Teiko drum festival and wasabi!!!!!

Matsumoto Travel Blog

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After another night and day of getting stuffed by multiple course ridiculous meals, we headed off to Matsumoto.  We arrived just in time to catch the Teiko drum festival, which was pretty intense. But before we talk about some crazy drumbeats, we'll touch on a few local specialties!

In our LP, we read that Matsumoto has some regional delicacies that are quite unique.  This of course was of utmost interest to our resident adventure eater, so we searched out a restaurant that had plenty of horse meat sashimi, crickets, bee larvae and caddis fly larvae.  Since Jeff had already gotten his fill of crickets, he chose the other three specialties to try.  I of course, got tempura and was very skeptical.  First the horse meat, which we were actually used to be now, as we had hida beef sashimi at one of our 12 course dinners!  The difference is that horsemeat is very very very dark in color, almost a blood red liver color.  Both Jeff and I had sampled horse in France before, and were less than jazzed, but he gave it another try, and was actually impressed.  He even went so far as to say that it was good!  Alright, fine- I'll try it- raw horsemeat is actually not bad!!!  I wouldn't want it for a regular treat, but hey I wasn't gagging or anything.

Next come the caddis fly larvae, and once again, in these little towns fast internet is hard to come by so pictures will be forthcoming.  These truly looked like shriveled up fly worms, charred black, but served in a very fancy egg-cup with a little greenery to boot.  I vetoed trying those immediately and even Jeff flinched a little when he saw them, but hey- when in Rome...  He claims that they are similar to meal worms- no taste, just a boat for the sauce, and in this case pretty disappointing all around.  Next come the bee larvae, and since the flys had failed so miserably our hopes were not set high.  But to our suprise.... they were fantastic!  Once again, an egg-cup arrives with what is most definitely baby bees, with no wings, not that appetizing.  There are white ones, which were more mealy and black ones, or their shells, which were tasty with a bit of a crunch.  After Jeff's enthusiastic approval, Kelsey even tried one.  The white ones I could do without, but the black crunchy ones- hey they get my seal of approval.  Bee larvae- who knew?

We left this restaurant, because very quickly our bill was racking up.  An egg-cup full of bee larvae was 15 bucks after all.  And we had gone through 2 bottles of liquid courage- sake!!! So we decide to head to the Teiko drum festival.  Teiko is the traditional drumming style of Japan with different styles and sizes of barrel type drums, which produce a very instinctual almost carnal drum beat.  They sound very old, like sitting around the campfire about to do a human sacrifice kind of drums, so it was a very fun experience.  We got there just as the sun was setting, and we got some absolutely incredible pictures of Matsumoto castle with the sunset behind it- once again, pics to come.  We decide to keep up the sake fest, and head to a building with a rooftop bar that faces the stage. 

There was a table of rowdy Japanese men next to us... and 9 flasks of sake later.... we were joining in with their chants of daijobu, daijobu, dai-jo-bu!!!  OK, OK, O-K!  Why that word was chosen for drinking chants is beyond me, but it was very catchy!!!  Jeff was comparing his beer belly with the other guys, and they were shocked and cracking up laughing when Jeff pulls his shirt up to reveal his hairy belly!  They gave us fruit and some other stuff to eat, at one point we had eel fries, though I think we accidentally ordered them, and then Kelsey poured sake into some of the guys' mouths (there weren't enough cups to go around!!!!)

It was our first real interaction with real Japanese people (as opposed to those damn fake ones!!!) besides our hostel owners in Kyoto!!  They spoke absolutely no English, so it was up to Jeff to communicate.  It is amazing how much can be said with sign language!!!!  Tons of fun!

We awoke the next morning on very uncomfortable futons in our hostel (I am beginning to miss mattresses and American style pillows- we've been on futons on tatamis with buckwheat husk pillows for 4 days now...) not a little bit hungover, but we had to push that aside, because we were going to a WASABI farm!!!  Daio wasabi farm is in a suburb of Matsumoto, so on to a quick local train and after a bicycle rental we were there.  It was definitely a tourist location for the Japanese, we saw a few westerners, but the place was definitely packed.  The wasabi harvest had just started, so most of the plants were covered in a black tarp (to slow future ripening?).  The main draw of the place was wasabi everything- pickles, ice cream, pasta, rice, beer, juice- you name it and they had a green tinted version of it ready to sell.  We sampled the wasabi beer, spaghetti and rice balls.  To be honest, after having some You-just-got-punched-in-the-face wasabi sashimi back in the states, we expected more punch.  (Although, having drank too much sake the last night, it was probably a good thing that the wasabi was mild!)  There was barely a flavor of wasabi to the dishes, and we ended up adding a lot more!!  We also made what the sign said was wasabi pickles, but ended up being minced wasabi in a miso paste.  We got the three days part, but there was a little confusion over whether to eat them in three days, or to wait three days before eating.  Jeff and I decided to try them on the third day and hope for the best.

After our wasabi experience, we headed off to Obuse, a small mountain town outside of Nagano where we are going to hit up some onsen- hot springs, and some museums (bonsai museum anyone!!!!)

Our trip is quickly coming to a close!!! :(

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photo by: nidge76