Tokyo Day 5: Train Back To Tokyo

ume blossom chirimen silk sachetAfter the scrumptious breakfast it was time to pack up and head out.  We lingered a little while longer in the main building soaking in as much of the relaxing energy of the onsen as possible.  Taka-san took a few photos for us and while we waited had one framed for us in an elegant glass frame.  He also presented me with a small gift which turned out to be a chirimen silk potpourri sachet in the shape of an ume blossom.

bidding farewell to the hakone ryokan

The ryokan, in anticipation of Golden Week, had decorated the lobby with antique Boy’s Day Banners.  It was very festive and in particular the pinwheel, of hawk feather arrow fletching, in gold and silver, caught my attention.  Can’t you just imagine them spinning in the spring breeze?  Very auspicious.

Tokyo Day 5 Boys Day Banners

After several bows, many thank you’s, and a few more photos, the staff called their driver for us.  Our little suitcase was carefully tucked into the trunk and in no time we arrived at the quaint train station.  It was time to head back to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

spectacular views from the hakone train

The calm of the ryokan followed us on the train journey.  It had rained on our trip in, but the sun managed to peek through the clouds which made the mountains glisten as we departed.  There are only a few stops here and there on the switchback line.  One happened to have a Shinto shrine built into the mountain side and spilling its way on to the platform.  At risk of being stuck there, I jumped off the train to get a quick snapshot.  The photo just doesn’t do justice to the energy of the place.

hakone japan mountain side shrine

We met a young couple who were giggling and having fun after their Hakone stay.  Their lack of English and our lack of Japanese didn’t matter.  We all shared a sliver of time where you didn’t need to communicate to know exactly how each other felt.  Happy, refreshed, excited. Well I don’t know how to put it to words,  I guess you had to be there.

say cheese snaps from the train ride

Once settled back onto the Romance Car of the larger train the scenery started to change over.  Brilliant views of the mountains now included rural towns and soon enough a glimpse of the big city.  From the train to the subway to a short walk and we were back in Hiroo.

japanese mountains and train signals

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