Tokyo Day 5: Japanese Breakfast Feast

Since it is taking me a while to get back into the swing of blogging after the move, and being able to sew again is a few weeks off, I wondered what to post about.  Then a little voice inside reminded me there is a mountain of photos from Tokyo begging to be shared. So without further ado I give you Tokyo Day 5.

When I last left off, we toured the one-and-only Tsukiji Market, taken a brief stroll through Harajuku, experienced a truly luxurious meal at Aoyagi, soked in the beauty of Gora Kadan onsen, and ate ourselves sick on an incredible kaiseki dinner.

Which brings us to day 5.  I was starting to get the impression that someone would need to roll me onto the plane to get back home.  The amount of food that was flowing my direction was outrageous!  And the ryokan breakfast that was about to unfold was climactic.

day 5 hot springs onsen bath

Before breakfast there was enough time to soak a few times in the onsen, start packing for the return trip, and I even curled up like a cat in the small reading nook and caught up on the interwebs.  We then broke down and made a call to Taka-san for some coffee out of desperation.  Next time we visit we will be sure to plan ahead for that.  We are both rubbish without that first cup of joe everyday.

The Feast

After being served coffee and a glass of orange juice, our breakfast began with the arrival of a curious object.  Taka-san quietly placed a delicate wooden box on the table along with some sugars and porcelain pot of shoyu.  The moment were heard the fusuma slide closed behind him, we were possessed with curiosity. “What the heck is in there?  It’s nori!”  This simple yet elegant box had a small compartment on top for strips of nori and a section below for a heating element to keep the nori crisp.  This is why I am so enamored by Japanese design.  Form and function. Just perfect!

day 5 asagohan nori crisper

But the curiosity of the box was only the beginning.  Surprise! A huge vegetable salad arrived next.  “Salad for asagohan?” ほんとに!{For real?}  Hey, why not.  I knew that Japanese breakfasts would be a far departure from what is normal in the US, but admittedly I wasn’t expecting salad (O_O)

asagohan salad for breakfast honto ni

It was an explosion of food next. Amazing!

day 5 asagohan at gora kadan

kaiseki flowerbed asagohan breakfast

And respectfully, the breakfast was superior to the dinner the night before.  I am not sure if it was different chefs or something else.  But the breakfast blew the previous meal away.  Our absolute favorite was the soft tofu, to the right of the grilled sweet fish.  Melt in your mouth does not do justice to describing it.  The ayu was spectacular.  And hidden in a lidded bowl was a charming collection of tofu items representing sakura in reflection of spring.  While the cherry blossoms had already fleeted outside, we were able to enjoy their spirit during our meal.

ryokan kaiseki seasonal cusine spring

Tokyo Day 5: Ohiyo Gozaimasu

We woke up on the fifth day of our trip refreshed and relaxed.  The sun did its best to make its presence known between a few soft rain showers.  Birds were singing a sweet song in the mountains and the bubble of the onsen whispered good morning to us.

onsen flora after the rain

I wandered the grounds of the ryokan to take in the fresh morning air.  Spring flowers and boughs of maple glistened all around with fresh drops of rain sparkling in the early morning sun.

japanese maple after the rain

We would be leaving Hakone later that morning, but time managed to slow its pace.  Almost as if the pause in the rain was a pause in time itself.  All was quiet and calm and it would take little imagination to envision yourself living in an era long gone by.  The click clack of my straw zori pierced the air, as I made my way back to our suite.

kusari doi japanese rain chain

japanese garden tsukubai water feature

Only one thing for it before breakfast is served.  Time to slip into the hot spring bath.

Tokyo Day 4: Gora Kadan Dinner

I took a bit of a detour from posting all our amazing Tokyo vacation experiences. Hard to believe that the trip was 2 months ago already.  But the memories are still fresh in my mind.  It was certainly a time in my life that I will never forget.

We last left off with arriving at the first class ryokan, Gora Kadan, in Hakone.  The rain was coming down in earnest, but as we were there to enjoy the hot springs, getting a bit wet simply wasn’t an issue.  After Taka-san, our personal attendant, gave us a tour of the suite and some tea to settle in after the journey from Tokyo, a dip in the private bath was priority.  After a soak (or two) we slipped into yukata and Taka-san began serving dinner.

adi and sheri before dinner

Kaiseki Formal Japanese Meal

japanese dinner place setting

Kaiseki cuisine  is a serious affair.  Chefs go to great lengths to ensure an exquisite level of taste and and an equally esthetically pleasing visual story.  This type of cuisine typically uses only the freshest of seasonal ingredients.  The presentation of the dishes are carefully crafted and will use real flowers or edible garnishes to resemble seasonal themes.

While not an official course of the meal, even our sake was delivered in a manner appropriate for the kaiseki style.  I took the flowers from the presentation with me when we left and they became a charming floral arrangement in the apartment for many days to follow.  There were several buds still on the branch and each blossomed in their own time.

