Jun 3
2008

Mt. Takao: Idyllic Tranquility

in Uncategorized

Yesterday we fled to the outskirts of Tokyo to escape a rainy dreary day to an area in Tokyo called Hachiōji. Why Hachiōji? Hachiōji is the home of Mt. Takao, a 1,965 foot tall outdoor oasis overlooking the crowded chaos of the city. We had a lovely drive there, arriving late morning. We took a cable car up to a higher point on the mountain and then walked from there.

There was a small Monkey “Park” (zoo) that Squirrel enjoyed (though I think she enjoyed being a monkey more than actually seeing the monkeys).

Then we made our way up to a Buddhist temple, Yakuōin, that is actually on the mountain. This temple is said to have been built in 744 A.D., a time when Buddhism in Japan was at its peak. The trail climbing up the mountain was originally built for worshippers visiting the temple. The cable car was also originally built for the convenience of temple worshippers.

As we began our descent down the mountain, we stopped to sample the grape “soft cream“.
After making our way back down the mountain to our car, we drove around enjoying the beautiful scenery, while Squirrel took a little cat nap.

We finished the day off with a bang with dinner at Ukai Toriyama, an amazing restaurant serving kaiseki cuisine. This was an experience by itself. The restaurant is comprised of 39 separate buildings, with a total of 79 separate rooms. Some of the buildings are original buildings transported from other parts of Japan, and others are new, but built using traditional materials (wood, bamboo, stone, mud, tatami mats, and washi paper screens).

We were led to our own thatched roof tea house, where we were served by delightful kimono-clad waitresses.
Our first two courses were appetizers featuring seasonal vegetables —(1) a cold preparation of some green vegetables in a light sauce topped with thinly shaved katsuobushi; (2) a thick slice of eggplant grilled until the meat was soft and sweet and topped with a thick sweet miso sauce. These were followed by (3) our sashimi course and (4) a light clear soup with a few slices of vegetables and one quail meatball. Then we were ready for the main event. A brazier of glowing coals was brought in and arranged in the center of the hearth, covered by an irori grill. Once it had heated up we began grilling. (5) We had generous chunks of skewered free-range chicken (the specialty of the house), potatoes, and shishito peppers which we cooked slowly, a couple of skewers at a time. (6) After grilling both sides of the skewered food, you then immerse the whole skewer into a soy-based tare dipping sauce, then put it back on the grill for a few moments longer, and then slide it onto your plate to cool. A knife and fork are provided to cut up the meat, shichimi (seven-spice) to season it, and chopsticks to eat it.
We then each enjoyed (1) a small ayu which had been rubbed with salt and grilled over charcoal whole. The entire fish was edible, and was delicious. We rounded off the meal with (2, 3, 4) rice topped with tororo (a sauce made of grated mountain yam which has a slimy texture but has a wonderful earthy flavor) , miso soup, some tsukemono (Japanese pickles), and finally dessert, (5) a delicate ball of mochi filled with sweet smooth anko paste. The meal was fabulous (6).
After finishing our meal we took advantage of the twilight by walking through the garden behind the restaurant.
A beautiful ending to a wonderful day.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie June 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Don’t you just love going to places where you pay to cook your own food? :) It all sound facinating though! I just love the look on Squirrel’s face before the icecream! Sheer joy!

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gleek June 3, 2008 at 2:18 pm

mmmmm, i’m so hungry after reading this post.

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Krafty1.typepad.com June 3, 2008 at 2:50 pm

What a great day! I’m so glad Luke is on his way to your house. You do the coolest things!

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Meet the Dubreuils June 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm

It looks like you had tons of fun! Oh and I love how you post all those great photos. Really makes me feel like I’m experiencing it all with ya:)

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fuji mama's mama June 3, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Wow. Incredibly gorgeous. It’s hard to believe this is so close to such a huge city! The Japanese DO know how to make a park. I think Dad will be drooling over your dinner. I wonder if we can squeeze in another trip before you leave? Sigh. Probably not.

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Jen June 3, 2008 at 4:52 pm

HOw gorgeous was that day! Glad you had a chance to do it!

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Melanie Gray Augustin June 3, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Looks like such a wonderful day. I just love that last shot! Really moving.

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Phoe June 4, 2008 at 5:56 am

Looks like a great day. And good food too! :)

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Melissa June 4, 2008 at 6:48 am

Looks like a fun time! Makes me want to hit up that yakitori restaurant our friends took us too…

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Aran June 10, 2008 at 3:10 am

gorgeous baby girl… she is so lucky she is exposed to so much culture… fantastic photos. thanks for sharing.

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Takesumi LTD January 31, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Very helpful. The Takesumi we import from Japan comes from the bamboo groves of the master burners. Moso and Tiger bamboos are used for the production of sticks, blocks, and powder. Take 竹 (bamboo) Sumi 炭 (coal).

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