Shika Fever – OR – A Weekend with Ayumi, Part 3

On my last day with Ayumi, we headed to Nara. I slept the whole way on the train, but when we arrived it was a beautiful sunny day. Ayumi’s mom is the sweetest, and put us up in a ryokan for the night, so we headed over to drop off our stuff.

That’s when Ayumi told me we were going to be renting bikes for the day. I was instantly terrified — I’m not the most…. athletic person in the world, nor do I have very good balance, so the idea of biking around was quite daunting. Luckily though, Ayumi ignored my reservations and promised it would be fine. She was totally right, as usual.

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After getting our bikes we headed towards the park. Nara is famous for the wild deer that live everywhere in the city, and I was not disappointed. We bought shika crackers and fed the first pack of deer we came across.

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The deer were impossibly cute, but I think my favorite part of the whole thing was the little kids who were terrified out of their minds. Everywhere we went there was a kid screaming and crying, running away from a group of deer after trying to feed them. But of course, they never dropped the deer snacks they were holding, so the whole pack would follow them down the street. If that’s not how phobias are born, I don’t know what would do the trick.

We biked to Todaiji Temple, passing families of deer the whole way. It really is something else to see wild animals next to big buildings and cars — in Brooklyn we just have squirrels and rats. It was awesome.

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Todaiji is home to a daibutsu, a giant statue of Buddha. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Suffice it to say, it was incredible.

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After Todaiji, we decided to bike up Wakakusaya Mountain. But, of course, we had rented the cheapest bikes, and they didn’t have gears. It became clear very quickly that biking up a mountain on a gravel road on a bike with no gears and sub-par lung capacity was not going to happen. So we parked the bikes and headed up.

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The path up was gorgeous. We were passed by a few groups of people who were probably 50 years older than us, which was discouraging, but not surprising. The view from the summit was totally worth it.

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And, of course, there were more shika at the top of the mountain…

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Animals love Ayumi. She’s like Nausicaa, or the dog whisperer or something. So the shika flocked to her even though we were out of treats.

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But what’s better than a bunch of deer on top of a mountain? A bunch of deer playing with a bunch of kids on top of a mountain. So that happened.

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We were exhausted, so we headed back to our room in the ryokan for rest and dinner. We were having Nabe for dinner, which is something I hadn’t eaten yet. And let me tell you, internet, it’s fucking awesome.

One of the women working in the ryokan came into our room with a portable burner and a giant pot. We were each given an appetizer plate.

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And then she brought out the two largest plates of fresh vegetables and fish and meat that I’ve ever seen.

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This was after we put half of it in.

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There were about 5 different kinds of mushrooms, wakame, glass noodles, buri, salmon, pork, chicken, giant prawns, clams…. Our host filled the pot with broth and started placing the different ingredients in.

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One of the cool things about nabe is as the meal goes on, everything becomes more and more delicious because the broth takes on the flavors of everything you put into it. We were very happy campers. Did we eat the entire thing? Of course we did.

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BUT, nabe doesn’t end when you’re done with this part. No sir. Then it’s time to make ….. shit I can’t remember what it’s called. Ayumi! What’s it called!

Well, here’s what you do. You take a giant thing of rice and throw it into the broth.

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After it’s soaked up a fair amount, you add scallions, and then pour raw egg over. The result is this amazing porridge. It’s comfort food to the max.

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Dad, you know that scene in Princess Mononoke when Ashitaka and Jigo have that meal together outside? This is what Jigo makes.

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After dinner we both took nice long baths, put on our yukatas, and climbed into our futons and slept extremely well. And so ended my weekend with the wonderful Ayumi Yoshida. MOSHIDA WILL RISE AGAIN. I love you girl.

 

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5 responses to “Shika Fever – OR – A Weekend with Ayumi, Part 3

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