At the top of the spectrum was our stay at Hakone, a sort of resort town in the mountains of Fuji-Hakone National Park. After enjoying an afternoon on various forms of transportation around the mountain with stops at the beautiful Hakone Open Air Museum and Owakudani (where we ate eggs boiled in the sulfuric waters of the volcanic hot springs, turning their shells black!) we checked into Ryokan Senkei, and were eventually introduced to Kimiko, our attendant. A slight, middle aged Japanese woman in a traditional kimono who flitted around enthusiastically spouting Japanese instructions and the occasional staccato English word in her tiny voice, grinning and giggling as she bowed repeatedly. She showed us around our enormous private pavilion and then shooed us away nearby private onsen, so that she could prepare for our "kaiseki" dinner.
Kaiseki is another important part of a traditional ryokan, though it is so elaborate that in modern times it seems to be reserved for only higher-end places. [We should note that this was one experience we had planned on having with Ben's parents, and though it was a great evening, we missed them a lot! Ben says, "Arigato, Moop and Shmoop."] We returned from the onsen to dine like wealthy shoguns in our yukata, a parade of small plates with colorful foreign delicacies, each component masterfully presented with attention to the most minute detail. Highlights were an aji (horse makerel) and eggplant stew and a fig coated in ginger sesame paste; the one low light was a watery fish broth(?) with gel-coated leaves of some kind...haha.
|Tiny whitebait for kaiseki breakfast|
|Ginkakuji, Silver Pavilion -- Kyoto|