Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

The Chinese Gadfly, Part 1

I got to bed a little earlier last night, but it was only after I composed and sent a response to my latest source of irritation.

Late Friday, a Chinese company sent an email to me by way of YuzuMura.com claiming that my use of the phrase “dragon beard candy” runs afoul of a trademark they registered in 2001 in China. Somehow, the 2000 years of prior use as a common phrase (in Chinese) got past the Chinese trademark authorities; perhaps they considered it a novel usage since they registered the mark “Dragon Beard brand cotton candy” in English rather than Chinese.

Translations of common phrases are, to my knowledge, not well protected by trademark law, but the more amusing thing is that they are making a claim against a phrase that existed in English in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore for a fairly long time prior to their registration.

Also, their company, “Nutra-Swiss,” does not appear to have any trade presence in the United States. They don’t have much to protect; if a trade name is not in active use, it’s not protectable, and this should be doubly true for a weak mark. These days, their online presence appears confined to search engine spamming and domain name resale, although I do recall seeing some photos of some artificially-colored plastic tubs of cotton candy on some trade directory last year. I’m not selling cotton candy or even comparing my product to their artificially-colored goo anywhere on my commercial site, since it’s irrelevant to my market.

I expect there may be one or two more rounds of email, after which I’ll probably publish the entirety of the exchange here for popular amusement. They don’t show a very sophisticated understanding of trademark law.

Dinner

I needed to take advantage of leftover ingredients today. I still had a bit of ricotta in my refrigerator, which would not likely survive much longer than today; it was still in decent condition. I also had some tomatoes, onion and mushroom, in addition to a bit of parmesan. It turned out that Central Market, where I did my matcha latte demo today, had a little sale on manicotti shells, which is quite fortunate, since I had already thought of making manicotti on my way to search for pasta. I was lower on tomatoes than I remembered, so rather than incorporating the mushrooms into a filling, I made them part of the sauce, which was heavy on onions, deglazed with a little fume blanc, and seasoned with garlic and basil. I chopped the roasted peppers into confetti and included them in the ricotta-parmesan filling.

Mushroomonionmanicotti-640w

For a dish which was composed primarily as an excuse to use up ingredients, it turned out fairly well. The wine and mushroom sauce turned out more interesting than the tomato sauce I had planned. But I only have about 6 weeks left in Washington’s tomato season…

Technorati tags: China, trademarks, law 

Raspberry Lassi, Moon Viewing

I struggled to figure out the quirks of the high-powered convection oven at Floating Leaves Tea in Ballard yesterday, but after the second test batch I figured things out and started to get a rhythm. The oven fits about 5 baking sheets at a time, so I baked about 60 cookies at a time. I stopped counting how many batches I made.

When I finished, I know I had baked somewhere between 300–400 cookies…. If I recall correctly, it involved about 5 pounds of butter, about 8 pounds of flour, about 4 or 5 pounds of white chocolate, and a fair supply of pine nuts, not to mention a lot of matcha. Anyway, after baking an absurd amount of cookies, and cleaning up after myself, I rushed to Cash & Carry for some disposable cups, ice, and milk, then I made a brief stop at home to pick up my cooler and some ice. I managed to encounter some traffic on the freeway heading over to the arboretum, but I arrived just about 5 minutes before people started to line up at the Japanese Garden.

A few people were a bit confused about where I was supposed to set up refreshments, as is the nature of volunteer things, but I met my contact and got myself a little table to offer refreshments to guests of the moon-viewing festival. I stayed until about 10pm, since a fairly constant flow of visitors moved in and out of the garden. The sunset came a little late for moon-viewing, but I think the reason for staging the event so early in the year has something to do with the unpredictability of September weather.

I served iced tea donated by Floating Leaves, including a Jasmine, a Chinese Green, and something herbal, and of course I sampled matcha latte. I managed to use up absolutely everything I came with… It turns out that at least 500 people came for the festival.

I passed around a lot of business cards, and close to closing time I spoke a bit with Elizabeth Falconer, who is a well-known Seattle-based Koto player, and her family.

With some leftover raspberries, a bit of sugar, and some buttermilk, I made a kind of raspberry lassi today… No mangoes around, but raspberry works quite well.

Raspberry Lassi

Today, I finally made a dent in an upgrade from DotText to Community Server v1.1, although it did not go completely smoothly. My photo gallery is missing as of yet, and I haven’t had time to migrate my previous skin design, or tweak any of the new ones.

