Looking for cooler air and a break from the city, we booked a few nights in Hakuba, up in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. Our trip included the perfect balance of lazy mornings and outdoorsy afternoons. You know the kind – sleep in, late breakfast, linger over coffee as you decide what to do with the day. On one such day we took a trip to the beach. Our Hakuba lodge hosts drove us north to the Sea of Japan where we lolled about in the sea and fished for our dinner. Well, the boys fished for dinner. I enjoyed the crystal clear water and played with the four kids that accompanied us on the trip. After a few hours we were sufficiently waterlogged and the empty boxes that we had carried down to the shore were full. Our catch included oysters, mussels, abalone and sazai.
Home we went to arrange tables and chairs on the deck and fire up the barbecue. But as is the case with Japanese food, not everything we caught was to be cooked. While the coals heated up, we squeezed lemon over our freshly shucked oysters, and dipped slices of sashimi – sazai and abalone – in to little dishes of soy sauce. Next we feasted on mussels that had been scrubbed clean and simmered in butter, garlic and white wine. We ate abalone, steamed in their shells; some with butter, salt and pepper and others with a little soy sauce. After steaming them in their own juices over the coals, we used toothpicks to ease the sazai out of their cone-shaped shells. Finally, fresh prawns were thrown straight on to the grill to later be peeled and drizzled with lemon juice. Cold beer matched perfectly and with the chorus of chirping cicadas in the background we ate and drank and laughed long in to the night.
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