Rice Capital of Japan

Trip Start Aug 09, 2008
Trip End Aug 2009

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Flag of Japan  , Chubu,
Friday, November 14, 2008

Our last few days in Japan were spent in Niigata with Rajivīs cousin Lily and her family, followed by an overnight stay in Nikko, 2 hours north of Tokyo.

Lily and her husband, Masahiko exposed us to some of the more traditional Japanese food which we would most probably not have tried on our own. Lily made us Japanese curry the first night we arrived - yummy! Masa cooked okonomiyaki, a Japanese type pancake for an afternoon meal, and nabe one evening, a hot pot dish with vegetables, tofu, seafood and meats - all very good.

We also went out to an Izakaya one evening, which serves pub-like finger food. We had our own separate room and left the ordering to Masa and Lily. I think I can safely say that everything that we ate was very different from the food weīve had in Canada, even though in some cases, the dishes were familiar (like tempura). We also ordered 6 different types of sake and had a sake tasting session which was a lot of fun.

The next day we rode an old steam train to Niitsu, a small town, and walked into a forested area to see ancient burial sites. It was interesting to visit some Japanese wilderness areas.........not something we would see as tourists. I (Rajiv) did read that even though Japan has a population of about 129 million people, they are concentrated in cities, leaving space for many national parks and protected areas.

While staying with Lily, Masa and their two boys we saw a bit of what their life is like, from the grocery store much like our own in Canada, with lots of free food samples everywhere, to their parking garage, where each car is on a movable conveyor system that shuffles cars around on three levels as they are needed. In this way 8 cars could be parked in the space occupied by just three in Canada.

The apartment even had an indoor garburator that took organic waste, ground it down and turned it into compost for adding to potting soil...and all this occurred right under the sink and no worms required!!

Following Niigata, we spent a night in Nikko, about 2 hours north of Tokyo by Shinkansen train. Lily and Masa found us this wonderful inn, with an onsen (natural hot springs). The package also included a western dinner and breakfast, using locally grown foods. Quite a few inns have the dinner/breakfast option, so we didnīt think too much of it but dinner ended up being this decadent 6 course meal.

The menu was in Japanese and we had no idea how many courses there were, or what kind of food to expect. The meal was a western/japanese fusion. I read somewhere that the Japanese believe in keeping their food as close to the natural state without too many sauces or flavours and the dinner was true to that statement. Speaking to the owner the next day, we found out that he had a small farm about 40 minutes away and most of the produce came from there.

The town of Nikko itself was pretty and we could easily have spent 2-3 days here but had only a day to walk and browse before we headed back to Tokyo for our flight to Singapore.
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