 

Grilled tofu, umeboshi and tomato salad, and plotting a last minute contribution

Standard operating procedure for Americans confronted with tofu is to cover it up as much as possible. People think it “absorbs” flavors of things around it. This isn’t really true, though because water in tofu keeps the flavor mostly at the surface, unless the tofu is freeze-dried or otherwise altered in texture.

I usually don’t do much to tofu… I love yudoufu (湯豆腐), which is simmered tofu with sometimes as little as a sliver of dried kelp, served with a dipping sauce; hiya-yakko (冷やっこ), which is really just some good tofu with some garnish, such as grated ginger and soy sauce, occasionally some oroshi-daikon, and for many, shaved katsuo, is also perfectly simple and wonderful. With suitably fresh tofu, the whole point is to make the custardy, or sometimes slightly chewy texture stand out, accented by the hint of bitterness that the soybean origin contributes.

Today, though, I was craving some grill marks. I had just a bit left of a medium-firm or momen-style tofu from a local Vietnamese tofu maker. Normally I’m happy to just grill some slices on my little grill pan and maybe use a dipping sauce. Today, I decided to grill until some nice marks were established, then I brushed a little bit of shouyu, grilled a bit more, and finally brushed a slight wash of mirin.

I had a bit of a yuzu-shouyu dressing that I made a while back, so I used that to dress my salad, and I sliced some nice tomatoes and sprinkled a bit of coarse gray salt atop.

Tofu-umeboshi-tomato-salad

Yesterday I noticed an email that was apparently trapped by a spam filter. It came from someone at Seattle’s Japanese Garden, located in the Washington Park arboretum. I got a return phone call tonight, and I signed up to bring some things for the reception of this weekend’s moon viewing event. I hope I can squeeze as much work as I need to into Saturday.

Matt's in the Market, and other kinds of desirable simplicity

Tuesday night Hiromi and I set out to join a Japanese language meetup group that I’ve been fairly regularly attending for the last year or so, but which seems to have quietly fizzled in the last couple of months. We’ve tried to attend the last few weeks but they’ve been rather sparsely populated and the one or two people we do see usually lose their inspiration to stay when they see how small the group is that week.

Well, we found ourselves the only ones there this week, and decided to duck out and find dinner after a few minutes. Not terribly inspired by the Belltown options we stumbled upon, we headed toward Pike Place Market and made our first trip to Matt's in the Market, a place often spoken of reverently by its devoted followers.

I'm a little bit late to the party, as I've known about Matt's for years but never found my way there for dinner. Even though the Pike Place Market is a quintessential Seattle institution, I'm primarily dependent on the market as a source of local and unusual fruits and vegetables, and I just never think of it as a dining destination.

For those who haven’t encountered Matt’s, there are three things you should know: the menu is short, simple and seasonal. This is not a place filled with fancy kitchen equipment, as the space is simply too small and the ventilation just too limited. Including counter seating, only about 23 people can squeeze in to the place. Most dishes are cooked on one of three butane burners, and some are at least partly finished in the oven. The atmosphere is a bit like a dinner party at a private home. Nobody rushes; there’s no point, because the food just takes as long as it takes.

If you want to impress someone with over-the top improbable towers of culinary audaciousness, it’s not the place for you, but if you appreciate simple preparations of top-quality, incredibly fresh ingredients, it’s a good bet.

We shared a grilled asparagus salad, served with some pistachio-encrusted soft chevre. It was served with some marinated peppers and a tart vinaigrette featuring small bits of pickled lemon. Hiromi wasn’t expecting much from the restaurant, and then she tasted the salad… she quickly changed her tune.

Halibut, I learned Tuesday night, is apparently Hiromi’s favorite fish. Despite brief temptation to try the night’s salmon special, she polished the plate of a harissa-seasoned halibut with olives and a potato-fennel base. I had the sole vegetarian main, which was a superbly comforting, if somewhat heavy, baked macaroni dish with mushrooms and cheese. Both are served with broccoli rabe, which Hiromi appreciated because they remind her of nanohana, the bitter greens of rapeseed plant. It’s somehow not spring in Japan without nanohana; rabe provides a decent proxy.

We also dug into a lime cheesecake, prepared off-site by another company, but quite respectable; it had just a hint of acidity, and was just sweet enough to bring out the richness of the cream cheese.

