Party in Izu - part 1

View from the open-air bath of Akazawa. The building on the left side is the resort hotel connected to the open-air bath. Behind the hotel we can see on the horizon the vague silhouette of Toshima Island.

Front of the fish shop "Mori-Hide". Fish in the right-most box are "aji".

Trying to take a picture of the "cooked fish set": fish, rice, miso soup, two small dishes and pickles for 2,800 yen.

The fassade of Nihonmatsu
Party table seen from the loft

Moro-chan grilling fish

Porched hijiki (A sort of seaweed) and Goya-champuru (Fried bitter gourd and other vegetables)

Further left, we can see Izu-Oshima Island, the largest among the seven Izu islands.

The weather was super fine on the weekend of May 9th and 10th and my guests to my summer house could enjoy the stay to its fullest extent. I came to have the idea to invite some close friends of our orchestra, because I was invited already several times to private parties and I wanted to reciprocate. I had also one another reason to invite friends to Ito. It was because one of the Torakyo members and our drinking companions, Moro-chan, has his family in Ito and is a member of Izu Philharmonic Orchestra. We therefore wanted to enjoy watching their rehearsal.

The first highlight was the purchase of raw fish for dinner. Upon the recommendation of our Moro-chan, I and the guests from Tokyo went to a fish shop near the Ito Station. Their fish are all from the nearby sea and extremely fresh. I mistakenly asked the old lady fishmonger whether we could eat all fish as sashimi (sliced raw fish filet) and unintentionally invited her scolding "No fish in my shop is not fresh enough to eat raw !".

Please check the movie to see how smoothly she filleted fish.

Then, the next program was lunch on the way to an open-air bath. I chose Nihonmatsu in Izu-kogen on the basis of my personal research. Located in the midst of summer houses Nihonmatsu offers slightly provincial but good quality fish dishes. The only problem for me is the too big volume of their set dishes. But, all my guests had already hunger and the volume must not cause any problem.

Our choices were divided into two menus, "aji bowl set" (Please check "bowl" on this page) and "cooked fish set". "Aji" is one of the most popular kinds of fish in Japan and we usually eat it finely cut in raw with herbs. This menu put fish meat on rice, according to the donbiri style. It is usual to state "cooked fish" without mentioning to the kinds of fish, because restaurants use different fish according to the availability. We therefore ask the restaurant what the fish is and decide whether we would order it or not. "Isaki" was the fish of the day and we were all very surprised to see the size of the fish when it was served on the table. It was a fatty and more than 30 cm long fish. Isaki was cooked in thick sauce made mainly of soy sauce, sake and sugar and suited very much to the cooked rice.

A couple of raccoon dogs - symbol of good business
Anyhow, we were all pleased and headed for the spa with full stomach.

Akazawa Spa opened in 2004 in the present style. A hotel with open-air baths existed already from the beginning of the 1990s, but it was not well known. After it was taken over by a big cosmetic company, a new bigger spa building was built and made accessible to everybody. Among many merits of Akazawa Spa it has a splendid view to the Pacific Ocean. We can also see, when the condition allows, seven islands of Izu. If we follow the coast line, we can see Ookawa and Hokkawa, both spa resorts, up to the tunnel to the nearby town Atagawa. After relaxing ourselves in spa, we left for my house for dinner party.

Moro-chan, our bassoonist, joined us a bit later and after he had bought dried fish (himono) from his favorite shop. We have advantages in Ito, we can namely get insider information of Ito from its resident. There are many possibilities for shopping and eating in a relatively big spa town like Ito, but the best possibilities are kept secret from outsiders such as tourists. But, thanks to Moro-chan we have access to the necessary secret tips.

I had prepared curry rice, potato salad and poached hijiki and cooked Goya-champuru while chatting among ourselves. Then, Moro-chan came with his dried fishes. It is usual to grill dried fishes and I had bought a special oven for the purpose and charcoal. The traditional Japanese oven is made of diatomite and called Shichirin and to my surprise it cost only 780 yen (about 8 dollars) in a DIY shop. Ariga-san cooked an appetizer dish with peanuts and small dried sardines.

The party started already around 5 and lasted till 11 O'clock. As we were slightly exhausted after taking spa and Moro-chan had to return to his beloved wife, the party ended rather early. But, this saved us energy for getting up early and becoming active on the following day. The report continues.