And they don’t stop calling her that.
Even when she’s tainted, closed off or on the brinks of an inevitable end. Because the moment she bloomed was the moment she’d be remembered for, forever.
“One should not be too straightforward. Go and see the forest. The straight trees are cut down, the crooked ones are left standing.”
This wasn’t my first trip to Taiwan, but it will be my last trip visiting all its mountains has to offer. I love the scenery and the fresh mountain air, but travelling for a week straight visiting various mountains just isn’t my thing.
Because of taiwan’s geographical layout, the roads to reach the mountains were extremely curved, and we were spinning for a few hours before reaching our destination. I’m not one to get car sick, but after this trip, I never want to sit in another van again.
Sitting in the van for 5 hours, with constant turns just to get up to this mountain, I was expecting a lot. But once I got there, all I found were hotpot restaurants, a few convenience stores, and two 7/11’s. After settling down, and having dinner, I decided to head to bed early as I would be waking up a few hours later to watch the sun rise.
Waking up at 4am to line up for almost an hour, and then take a 25 minute train ride up the mountain to watch the moon disappear from the train windows was not fun. I am not a morning person, but after the long 5hour curvy drive up the mountain (that made most of us car sick), I wasn’t going to miss out on this supposedly amazing view.
The top of the mountain was freezing cold, but luckily they had 2 stores selling hot soup and food (at unreasonable prices might I add). After waiting an hour, the sun decided to rise but was unfortunately covered by some clouds. After waiting for another half an hour or so, we finally saw the sun rise. However, it wasn’t a big, orange/yellow sun that I was expecting, but a bright white, glaring sun that I couldn’t look at without being blinded.
Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.
– John Steinbeck
I like a city that can inspire, one that has endless nooks and crannies which I can fall in love with – and Osaka is brimming with this: diversity, hidden alleys, nightlife and good street food.
This city bubbles with liveliness and walking down the main districts give you a sense that you’re a part of a city of reputation and pride. The men are almost as detailed as the women and I found it so funny when I realised how seriously the people take after their country’s output of art and creativity.
Japan obviously equates (at least partially) to anime and in that, it also equates to fantasy worlds. The women literally look like anime characters and the trends mimic this doe-eyed, child-like beauty. Heavily darkened coats of mascara with copious amounts of blush (sometimes applied in defined oval shapes under the eyes). Glistening lips and an odd array of coloured contacts and hair dye are all seen in the mix of fashion and beauty here. As I mentioned before, even the men surprise me. They don’t seem to wear makeup per say but I couldn’t quite get over how much of a surprise it was to see guys that plucked and shaped their eyebrows into high bridges. Anime characters, like I said.
When I compare it to Australian fashion, it is indeed a completely different expression altogether. Sure, elaborate eyebrows that take a good 15min to perfect are really in at the moment but if I had to describe Aussie women, it’d be effortlessly chic and sexy, a mixture of mood expressions captured through clothing. In Japan, rather than individual expression, it often appears to be collective. I mean, I saw so many camel-coloured coats and so many fedora hats. Every girl radiated with class and salon-hair looks and similarly feminine beauty trends.
It was nice being apart of it, even if it was just for 3 days.
Narisawa. A.K.A number 2 on Asia’s top 50 restaurants; truly worthy of its title. The staff at Narisawa was extremely tentative and most of the staff there could speak English. The day we went was the second day the Christmas menu was introduced; a little pricey but well worth it. Oh! And for once, a nice restaurant that didn’t charge me for water!!
They first introduced to us the “bread of the forest”. It sat in a nest of Christmas decorations on our table to rise during our meal and was later baked in front of us in a hot stone pot. The bread was light and fluffy, with a fragrant foresty scent. They sprinkled some chestnut sandwood on top before baking, which heightened the fragrance. It was an apple and walnut flavored bread, which made the bread slightly sweet. The bread was paired with dehydrated olive, and spinach chlorophyll butter.
Our first course was the “Essence of the forest and Satoyama scenery”. The dish was served on top of a wooden board, and the key essence was the water stored in a Japanese cedar cup. The water had been infused with the oak’s essence for hours, which gave it an extremely buttery, texture. The forest floor was made up of green tea, black tea, and bamboo powder. Creating a black and green forest. The forest was topped with some “bark”, and a cute radish snowman; it wasn’t just cute, but extremely flavorful too.
The soft shell turtle came with the forest, and was a seafood-like karaage. It was fried and seasoned to perfection, retaining the turtle’s natural flavour. Along with these dishes was the charcoal covered onion. The onion was caramelised to give the dish a sweet taste.
