Japan – Day 17 – To onsen egg or not to onsen egg

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We had an early start so we got up at 6:15, this was painful. Breakfast was much more exciting than advertised ‘Some bread and eggs’, although it wasn’t massive it was tasty and had a good variety. We had decided to knock off the first two hours of walking so that we could get to the finishing onsen town ryokan earlier to enjoy the experience for longer. To do so we needed to catch a bus early. Unfortunately there was no-where to buy food that early and the inn didn’t provide a lunch box so we had bought lots of non-perishable snacks the day before. It turns out the self-guided tour was completely wrong and the inn did provide lunch boxes which we could have asked for. We were not pleased.

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Breakfast was more exciting than promised, although the cut up fruit was beautiful In San would have prefered the whole banana.

Along the way we picked up some other guests from the inn we were staying at, they were winging it with only accommodation booked and no maps and no plans. They didn’t even know the bus was an option. In the end they decided to stay on the bus all the way to the onsen town and do a circular walk there instead of walking there as we did.

Unfortunately there was a typhoon in 2011 which destroyed a chunk of the trail that we would be walking so there is an official detour that takes you round it. Unfortunately <editor’s note – or fortunately> it means that you miss out on 7km of the trail.

Even more unfortunately our self guided tour detailed instructions and map hadn’t been updated. They had only put a small note in the day by day itinerary (which normally just details the accommodation you would be staying) after the accommodation entry so it was impossible to find unless you had read the whole booklet. We felt it wasn’t too much to ask to not give us instructions and a map that was wrong given that they had had six years to fix it. Even a sticker to say ‘don’t follow these instructions go here and read this instead’ would have been better. We were a little vexed when we realised. Worse their instructions had sent us the wrong way so we were 45 minutes behind schedule before we realised and backtracked. Because of the detour we had an unexpected super steep multi-km long climb ahead of us instead of a gentle ascent. Fortunately our rage at the tour guide fueled us to scamper up at speed. So angry we didn’t even realise we had climbed so high <editor’s note – we were quite raged particularly as it was quite lazy of them and it was made worst by them indicating a bento lunch box was not available, this was the first time we have tried a self guided walk and we think we are better off sticking to organising them ourselves so that we can do all the research and have all the information even if it does take us hours>.

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It was a lot sunnier today so we got a better view of the mountains as the mist burned off. The detour due to typhoon meant we missed out on a few monuments.

Once we were back on track we could enjoy the scenery, it was very beautiful and remote. It was a big change for us as we normally do day hikes near to a city or similar.

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As we got deeper into the mountains everything become more majestic and magical.

There was bit of excitement when In San almost stepped on a snake, it probably wasn’t on the deadly vipers we saw warning posters about everywhere … but we decided to be extra stompy to be sure they heard us coming. If only we had splashed out for the walking sticks with bells on.

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This far from civilization we were forced to use less advanced loo technologies. The signage on the detour wasn’t quite as extensive as the main route so someone had helpfully added extra information.

We were not able to source lunch (because the guide was wrong) so we had gathered many snacks which we ate along the trail, pacing ourselves out.

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There was no-where we could get lunch we we needed to have a large selection of snacks to compensate. Dorayaki and trail-mix to the rescue <editor’s note – I chose walnut covered in maple syrup, this was a far superior choice>.

These shrines in the middle of no-where were very interesting, many of them had fun stories like an old man dying from fatigue and hunger with a coin in his mouth, or a mother leaving her baby by the road and a wolf looking after it. Interesting times, it was obviously a more hardcore route back in the day.

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Some of the shrines were a bit out of the way and didn’t get the regular servicing that the major shrines got. This made them interestingly decrepit and increased their score on our magical-scenery-ometer (units are Ghiblis of course). This overgrown bus shine looks like an ancient forest bus stop gaining it a value of 0.7 Ghiblis. You can almost hear the Cat Bus coming.

When we got to a restpoint at the top of the mountain we had our ‘main lunch’ In San had a red bean bun and I had a chocolate souffle, maybe not the wisest choice but it was delicious and seemed like a good idea when I choose it.

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When we got to the rest-point at the top of the mountain we decided to have the main part of our lunch.
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There was a settlement in the middle of the forest, tending to people’s needs as they walked the trail for hundreds of years. However in the 1940’s so few people were remaining that they were forcibly relocated to a nearby village and the area abandoned.
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The hidden village originally had a series of farms here that were abandoned, they have been cleaned up and trees planted.

Rather than going directly to Yunomine onsen town we decided to go an extra 2 hours onto Hongu, luckily we had enough snacks to fuel this.

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We had to break out the snacks mark II, crunky and ancient rice cakes (chewy and fermented) for me and weird mini pringles for In San. I took lots of photos of her enjoying the crisps as she looked so happy. I have never seen her so happy apart from other times she was eating new kinds of crisps.

Walking through the little villages was really interesting, they grew most of their own food, and had little honesty shops which had random things like home-made charms or ginger/tea/snacks in them with a money box inside a little shed <editor’s note – it was cute but not what we needed so we didn’t purchase anything>.

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It was getting hotter and hotter and we were running lower of water (we still had sufficient because we had packed two litres). We saw a vending machine and we went for it. This powered us up and allowed us to make up the time we lost early with some high speed downward running <editor’s note – James opted for a weird barley drink, he was meant to get a tea but didn’t want to get the same as me>.
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The little villages along the way were very lovely and integrated with nature.

