With the spread of the coronavirus infection, many of us are stressed out because we cannot travel, which is one of the greatest pleasures in our lives. However, this situation will surely come to an end one day, and we will be able to visit various places as before.
Based on our own experiences, we would like to introduce to visitors to Japan from overseas the Onsen, Spot, Hotels, Restraunt, you should really stop at and the places, spaces, and times you better experience.
The first one is Asaba, one of the most recommended long-established Onsen Ryokan near the Izu area.
His ancestor, Yukitada Asaba Yakuro, came to this area in the company of Zen Master Shigeaki Ryukei, who had been dispatched from Kegonin in Enshu to establish Shuzenji Temple. With Mt. Daruma to the west and the beautiful Katsura River nearby, Yakuro left behind the family name Asaba. Later, Asaba Yasuemon established a hot spring inn. In the 350 years since then, Asaba has nurtured its traditions together with many people and the town of Shuzenji.
When you arrive at the place, you will be greeted immediately. Your car will be valeted at the entrance and you will be taken directly to your room without any check-in procedures. You can compare the cleanliness of the entrance during the day with the seclusion of the night. All the doors are open at certain times of the year, allowing a fresh breeze to pass through the lobby, and the seasonal decorations are tastefully done.
The small courtyard leads directly from the corridor, giving you the feeling that you are looking at a framed picture and proceeding to your room.
Room and View
The room is a Japanese-style room with 12 tatami mats and and no room bath. This is one of the best deals in Asaba, and the meals are the same as the best rooms.
This time, the room was on the first floor. The Noh stage, the symbol of Asaba, and the terrace spread out in front of us. You can experience the luxurious scenery of Japan. The stage is used for performances (Noh and Taiko performances) several times a year, and reservations are very popular during these times. The price is also…
Asaba does not change its attitude depending on the grade of the room, and the comfort is outstanding. There is a sense of comfort that allows you to relax and not feel tense and formal as is often the case with long-established ryokan. While being soothed by the natural conversation and smiles of the innkeepers, we had a cup of tea and homemade Japanese sweets.
You can choose from two types of yukata and go to the hot spring without any towels.
The view of the garden, pond and mountains from the entrance lobby is breathtaking. The large single pane of glass, cleaned without a single fingerprint, is very beautiful.
I was surprised to find that I could go barefoot (in socks) in the entire building and that there was no dust on the soles of my feet in the hallways. I explored every nook and cranny of the museum, and even visited the unused halls and annexes, but there was not a speck of dust. The sashes and joints of sliding doors in Japanese houses tend to accumulate dust every day, but the level of cleanliness was extremely high, even when I looked closely at the edges of the ceiling. In addition, the employees working in the spacious building were very thorough, even walking without making a sound.
The inner and open-air baths change sexes on a time-based basis. I envy the wisteria trellis from the open-air bath when it is in full bloom. Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that there are heated bath towels in the warming cabinet. Even in the middle of winter, there is no need to worry about getting cold from the hot water.
The time from when the sun begins to set until it gets dark seems to fly by. This is thanks to the Noh stage on the grounds of Asaba and the time spent gazing at the garden. No matter where you are or from where you look, the grounds of Asaba are sure to impress even foreigners.
As I sip the coffee in the salon and let the sweat of the hot spring settle, I see a very tasteful view. The cool breeze and the sound of bell insects combine to create a magical image. From time to time, I am soothed by the sound of the carp jumping in the water and the flickering fire of the andon (paper lanterns) floating in the pond. Every night, the watchman takes a boat and lights them one by one.
The well-kept faces during the day are also refreshing. Sitting in the salon in the morning, the sound of birds singing makes you feel very elegant.
In the morning, the bannerman opened the door of the salon and greeted me politely. He even paid attention to the noise of tables and chairs being carried, and after setting up the environment by calling out to us, he bowed deeply and said, “I apologize for the early start of the morning,” before leaving the room with a smile. When we felt such attention to detail, we naturally began to behave in an elegant manner.
The dinner we enjoyed was an aperitif of local sake from Shuzenji. It was dry, refreshing, and very easy to drink.
The first dish was “Ginkgo Biloba and Scallop”.
The first dish was simply seasoned with salt. As we ate in our room, Nakai-san gave us a detailed explanation as she brought us each dish. The quality of Asaba’s nakai-san is very high, and the tone and volume of their voice is pleasant.
