蓮(Hasu) is Japanese for lotus. This giant but delicate flower has long been a symbol for Buddhism as it represents the true nature of beings, who rise above the suffering of life then blossom into the beauty and clarity of enlightenment. Just like the lotus, which is rooted deep in the mud, with a long stem that grows through murky water, and a bud that finally rises and opens into the sun.
In Minami Izu there is a privately owned lotus garden that I can’t wait to get back to. A 13 year work-in-progress, where you too can experience real beauty not only from the flowers but also from their grower. An old man with a story to tell and beauty to share. He only ask that you make a donation to Tohoku, where people are still struggling to make their way through the mud and devastation left by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
You can find the lotus garden on our google map here.
道 (Michi) means road, の (no) is a possessive like our ‘s, and 駅 (eki) means station. Together you have “Road Station“, which have all of the conveniences of a train station but is made for drivers and their cars. All michi-no-eki are organized by the government, and provide basic travel needs like free 24 hour parking, restrooms, and tourist information. Michi-no-eki is also the hub of many small towns providing them a place to promote tourism and trade. You can often find locally grown veggies, food stalls and restaurants with local specialties, souvenirs, hand-made goods, and sometimes even onsens! Michi-no-eki are government run and merchants are carefully selected to represent the town so you can be sure to find the best food and the most welcoming folks at the road-side michi-no-eki.
The Minami Izu michi-no-eki is my favorite place to buy locally grown veggies. They also have bread and other pastries, plants, a gallery with crafts for sale, and excellent soft ice-cream served with a load of fresh blueberries. I will add it to our recommendation map here. Take note of the michi-no-eki symbol below so you will know where to take a break the next time you are on the road.
Even though there is snow on the peaks of the alps in Nagano, Shimoda is still sunny and warm. There are very few signs of fall in fact, except these big orange persimmon (kaki) ripening on trees all over Izu.
Southern Izu is covered in Lilies of every kind,but the White Spider Lily has the sweetest fragrance of them all. Keep your eyes open, and put the brakes on when you spot one. Bet you can’t sniff just once.
Back in March this field of himawari (sunflowers) was a field of nanohana (rapeseed flowers). You can find it in Minami Izu, just south of Shimoda and on our recommendation map here.
This is what this field looked like in March:
We are forever receiving gifts from our neighbours and their gardens. In spring the local people forage through the bamboo forests and dig up these tasty delicacies, takenoko. If you eat them in the first two hours of being picked, you can enjoy “takenoko sashimi” or raw bamboo shoot with soy sauce and wasabi. If they are not that fresh then it is best to peel it, boil it, and use it for a number of dishes like, “takenoko gohan” (takenoko rice) and “nimono” (veggies boiled in a simple Japanese broth).
Here is Yasu’s yummy nimono recipe:
What you need:
1 takenoko (peeled, cut, and boiled in advance)
1 atsuage (friend tofu)
4 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs sugar
2 tbs mirin (sweet cooking sake)
1 tbs sake (Japanese rice wine)
400 ml of stock made with water and Japanese dashi (katsuo or kombu)
Boil everything together for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Turn off the heat and let it cool in the pot. It’s even better the next day!
Every year in Matsuzaki (west coast of Izu) wild flowers are grown in rice paddies before the rice seedlings are planted. Once the May flowers bloom everyone is invited to pick as many flowers as they can. I cut and collected as many flowers as I could carry. Next year though, I will be more prepared and bring a bucket, some large scissors or a sharp knife, and wear a T-shirt and shorts. It got pretty hot frolicking around in the flowers for hours.
Thanks Maia for the beautiful bouquet and for telling us about this endless field of floral fun!
You can find Matsuzaki on our tabi-tabi recommendations map here