Because of our starting mis-adventure we were behind schedule and had a choice, give Hongu the time it deserved or blitz through and catch the bus that we had been running for the last hour to arrive in time for (the next would be over an hour and a half later). We managed to see most things at speed but didn’t get a great look at the largest Tori Gate in Japan (it was massive so we saw it from a distance). We did however catch the bus so success of a sort.

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We arrived at Hongu shrine, it was the major shrine along this part of the trail and has Japan’s largest Tori Gate. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to appreciate it fully as we had to catch a bus. 

Because we arrived so early (other travelers on the trail were not as focused as us) we arrived before anybody else in the Inn and therefore had first dibs on the private onsen. Success. We also had welcome biscuits and tea to put us in a more relaxed mood.

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On arrival at the ryokan we were greeted with Japanese biscuits and tea. We also picked up some dango (pre-packaged not fresh sadly) at the village shop to tide us over til supper. I also had a cheeky beer from the vending machine, it was a local Kumado Kodo beer <editor’s note – James said it tasted nicer the more you drank, I think it was a little too flavoursome>.
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The ryokan had an indoor group (gender segregated) Onsen and a far superior outside private one (pictured) because we arrived on the earlier bus we got first dibs. It was awesome but too hot for In San (it was 43 degrees or more).

After cleaning up we went for an explore around the town, there wasn’t a lot of town apart from the other ryokan (and randomly a j-hoppers hostel) and a free public onsen.

We went for a wander along the trail that we wouldn’t be taking tomorrow then came back and were faced with a dilemma, to onsen egg or not to onsen egg. It was too close to supper to eat it now and we were not sure we could safely keep it til tomorrow. The decisions were difficult and we obsess about weird food things. After a long time (too long) we decided to go for it and cooked the eggs in the hot onsen water for tomorrow lunch <editor’s note – the shop said to cook for 13 minutes and separately outside it said soft boiled was 9 minutes but hard boiled was 15 minutes, we stuck with the instructions from the shop>.

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After our cleansing we debated whether to cook our own onsen eggs, we felt like we should to supplement our ‘lunch’ tomorrow.

We cooled them down in the sink (to preserve them in the perfect jelly state) and handed them to our confused host to store over-night in the fridge (initially he thought we wanted them for supper). Hopefully he understood and we will not get them as extra breakfast.

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Sadly there were no Royal Milk Tea (Hot) left, obviously the most popular drink. We hadn’t noticed the giant tanuki outside our ryokan when we first arrived. The hot water tank outside was massive.

Supper was very tasty, I will let the pictures do the talking.

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Food was extremely elaborate (if slightly less so than our first ryokan) and very delicious. It was a little less traditional and little more inventive. The sashimi was particular decadent I took a photo but In San hasn’t included it (maybe she is too sleepy).
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The world’s smallest gyudon, and the centerpiece, a steam your own giant prawn and vegetables in a steamer similar to the mushroom dish we had had yesterday. A whole melon slice to finish made In San very happy. Interestingly we had a clear dashi soup rather than the usual miso. 

We are sitting here in our traditional room, full of delicious food and content. Our legs are not too sore and although the start was a little flaky we came through in the end. Tomorrow our walking continues with the most intense day yet.

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Be happy, grin-ola

Granola makes you grin
Granola makes you grin

Today was a nice lazy day. The sun was shining for once and we decided to make some granola to top up our supplies. We find that a handful of fruit (raspberries for tomorrow but we will switch back to strawberries which are cheaper), a couple of dollops of yoghurt (we should use natural yoghurt but find it smells too sour so use Onken flavoured fruit stuff which I’m sure has too much sugar) and a scoop of the granola fills us both up until lunchtime with no snacking in between required.

Granola recipe (makes enough for over a weeks breakfast for two people)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups – rolled oats
  • 1 cup – puffed oats
  • 1/4 cup – flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup – sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup – pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup – almonds
  • 1/2 cup – walnuts
  • 1/2 cup – brazil nuts
  • 1/3 cup – olive oil
  • 1/3 cup – honey

Method

  1. Heat oven to 150 °C
  2. Add all dry ingredients into a large bowl
  3. Then add the olive oil and honey, mix
  4. Line 2 trays with parchment paper
  5. Pour the mixture onto the trays
  6. Bake for 35 minutes
  7. It can be poured into a large tupperware container straight away to cool (it means it won’t stick to the parchment paper as it cools)
Ingredients (we find wholefoods has a good selection of ingredients at reasonable prices)
Ingredients (we find wholefoods has a good selection of ingredients at reasonable prices)
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It looks kind of beige now but it will taste delicious
Make sure you chop them up, go nuts
Make sure you chop them up, go nuts
Given everything a good stir
Given everything a good stir
Spread the love
Spread the love

After the excitement of making granola, we decided to also take advantage of it being the weekend and therefore us having more time by making delicious char siu pork with pak choi. We even made enough for leftovers, James has already got a reputation for being a foodie and he has only been in his job for 2 weeks, I suspect when his colleagues see the char siu pork it will reconfirm their suspicions of his food snobbery.