Morning prayers at the Fukuchi-in monastery are a serene experience and take place around 6am. The ancient temple is elaborate and after prayers we are taken on a tour of the shrines. Images of great generals and leaders of industry adorn the shrines giving the impression that Koyasan is a very desirable place for one’s soul to rest.
Back at the room our futon has been magically cleared and the first trays of breakfast have arrived.
Like dinner, breakfast is served on small tables on the floor. Just what I feel like, more kneeling on the floor after kneeling on the floor in the temple for an hour. My limbs were not made for this.
The centrepiece is a small shichirin with a pot of thick soymilk and freshly made tofu simmering away. Miso soup with slithers of fried yuba (tofu skin) and thin noodles sits next to the simmering tofu. The miso soup is intense, not so much with the flavour of miso but because it is made with a rich kombu dashi (seaweed stock).
Rice is a very important part of the Japanese breakfast so a generous lacquerware box is filled with excellently steamed rice. Rice accompaniments include seasoned hijiki (sorry but the Australian government decided this is far too dangerous for us to eat so banned it years ago), strips of nori (seaweed) and the most delicious salted ume (plum) I have ever tried. So much of the ume bought at the supermarket is intensely sour and oversalted. This ume had an excellent balance of sweet, sour and saltiness.
A small bowl of steamed crunchy sea vegetables sit next to a very salty and strong shoyu. In another bowl is a tofu “pattie” that has been simmered in a sweetened stock. Again the stock is luxuriously intense. The monks obviously spare no expense on buying the finest kombu.
Texture is an important consideration in Japanese cuisine and one texture that is highly prized can only be described as an unpleasant combination of slimy and sticky. Japanese people go crazy over this texture but like most foreigners I am not a huge fan. The final dish is grated and steamed mountain yam that was a perfect example of the above-mentioned texture. What a shame there were some tiny golden enoki heads that I had to rescue from this evil dish.
Time to hobble off to the onsen to get some feeling back in my knees.