kaiseki serving of sake during traditional japanese dinner

Hours d’oeuvre: Lotus root sushi, prawn, Japanese thicker omelet, water shield with dashi vinegar, masu trout with dengaku miso, broad bean, dried hoshiko, boiled Japanese pepper flower

gora kadan japanese dinner first course

Side dish: Green peas tofu, deep fried ainame (fat greenling) with dashi sauce

shrimp and tofu tempura dish

Soup: Clear soup with scallop dumpling topped grilled scallop, garnish with three color vegetables and pepper buds

japanese grilled scallop in broth

Sashimi: Catch of the day with tosa soy sauce and salt ponzu vinegar

uni sashimi gora kadan ryokan

Grilled fish: Dried ayu sweet fish, myoga ginger pickles in vinegar, simmered sweet potato {I clearly was too into the sashimi as I only have this one photo which includes the ayu}

takasan serving another dish

Steamed dish: Dried flowering fern, young taro potato, fried eggplant, boiled abalone, snap bean and a grated yuzu citrus

seaweed course ryokan traditional meal

Small dish: Grilled Japanese beef filet with starch power, boiled bamboo shoot, and Japanese pepper flower {as we don’t eat meat, they served us a lovely lobster instead}

lobster course ryokan dinnner

Rice dish: Seasoned burdock rice, anago (sea eel) boiled with arima pepper, assorted Japanese pickles, and dark miso soup with seaweed

unagi and rice course

Dessert: Loquat and warabimochi (bracken startch dumpling) with soybean flour

cherries and japanese jelly dessert

like a bowl of cherries

Surprise! While we finished dinner, Taka-san left a little treat for us.  On our bedside table was a note wishing us sweet dreams and a little something to be enjoyed as a late night snack.

sweet dreams note from taka-san

Tokyo Day 4: Gora Kadan Kakou Suite

“Welcome home.”  I wish!  I’ve long been drawn to the simplicity and elegance of traditional Japanese rooms.  And then I remember that I am a pack rat and where on earth would I put everything?  Anyway, back to the point.  Today I want to take you on a tour of the suite at Gora Kadan.  This is absolutely a part of the trip that has been added to my “I’ll be back” list.

Kakou Annex Suite

As you approach the suite, a short stroll from the main building, you first arrive at a private gate.  Slide the wooden doors open and walk down the lantern lined courtyard to the genkan.

entrance to our japanese villa

kakou annex suite gora kadan

Once inside, slip off your shoes on the stone step and transport yourself into Old Japan.  To your left is a hallway and bench where fresh yukata are laid out waiting to be slipped on as you sink into the relaxing atmosphere of the onsen.

straw zori japanese ryokan

onsen his and her yukata

Just beyond the hall is the bedroom.  Two twin beds, a television and a view of the mountain side.  A balanced blend of the old and the new.

gora kadan ryokan bedroom

Slide open the fusuma screens to reveal the sitting room overlooking an open-air stone bath and small garden.

onsen tatami sitting room

onsen open air big stone bath

At the end of the hallway you will find all the amenities of a modern bath room but designed to be elegant and true to the principles of maximizing space.  A counter with double sinks, the toilet, a deep wooden soaking tub, and an enclosed steam shower follow one another.

japanese wooden bath tub

Returning back to the genkan (entrance) and to the right you enter the living/dining room.  The tokonoma instantly comes into view, with its display of seasonal flowers and an auspicious hanging scroll featuring pine and bamboo. To your right are oshiire quietly hiding extra futons and bedding.  To your left shoji screens frame a wooden terrace overlooking the mountains.

inside the traditional tatami room

gora kadan kakou living room

tokonoma auspicious hanging scroll

Tucked into each side of the room, hidden behind the shoji, before entering the terrace are a reading nook and writing desk.  Both cozy and functional, these miniature rooms make excellent use of the space.  (The reading nook instantly became my home-away-from-home blogging station.)

tatami room reading nook

traditional japanese writing desk

I hope you enjoyed the tour.  If you are looking for an escape from the busy city and appreciate high standards of customer service be sure to plan a stay at Gora Kadan.

Link: Gora Kadan | Kakou Annex Suite

Tokyo Day 4: Hakone Onsen & Gora Kadan Ryokan

Day 4 of the Tokyo trip began off with a very serious hangover.  You can’t drink that much sake and not pay the price.  So I was pleased that our plans were very low key.  Hop on a train to Hakone and soak in the hot springs.  Mother Nature decided on rain that day to boot.  So chilling on a train taking in the scenery versus juggling an umbrella and shopping bags worked out grand.

We took the subway from Ebisu to Shinjuku.  While many had suggested a 3 train journey to our destination, Asumi knew best.  If you are willing to add a little extra time to your adventure, it is a much nicer route (and 1 less train connection) taking the Romance Car to the Switchback train headed towards Gora.

The Romance Car was simple enough.  Big train at a big station.  We reserved seats at the counter in the station and were off.

tokyo express romance car

The second leg of the ride was the best part.  We were on the Hakone Tozan “switchback” train which zig-zags its way up the side of the mountains.  It is one of the oldest trains and the driver and conductor change shifts as the train reverses its travel direction, slowly making its way upwards.

hakone tozan switchback mountain train

odakyu hakone switchback-train

Gora Kadan

In just under 2 hours we arrived at our destination, the ryokan Gora Kadan.  I can’t even believe that we debated adding this to our trip plans.  I think everyone needs to experience the beauty and tranquility of a traditional Japanese inn.  The proprietress, Miwako Fujimoto, heads a first class establishment that is the former summer villa of a member of the Imperial family.  We were also now in the care and service of Taka-san, our personal attendant, who was very attentive and pretty much adorable.

gora kadan proprietress miwako fujimoto

After a quick stop to the main building to check in, Taka showed us to our suite.  Some girls plan their dream wedding and honeymoon.  Not me, don’t need it.  However, I have long dreamed about Japan.  So we spared no expense on certain activities of the trip; this being one of them.  We booked the annex suite “Kokou” and will never regret it.

Stay tuned for the next post to see a tour of the Gora Kadan ryokan suite.