Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tateyama's Hasshokudon

"Omotenashi"
Japanese philosophy
of hospitality


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Ikoinomura Tateyama (いこいの村たてやま), where we made the stop for our lunch.

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We were greeted with gorgeous swaying palm trees upon our arrival to the hotel.

Tateyama is a town blessed with beautiful sea around its surrounding. Realizing this fact, the city has come out with a local specialty menu based on the concept of "omotenashi" or Japanese hospitality. This menu which made its debut early this year on January 30, 2013, is called Tateyama's Hasshokudon (八色丼), or literally, "eight colours rice bowl dish".

The main characteristics of this menu is that eight different kinds of topping is served in eight mini rice bowls, giving us the chance to enjoy various flavours in one meal. You may wonder why the number "8" is chosen here. The eight different mini dishes included in this set symbolizes the orbs possessed by the eight warriors from the story "Nanso Satomi Hakkenden" (南総里見八犬伝), or the "Tale of Eight Dogs".

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 Upon entering the cafeteria, we came across these mysterious-looking gigantic bowls!

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An aerial shot of our lunch set.

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A closer look at the condiments, pickled vegetables, clam soup and dessert.

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Another shot from the top.

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However, I am very sure everyone is curious what is inside the huge bowl on the left. Hmmm....

Each of the eight rice bowls is carved with Japanese kanji characters that represents the kanji appeared in the tale. All eight bowls which contain about 25-30 grams of rice is placed in a huge bowl with a cover which measures 36 centimeters in diameter and 25 centimeters tall.

The names of the eight bowls are "jin" (仁丼), "gi" (義丼), "rei" (礼丼), "chi" (智丼), "chu" (忠思), "shin" (信丼), "kou" (孝丼), "tei" (悌丼). "Tomo" is placed on the centre, "jin" is placed on the 12-o-clock position, and the rest will follow on clock wise rotation. The condiment to be enjoyed together with the rice dish is also arranged according to the same order.

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 Tada! There you go - eight little rice bowls, each containing different kinds of rice dish.

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Lets take a closer look at the colourful dish.

From this wonderful dish, you can get to taste everything Tateyama has to offer, as each dish features famous ingredients from the area, such as vegetables of the season, aji (horse mackerel), Ise-ebi (spiny lobster), pork, fish of the season, hijiki seaweed, and fruit of the season. Within these standards, each establishment determines the method of preparation and seasonings for these ingredients. 

The fish used in the dish differs from one restaurant to the other, and depending on the season, the types of fish in the same restaurant might be different. This gives people the chance to try out this dish multiple times as it offers a different kind of menu and experience on each visit. This unique dish can be enjoyed for just 1,800 yen.

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This is what they call Tateyama's hasshokudon.

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And, now you know why nobody can beat Japanese omotenashi.

Another half of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors had the opportunity to try another local specialty - Aburikaisen-don, which I have tried early this year. One thing to take note is that these two dishes are only available in five selected restaurants within Tateyama city. Furthermore, the number of meals served per day is limited to 125 sets for aburikaisen-don and 70 sets for hasshokudon. It is recommended to make a reservation before you visit the restaurants, especially during the weekends.

By the way, the place we had our lunch - Ikoinomura Tateyama (いこいの村たてやま) is a hotel that sits on a magnificent location just right in front of the Pacific Ocean. This strategic location offers a picturesque view of the ocean and islands far beyond the horizon from the room and public bath.

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 The Chiba Kun Ambassadors enjoying our sumptuous meals.

The best way to drop by this hotel is by car, on the way driving through Minamiboso area, because the nearest train station is location quite some distance away. However, there is a bus stop nearby the hotel which the local bus runs on a frequent basis. Alternatively, the hotel is accessible from the station by taxi in approximately fifteen minutes.

By the way, there is a tropical botanical garden called Nanbo Paradise (南房パラダイス). It was built in 1970, and has set up a partnership with Singapore Botanic Gardens. There are about 5,000 kinds of tropical plants in a large glass houses with 11 rooms. And in the site, there are the beds of flowers, the house of butterflies, petting zoo and other some facilities.

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The three popular local food from Tateyama.

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Finally, a group photo of Chiba Ambassadors in front of the hotel we had our lunch.

|| INFORMATION ||
Ikoinomura Tateyama
Check-in time:
15:00 p.m.

Check-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Lunch time: 11:30 - 14:00 (abura-kaisendon and hasshokudon is only available during lunch time)
Closed days: None (except special holidays)
Number of seats: 200 seats
Number of servings per day:
Aburi-kaisendon - 20 servings; Hasshokudon - 10 servings
Parking spaces:
60 cars (no charge, no reservations required)

Address: 1495-1, Fujiwara, Tateyama-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 294-0224, Japan.
Tel: 
0470-28-2211        Fax: 0470-28-2215

Website: http://ikoi-tateyama.com/index.html (Japanese only)
Access:
Tateyama is located in the southern region of Bōsō Peninsular. It takes approximately 90 minutes from Tokyo; and 30 minutes from Tateyama Station by car.

