I spent the last couple of days planning our trip to Japan. I needed a complete itinerary for my My to apply for a visa. With reservations and everything. So I booked flights and hotels but – more importantly – before I could do that I had to sit down and make a plan of what I thought we wanted to see and experience and decide on the most practical itinerary.
You cannot imagine how difficult it is to plan an individual trip through Japan (even if it is only on the main Honshu island). Nobody likes to travel as much (on the weekends) as the Japanese. Even in big cities like Osaka where the internet reservation portal Agoda lists 270 hotels there are only 9 with available rooms on the weekend in three weeks!
Much worse is the situation when it comes to “Onsen” and “Ryokan” – you know, Onsen are the hot mineral springs that you bathe in – and you stay in a ryokan with your woman to be pampered and have three meals a day served on the floor of your traditional Japanese room with its paper walls.
I absolutely want and must go to a village called Kinosaki, probably the most famous onsen centre in Japan. The bad news is that they are all booked till Christmas and later! The good news: I found an old one that has a non-working website without internet booking. They have a free room. We have been haggling about the price for the last three days. Maybe they only played along because I am the first one ever to try and do this. The problem is the menu! On 7th of November (shortly before we would arrive) the crab season starts! (I should have told you that Kinosaki is at the Northern seaside in Western Honshu). And in every Ryokan long the coast crab is THE thing on the menu.
Now, you all know me as duck lover – but I am also the crab adorer! In fact, I could live on crab!
And from the 7th on all meals in Kinosaki ryokans will contain crab, lobster, shrimp and so on…the Japanese way. And, believe me, NOBODY cooks seafood like the Japanese! So far, so good. Sadly, my MY has an allergy against crayfish And all meal options include crab, lobster and shrimp!) So, the hotel suggested the bare bone, no meals option What can I do? Suffer? And go to an outside restaurant? Probably
What intrigues me is this Japanese culture of absorbing nature, being part of it, in fact, the thinking that you are part of it but not the centre! The same with food. You treat it with great respect. And you try to bring out the purest taste of every ingredient involved. No greater human culture than this! The combination of intellect and (sometimes) passion. Not like the hot passion of the Thai with intellect being in the background.
Anyway, two nights and five meals (not counting breakfast) in this ryokan in Kinosaki sounds like the experience of a lifetime. Even if it has a serious negative financial effect on my future life (you would not believe how expensive this is).
But it is worth the money. Because it will also give me the basis for my next business idea: an “onsen” in Banya (next to Bansko), with 63 hot mineral springs number two in Bulgaria (after Velingrad) and also number two in all of Europe! What will it be like? With a “ryokan” next or near to it. A small hotel with not more than 6 rooms. With prices for the elite of Bulgaria – and all of Europe. But also an experience and service not matched so far. A weekend getaway. For couples. Second honeymoon or so. Or sophisticated adulterers.
I like the concept. But it can’t be done with Bulgarians in charge. At least not “regular” ones.The food should not be Japanese. Because European taste-buds rarely reach further than sushi. It should be a fusion kind of Pirinsko and Asian. Like my double braised pork-belly with red date in Beijing, or so. And for the ladies’ delight something like my dinner tonight: glass noodles with chicken hearts and livers (from “real” chicken). Well, endless possibilities.
Maybe a screening of one of Oshima’s films like “Empire of Passion” on the video wall of the room after lunch, to get the couple on the tatami into the mood before heading out to the onsen?
Well, as I said: endless possibilities. New things for Europe and/or Bulgaria! Lifestyle fusion! Not just food! The best of the world in one place? Yes, my place!
I will sleep about this till tomorrow?…