Atypical in our Seattle dining experiences, we left exactly sated, without feeling incredibly stuffed, and without leaving mounds of leftovers behind.

Expect to wait for a table, even on a Tuesday night…Stop in next door at Chez Shea for a cocktail, and, if the staff isn’t too distracted, they will come and get you when seats are available.

An donuts

Now considered kind of quaint and old-fashioned, an donatsu or sweet azuki paste stuffed donuts were once a staple of Japanese-style bakeries. Increasingly, mushy, cloyingly sweet, preservative-laden versions sold at convenience stores have displaced the fresher incarnations of this sweet, but it’s worth indulging in when you find the real thing.

An Donuts

Andonatsu-ogura

I can’t think of anywhere in Seattle to buy a decent an donut. But I can make a fairly decent interpretation myself...

Sunday morning, after realizing I had no more yeast left, I abandoned the idea of making anpan, the baked bread stuffed with the same kind of red bean paste. I did, however, have eggs, baking powder, and milk, so I put together a cake-like dough, incorporating a bit of melted butter and sugar. The dough was slightly sticky, but solid enough to allow for wrapping the dough around the filling.

The day before I had prepared some ogura-an, sweetened, coarsely mashed cooked azuki beans. I broke the usual convention of using about 50% sugar in the bean paste, preferring to use just enough sugar to taste the sweetness. I probably used no more than 25% sugar.

The main challenge is to make the outer layer thin enough that the dough can cook through, and almost all of them turned out just fine. After frying, I tossed the balls with some granulated sugar to add some textural contrast and an initial hit of sweetness.

We made a couple of lattes and indulged in a late breakfast.

Fresh from the fryer, our homemade an donuts were a totally different experience than I’ve even been able to have in Japan, since those are almost always sold after they have cooled down to room temperature. A tiny hint of crispness as we bit into each piece yielded to a soft cake texture, followed by the warm, sweet bean center.

Ganmodoki, warabi, and houtou

Last week Hiromi and I decided to take advantage of one of the packaged foods we picked up at Takaragawa-onsen called houtou, which are fantastically wide noodles typically served with fall or winter vegetables.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to completely ignore the fact that we’re already seeing the bounty of springtime. I picked up some fiddlehead fern fronds, and thought a simple warabi no nimono, simmered fiddleheads in seasoned soup stock, would be nice.

And then I thought I’d like to have a little protein in the dish, and my mind turned to a favorite oden classic, which is ganmodoki, a sort of tofu fritter. I started looking at packaged ganmodoki, and wasn’t inspired at all. I realized it wasn’t that hard to make ganmodoki, and so I decided to make it at home.

Homemade Ganmodoki

Ganmodoki version 1

Ganmodoki often has some hijiki in it, but I discovered I was completely out. Instead, I used some shredded gobo or burdock root, along with the typical shredded carrots. Hiromi told me that she’s partial to ganmodoki made with sesame, so I also used some kurogoma (black sesame) and the slightest hint of sesame oil. The fried ganmodoki went into the seasoned soup stock, perhaps not quite long enough to get the incomparably oden-like quality of pervasive soupy richness, but just about right to bring out the freshness of the tofu.

Houtou

Houtou

Houtou is seriously rustic. You are probably less likely to find this nabe dish in a U.S. Japanese restaurant than you are to find a fortune cookie in China, which means the odds are almost infinitely improbable.

Our favorite nabe is sadly leaking a bit, but houtou would normally be prepared on top of a portable konro at the table. We had to improvise, and prepared it in a pot on the stove and transferred it into my largest Hagi earthenware bowl.

Houtou aren’t really substantially different than udon, except that they are cut thinner and substantially wider. The soup usually has root vegetables such as carrots and satoimo (small taro), along with Japanese kabocha squash.We also used strips of abura-age, loosely translatable as tofu puffs. They have a slightly spongy texture that just loves to absorb tasty liquids like broth. The seasoning base of our broth is miso, along with, of course, some dashijiru. Although the gift package Hiromi found at our ryokan’s convenient omiyage-ya-san includes some miso-based seasoning, she wanted some more miso intensity, and we used a blend of hatcho-miso and a lighter miso.

The result is rib-sticking comfort food. It’s the kind of food someone’s grandmother would make: not terribly fancy, but somehow incredibly satisfying. We look forward to devouring the other half of our stash of houtou sometime soon…

Elevating the American food scene

Hillel of  Tasting Menu has issued a bit of a challenge to himself to elevate the average quality of U.S. dining experiences. It's a frustration I share... I know a few places in Seattle that make me very happy, but most of them are out of the reach of everyday dining prices, and it's incredibly hard to find things that do a few simple things very well, and make me want to go out of my way to get a modest lunch or dinner there.

