A Glorious Final Day in Oita
Hello Foodies! Welcome back to Oita and the second part of my amazing weekend there! When I left you, we had just been drinking Japanese whisky and cocktails in a state of overfed elation. A night sleeping on a hotel floor brought me sharply back down to earth, but the day ahead quickly remedied that! This day is what we will cover in this flog. It featured great breakfast, the octopus balls that were promised previously, more great rugby, and finally, an amazing dinner with friends of the Weavers. It was a brilliant day, so I hope you will join me in reliving it!
Let’s start with breakfast! Seems sensible doesn’t it? Philip Weaver kindly gave Mark and me his breakfast coupons for the Mystays hotel buffet so we could see what it involved. What we got was apparently typical for a Japanese business hotel. There was fruit, noodles, fried rice and endless other options. But for me, the winner was the fried chicken. This was in a lovely crispy batter and the saltiness gave it an almost bacon-like quality. I love savoury breakfasts, so this really hit the spot. The egg fried rice that I had with it was also a great filler and I think I might have even added scrambled eggs to make me feel more at home. I am generally a very adventurous eater, but for some reason breakfast always makes me crave a little normality. This was the perfect combo of a little different and interesting, but also just familiar enough. Conveniently, just as I was getting too comfortable, there was some pungent smoked fish to tickle my taste buds. It was really tasty and is meant to be a very typical start to the Japanese day – one that I would recommend but perhaps a little later than sparrow fart (dawn for the more cultured amongst us). Anyway, after stuffing ourselves on buffet food and coffee, we were well set for a big day. We were going to watch France take on Wales and then Japan would be playing South Africa afterwards. But first, there was a bit of time to explore Oita and to try and get a bit of culture in.
For our cultural fix, we headed to Oita Prefectural Art Museum (OPAM), where they had laid on a cultural exhibition for all the tourists who had come to their city. Sadly, we were too full for the food aspects of this, but Philip (Mark’s dad if you couldn’t remember) insisted that Mark and I try our hands at Japanese calligraphy. Now, I think this was just so he could sneak off for a relaxing morning coffee, but either way we were tied in. If you had ever seen me draw, you would know that art isn’t my strong point. Mark on the other hand is pretty talented. It was time for me to make a fool of myself! We sat down and one of the guides acted as our translator, while a lovely lady tried to teach us. It was pretty hard work and we soon had a crowd of locals watching and giving us moral support (or just adding a heap of pressure). The highlight came when Mark finished a complicated character with a flourish, and the group of Japanese ladies spectating gave him a round of applause with whoops and cheers! Unsurprisingly, there was no such clapping for my clumsier attempts. Happily, we both personalised a fan and mine came out alright-ish? Well, you can be the judge as there is a picture of it below!
After our artistic showdown, it was time to grab a snack and some drinks, before heading to the ground to watch the steady Welsh take on the erratic French. The snack involved some delicious breaded white fish. This was done to perfection with a cripsy shell and soft flaky fish. It was in goujons so perfect for sharing, even if we regretted not getting a portion each! After snacking, we boarded the bus for the stadium and cracked on with our beer and hooch. It was the start of a long and eventful day! The match was a tense one, with the French in control until a moment of thuggish madness cost them the game. It was great fun to watch though and went right down to the wire! After this excitement, we hurried back to the Oita Fan Zone so we could watch South Africa verses our amazing hosts, Japan. The Fan Zone had an awesome set up in the city centre, with loads of big screens to watch the games. And importantly, there were plenty of food and drinks vendors to keep us happy and sustained. As the game got going, the home support started to really show through, all around us. It was infectious and made us desperate for Japan to win.
