I have always thought that autumn was the most beautiful season, but since I moved to Aomori, that sentiment has only become more and more heightened. The Tohoku region is specifically famous for its gorgeous fall foliage, and hiking in the mountains when the leaves are changing colors is one of the things I’d been looking forward to this year.
When I got an invitation to head south with some friends to a cabin on the shores of Lake Towada, I jumped at the chance. Camping – or at least getting away from the city – is something that I like to do as often as I can, especially when it’s on the cusp of fall. As much as I like curling up on my couch in my cozy apartment when it’s chilly outside, I’d much rather do it surrounded by some beautiful scenery. Plus, I never turn down the opportunity to spending an evening with some quality company and awesome food.
Since the weather was forecasted to be a bit crisp, my friends decided that nabe (鍋, or ‘hotpot’ in English) was the way to go. Nabe is basically a huge pot of broth with a bunch of food like tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, slices or balls of pork and other meat, and basically anything else you’d want to boil. Obviously, that just sounds like soup, but it’s way more than that. Usually, you don’t throw the noodles into the broth until the rest of the food has been eaten, so the broth is really rich and flavorful. One of the best Japanese meals I’ve ever had was shabu-shabu style nabe in Tokyo, so I’d definitely been looking forward to indulging in some ‘hotpot’ cuisine again.
We (and by ‘we,’ I really mean the two Japanese women who came along with us) cooked up two huge pots of nabe. One featured a sesame soy milk broth, and the second was kimuchi-based, so much spicier with Korean flavors. Both were absolutely delicious (though the kimuchi nabe was a bit too spicy for my liking, but then again, my tolerance for spicy food is so low that I can’t eat buffalo mac ‘n’ cheese without cringing) and the perfect meal to share with a group.
My contribution to the whole affair was dessert: homemade apple pie. My mum’s pies are famous in our family, and I’d say I’m probably her biggest fan. But I’d never been confident (or motivated) enough to try making one on my own. Apples on sale at my local grocery store finally lit the fire underneath me, and with a few tiny modifications for my own personal tastes, I baked up a pie to rave reviews. And I was so proud of myself (really, I am probably one of the most un-domestic people you’ll ever meet; I’m proud when I can boil spaghetti perfectly) that I felt the need to snap a few close-ups of my handiwork.
The next morning, I snuck out bright and early to grab a run around the lake, but because I’m a sucker for sunrises, especially when water is involved, I decided a delay was an appropriate trade for watching the sun rise over Towada. It was definitely worth hauling my butt out from under my cozy, warm futon at six in the morning.
And I returned just in time for a proper breakfast, complete with waffles, coffee, eggs, banana bread, and sausages. So really, any ‘healthy lifestyle’ points I racked up with my run went right out the window.
Then it was home to Aomori-shi once again, though we got treated to some prime fall foliage in the Hakkoda Mountains on the drive home. Naturally, we had to stop at least once to indulge in the scenery, rather than zooming right past it.
I don’t care where I live after Japan; I don’t think that I will ever find a place more beautiful than here. And thus concludes my cheesy PSA-style “I love my life” blog post.