fabulous. We ate for an hour and then returned to our room to find that our hosts had made up the beds for us:
At seven o’clock. It was dark in town and there was very little noise. We were in an interesting place – nothing to do, nowhere to sit beyond the futons, wearing robes. We sat and watched the outside for a bit, then played some Yahtzee. I put on some wooden shoes at one point and went outside to look at the stars. There were more than I could process.
We went to sleep at perhaps nine, and slept well.
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