16 Lake Tazawa: Forcing out local flavour

Morning:  Left Yamagata prefecture today, the first of the 6 Tohoku prefectures I plan to visit.  Stopped for lunch at Shinjo, another old castle town.  Wanted local food.  A rare request:  the Tourist Information at the station could not cope.  

Went local food hunting alone.  Time was limited.  Local natto shop only sold snacks made in Tokyo.  Ended up at the sticky rice cake shop – which no longer sells sticky rice cake.

“But we do sell picked herring wrapped in seaweed; the old people love it.  We eat it on special occasions.”

“If you don`t fancy that, we also have stewed horse tendons (umagaki [J] ).  That is a local delicacy.”

“Are the horses from Shinjo?”

“No, we don`t have an abattoir here.  All the tendons are imported from Fukushima.  The soy the tendons are stewed in is locally made though.”

Sucking out soy from horse tendons was the only way to get local flavour.

Evening:  Set up camp by Lake Tazawa in mountains in Akita prefecture.  Not a wide lake but deep, over 400 metres deep, the deepest lake in Japan.  Surface looks like a sheet of silver foil.  Very peaceful.  Hardly any buildings around lake edge., just steep slopes covered with forest.

Campsite is quiet.  A tall 10 year-old boy called Masamune ran up to my tent and invited me for dinner with his family.  They had traveled up from Sendai, their second summer in a row here.  Overwhelmed by their hospitality. Handed a hunk of meat and a sujiko onigiri (raw fish egg riceball).

“Would you like a beer?” a man with a warm smile, greying beard and ponytail asked me. 

“No thank you, I don`t drink”

“How about wine then?”

“No, thank you”

“Well, how about Japanese whisky then?”

“Oh, go on then.” 

 An excellent start to Akita prefecture.

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