Five establishments offer Tateyama's Hasshokudon:
・Umi no Hana (Tel: 0470-25-5151) 2903-101 Hojo, Tateyama
・Hana Sohonten (Tel: 0470-22-1385) 2619-6 Hojo, Tateyama
・Kyukamura Tateyama (Tel: 0470-29-0211) 725 Kenbutsu, Tateyama
・Ito Daibo Kobo (Tel: 0470-29-1221) 963-1 Ito, Tateyama
・Ikoi-no-Mura Tateyama (Tel: 0470-28-2211) 1495-1 Fujiwara, Tateyama 
Inquiries: Tateyama New Local Gourmet Promotion Council (within the Tateyama City Tourism Association)

Website: http://tateyama-gourmet.com (Japanese only)
Tel:
0470-22-2000

Monday, October 14, 2013

Okinoshima Of Tateyama

"No man is an Island, entire of itself; 
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main"

John Donne, Meditation XVII
English clergyman & poet (1572 - 1631)



The second tour of Chiba Kun Ambassadors took us to the southern tip of Bōsō Peninsular, which is surrounded with beautiful mountains and breathtaking seas. This region is blessed with a long coastline and lots of mountains, making it an excellent place to enjoy nature. The rapeseed flowers and fruit flourish here because of the mild climate, and there are hiking trails and tourist farms to visit.

Out first destination was Okinoshima, which is designated as a quasi-national park of Minamibōsō. The island is connected to the mainland by about a hundred meters of beach. However, it was not like that initially. Okinoshima used to be an island, separated from the mainland for several hundred thousand of years. However, the Genroku Kanto Earthquake of 1703 and the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that hit the area of Tateyama Bay around Okinoshima, caused the ground level to rise, joining the island to the mainland.

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  One of our two guides of the day, showing something which is quite rare in Japan - coconut.

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Puffer fish or fugu. This species (porcupinefish) is known as harisenbon (literally means thousand of needle) due to the number of sharp spines they have.

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As we walked around the island, we were introduced to various kinds of plankton found on the beach.

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Some creatures that live on the rocks and shot liquid when they are pressed. I tried pressing them and was later told that those were pees hahaha wtf!

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Snorkeling is a popular activity in summer.

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Now I know why this place is known for its water quality. Just look at the algae in the water.

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How can I resist from having a shot at such a breathtaking place.

During the summer months, this place is popular as a major snorkeling spot because it is shallow enough to enjoy the beautiful sight of the corals. The sea tide is slow and safe, making it a popular destination not only among the locals, but also from people outside the prefecture. According to one survey done on the beaches around the country by a governmental agency, the water quality level here is clean enough to be certified as "AA rank".

In the middle section of the island, there are forest filled with trees of over 300 years-old. There is also a small covered picnic area and restrooms with running water. On the left side of the island, there is a small shrine that has been there in one form or another for about 1,300 years.

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  The Chiba Kun Ambassadors continued our tour around the island and next up was looking for seashells.

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Some of the seashells found in Okinoshima.

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Someone just had his shower it seems.

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The earthquake that happen many years ago, had moved the rocks about two meters apart, as seen from the distance between these two persons.

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It was not only about beach and blue sea, because they are greens to be enjoyed on this island too.

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Chris does not seem to be comfortable with the smell of the leaves lol!

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Ugamyojin Shrine (宇賀明神), a shrine which is found in the middle of the island.

We had two guides who explained to us the history and the flora and fauna found on the island. Along the walk around the island, which was about one kilometer, we were shown various kinds of sea creatures. I just could not help but to feel very impressed with his knowledge of seashells, which he claimed to be able to recognise more than a hundred different kinds of seashells.

From one excavation work carried out on the Okinoshima site in 2004, bones apparently belonging to a fully grown dolphin that measured about 2.5 meters in length were found mingled with man-made items in that area. The unearthed bones show that between about 6,500 B.C. and 7,500 B.C., dolphins were being fished off the coast of what now is part of Chiba Prefecture.

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We were told that we will be taken to visit a cave here.

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The entrance to the cave. There was one time Domo-kun, the mascot from NHK got stuck here because it was too huge to fit the entrance lol!

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A little peek at the sea through a small window in the so-called 'cave' lol!

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Like they say, there is always a light at the end of a dark tunnel cave.

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After a long hike (actually it was less than 20 meters lol!) in the cave, we were rewarded with this!

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And this!

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The rocks that appears to be inclined for almost 45 degree, due to the compression between the plates when the earthquake occurred many years ago.

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Another shot of Okinoshima before we return our starting point.

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Before that, we were given a piece of magnet and asked to rub it on the sand.

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Tada!! Magic show hahaha! This is what we got! Apparently, there is quite an amount of metals mixed in the sand in this section of the island.

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Finally, before we leave, we were given a souvenir of keychain made of the seashells found in Okinoshima. How sweet is that.

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And one group photo with our wonderful guides at Okinoshima.

As well as indicating that dolphins were being fished for about 1,000 years in the early Jomon period (ca 10,000 B.C.-ca 300 B.C.), when the climate was gradually warming up after the last ice age, objects found at the site gave researchers clues about the natural environment 8,000 years ago. Although the area excavated was only about 20 square meters, a number of artifacts dating from the middle of the early Jomon period were unearthed, including 8,000-year-old earthenware, an obsidian arrowhead and stone implements used for stripping bones and skin. The remains of an early Jomon fire also were uncovered.

Okinoshima is located some distance away from the nearest bus stop. So, visitors who plan to visit this island on public transportation are advised to rent bicycles which is available at Tateyama station. From the station, Okinoshima is only 20 to 30-minute bicycle ride away.


|| INFORMATION ||
Okinoshima
Address:
Fujimi, Tateyama-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 294-0034, Japan.


Tateyama Branch of JR East Rental & Lease Co., Ltd.
Operation hours:
08:30 - 18:00 (open 365 days a year)
Rental fee: ¥1,500 per day
Address: Tateyama Branch, JR East Rental & Lease Co., Ltd. 1887 Hojo, Tateyama-shi, Chiba Prefecture (inside JR Tateyama station)
Note: Identification such as a passport must be shown for rental.
Website: http://www.aqua-boso.jp/chiiki02/tateyamarenntaru-sports.html (only in Japanese) - Tateyama Rental Cycle System.