One weekend in late November U and I headed out on a Toshogu crawl, as we often do (but hadn't in a while). Sunday being his one day off we started late, and weren't out of the house until early afternoon. Then we ran a few errands, and before we knew it it was starting to get dark! We headed off to the first Toshogu on our list, but by the time we got there it was dark and so we decided to visit again another day when we might actually be able to see the shrine!
Thus started our adventure.
U took a wrong turn as we were leaving the neighbourhood of the shrine, turning left when he probably should have turned right. The road wasn't on our navi system, and going by the piles of equipment still littering the area, the road had only just been completed. There wasn't anywhere to turn off or turn around, so we kept going.
We were on a new road through rice fields in a valley ringed by tall hills. Suddenly we came to a small village - it could have been just about anywhere in rural Japan, and probably about anywhen from the past 40 years too! We slowed down and drank in the view, amused by suddenly happening on this little town not all that far from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and yet so far far away from it all! The guy behind us wasn't too thrilled with our lazy pace, however, so U veered off onto a side street to let the mini-pick up truck pass.
We drove down narrow little roads and before long came to the edge of town. A bridge took us across the river and to the other side of the valley. Familiar blue signs pointed the direction to various places, and U started to go into the right hand lane to turn and head home. I looked left, and saw another little village tucked away around a bend in the road. Impulsively I asked U to go left.
He grinned and switched lanes, turning left with a big smile on his face.
We drove along, feeling like little kids exploring a new park. The road dipped and went around a bend and we stared out of the windows watching with delight.
Unfortunately the scenery that unfolded was all to familiar urban sprawl. I sighed and sat back, disappointed. But then I saw what appeared to be a michi-no-eki. My stomach was telling me it had been a while since lunch, and michi-no-eki often have yummy food on sale, so I pointed it out to U and he pulled into the parking lot. By the time we had parked and gotten out of the car I realized it was not a michi-no-eki, but a bakery complex. The banners proudly proclaimed an-pan to be the specialty, and my heart sank. I do really like bean paste, but most an-pan is rather boring. But we had parked and our stomachs were growling, so we headed in.
Ogino-pan (Ogino Bread) turned out to be a delightful discovery. At 6:30 Sunday evening the store was hopping, full of customers and the staff were busily putting out tray after tray of items fresh from the ovens. Free samples were copious and enthusiastically pushed onto customers. And the bread was delicious! We bought the ever-common Japanese cheese bread (a round loaf with cubes of cheese in the middle, and found it to be so much more flavourful than is common, with an array of herbs mixed in with the cheese), a cheese and kimuchi bun (that was still hot and ooooooohhhhh so yummy!), and a few other bits and pieces. As we were leaving the doughnut counter lady offered us a nibble of their doughnuts - wow! Soft and chewy yet crunchy outside, sweet but not overly so... So U went back into the store to buy a few doughnuts!
Most of the bread didn't find its way back home, although we did a few hours later, after taking another detour to a local kiddie amusement park...! But that will have to wait until tomorrow... ;)