Hello again!! Christmas is almost upon us so I thought I’d share something to read for the one who needs to forget about the Christmas-stress for a moment. And, for better or for worse, this post contains a shockingly low amount of Christmas feeling.
I have safely survived my first week as a citizen of Minamioguni and would like to share some highlights from a pretty great Friday I had the pleasure of enjoying the other day. Some of you who follow me on Instagram (@Julebrygd) might have seen this post?
I thought I would use this post and provide a few more details and pictures from this great day. I hope you will enjoy the ride as much as I did! But firstly, I should say something about my job. Right now I’m working at a place called Minamioguni SMO, which is an organization promoting tourism, arranging events and much more. The goal of the organization is the growth and expansion of Minamioguni and the surrounding area around Mount Aso. And of course, more than anything, the pure wish of sharing this amazing place with more people, and enrich the experience of those who decide to visit the Aso area.
With that said, this Friday, my colleague Mayu Kajiwara, a.k.a Kaji-chan, brought me along for a small excursion that turned into quite the adventure. Our initial plan was to visit the cozy soba noodle-restaurant Shala and take some pictures for an article (mostly as an excuse for a tasty lunch). When we arrived at Shala the restaurant was pretty packed; to avoid disturbing the other guests with our little photo shoot we decided to kill some time. I didn’t have much for breakfast so I can’t deny that a couple of tears crept down my cheek as we pulled out from the parking space.
So where did we decide to go? We headed to an area of Minamioguni called ‘Ta no Hara’ which is home to a shrine called ‘Kohagiyama Inari Shrine’, famous in Japan for its ability to help people find love. In the area, you can also find a variety of restaurants, ryokan, and onsen. Our goal this time was to work up some appetite at the top of mount Kohagi and at the same time take some pretty pictures of the view. Thanks to Kaji-chan knowing the people who own the land we could enter some areas usually off limits.
We did go by car most of the way but after a while, it gets really steep and really narrow. Too narrow to even turn the car around. So we had to walk the remaining path to reach the peak. Here you can see Kaji-chan fighting not to be blown away by the wind on the steep uphill pathway. And actually, there is one more thing that makes this walk quite challenging…
Most of the time the area is populated by cows… Which in turn, of course, leads to cow dung… LOTS of cow dung! I can assure you from experience that ascending this mountain while dodging an abundance of cow excrement requires both mental and physical ability.
But the trek was well worth it. Because the view is stunning! The open wide landscapes and the yellow grass fields typical to the Aso area is truly a sight to behold. It is a mystery to me that this area with its great and breath-taking nature isn’t more well known. I really wish to share this experience with as many people as possible!
We were lucky with the weather as well. Right as we reached the top the weather started to clear up letting the sun shine its beams through the parting clouds creating a magical sight. My colleague Kaji-chan was mesmerized as well!
After enjoying ourselves for a while we started our descent and as we turned a curve we suddenly found ourselves face to face with this rather unexpected sight. A herd of sheep, out for a walk, by themselves! I think both we and the sheep were evenly surprised by this random encounter.
For about 10 minutes we had the pleasure of watching the cute behinds of these lovely sheep as they were strolling along ahead of our car. It would be an understatement to say that we were very excited by the charming swag of these sheep rumps!
After a while when the road opened up our newly found friends greedily jumped on the chance to start devouring some grass which gave us our first opportunity at some shots of something else then their bums.
Suddenly our excursion had turned into a sheep-safari. A slightly different Minamioguni-experience!
Watching the sheep herd munch on all that tasty-looking green grass encouraged us to set out towards our original destination. Soba-noodle restaurant Shala!
Shala’s interior design feels like a fusion between classic Japanese and modern design. The atmosphere is very calming and every table is right by a window ensuring that you can enjoy the beautiful nature outside.
The food at Shala is great! It’s actually my second time eating here and it has been amazing both times. This time I went for one of the more exclusive dishes(since it was Friday and all) called ‘kamoebi’. A straightforward name that would translate to Duck-shrimp. The dish consists of handmade ‘zarusoba’ which is noodles served together with a cold dipping sauce. The duck-shrimp part comes from the accompanying duck hot pot and tempura-fried shrimps. The possibility to switch between the hot duck soup and the cold zarusoba was really nice and gave a lot of depth to the dish. I definitely look forward to eating it again!
The rumored duck hot pot! The broth that absorbed the flavors of the duck and the vegetables tasted sooooo good. Perfect for heating up a body chilled by the cold mountain winds!
And to finish it all of a nice little dessert! After finishing a plentiful lunch and the photo shoot we utilized our now balloon shaped bodies and rolled happily back to the office. By the way, about the office…
It’s actually in connection with the towns farmers market called Kyora Kaasa. At Kyora Kaasa you can buy vegetables and other locally produced products, often at a very good price. They also sell souvenirs and other goodies.
The vegetables sold at Kyora Kaasa are as fresh as you will find them since they get delivered directly by the producers straight after harvest. As far as I know, no chemicals are used during production and the veggies that don’t get sold are transported away and used as fodder for animals. It is a great feeling to eat locally produced products and know that nothing goes to waste. Oh, and the staff! They are super-friendly and amazing as well! Down below we have one example of their friendliness!
This Friday I got some early Christmas presents to bring home with me after work! Shiitake mushrooms to the left. Yama-imo which is apparently called ‘Japanese yam’ in English. The name would translate to mountain potato though. It’s the long brown one in the middle. The purple one is ‘Umeboshi’, pickled dry plum. Super tasty with rice but very(very very) sour so prepare to use some new muscles in your face if you eat one. Below the umeboshi, we have soy-pickled grapes, first time for me as well! And lastly, one of my personal favorites, hakusai (napa cabbage)!
And to finish this great day, I went to a local pub/restaurant called ‘Piero’ which I had heard served the best tempura-fried maitake mushrooms. And I can tell you that I did not go away disappointed. This one is truly addictive! The light crispy and flavourful tempura batter that envelopes the juicy and tasty maitake topped off with a pinch of salt makes for the perfect taste experience. I could eat this all the time and never get tired of the taste. Oh, and together with a beer, this is all anyone could ask for to end a great day!
This was a long one! I hope at least a few of you managed to stay with me all to the end. Since it was mostly photos I hope it didn’t get too heavy! I do feel a bit bad about the fact that even though it’s Christmas Eve tomorrow, nothing in this post reflects that at all! I’ll hope this last picture helps a little bit. This is called ‘yuakari’ and is a tradition in Minamioguni since 7 years back. These spheres are made out of bamboo and turned into lights that are used to decorate the town from December through March. At least in my mind, they remind of Christmas ornaments!
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!!!