Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nakamuraya, Enoshima (中村屋)

You'll have noticed from all the pictures that I think walking around Tokyo and looking down little alleys is one of the funnest things in life, way more funner than, for instance, being beaten with branded leather goods. In the case of Enoshima, as you climb out of the shopping area, you'll see all sorts of odd little bits like this. It's not to say that the island is very big (maybe an hour walk, round-trip) or that the climb is very extreme (though you can pay an exorbitant fee to take three little escalators), but there's a nice feeling of getting to the interior of something. In a bit the same way that going to Enoshima is like a mini-tropical vacation.

There are a lot of stairs though, be ready for that. There's nothing rough about it, and the steps are all very nicely carved. I was actually enjoying the way that the edges were carved just so, with the flat tops ending in a little lip that clearly separated them from the deliberately-rough front faces. Speaking of faces, if you don't like looking at the faces of other tourists, you may be in the wrong blog. We love that kinda stuff around here.

As you come down one set of stairs toward the back of the island there's a little landing, almost, and that mini-neighborhood is dominated by the Nakamuraya empire. They own the shop on the left and the seating area / junk shop / museum on the right. A really funny thing is that this is on an island, and it feels very tropical if you go at the right time, but the atmosphere could be any old-fashioned neighborhood anywhere in Japan. Maybe I was expecting more island culture?

You'll laugh when you see how little actual food we actually consumed here, but it's interesting enough to post about. The green packages at the front of the cute old shop are their specialty - nori youkan. If you've ever eaten Japanese sweets (and are not Japanese) you were probably thinking "Why all the beans?" Youkan is another bean thing - bean paste with some gelatin and lots of sugar - but it's more palatable than some of them. Keep at it, you'll get used to the beans. When you get pretty tough, try the whole beans boiled in sugar syrup - kinda fun since they come in so many colors. But they're still sweet beans. Hmmmm.

Yep, this is all we ate (split between two people). And why? Hell, have YOU ever had white bean-gelatin-seaweed DESSERT? I thought not. I would say the flavors don't integrate particularly well, but it's surprisingly nice. Or is it surprising? The salty-sweet theme appears to be popularized to dreary excess now in America; yesterday a recipe for baked brown sugar and spice bacon popped up in my facebook feed. I don't think my facebook friends are quite ready for the salty sweetness of seaweed and beans, but maybe I'll try it on them during my UPCOMING EXTENDED VACATION. woo hoo. Channeled a little Roboppy right there.

Keep walking through the island (you noticed that this is a tourism post, right?). You can turn right at a little alley somewhere around Nakamuraya if you want to go back by the short way, or you can just keep going - the south side, opposite the causeway, was probably the single best thing on the island for me. On the way, you'll see this temple with a massive dragon sculpture guarding a cave. This gave me a total 'movie' feeling - looking at this dragon, I really thought it was going to move any second. The picture isn't likely to do it justice.

As you get to the rocky plateau on the ocean at the back of the island, you'll see a tiny temple with these lovely prayer flags flapping in the wind. If you read closely, you'll see that each flag is dedicated to a different Japanese god - ラーメン, 焼きイカ, et cetera (aside: who writes out 'et cetera' any more?). This really took me back to the years I spent in the Lapsang Souchon monastery just outside Baldengadhi in Nepal, but they seemed startled when I asked if they had any yak butter tea. Well, social pressures must be constraining them from following the one true path, and I pity them for it.

One person I don't pity is this guy. He was having a great time diving off the rocks into the small sheltered pool in the background. He was insistent that I join him - kept asking where I was from and if I had a bathing suit with me.

But really, his idea of fun was pretty aggressive for me. OK, this wasn't really it. But there's lots of this back there. You should definitely go.

And then you should definitely take the boat back. One of the best Y400 I've ever spent - saving 30 minutes of hilly, repetitive walking, plus get to see different coast and scenery, and let's face it you're ON A BOAT! The guy on the left was wearing a tag on his hat that said "Gilligan".

It's only a 20 minute tour though.
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