The match was amazing, and the atmosphere was wonderful. In addition, we had the fortune to try a local delicacy… ‘Takoyaki’ a.k.a octopus balls. I would describe these as a sort of savoury profiterole, with something that resembled a white sauce inside. This was combined with small chunks of octopus and some shavings of crispy onion. They were not to everyone’s taste, and they came at a temperature which could have destroyed Sauron’s ring. But, once they had cooled a bit, I found them intriguingly delicious. The texture did seem slightly strange, but the mixture of savoury and sweet was balanced really well. They were the perfect way to get some authentic regional food in before we moved on to other delicacies that were a bit more familiar. Basically, more amazing fried chicken – the perfect accompaniment for any lager. We enjoyed our snacks and got completely immersed in the rugby, along with the thousands of Japanese supporters. On that note, if you had any interest in the Rugby World Cup, you will have heard how amazing a host Japan was. I just want to reiterate this point though. The Japanese were so welcoming and helpful, even though there was often a significant language barrier. Also, when it came to the rugby, the people were completely invested and desperate for their team to do well. And the Cherry Blossoms certainly delivered! They put on some of the best performances of the tournament and some of their tries were out of this world (sorry if you’re a Scotland fan, but they were incredible against you!). Sadly, on this occasion, South Africa proved to be too much for Japan – even more annoying as SA went on to beat England! Either way, it was a privilege to be a part of such a fantastic event.
After a fantastic day, there was only one thing to do to round it all off… and that was to have an incredible dinner with Philip, Mark, the Scott’s and the Vasquez’s. Now, if I had any idea that I would be writing this flog, I would have paid a bit more attention to what was going on… However, as it was, we were all a bit carried away with the amazing weekend we were having. I am sure it was purely the excitement, and nothing to do with booze, but I have tried to gather some information about what we ate and other details from the night. Weirdly, everyone else seems to have slightly hazy memories of it, too! What I can tell you is that we went to an amazing restaurant (I am as annoyed as you are that I can’t remember its name). It was an immersive experience, with lockers for your shoes at the door, so you didn’t wear them in the building. The restaurant was busy and spanned over two floors with an epic bar area at the bottom. After leaving our smelly shoes behind (speaking for myslelf), we were led to a lovely private booth, where the tables were sunk into the ground. This made it feel more authentically Japanese but allowed us less limber Westerners to eat in comfort!
Once we had lowered ourselves in, we settled in for a long evening, happily reminiscing about our amazing weekend. We ordered drinks and soon after that we ordered food… somehow a jeroboam of sake also turned up. We had just enough sense to send it back for a smaller magnum, but this was still a hefty bottle! I personally like sake when it’s nice and cold, but don’t necessarily want loads of it. On this occasion, not having loads wasn’t really an option! For some reason, as recent graduates, Mark and I were expected to take up some of the adults’ slack! So, now I am trying to remember our orders, and all I can say for sure is that it was damn good! In Western lingo, we had a tapas style meal. There were various amazing sharing plates for us all to try and it was all superb. The thing that stands out in my memory is some deliciously marinated, flame-grilled meat skewers. They were perfectly cooked and beautifully tender. In this kind of Japanese meal, you can’t help but order tempura prawns and these were some of the better ones I’ve had. The lightness of Japanese batter is next level and the freshness of the prawns made the dish exceptional – Oita is right next to the sea, so they had to nail this. On that note, we also had some delicious whole fish, perhaps bream, which was cooked to perfection – you wouldn’t expect anything less! All in all, it was a raucous and brilliant evening where everything came together perfectly. We entered with high spirits and they were only boosted by the quality of the meal and the never-ending bottle of sake. As the picture below will show you, the food was totally demolished, and we were one happy group of Brits abroad!
After all this excitement, Mark and I said our goodbyes to the others and set off for our hotel. This was a fair old journey, because most places in the centre had been booked up. In an attempt to sober up before bed, we decided to walk it. This turned out to be a great idea. We walked past beautiful sights such as the ‘Oita Funai Castle Ruins’, at a time where very few people were around, so it was lovely and peaceful. It also gave us time to drink a few litres of water which would be essential for our quest to get up nice and early the following morning. Finally, we got to our hotel and settled into our futons for a few hours kip. Our alarms went off all too soon though and we were up and out, so we could catch a train back up north, towards Hakone. This is going to be the venue of the next instalment of the Dadbod in Japan. Make sure you like this article and subscribe, so you don’t miss it! Also, if you have any questions or suggestion, then be sure to comment with them so I know what y’all are thinking. And for those of you who are dedicated to the food, the best is very much still to come!
Yours in food,
Thank you to the Scott’s and the Vasquez’s, as well as the Weaver’s, not only for being great company, but also for trying to help jog my memory on our time in Oita. Plus, thanks to Charles for the great group photo. It definitely captures the slightly giddy mood we were all in!