I’m hoping that title draws a little scandalous attention. Last night I headed to Ise (伊勢市), where my girlfriend lives, and crashed in a hotel near her place. My hotel room was inexpensive, but I realize now that being immediately under the public bath and showers might have affected the price, all night there was the sound of water flowing down drains. I set a wake up call for 5am and reluctantly showered up and dressed for the day when it rang. After leaving the hotel, I was ferried around by my sweetie until about 5:30pm. Getting more than 12 hours together is a rare and special treat.
First stop was Akafuku (赤福), famed makers of some very tasty mochi – which was banned last year amidst scandal, to pick up tsuitachi mochi (朔日餅). (Note that I used the wrong kanji in yesterday’s post.) We were shocked to find that there was no line at the main shop. The manager was out front greeting, so we were afraid they were sold out and we would have to show up at 4:45am next time to catch them as the doors opened. Apparently the government ban on selling their main product was lifted in February, but they are still awaiting permission to sell the special products. I’m guessing they will have to wait until after January first, their biggest day, just as they did this year, to make the punishment hurt. Hopefully, I will be writing about this on February or March first.
Our second destination was still clear: Sushikyuu (すし久) for tsuitachigayu (朔日粥), another monthly special. We were armed with the August/September issue of Kurashi no Techou (暮しの手帖), an ad-free magazine about all manner of products, like a more graceful version of Consumer Reports. This issue listed what the special okayu (お粥) would be every month, so we arrived knowing we could order our rice porridge with carrots, burdock, and oysters. The set also included: a grilled fish, an elegant slice of paper-thin rolled omelete, a mixture of seaweed and tiny fish in sweet vinegar, and some rich and fluffy tofu/vegetable treats.
Sushikyuu’s atmosphere is a dream; sitting in what was a travelers’ hotel hundreds of years ago, one can dine on excellent meals of a very Japanese quality. Today was my second experience there; the first coming in January of 2005. My bosses brought me on their annual New Year’s pilgrimage to seek favor at the Grand Shrine for their business; followed by some tasty chirashizushi (散らし寿司).
We wandered around the Inner Shrine complex and stopped twice to pray. I have been learning more about ‘proper’ Shinto prayer, which is really more of an act of showing respect and clearing one’s mind. I would put it nearer to meditation than prayer, but even that doesn’t describe it so well. I think it is worthy of it’s own future post after I ask more questions.
Returning to Okageyokocho (おかげ横丁), we enjoyed a little window shopping and stumbled upon a coffee shop that drew us in. We chatted about much while waiting for some fine, handmade coffee with a beautiful dessert made from chestnut. We found the car and headed north to my house for a break to refresh for the next phase of our venture.
Monday is Culture Day (文化の日) in Japan, so my girlfriends’ high school age charge was in her school Culture Festival (文化祭). As yet unknown to her, I have desired to see this school for a couple years now and was happy to get an invite. She was in a fashion show, so we watched that event from start to finish. I have now met all five of the youths my girlfriend is assisting.
After the festival we had some light fare at a favorite tea shop and topped it off with a fig tart. Two more errands were to pick up my calligraphy models – even though I am on injured reserve – and buying a congratulatory French dessert for the fashion show participant. Finally we returned to my home to discuss November’s calendar, and more important stuff, while relaxing.
She departed for her parents’ home to have a nap before driving all the way to Ise this evening. She also verified the schedule for a new experience with her father on the 8th. I will be sure to write about our guys’ night out tending to a five day pottery firing process. Tomorrow, she will be baking ten cakes for Culture Day, in addition to her already packed schedule. I hope our day of fun and distraction leaves her mentally refreshed and not too physically drained.