Those who have already explored the farmer's markets at Morinosankakuboshi and Yumesanchi will certainly find plenty of other things to do in Kihoku. While the western imagination might consider Japan to be a country obsessed with modernity, the nation has perhaps more pride in their natural beauty than any other. A visit to the Narukawa Valley should prove this to anyone. Hikers, campers and fishers will certainly enjoy the natural amenities. The scenic valley is beautiful, and simply gazing at the area should be enough to settle the spirit. Of course, that isn't to say that physical needs aren't thought of as well, and visitors will be able to treat themselves to a meal of pheasant at the lodge that accompanies the valley. For those who want to have a traditional bath, the valley also boasts an onsen.
The Yasumorido Somennagashi is something of a seasonal attraction, and is open between mid-July and the end of August. Clumps of somen noodles get forces through a trough and customers pick them out with their own chopsticks. A dipping sauce is provided, and the process is really quite unique. A small pond is located nearby, and is stocked trout for those who'd like to enjoy some fishing. Of course, the Yasumorishonyu Cave attracts people during the hot summer months because of the cool temperature it boasts.
The Kawanobori Ekiden is a so-called river climbing relay race that consists of teams that rush along the Hiromi River. Though they can run in shallow areas, each single step must land in the water. As well as this one of a kind athletic event, the town also hosts a Tetsujin iron-man race for individual runners. Perhaps it isn't so strange, then, that professional baseball player Tadashi Shiba is from the town. A dynamic and athletic area was probably also a great home for Tadashi Hyodo, who was the first female in Japan to gain a pilot's license.
Besidetake outs American fast foods like McDonald's, you can find traditional Japanese fast foods all over Japan. Noodle dishes are very popular, like ramen, udon and soba noodles. My favorites are ramen with miso broth with meat and vegetables added and yakisoba, which is a stir-fried soba noodle with vegetables and meat. I've never tried the chuka-soba, but it sounds really good. It is boiled soba noodles with meat, vegetables or seafood. Rice dishes like sushi, donburi and curry rice are also very popular.
For people who are nervous about trying Japanese food, I recommend a good donburi bowl with tempura (tendon) or beef and onions (gyudon) on top of rice. Other street foods like oden (stew), yakitori (skewered meat or vegetables) and okonomi-yaki (pancakes filled with pork, seafood, cabbage and more) are also popular. I haven't had the opportunity to try them, but the oden especially sounds tempting.
Some of my favorite Japanese snacks include mochi, which is a pounded, glutinous rice cake. It can be ice creamprepared in many ways. I like the deep-fried, puffed mochi, or the mochi ice cream balls, which are small round servings of ice cream covered with a layer of mochi. My favorite flavors for the ice cream includes green tea and chocolate. I'm anxious to try onigiri, which is a snack made of shaped rice with a filling. Since I haven't found them ready-made at my local Asian market, I'll have to try making them myself.
My friends and I really like Pocky sticks in several flavors. These are skinny hard sticks that sort of resemble tiny bread sticks that have been dipped in chocolate, strawberry and other flavored frostings. My friends also enjoy the Hello Kitty marshmallow treats. Personally, I find them a bit too sweet, but they love them so much they fight over them. The honey sesame candies are also extremely tasty.
Like most traditional Japanese meals, the traditional Japanese lunch is made of some rice, miso soup, a vegetable and meat dish, another vegetable dish, some pickled vegetables and salad. Some Westerners complain that traditional Japanese meals are like eating dinner for every meal, but that doesn't bother me. I eat leftovers for breakfast and lunch all the time, so eating the same types of foods at each meal is not a problem and I love Japanese food! These dishes could also be packed into a Bento box for lunch on the go. Families eating in a traditional style will have Mom cook a couple of new dishes every day. At every meal, the new foods are laid out along with leftovers from the previous day or two. Each dish is set out at every meal until it is gone. I may need to try that at home with my family… it would sure use up leftovers!
I was intrigued when I first saw sushi, but I was a little bit afraid to try it. Sushi is raw fish, right? Well, I have since learned that "sashimi" is raw fish, and sushi actually means "vinegar rice." The first sushi I tried was a California roll, which is a fairly safe choice for newbies. Made with imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, mayonnaise, nori and rice, it is a tasty way to get acquainted with this interesting cuisine.
I've since taken the plunge and tried raw fish on my sushi. This variety was a nigiri, which is a small ball of rice covered with a piece of raw fish. The tuna nigiri was tasty, especially when a drop or two of soy sauce was added to the fish. This style is also made with cooked shrimp if you prefer a cooked version.
The last sushi bar I went to, we sat at up front at the bar so we could talk with the sushi chef, or Itamae (pronounced ee-tah-may). He made us a specialty that wasn’t on the menu that featured eel, another of my phobias when it came to sushi. It was so good! I'd looked at the eel sushi before, and it just didn't look appetizing, but I was completely wrong. The chef told us that for three years, all he did was make sushi rice. After that time, he was allowed to progress to learning the art of making sushi. He had been training for eight years so far, and it would be another twenty-two years before he was considered a full-fledged sushi chef. All I know is if he makes such tasty treats now, I can only imagine how incredible his food will be when he finally finishes his training!