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Monday, September 13, 2004

Takayama--Jinya-mae morning markets

Takayama is a small city of 68,000 a little over 200km west of Tokyo. Located in the heart of the Hida district, Takayama is famous for its beef and soba (buckwheat noodles) as well as its skilled craft traditions. The regional specialty here is san-sai or mountain vegetables, which can include edible ferns, root vegetables and other native wild vegetation.

We awoke to a gourmet breakfast--a feast for the eyes, noses and tastebuds which we would soon come to (indulgently) expect every meal at this fabulous ryokan.

Our gorgeous laquer boxes held a treasure trove of tofu, salmon and pickles. Our little burners (top right of pic) sizzled with the local specialty hoba-miso, miso mixed with a variety of vegetables and cooked on a magnolia leaf for flavour and aroma.

Breakfast also included chawan-mushi or steamed egg. Delicate, fragrant and slippery smooth, it was like eating silky savoury light-as-air custard.


More than adequately nourished for the day ahead, we were out the door by 9.00am to check out the local morning markets. First stop, the Jinya-mae Morning Markets, just next to the Nakabashi Bridge. Too late we were warned that here in Takayama especially, all stall holders would be eager to offer samples and tastings for us to try. No offence would be caused if you tasted but didn’t buy. Hooray, we thought excitedly. Oh no, our stomachs protested in anticipation.

Various pickled vegetables

The second stall along we were immediately befriended by this gorgeous man who plied us with samples and spoke with us via some help from a translator. Someone noticed the picture of him and a beautiful woman and asked if that were his wife. He laughed in reply and said "No, that is a famous Japanese movie star", and then removed the piece of cardboard on the right-hand side covering his wife! "I like to have the photo of just the two of us showing", he confessed cheekily. One of my favourite anecdotal characters from my trip. He was gorgeous! :)

Assorted snacks including fried okra, bitter melon and garlic cloves. The garlic chips were very yummy! Perfect with beer.

Mushroom stock.

Spice blends.

The local specialty hoba-miso, cooked on maple leaves.

Seaweed--the chopsticks are used to deposit a small mouthful on your palm for mandatory taste testing!

More pickles

Coffee break

This gorgeous woman demonstrated her juggling skills when I asked her what the little cloth sacks were for.

These good luck charm dolls are distinctive to this area.

Mitarashi-dango--grilled rice balls flavoured with soy sauce.

These tasted like omochi with a sweet but salty miso sauce spread over the top. Chewy paddlepop anyone?

Ain't they cute?

Houses alongside the Miyagawa River.

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posted by Anonymous on 9/13/2004 10:30:00 am


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