Thursday, 21 November 2013

Japan Trip 4: Traditional Japanese Breakfast, Hirosaki

Japan Trip Day 4

I was looking forward to this breakfast: a very authentic and traditional Japanese breakfast.

Breakfast Menu in Japanese (Only)
Japanese Breakfast
Clockwise from top left: half boiled egg in light soy, garden salad, pineapple slices, tofu, miso soup, condiments of shallots and bonito fish flakes, soy sauce, pickles, rice, grilled whole fish, mini fish bits (the little white things).

The dish in the little round red container contained something fishy that looked and tasted like slimy mini eels or worms or something. Cool beans :p It had a really really strong and salty ocean flavour. Apparently really popular in Japan.

The best thing about a Japanese breakfast is not only is it super nutritious, you feel good because it is so healthy. Delicious food that is nutritious and healthy and doesn't make you feel heavy and bad is definitely win.

Apple Orchard
A refreshing morning walk to the train station through the apple orchards.

Perfect Apple Specimen
Apple Orchard 2
Far Shot of Apple Orchard
Owani Onsen Train Station
When we arrived in Hirosaki, we were feeling hungry so hit up the first restaurant we saw - a small ramen restaurant ran by a husband and wife team. It was very busy and frequented by local businessmen and students - there was the Hirosaki government building nearby.

The menu was one of the most simplest menus I've ever seen in any country - the only thing on the menu was one type of ramen, some onigiri (rice balls - sold out by this time after the lunch rush), and bowls of rice. That was it... literally. So since we had no choice, we each ordered a bowl of ramen.

The ramen was good: perfectly cooked al dente noodles in a simple but tasty broth topped with a slice of cha siu (roast pork) and fish paste (made of tofu).

It was a very simple but hearty meal. A bit too simple actually - I was hoping for some more variety - at least a plate of gyoza (pan fried Japanese dumplings) to go with. Most places that serve ramen generally also serve gyoza - is is considered a natural accompaniment to ramen in Japanese cuisine.

Hirosaki Park
Hirosaki Park 2
Hirosaki Castle Tower
It was a nice walk exploring Hirosaki park. You can buy a multi-pass that gives you entry to Hirosaki Castle Tower, the Botanical Garden and Fujita Memorial Garden.

Traditional Japanese Home in Fujita Memorial Garden
Fujita Memorial Garden
Fujita Memorial Garden Cafe: Apple Pie & Tea
A lovely afternoon tea of apple pie and tea at the cafe adjoining Fujita Memorial Garden. Apple pie featured heavily on the menu and it seemed fitting given the local specialty and prominence of apples.

Entry to the Samurai Residence
Inside the Preserved Samurai Residence
Hirosaki Park 3
Cherry Blossom Trail
This trail is one of the most spectacular places to view the cherry blossom trees when they are in bloom during late April and early May. (This visit was during October)

All that walking around Hirosaki made us hungry. Unfortunately it was that time when the places for lunch closed yet most places for dinner was not yet open so there weren't many decent options for food. We went for one of the few places that was open - it was a Japanese izakaya chain restaurant that opened early for dinner.

Izakaya Seating Area
Blue Cocktail & Complimentary Snacks
Salmon Sashimi
Hirosaki is famous for its cocktails so it seemed fitting to try one. True to its renown, this blue cocktail was delicious. The complimentary snacks of pickled cucumber and potato salad were tasty as was the fresh salmon sashimi.

Grilled Beef
The grilled beef was very mediocre - dry and overcooked. Would not recommend this.

Hotate (Scallop Sashimi)
Tuna Sashimi
As you can see from the colour of the tuna sashimi, it wasn't very good. It took the kitchen a long time to bring this dish out. Surprising being served such poor quality sashimi in Japan. I guess this is why chain stores aren't generally known for the quality of the food.

Gyoza (Pan Fried Dumplings)
The menu highly recommended the gyoza and claimed it as one of its specialities. The gyoza was good except as you picked them up, most of the skins broke - this is generally an indication of the poor workmanship when making the dumplings. Nonetheless, it was still tasty to eat.

Yakitori Selection
As you can see from the photo, the yakitori was absolutely drenched in sauce. I wasn't able to enjoy this dish due to how salty the sauce made everything. All the skewers were practically sitting in pools of sauce.

Organic Tofu
The menu also highly recommended another specialty: organic tofu so we gave it a shot. It was true to its word, the tofu was really fresh and beautifully silken.

Izakaya Receipt
Compared to the really fantastic meal we had on our first evening in Shinjuku Tokyo at "Piss Alley", this meal at the chain store izakaya was very mediocre and more expensive.

Private Hot Springs Bath
It was really nice to be staying at an upscale ryokan with very few guests - it meant that at various hours throughout the day, the hot springs bath was fairly private - in fact both times I visited, I was the only one. Although some foreigners wear their bathing suits to the hot springs, traditionally, you are meant to soak nude in Japanese hot springs.

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