There was one thing in particular that caught my attention during our conversation. Although she seemed to be a seasoned veteran, she paid attention to both of us while he was speaking, and when he reached the end of the conversation, he lowered his eyes. her face and gestures were elegant, even the way he laughed. It may have been her own human nature, but I learned a lot about her attitude toward working at this inn.
The second dish was three appetizers.
”Salmon roe, which seems to be homemade”
The salmon roe is moderately salty, moist, and full of flavor.
”Saikyo-zuke of Mangen Pork”
The fatty meat was crispy and chewy, and the seasoning and cooking method were delicious even after it had cooled. The second plate of meat is strangely satisfying to the palate.
This is a dish that carefully expresses the original taste of potatoes made from Ishikawa small potatoes. The texture of the potatoes is so sticky that the taste lingers forever.
“Hamo and Matsutake”
Normally, this dish would be served in a large pot and shared, but in this day and age, it was served in the form of an arm. I think it was the best hamo I have ever had. The hamo itself was well seasoned with salt and when you chewed on it, you could feel the fat of the fish from deep within and it was extremely delicious. The elegant soup stock with the fat from the hamo floating on the surface of the arms was amazing. You can feel the skill of the soup stock itself and the aroma of the matsutake mushrooms in your mouth and nose. The matsutake mushrooms on this day were from China.
“Sashimi : bluefin squid, flatfish, and sweet shrimp”
The sashimi, which has been drained of water and allowed to mature, is served with local horseradish and salt. The squid was moist, yet chewy and sweet, thanks to the hidden knife. The flounder was a very tasty white meat with a lot of fat, while the water content was perfectly handled. The sweet shrimp was cooked in kombu-jime, and I took my hat off to the chef for his idea.
“Anago Black Rice Sushi”
This dish is one of Asaba’s traditional dishes. It is even more impressive when you consider that it has been handed down for hundreds of years. The black rice (ancient rice) has a texture that is both chewy and petite, and the conger eel covered with a mildly sweet sauce is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Fresh sansho (Japanese pepper) leaves are hidden between the conger eel and the rice, and the spices are interesting because they are not placed on top.
The chicken is available in thigh, bone, and liver, and you can enjoy the savory aroma, the unique chewy texture, and the deep flavor of the meat. The liver was grilled in such a way that you could not smell the blood at all and only the flavor remained. It is also delicious when dipped in the original raw shichimi.
“Vinegared lotus root, tofu and fu”
Here is the role of a palate cleanser. It is a soup with Japanese soup stock and the aroma of vinegar. It is a strange dish that smells but does not feel sour. When I brought all the ingredients in the bowl together, the taste was a perfect combination of the crunchiness of the lotus root potatoes and breeze and the fluffiness of the fu. I would have liked to know the ratio of just the right amount of sourness and sweetness, and the deliciousness of the soup stock.
“Deep-fried Kamasu Arare”
Anyone who has ever fried fish will be amazed by this form. I was amazed at how straight and evenly aligned the surface was, even down to the skin. The beautiful crispy sound and fluffy inside of the kamasu is a work of art, and the batter never leaves the body. Dipping the fish in the “garland chrysanthemum sauce” served with the fish revived the temperature of the fried fish and made it hot again. I drank up all the sauce, which had a slight scent of garland chrysanthemum.
“Orido Eggplant Nimono”
Eggplant from Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. The eggplant was cooked so well that it melted in my mouth and was soaked in a broth that was the ultimate in Japanese style soup stock. I felt the spirit of the chef.
The course content of bringing this dish before the final meal was unusual and tickled my curiosity.
“Matsutake Mushroom Rice” and “White Sesame Miso Soup”
Today’s main dish served in a kamado. Koshihikari rice with the flavor of matsutake mushrooms on its side. When Nakai-san opened the lid of the pot, the room was filled with the smell of autumn. Nakai-san carefully served the rice with only matsutake mushrooms as an ingredient. In the quiet room, the noise was very loud, but even when he placed the bowl on the tray, she served it with beautiful manners as if it were a “skill”.
The rice was cooked well, and you could feel every grain of rice in your mouth. The rice is cooked well and you can feel every grain of rice in your mouth. As I took a break with some pickles and miso soup, the kamado was empty in no time. Once again, I felt glad that I had come at this time of year.
“Sweet” melon ice cream – grilled eggplant and ginger.”
