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Japanese Hot Spring Inn (Onsen-Ryokan)Author: rogue.wave.traveler
Date of Trip: February 2014
Burp! Didja catch all that? There is no way that they could have managed the logistics of dragging all that to my room! No complaints here. The manager got a wheelbarrow and trundled me off to bed. (Kidding, I made it on my own but just barely.)
The bed in my room was extremely comfortable and I even did another late-night soak in the 4th floor rotenburo. In the morning, I made green tea in my room and read about the local attractions while sitting in front of the huge picture window and beautiful winter scenery.
At five minutes to eight, I went to the dining room for breakfast. At check-in, I had asked the staff to please make sure that I got a traditional Japanese breakfast rather than a western-style breakfast.
Boy! Did they ever deliver! They had even honoured my request for natto!
What is natto? Well, to start, it is a popular morning meal in Japan. Nothing that you would normally order in a fancy restaurant but something you get at the grocery store to eat at home or grab at the corner deli on your way to work. Sort of like the way westerners eat Raisin Bran or an Egg Mcmuffin.
Imagine fermented soy beans but not mashed up into miso paste yet. When you stir the natto, it releases a coating...something like gooey melted cheese but very fine in texture.
As you lift the beans out of the bowl, the strands of goo stretch and stretch and never seem to break. It's like trying to eat spider webs!
You get all kinds of toppings to mix into your natto. The waitress demonstrated and used the onomatopoetic expression "guru-guru" to show me how to stir them in "round-round."
Most foreigners describe the taste of natto as "inedible" or "disgusting" so obviously, I needed to get some in my belly!
For my first bite, I tried it plain. It was strong-tasting, similar to miso paste right from the container. For me, that is something that I am familiar with and rather enjoy! It wasn't yucky or sour like I feared.
However, the texture was definitely difficult to adjust to. As I mentioned, the consistency of the beans changes as you stir. The natto residue (I don't want to call it slime but that might best describe it) pulls like taffy.
It makes long strands that end up trailing from your chin, your chopsticks, your bowl and makes you wish that it was considered polite to use your oshibori to wipe your face.
I managed and delighted myself by gradually mixing in the toppings: chopped green onion, miso paste, chopped pickles, mustard, some kind of sauce and bonito flakes which just made it more delicious.
I couldn't stop thanking my waiter for the special effort that he made. Ordering natto in this hotel was like asking for a bag of chips to be served on a silver platter in the dining room. They understood that it was important to me, though. Everyone was so kind and wanting to go out of their way to please.
Don't forget...there was more breakfast:
Shirasu (dried anchovy minnows) with grated daikon radish.
Baby prawns with hijiki seaweed served in an egg cup.
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