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Saturday, January 12

I Never Get Enough

If there is one thing in Japan that you can never get enough of eating, it’s gyoza. If there is one thing in Japan that you can never get enough of seeing, it’s Mt. Fuji. Combining those two things into one day, makes for a pretty awesome time spent.

This was exactly the plan last Sunday. A friend had been telling us about this restaurant in Hakone called the Gyoza Center. I scoffed a bit at the title, thinking there surely was something more clever they could come up with, but there was no scoffing as we sat down to eat. In case you don’t recall gyoza in previous posts, it is this dumpling that can be fried of boiled. This particular restaurant makes a variety so delicious, that there is a line outside the door thirty minutes before the place even opened (we were second!). The amusing part about this is that the restaurant is in the middle of nowhere, mountainous Hakone. The only way a place in the middle of nowhere like this could have such a following is by word of mouth… oh and the fact that Lonely Planet recently added it to their books. I actually only knew that last part as we were standing in line and our friends shared that bit. Perhaps it was the season, but that part didn’t seem to draw too much attention… we were the only gaijin in the tiny restaurant. We tossed down a variety of gyoza – garlic, crab, shrimp – made complete with miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables and tall glasses of grenadine or lemon chuhi. Oh sweet heaven!

Filled from lunch, we were a traveling group without any real travel plans. With the weather in Japan often being quite cloudy, you can never count on seeing Mt. Fuji unless you decide to actually hike it… which can only be done in a 60 day span in the summer. Seeing as we were well outside of that zone, but the day was (quite strangely) utterly clear, we decided to hike over to the next train line that gets us closer to Fuji san views – an expensive cable car ride followed by the ropeway – which ultimately brings us to a neighboring peak great for taking in the sights. I mentioned this travel method way back when my cousins were visiting, so I’m skipping the detail here. The difference on this particular day of travel is that when we arrived to crest at the precipice of the mountain’s peak, Fuji san was in all its prominent glory just ahead of us instead of hiding behind cloud cover as it did on my previous trip. It truly was like watching a mountain dawn… just beautiful in all its snow-covered, glory goodness. Our friend has lived in Japan for over eight years and she even commented that she had never seen Fuji like this.

As we got off the ropeway, we practically ran to take in the sights I had longed to see from this vantage point. It took everything I had not to push other mountain top visitors out of my way to get the best picture spot. Of course, my hands were often preoccupied with hanging on to my hat… damn it was windy up there.

When our awed staring started to slow, our friends decided (much to my inner thrill) they would like to meander through the gift shops. At the first, we came upon “the world most famous egg… kurotamago… eat one and get 7 years longevity!” Who could refuse, right? These black eggs have a white powdery substance coating them, I assume the remnants of cooking them underground in the sulfur beds. More than a little wary about eating a black egg, I don’t ever want to seem the chicken that never was (you know… the egg… errr… whatever) and not try something, so I cracked into the egg, coated it in course salt, and just about ate it whole as it was so darn tasty. After Hello Kitty and I chilled for a bit, savoring the blackened frippery, it was time to call it a day and start the trek back before the mountain temperatures threatened permanent damage to my fingers.

Having to switch trains in Ofuna, we decided to stop for a bit and take advantage of the well-priced fruit and vegetable markets in the area. The skies grew dark over us as we shopped, signaling it was yet again time for a meal. Why not top the day off with one more meal out, right? While it wasn’t part of the original plan (then again, we never had an original plan, did we?), we stopped for Japanese Italian… always strange… always a hit. Our senses thoroughly filled from the day (and having only 600 yen left jingling in out pocket, just barely enough for the last train leg home), it really was time to call it a day. An incredibly perfect day.


Juliet Carnell said...

Those are amazing pictures of Mt. Fuji! Congratulations on being in the right place at the right time. And now you have seven more years to savor the memories!

Anonymous said...

The photo of Mt. Fuji is spectacular!!

ablykins said...

Wow- you are so lucky to have seen Fuji in such rare form! Gorgeous photos!

That gyoza place sounds fab! I love gyoza and what you were describing totally made my mouth water! I can't recall the name of it at the moment, but there is a place in Yokohama-Motomachi area that makes 'international' gyoza, with interesting fillings. I've tried both Italian and French fillings, and they were very unique but really tasty! Have you visited the gyoza museum in Ikebukuro?