Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Okuyama Ryokan, Doroyu Onsen, Yuzawa

If you saw this while out for a Saturday drive (ominous smoke, signs warning you not to get out of the car...) you'd hardly get excited, no? The pleasant approach to Doroyu Onsen (yay, "Muddy Hot Water", sounds great) looked like we were entering Hell Town. Get ready for a long digression.

This reminded me first of the scene in High Plains Drifter where Clint makes the townspeople repaint all the buildings red and then changes the town's name sign on the approach road to 'Hell'. But that's a weird and not-overly-impressive Western. Then it reminded me of the John Wayne B-Western 'Hell Town'. Wayne made a long series of these in the 30's, before he figured out his character fully and before Hollywood figured out how to make Westerns properly. I got excited when I realized there were TONS of John Wayne westerns that I hadn't seen, and I downloaded this one to start things off. It was unwatchable - the first ten minutes featured horrible production values, rapid cuts between nonsensical scenes, a horse 'n' gun fight, and terrible dialogue. This marked the first time I didn't finish watching a Western, and the last one of these B-movie stinkers that I bothered with. Sheesh. I'm still a big fan of Westerns and Marion Morrison, though!

Doroyu is famous for the outside baths. They're nice, if a bit muddy. There isn't much glamour to be had here, and there isn't a town either - just the baths, perhaps 3 places to stay, and some other buildings of indeterminate use. I neglected to take a picture of the more famous bath; this is the large women's outdoor bath (only large women allowed!) which I took by sticking my camera over the fence from the men's bath. Everything was deserted at 1:30 when we went; we 混浴’d the men's bath and had no problems.
Here's the food:
Wacky preserved carp - really sweet, strong soy sauce, etc. Clearly the kind of thing you need to get through the winter when your only pastimes are going to be counting snowflakes, drinking, and inbreeding. So it's more understandable, this is one slice out of the fish, so the circular part is the cavity containing the organs. OK? Glad we cleared that up.

Stew with sweetfish (I think). Anyway, who says 'sweetfish'? That's one of those dumb things you see when people are trying too hard to translate the menu. If there's a better English equivalent, I'd like to know. 'Little river fish' is a better description as far as I'm concerned. Confession: the point of this dish is that the ayu are full of eggs, which cook up in famously tasty fashion, and I didn't eat them.

Jaws. This was the hottest, stringiest 葉生姜 that I've ever eaten. Ouch.

I'm leaving out the steak, which was a special order but really nice, as well as the cooked beef and sashi beef and sashi horse, all of which were mediocre. I guess where I'm coming to is that this was an interesting and worthwhile but not tremendously tasty meal. Still, wouldn't trade the experience!

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