Ensoku 1: Yoro Falls and Wild Boar

06Nov06

On Saturday, October 21st, I went on an ensoku, or “excursion,” with faculty and staff members of the Gengo Bunka Kenkyuuka union. These union events are always good fun because they’re less formal than ‘official’ department parties and people end up bringing family members and friends along as well. This particular ensoku involved a bus trip to Gifu-ken to visit Yoro Falls, eat inoshishi nabe, and explore The Site of Reversible Destiny. The trip got off to a fine start when, at around nine in the morning, beer got passed around with the coffee. No Puritan hang-ups about the relationship between drinking and character in this country!

Yoro Falls is about two hours from Osaka, in the lower mountain region of Gifu-ken. The bus — which had navigated some dangerously thin roadways — stopped in the parking lot of a kind of mountain-resort-restaurant and we walked up to the falls from there. The walk to the falls took about 20 minutes, although it looked like there was a ski lift that you could pay to use if you were feeling exceptionally lazy. But why take a lift when the walk up to the falls takes you through beautiful forest greenery and past clear mountain streams?

One of the predominant local craft items is a kind of gourd flask which, presumably, was once sold to hold the sacred/healing waters of Yoro Falls. There is still an outlet where you can collect the fresh mountain waters, and several people drank a few handfuls of this water, which was very cold and very delicious. The image above comes from one of several lamps that line the street that leads up toward the falls. I would love to see the place at night with magical, floating, electric gourds spinning around in the air.

Our lunch was inoshishi nabe — wild board hotpot — which I presume came from a boar that was shot by the husband of the woman who was in charge of the establishment. There were boar skulls and pictures of her husband’s various hunting trips lining several walls of the restaurant, and even a stuffed boar on display in the “museum room” out back. The lunch itself was incredibly delicious (especially the inoshishi nabe). I think we must have been given ten or so small dishes of local seasonal specialties, all of which were beautifully arranged and had their own distinct flavor identities.

Below is a small gallery of several of the lunch dishes:

Pickled baby gourd. Who knew?

Delicious small fishes share plate space with wild nuts.

I think this was trout.

Here’s the stuffed boar from the museum in the back of the restaurant. It looks pretty cute in this photo, although when you lump it in with all the hunting photographs, mounted deer’s heads, and other displays it ends up looking pretty small and out of the way.

The outside of the place where we had lunch was covered in animal skulls (especially boar skulls), many of which had their mouth areas spray-painted red, or else were wearing sunglasses and hats.



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