M & I have researched the area quite a bit and besides the city centre and castle (which we did yesterday), the only other thing that looked worthwhile to see/spend time at was Lake Hamana. It is actually strictly speaking a lagoon as it is connected to the Pacific Ocean but Japan considers it to be the 10th largest lake in Japan. The water in the lake is brackish because of the connection to the ocean though apparently it wasn’t like this until 1498 when an earthquake in the area changed the topography. The lake is well known as it is a key source of eel, nori (what is wrapped around maki), prawns and soft-shelled turtles. That means they are many restaurants in the area specialising in those delicacies especially unagi (freshwater eel). While we have tried many local Japanese dishes while here, eel & turtle aren’t two things I am rushing to eat. I have eaten eel before and really don’t like it (it is very fatty and rich). What further puts me off eating it, is that unagi is poisonous unless cooked – thanks I will give it a skip!
All of that to say that M and I though we should at least go and look at Lake Hamana. Unfortunately to get to the resort area requires a 45 minute taxi costing the price of my house or a bus (slightly cheaper at about $10) but it stops 26 times on route to the area. Neither of those were of interest to us so we decided to rather take the train (free because of our rail pass) to Bentenjima station which is on the southern most tip of the lake and to walk to the Nagisaen camping ground (didn’t know the Japanese would camp!) which would give us a view of the lake.
While walking up to the lake the locals were looking at us like we were lost. They were no doubt thinking ‘Who are these idiots and why are they here – the tourist area is 45 minutes away’. The camp site was deserted except for one tent with some people in it. It seems the Japanese don’t camp. Lovely flat field though that M and I thought would make for a nice cricket field. M decided to climb down and at least feel how warm the water was – I didn’t want to risk it in any case of a sudden tsunami given these signs are up in numerous places.
Having seen the lake, we headed back to the train and back to hotel for the balance of the day. We did make a quick stop at the supermarket to have some snacks & drinks available for the balance of the day. We headed out again for dinner in the evening. Given we have eliminated unagi as a meal choice, that does limit the number of restaurants available to us. M did some googling and found that one of the top rated restaurants was an Italian place with an Italian chef/owner. Given we are playing Italy next it seemed fitting to eat some Italian food. While expensive (and turned out to be the most expensive meal we have had in Japan), it was still reasonable versus what we could pay.
M & I had wine for the first time in a week (Italian of course) and we had Japanese Carpaccio for starters and seafood risotto for main course. Both were very good. It was definitely the best food we have eaten since we have been here.
One thing I keep forgetting to tell you about Hamamatsu is that the signs are all in 3 languages – Japanese, English and Portuguese. The latter might surprise you but it is because a large number of Brazilian Japanese moved here since the 1980s. Hamamatsu has the largest number of Brazilian Japanese at around 15000. The Japanese government is trying to encourage them to return to Brazil and has a programme running that pays them $5000 a person if they return to Brazil and commit to not come back to Japan. Seems a little strange given the Japanese population needs younger people to support their aging population but clearly they don’t want Brazilian Japanese to do that.
Until tomorrow and our last game and last night in Japan ….
P & M