The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Nagano Trip '09: Zenkoji and Soba

The day after Christmas, we hopped on the shinkansen (bullet train) and headed towards Nagano. Our trip destination was to Yudanaka Onsen which is about an hour's train ride to the north of Nagano city, but we decided to spend a couple of hours in the city before heading out. We walked almost 2 km from the Nagano train station to the city's main attraction, Zenkoji, a Buddhist temple known for housing a hibutsu, a hidden Buddha statue. Apparently, this particular statue was the first Buddha statue to be brought to Japan, and the temple prohibits anyone from seeing it, including the chief priest of the temple. A replica of the statue is displayed to the public every six or seven years. I didn't even see the main hall of Zenko-ji because I volunteered to stay outside the gate with the baby pram.

Niomon Gate, featuring two guardians (with flowery nipples); and approaching the Sanmon Gate:

A water feature just outside the Sanmon Gate; and the Sanmon Gate from where I was seated with the baby pram:

One of the things that Nagano is famous for is its soba (buckwheat noodles), and there was no shortage of omiyage (souvenir) shops selling soba-related products such as oyaki, a dumpling made from buckwheat dough and stuffed with a variety of fillings. We tried a mushroom and vegetable oyaki, which was pretty nice. We couldn't go past a miso-flavour soft serve ice cream, which tasted quite good. The miso flavour was mild, but you could taste it in the ice cream.

Oyaki; and miso-flavoured soft serve:

There is a traditional soba restaurant located near the entrance to Zenkoji, featuring a large window where you can watch a soba chef work his magic to produce handmade soba noodles. It was around 2pm when we left the temple, and although we were still full from lunch and all the snacks we'd eaten along the way, we decided to give this place a try. We shared a Zaru-soba with Tempura, cold noodles served on a bamboo basket with a tempura prawn. I love soba and often use the dried version to cook a quick lunch, but I could happily eat freshly made noodles all the time if it was readily available to me. These fresh handmade noodles were so good that I could enjoy it on its own without using any of the condiments and sauce. We also shared a glass of Soba Sake which I can only assume is made from buckwheat. It was pretty strong, but I liked its smoothness.

A soba chef working it: rolling out the dough, and then cutting into thin slices:

Delicious handmade soba with soba sake:

We then enjoyed the walk back to the station, and took a 45-minute train ride to Yudanaka where we spent the rest of our holiday time. This is only part of day one of our 3-day trip to Nagano, so stay tuned for more!

No comments:

Post a Comment