We packed up our bags at Kyoko’s place and left everything home while we walked a few blocks down to Ritsurinkoen. This was one of Japan’s great gardens and we had heard that it was worth the trip. We did the 60 minute walking tour through the south end of the garden then hit the shop for another gelato treat. By 11:00 am it was already oppressive heat and humidity. We left through the north gate which ended up being the highlight… Their huge pond of Lotus (taller than me!) were in bloom and totally gorgeous.
We picked up our packs and headed to the bus stop. Kyoko’s apartment was a great place to crash for this first part of our trip and we will miss Takamatsu.
We caught the 12:40 train to Okayama and decided we would again treat the city as our lunch spot. Thanks to a blog post about food in the city we hit up a ramen shop that specialized in local ingredients (even their own Hishio -unfiltered soy sauce boiled with olives). We both had the Tonosho ramen and for the benefit of my New York friends… Ippudo needs to step aside. This thin broth was light, with a distinctive flavor (thanks to the local sardines they use), the pork was absolutely delicious… It just melted in your mouth. And they shave thin strips of Yuzu into the soup which is a stunning refreshing moment in the salty broth. I would not hesitate to go back. The best part? Dan was still hungry so he ordered the Kaemeshi bowl which was a generous bowl of rice with pulled pork, seaweed and scallions for only 100¥ ($1.00)… To pour the end of his broth in!!!
Off on the tram after lunch for another famous garden… Okayama’s own Korakuen. We had left our packs in coin lockers at the station so we could get around easily. Our garden walk was spectacular because it started to rain and their vast green fields, forests and terraces were beautiful in the rain. This rain, by the way, did not have any effect on the weather except to make it even hotter and more humid when the sun returned! Ritsurinkoen was lovely but Korakuen was truly worth the detour. They have a pen of cranes on the premises as well.. incredibly elegant birds.
We took the bus back to Okayama station, got our reservations for Sunday’s Shinkansen trip worked out and boarded the train for Hiroshima. We were due to meet up with Tanaka-san for his apartment that evening and still needed to eat. Tanaka-san’s flat is his grandmother’s place and it is a traditional Japanese apartment: tatami rooms with separate and partially outdoor shower and toilet. Such a cute place and in a neighborhood off the beaten path. We cleaned up and headed out to a sushi place he recommended just down the street… Much to our surprise and entertainment it was a conveyor belt sushi palace (we have heard about these but had never been). The place was enormous and we had counter seats. I was really impressed with Dan because he seemed to have the entire system worked out for keeping track of what we picked off the belt… That is, until they said last call. I then asked the waiter to calculate our bill (which Dan had been painstakingly writing up as the food went flying by) until Dan realized that the waiter thought we meant we wanted all 12 of those dishes and had specially asked the sushi chef to sneak in our “order”! BTW we were already full so if he had not caught that we would have been stuck with dinner number 2!!! I wish I had the entire episode on video, it was hilarious and our neighbors at the counter got a real show…. We were the only non-Japanese in the place and clearly didn’t know what we were doing. I did get a few videos on Vine if you want to follow us.
Photos: Lotus at Korakuen, Tonosho ramen at Shodoshima Hishio, sushi conveyor belt at Onmaku