Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tokushima Part 4

We are not done with Tokushima yet! If I ever win the lottery, I would want a vacation home in Tokushima. It's a foodie heaven!

For the last whole day in the city, we decided to try out a famous noodle house. This "restaurant" was rated the top eight noodle house in all of Japan and was featured at Japanese food expo every year for a decade. The restaurant is situated in a residential area at the foot of Bizai Mountain (Eyebrow mountain) right beside a small abandoned temple. It boasts using natural mountain spring to make their delicious noodle soup. There was a line of eager customers lined out around the block. Peaking into the restaurant, I realized this restaurant was more of a noodle consumption assembly line than it was a restaurant. Inside, there were two U-shape bars lined with wobbly stools. Food were served from the back room, while two servers work with amazing efficiency inside each bar. This is where I got the idea of organizing my restaurant city on Facebook.

First, we purchased our noodle tickets from a vending machine. There were only two types of noodle soups: flavoured or plain broth, large or small size, but you can get additional orders of tea boiled eggs and rice. The vending machine then produced small scrabble size tiles with different colors. Eventually, we were able to seat ourselves at one of the bars. The bars are fitted with water jars, disposable chopsticks, and napkins. The servers greeted us and put our little tiles in a nook in front of us. They proceeded to clean our eating area, serve us tea, and serve us at inhuman speed (maybe they are robots).

The noodles. Are. Absolutely. Amazing. My eyes watered, as I savored the flavours. The noodles were amazing fresh, nutty, and doughy. The broth were flavourful, delicate, not overly salty or greasy. The beef was lean but still melted in my mouth. There were some mysterious pickle which was not overpowering and it blended into the soup beautifully. I should have ordered the large. I should have ordered two! Where has this soup been all my life?!

It took about 40 minute from lining up to being fed. The restaurant probably processed about a person a minute. A bowl of noodle was about $4 CND. They were open 7 days a week from 10am to 2am.

After we left the restaurant dumbfounded by our experience, we decided to linger around the area and check out the little abandoned temple near by. The next 4 hours of my life were truly magical.

The abandoned temple nested right at the foot of the mountain surrounded by trees, dusts, and cobwebs. Tucked in the corner behind the temple is a sign saying indicating another temple further up. Feeling adventurous, Dennis and I headed into the thick of the forest on this little path. After 20 minutes of hiking up the path, the forest got thicker and we had to brush away cobwebs in order to proceed. This temple was nowhere in sight and we had no idea where we were heading.

Dennis: "Should we keep going?"
Me: "I don't know. Should we? You decide."
Dennis: "No, you decide."
Me: "If you make me decide, I am going to keep going."

And we kept going. We then repeated this conversation several times for the next 90 minutes as we push up the mountain. (This actually describes our relationship perfectly in a nutshell). We passed many strange things, such as ancient marking stones with ancient distance measuring unit thing, old signs with distance measurement and directions that lead to nowhere, worn down make-shift prayer stones. It felt like we were going back in time. An hour and half later, we started to see views of the forest down below and later on the whole city. Eventually, after two hours of climb, we finally came to a clearing at the top of the mountain. There was a small town! And that temple!

Apparently, we had taken the hard (but shorter) way to get up the mountain. We could technically drove up here from the other side of the mountain, and there was a gondola that can take us down below.

The little town was nested in the forest. There were fruit trees with sudachi and mandarine dangling from them. The temple looked very old but well kept. The views were breathtaking. An elderly couple made redbean mochi in their yards. The old woman pull mochi out of a red wooden box and methodologically roll red bean paste into each. The husband grilled the mochi just a little before putting it in a small paper bag. The aroma was irresistible. They were selling it to the visitors, and it was soft, fluffy, and delicious. I never had mochi this good before.

We went forward in the direction of loud music and a crowd. After a few turns, the forest cleared into a huge modern building with gondola, garden, parking lot, and a huge festivals . There was an anime convention up on this mountain. Young people were dressed up in anime costumes, showing off their rigged out car (design and painted like an anime car).

Between modernity and this mystical little town were tents set up by the locals to sell food and beverages to the visitors. There were also carnival games for children, arts and crafts displays. An elderly couple made redbean mochi in their yards. There were also sudachi sorbet made from sudachi grown on the mountain by the locals. These were delightful. There were other vendors that were selling food and drinks from the back of their truck: fried chicken, grilled seafood, bento boxes, coffee. We went from truck to truck and tasted everything.

Anywhere else in the world, a festival like this would result in littering everywhere. There were no garbage on the ground. Instead, there were temporary recycling station set up and half a dozen volunteers cleaning and picking up the few litters that were there. Even the outhouse was clean.
These are so good that they should be illegal.

Dennis and I accidentally climbed a mountain. We found a small town, ate some magical mochi, sudachi sorbet, and fried chicken possibly sprinkled with crack cocaine.

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