In Japan, countless television shows will obsessively document what it takes to make the most perfect omelet, which soba places do the best job of making buckwheat noodles (a fundamentally simple, but deceptively challenging task), or which ryokan is best taking advantage of their local ingredients. In the U.S., the closest thing we have to that mentality on TV is Alton Brown, and maybe Cook's Illustrated in print. In Japan, it's pervasive.

In the U.S., we are more excited by drama than by perfection. That's why people like Emeril, unfamiliar towers of incongruous ingredients at trendy fusion restaurants, and big fat California rolls. In Japan, more often than in the U.S., the pursuit of perfection is the drama.

In my first few years cooking regularly, during college, I followed a predictably American pattern of rebelling against bland foods from my childhood and I overseasoned absolutely everything. It was an improvement over what I had eaten before, but it's not necessarily worthy of much praise. After 8 years of regular visits to Japan, I increasingly strive for minimalism, trying to find ingredients that do most of the hard work simply by being wonderful and fresh.

Often enough, when I give an example of this, it's something as simple as a blanched spinach dish with a little freshly grated ginger and a splash of good quality Japanese soy sauce. When I explain it, it doesn't sound interesting, but when it's done right, it's easy to understand its simple poetry.

To elevate the U.S. dining scene, we have to give appropriate due to small places with short menus that get the food right, and take what they are producing very seriously. I can point out a few examples in Seattle, but mostly in a liquid context: Vivace and Victrola coffee, Sambar's signature cocktails that often feature house-squeezed juices and purees, tea at Floating Leaves.

Every Japanese restaurant in Seattle seems to feel obligated to offer sushi, tempura, donburi, and an assortment of over-sized side dishes, all in the same place. Nobody does just ramen, just okonomiyaki, just soba, just kushiyaki, or just udon. It seems like there's some sort of unwritten law that, even if you've hired 3 decent sushi chefs at $80,000/year each and contracted with a first-class interior designer, the restaurant has to devolve into some sort of family restaurant style of having something mediocre for everybody.

And I can pick on most cuisines in this regard: we torture Italian food the same way, not to mention Thai, Mexican, and others. If I'm in Japan, I don't think "I want to go to a Japanese restaurant," I think "I want to go to an izakaya", "I'd like some good soba", or "I'd like to have a teishoku lunch at that little vegetable shop near the office for lunch."

We need to reward the places that are obsessive about getting details right, from perfectly cooked pasta sauced with just the right amount of liquid, to serving just the amount of food that makes you wish you had just a little more, rather than making you feel guilty that you don't want to take the inedible leftovers home. Japan does have a certain level of uniform expectations that means there's far less variation in what's considered "perfect", and the benefit of generally high population density, but in the U.S. we usually have lower rents and more tolerance for idiosyncrasy, so the restaurants can be more maverick-like if they build a passionate audience.

Japanese cooking shows typically show professional cooks as careful, serious, diligent and avoiding wasted motion, respectfully repeating orders and executing them, and the guests are the ones who get all excited. In the U.S. the same kinds of shows have clanging pots, chaotically moving employees trying to avoid bumping into each other, kitchen staff telling jokes of questionable taste, and often haphazardly tossing food onto plates, often portraying the dining room is an ocean of calm customers. We want our celebrity chefs to be exciting; Japanese would rather the food and the guests do the talking.

Restaurants also have to get better at telling their own stories, explaining why they don't have 300 menu choices and why they serve their zarusoba with just a little bit of dipping sauce and a few pickles. The story-telling is part of what makes unconventional restaurants succeed in the U.S.; they have to teach their guests to do their marketing.

We can improve the taste of average restaurants by expecting better... When one place starts making the perfect taco, stop spending so much money at the big-as-your-head burrito place. More realistically, I imagine we will have to take more incremental steps, since we might be trapped in a part of town where we don't have better lunch options... So I'll give more money to places that make me happier, even if they aren't flawless.

And hopefully the occasional web rant or rave will help people find better food, so I'll spend some time writing about the good stuff...

