Snowy Yamagata

Lately I’ve been touting the blessings of spring, but deep down, my heart belongs to winter.

A few weeks ago Dan and I took a weekend trip to Hijiori Onsen, a tiny town in the mountains in northwest Japan. We took the Shinkansen to the last stop, then a bus for an hour, and we found snow. A lot of it. 

The morning greeted us with fresh snowfall, so we took stroll through town. It was quiet except for the sound of the river.

I was happy to spend the afternoon at our ryokan, tucked under the kotatsu. Through the window I watched the snow fall and tried to study Japanese, alternating sips of beer and green tea. When I needed a break from kanji, I stitched. Occasionally we raced to the window to glimpse a pair of hawks fishing in the river outside.

Hijiori Onsen is a hot spring resort town, and our ryokan had 3 different baths. Our first afternoon, I had this one to myself. The next morning I sat in a copper tub with the windows open and let snowflakes flutter in.

We stayed two nights, and both dinners were absolute feasts. Regional specialties included beef yakiniku, duck nabe (soup), mountain vegetables, and really good rice. We cooked our beef and duck nabe over a table with coals set inside. On Friday night, dinner ended with a dance. More photos of our two days of kaiseki can be found here on Flickr.

The owners at Yuyado-Motokawarayu ryokan were extremely welcoming. If you get a chance, stop by and say hello.

〒996-0301
山形県最上郡大蔵村南山454-1
TEL:0233-76-2259

Kyoto is for Eaters

Kyoto is so beautiful it almost makes me mad.

But since we’re being totally honest with each other, I’ll admit I was the most excited by this sight:

Black sesame and honey ice cream. With a gingersnap spoon. I shoved it into everyone’s face, insisting they must try the Most Delicious Ice Cream Combo, until I realized that meant less for me. So I sneaked away to lick my cone clean in the dark shadows of a shrine.

We opted for the kaiseki meal in our ryokan, which meant dinner while wearing our pajamas and yukata (cotton robes). While our server delicately described the seasonal components and zen balance of each dish, I was busy taking photos and so I had no idea what I was eating. Vegetable or fish? Who cares! It’s boiled!

It was great, but it made my mouth tired.

Our ryokan also served us breakfast, with amazing little pillow-like cubes of tofu.

I love Japanese breakfasts. I’ll take some rice and grilled fish over an omelet any day.

On our way out of town we stopped for lunch at Katsukura, a tonkatsu (fried pork) restaurant in Kyoto Station.

The sorta-trendy restaurant serves you sesame seeds with a small mortar and pestle, to grind and add sauce to for dipping. I did it wrong. Who knew you could be so uncouth at a fried meat restaurant?

In case anyone is curious we stayed at the lovely, not-too-fancy Ryokan Motonago. The tonkatsu restaurant is located in the JR Kyoto Station, The Cube, 11F (above Isetan).