Japan and I have a love-hate relationship. Let’s focus on love.
The original plan was Hokkaido for snow king crab and outdoor hot spring in the snow. He said November, then December and by January I knew it wasn’t going to happen. There is only so much disappointment one could handle; one could only lie to oneself for so long, so fuck it. Mama Chan and I changed plans; she wanted to visit Shiragawago, so I planned for Chubu (Central Japan) instead.
We landed in Nagoya and made a stop for Maruya, which is renowned for their Hitsumabushi (grilled eel rice). Located on the 9th Floor of Meitetsu department store directly above the station, it was the only restaurant with chairs lined up for the usual queue.
The grilled eel rice was phenomenal. There are 3 steps to enjoy this bad boy, as illustrated in the menu:
- Mix the grilled eel with rice
- Then mix in the wasabi, chopped spring onion and seaweed
- Pour the soup into the rice and condiments into the rice
The eel was so soft, cooked with the smoky and sweet sauce, mingled with round and bouncy rice - it was the most perfect start of a trip.
Deeply satisfied with a full stomach, we took the Wide View Limited Express train from Nagoya to Takayama - 2.5 hr.
Our hotel in Takayama was a short 3min walk from the station, about 10mins to the old city area. I couldn’t fault the hotel in any way. We booked a Japanese style room, which was spacious by Japan standard. The onsen (hot spring) facilities were brilliant; a large indoor pool with sauna plus a smaller outdoor onsen that overlooks the city. There were also 3 private onsens at no extra cost.
We visited Shiragakwago the following morning - a 50min bus ride from the Nohi Bus Terminal right next to the train station. It was snowing pretty hard on the day, the small UNESCO village had a distinctive charm.
When we got back to the old city in the Takayama, we tried a few hida beef dishes, including hida beef don, ramen and sushi. The main eats are along the old streets:
Hide beef sushi:
There were 2 kiosks that sell hida beef sushi, we tried both. The more expensive one was a thousand times better; beef melted in mouth as the rich bovine grease fused into the bouncy rice…
Matcha ice cream and matcha/red bean eclair:
Steamed Hida Beef Bun:
From Takayama we took the bus to the Okuhida region to the Shin-Hotaka near the Japanese Alps. Hot spring in the snow was still on my agenda even if it wasn’t going to be in Hokkaido.
The hida beef sukiyaki was delicious, the sweet soy sauce started softening the marbling fat, and a quick dip in the fresh egg before the thin slices melted away in mouth.
We took the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway to the Alps. The view was breath-taking.
I skipped Kanazawa and head straight to Osaka from Okuhida via Takayama. We know Osaka well enough since our last trip. Instead of spending all our time in Namba and Shinsaibashi, we spent some time in Umeda and KyoBashi. I prefer these regions where it’s not flooded with tourists emptying all the shelves in every pharmacy along Shinsaibashi.
Mama Chan and I had breakfast at Endo Sushi in the Kyobashi branch. The original sushi bar near the fish market was a little off-track. The quality of sushi was out of this world:
Mama Chan and I went all out with the shopping….we even made a pit stop at Rinku Shopping outlet before the airport. I targeted all the Japanese causal brands; Moussy, Sly, Beams, Merci Beaucoup and Tsumori Chisato etc….