Purple potato lavash, Larry Anne plum crumble, orange cauli

I’ve been sleeping very little the last week or so, but not so much from jetlag… just a lot of stuff going on, and my insomnia truly kicks in when my little mind is fully engaged. I might be back to normal this week, but I think I’m going to need to spend a lot of time at the gym to take my mind off things.

We did eat reasonably well, but I was usually completely dead after dinner, save for the inability to sleep.

Orange cauliflower gratin

Orange califlower gratin 

Sometime last week, Hiromi took the second half of our orange cauliflower and made a wafuu gratin, complete with a toasty panko topping.

Purple potato pizza

Murasaki jagaimo closeup

I wasn’t quite finished with my stash of lavash, so we covered it with some blue cheese and something else mild and meltable, now long forgotten, with just the slightest brushing of olive oil, and some pre-roasted purple potatoes. Hiromi thought that I had bought purple sweet potatoes, because the concept of an ordinary purple potato never entered her mind.

Although purple potatoes are slightly less sweet and creamy than a typical white-fleshed potato, that worked out as a strength when played against the creaminess of the melted cheese. Hiromi devoured her half.

Larry Anne plum crumble

Larry anne plum crumble

We had two spectacularly beautiful Larry Anne plums, and two that were so sweet they bruised a bit on the way home. We turned the less pretty ones into this plum crumble. I usually wouldn’t torture such lovely fruit by cooking it, especially since the season for these Chilean plums is so painfully short, but we risked losing the damaged fruit so some more nefarious forces if we didn’t make immediate use of them.

I took a little butter, oatmeal, flour, sugar, and toasted soy butter, in roughly equal parts, to make the crumble topping. I would usually use peanut or almond butter, but I happened to have this toasted soy butter Hiromi and I bought a few weeks ago as a bread topping. It reminds us of kinako, which is toasted ground soybeans, and a frequent source of flavor for Japanese sweets and for boiled mochi. It turned out to be a great foil for the sweetness of the plums, providing a nutty contrast without competing for attention as aggressively as peanut butter does.

 

Foods needing improvement, some things needing none

Nothing puts fear into the hearts of perfectly capable cooks as the thought of making Hollandaise or Bernaise sauce.

I occasionally get Hollandaise sauce spot on without really trying. A few weeks ago, for the first time in months, if not years, I made a hurried attempt at a Hollandaise sauce that worked out spectacularly well: not too thick, not too thin, and not curdled or otherwise compromised. I made good use of it with some poached eggs on an English muffin with a little cheese, for a truly heart attack-inducing weekend morning calorie bomb.

But in my post-jetlag fervor, not to mention a serious craving for butter in the immediate wake of my Japan trip, I revisited the idea again, and it was a disaster. I was a bit short on time, or maybe it was actually eggs, otherwise I would have rescued the sauce, but instead we just suffered through my un-emulsified butter-laden travesty.

Attempt three, and I was more attentive. Hiromi found this lovely orange cauliflower at Sosio’s in Pike Place Market, and after a week of elaborate meals and occasional extravagant pieces of fruit, $4 for a head seemed perfectly reasonable; we weren’t at all distracted by our awareness of perfectly serviceable cauliflower at half the price.

Orange cauliflower with thin Hollandaise

Cauliflower in hollandaise

Alas, I got a bit distracted when trying to combine the sauce with the cauliflower; some of the water content from the cauliflower turned the Hollandaise a bit thin. If I were smarter, I would simply have poured the sauce on top of the plated dish.

As the first weeknight after returning from Japan, complete with a full work day and then some, I got home a little late. I wanted something else simple but attractive, so I grabbed some lavash from Trader Joe’s and made a pseudo-pizza.

Lavash pizza

Lavash pizza

Garlic, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke crowns, olives, and some basil, with a bit of mozzarella and parmesan, made a suitably indulgent, yet not terribly heavy accompaniment to our cauliflower.

Eggs Florentine

Eggs florentine

I didn’t give up on my Hollandaise fix… Somehow I felt the need to convince myself that the success from a few weeks ago wasn’t a fluke. I was, of course, tempting fate. It predictably curdled. Fortunately, I had another egg handy, and I just started over again warming the egg yolk and rescued the sauce. For a flawless result, I should have melted a bit more butter, as the extra yolk made for a very thick Hollandaise sauce, completely unnecessary for a poached egg.

Served with baby spinach on a crumpet instead of an English muffin, this slight tweak to brunch standard made for a luxurious, if slightly unimpressively executed, Tuesday morning breakfast.