The next dish was a trio of spiny lobster atop of a red cracker, Omi beef atop of a white cracker, and sea snake soup with winter melon and potato. Before the dish came out, we had the chance to take photos of, and touch the charcoaled sea snake. The beef cracker had a smoky taste, the lobster was very fresh, and not slimy at all, but I would’ve preferred the crackers to be a little bit crunchier. The snake soup was an incredible concoction filled with great flavours and textures. The soup is created from Narisawa’s chicken and pork broth as the blueprint, with the added snake, potato, and winter melon. It was perfect for the cold weather in Japan.
Next up was the sea bream, salmon roe, and botan shrimp. The fish roe was amazingly fresh and popped with every bite, something I rarely get in Australia (please up your game). The visual appeal of the dish reminded me of an ocean, and took me straight to a fantasy land. I loved the bright deep blue plate, which enhanced the appearance of the dish. Everything in the dish was well harmonized, I’m usually unsure of what to do with bubbles on my plate (sorry zumbos), but these had a slight citrus flavour to them, adding depth, and heightening the flavours.
The Nagasaki oyster that we had apparently won national awards and was said to be “the best oyster in Japan”. With its flavour, texture, and appearance, I can see why it won. It was extremely smooth, juicy, and bursting with flavour. It was paired with a tomato, citrus sauce that enhanced the oyster’s natural flavours whilst adding a new flavour profile to the dish.
Langoustine shrimp. First off, the appearance: 100 points. I mean, just LOOK at it! The bowl perfectly contrasts the elements in the dish to bring out all there is to offer. The langoustine was topped with a bed of greens, and a slightly citrus vinegar. I was happy with just the salad, but the langoustine was an amazing work of art. Not only for my eyes, but also for my taste buds. The langoustine meat was soft, yet firm, extremely buttery, and filled with flavour. It was the first time I’ve ever picked up a shellfish leg with my hands and gnawed on the remains, but God was it worth it.
Next up: “luxury essence 2007” abalone. The abalone was served in a soup; the same soup base used to make the previous snake soup. The abalone was firm, yet extremely tender and packed full of flavour.
The Fukui crab was infused in a chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg), topped with a dab of wasabi. The wasabi was not overpowering, and gave the dish the kick that it needed. The egg was silky smooth, with a layer of collagen floating on top, harmonizing all the elements of the dish.
The Omi beef was charcoaled, and sliced evenly between the table. It is said to be comparable to Kobe beef, but I firmly disagree. Kobe beef’s tenderness, and buttery nature cannot be compared. I also believe that the style of teppanyaki cooking brings out the full potential of the beef, as opposed to the charcoal method used at narisawa.
The matcha dessert surprisingly wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be. As matcha is bitter in nature, many restaurants and cafes would add a lot of sweeteners to counteract this. However, Narisawa used the bitterness of the matcha to enhance the sweetness of the other matcha components. The senbei on top of the dish contrasted well with the sweetness of the matcha gelato and matcha cream within the dish.
The final pear dessert came out as if it were floating. Again, not too sweet and packed full of pear flavour, this dessert played on various textures to bring it to life. There were pear pieces, shavings, jelly, and a sauce.
When we thought we were done, there were complimentary petit fours. When the waiter pushed the cart around, I expected to be offered 3 or 4 from the cart but when he said “you can choose as many as you want”, my eyes lit up. I asked for everything on the cart, and I was in dessert heaven. My favourite dessert on the cart was the matcha sesame jelly on a stick. It had a perfect balance between sweet, and bitter.
We would highly recommend visiting Narisawa if given the chance. It is a bit pricey, but for Asia’s second best restaurant, and the best restaurant we’ve ever visited, it will definitely be worth the trip. The nature theme throughout the menu was executed immaculately, the service there is amazing, and they don’t charge for water :p
xoxo Robyn & Paula
It was the 3rd time I’ve worn a kimono, but the 1st time I put one on without professional help. Visually, there was nothing wrong; Internally, I could barely breathe.
My advice for those attempting to put on their own kimonos? Get professional help. Wanting to make use of the second day return policy, we decided to videotape ourselves taking them off, and just follow the video backwards.
Maybe it was because when the professionals put it on for me, I had a stomach full of food, or maybe I should just stay away from putting on my own kimono.
When I first put it on, it wasn’t too bad. Just a little snug. Then…I got hungry. Eating that bowl of tea soba was the biggest struggle of my life. I had to keep my back straight and chest out due to the kimono’s restrictions, but I needed to bend to eat my noodles properly.
I thought that finishing that bowl of soba was my biggest struggle, but I was wrong. My biggest struggle was trying to breathe after I finished. The struggle was real. It was about a 15min walk back home, we had planned to take pictures at a close shrine, but I couldn’t breathe. I honestly wanted to just strip right there and give my lungs some much needed oxygen, but I rather not be arrested in a foreign country.
We quickly snapped a few shots, and hurriedly shuffled home in our geta to change into some looser, more organ friendly clothing.