Finally, the last sweet dish was a choice of three types. On this day, I chose melon from the lineup of melon, blancmange, and kuzukiri. The melon was perfectly ripe and served at just the right temperature to fill us up. I felt a sense of mission that I had to try it, so I took a bite. It really tastes like grilled eggplant…! The cold ice cream tasted like grilled eggplant… but sweet. It was an unknown world for me to be fascinated by such a scientific way of cooking with natural ingredients. The ginger ice cream next to me was cold, but had a tingling “ginger taste” on my tongue. I was impressed by the skill and wisdom of the chefs who used the theme of autumn. At the end of the meal, I was struck by an amazing dessert that satisfied my stomach and my heart.
I thanked Nakai-san for answering all my questions immediately and asked her to convey my thanks to the chef.
When it was time to lay out the futon, a man in his seventies entered the room.
He spread out the pure white sheets with surprising speed that made me feel his age, and folded the futon perfectly at the corners without wrinkles. We could choose between buckwheat hulls and down pillows, and he accepted our request for two types with a smile. I was overwhelmed by the thickness of the futon, which was almost as thick as a famous bed.
The man has been in charge of bedding for many years, and he must have taken pride in his work. I thought, “He must have been in charge of the bedding for a long time,” but to my surprise, he was delivering food and parking the car the next morning. It made me smile to see him with the air of a “chief” who can do anything.
Before going to bed, he also prepared hojicha (green tea), sencha (green tea), and cold water, and all services for the day were completed. I was impressed by the professionalism of the hostess, who always checked the drinks (tea, etc.), adjusted the room temperature, and took care of everything from bedding preferences to directions to the salon.
The same man is always waiting at the entrance throughout the day.
We are smokers, but there is no place to smoke in Asaba, so the man placed an ashtray on the annex street right outside the gate. Even though it was the smoker’s own choice, we were grateful that he prepared the ashtray with a smile and said, “I’m sorry to be outside in the cold. The ashtray was always cleaned up, and no matter how many times I went, the ashtray was always brand new. It was selfish of the smokers, but I was impressed by the perfection of the service that made me feel so comfortable.
Breakfast the next morning
“Tofu paste with vegetables and soaked komatsuna”
The shiitake mushrooms used as a garnish for the tofu paste are sweetly seasoned, and when you bite into the shiitake mushrooms, the whole dish is delicately flavored. The soaked vegetables have the aroma of dashi (Japanese soup stock), and the flavor is designed to be eaten first thing in the morning.
I’ve been waiting for this. I was so excited. The plump, pudding-like finish must have come from the steaming process after baking. You can enjoy it with grated daikon, or just let it melt in your mouth. The slight flavor of the omelet lingers on the tongue forever.
I think it is no exaggeration to say that it is the best.
Even though I had tasted eggplant many times in this inn, I came across a new eggplant again. It had a very light flavor, but a strong sweetness that went well with rice. The oil and the sauce that soaked into the eggplant, which seemed to have been prepared several days in advance, matched perfectly.
The soup contains large-sized shijimi clams and is served in a different red broth from last night.
At first glance, the tsukemono (pickles) look like nothing, but they have a twist: pickled cabbage with a hint of shiso. The proportion of shiso is just the right amount to make it really delicious.
“Morning shaved bonito flakes” and “Shizuoka horseradish”
When these two ingredients and white rice are brought to your table, you know what to expect. Shizuoka’s famous “Wasabi Don” is served in the morning. Sweet, fresh horseradish with a drizzle of soy sauce. It is really delicious.
The white rice in the morning is cooked softer than last night’s, which is a delicate touch.
“Pear Pione” “Chestnut Oshiruko”
The fruit has a knife casually inserted into it, and the pears have a little salt. Asaba’s autumn menu ends with sweet peonies and chestnut oshiruko. All of the meals at Asaba are served in your room, but the meals change four times a year to reflect the seasons. It is a must-try.
I heard that Asaba was fully booked this time, but the strangest thing was that I hardly saw anyone from the hallway to the hot spring. It was a quiet time to enjoy the inn to the fullest.
When we checked out, a woman who must have been the proprietress of the inn saw us off and gave us some sweets to take home. It was an original, elegantly sweetened bean wrapped in chocolate. Even the box it was packed in had the word “Asaba” on it, making it a shame to eat it. Aside from this, you can also order special onsen manjuu (hot spring buns) (for a fee) to take home the next morning if you ask when you check in.