A Little Respite in Gunma-ken

We departed Japan on Sunday, but not without a valuable trip to Takaragawa Onsen, a hot spring ryoukan in Gunma prefecture.

After a quick lunch at a Meguro-station cafe on Saturday, Hiromi drove us through a mysterious maze of toll highways about three or four hours, but I managed to sleep through about two hours of road time, oblivious to my surroundings. Only when traveling internationally do I seem to magically acquire the ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime.

For me, a stay in a ryokan is an opportunity for an extravagant simple meal, but it also offers an ideal bathing experience…

We stopped briefly at a highway service area for a snack, and after resting a bit upon arrival, we made a quick trip to the rotenburo (outdoor hot springs bath). This hotel’s rotenburo is one of the largest konyoku-buro (mixed baths). Although in other konyoku-buro, people generally enter the onsen naked, people at this onsen are advised to cover themselves with a towel (men with a tiny towel, women with a larger towel), as one sign indicated, so that “nobody has to be embarrassed” using the konyoku-buro.

We didn’t feel comfortable really photographing the baths themselves, of course, but here’s what we found along the way…

Lukewarm spring water

Nuruisen

The irouri as ashtray

Irouri-ashtray

In old Japanese houses, people sat around the irouri to share dinner and discuss the day’s business. For the contemporary onsen-goer, it seems to be a destination for an ippuku (rest, but actually a euphemism for a smoking break).

Tengu

Copper tengu

This hall is filled with tengu and tanuki, mystical creatures with exaggerated body parts.

In the ryokan eating area

Jasonatryokan

After soaking a bit we sat down to dinner. In this particular ryokan, most floors have two or three eating areas, at least in the steerage class, although in the most expensive rooms they serve fancier meals in the room.

Shokuzen-shu

Shokuzenshu

The apertif seemed to be some sort of shiso-based shochu infusion, heavily sweetened and only lightly alcoholic.

Kinoko sumibi-yaki

Kinoko no sumibi-yaki

Sumibi-yaki, char-grilled foods, seemed to be the theme of our stay. For a spring meal, the selections we were offered were surprisingly full of various “wild” mushrooms, but we had some fresh spring bamboo shoots as well.

Mmm-flames

Each table has a small shichirin, or clay grill, placed atop a concrete trivet with a wooden base to buffer against heat damage to the table.

Note to us

Ryokan-notetous

Each diner receives a note describing tonight’s menu. You can see from the “yamame” (small fish) and “joushuugyuu” (local beef) items that this is Hiromi’s menu.

Mame

Mame, slightly savory

A rare sweet-savory bean side dish, apparently typical for this area. Most of Japan prefers beans as a dessert, but this dish is prepared with enough salt to make it a pleasant side dish for a savory meal.

Maitake no itame-ni

Maitake-itameni

Several standard side dishes, such as ohitashi (blanched vegetables), pickled vegetables (nozawana, for example), and other obligatory ryokan fare, such as nabemono, were also featured. I had a cold dish with a kind of abura-age in clear soup, as well.

Sleepy Hiromi

Hiromi sleepy

After the meal, Hiromi became a bit sleepy.

On the banks of the river

Onthebanksoftheriver

We somehow managed to fall asleep around 9 in the evening, but the next morning, we awoke to this view outside our room’s window.

The bridge to the hot springs

Takaragawa bridge

We took advantage of the hot springs once more in the morning… a bit of snow started falling upon us while we were bathing.

Breakfast

Asagohan-takaragawa

Breakfast included miso soup, salad, bamboo leaf-wrapped nattou (fermented soybeans), more of the sweet-savory local beans, yogurt, an orange segment, and a soft-boiled egg, as well as some pickles and nori, not pictured.

Grilled potatoes, green beans and carrots

Youfu sukiyaki

This marks the first time I’ve been served ketchup at a ryokan, but my breakfast featured a sort of Western-themed sukiyaki, in lots of butter, meant to be dipped in ketchup.

Shake no sumibiyaki

Shake-sumibi

Salmon for Hiromi. We had a lot of fire at our table.

Breakfast window view

Breakfast snow

From our seats at breakfast, we could see the tall winter accumulation of snow that hadn’t yet sublimated or melted.

Display hearth

Display irouri

I’m guessing this irouri, not terribly well ventilated, doesn’t get much use in practice.

Goodbye!

Takara onsen

We had to rush back to Narita airport, where we met Hiromi’s parents one last time, and started the long journey back home.

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