Though Izu’s east coast may be more easily accessible from Tokyo, there is a reward in store for those who venture west. The final section of the road into Toi, a resort town on the western coast of the Izu Peninsula, starts at the top of a jagged mountain range behind the town. As you make the descent toward the coast, the view of the vast, glittering expanse of Suruga Bay is breathtaking. It’s an auspicious start to my stay at a very special bed and breakfast.
La Posada is a cozy, eight-room B&B run by the Yamaguchi family, who spent over 20 years living in Mexico City. In 1964, the Japanese Olympic Committee dispatched La Posada’s founder, Tomoyoshi, to develop the sport of judo there. Tomoyoshi passed away last year, but he remains a towering figure in Mexican judo, famed for his ambidextrous style and vice-like grip: Mexico’s national team selection tournament is named after him. Tomoyoshi’s former students, many of whom found judo a refuge from deprivation and delinquency, now keep the family well-supplied with the essential ingredients that go into La Posada’s authentic Mexican cuisine.
Victor, the couple’s eldest son, takes some time to tell me his family’s story and to show me the local area. We soon meet Oscar, his younger brother, the gracious general manager at the hotel. His sister, Karina, is the mastermind behind the homemade sauces and jams that guests can enjoy at mealtimes and purchase to take home.
“We are all black belts in the family,” Victor tells me, making me realize how incredibly tame the childhood scuffles with my siblings must have been by comparison.
I visit the nearby Dogashima coast, which offers stunning views across the sea to Mount Fuji, and where I hike up the cliffs to see the turquoise swells smashing against the rocks. In Toi, I visit the town’s historic gold mine, and am lucky enough to catch the early blossoms of a Kawazu cherry tree.
Back at the hotel I enjoy a relaxing soak in the onsen (hot spring), before heading to the dining room to embark on La Posada’s trademark multicourse feast prepared by the 76-year-old “Mama” Yamaguchi. Victor emphasizes that “this is not Tex-Mex,” but rather a far more authentic version of Mexican cuisine.
We begin with a refreshing apricot margarita, the glass rimmed with chili salts. The first course is a tostada, piled high with beans and cheese. Next comes pozole, the “ramen of Mexico,” as Victor puts it, a humble, workingman’s soup made from simmered giant corn and topped with fresh vegetables. Enchiladas verdes follow, with a sauce made from home-grown tomatillos. These are followed by tamales, beautifully wrapped parcels of pulverized maize steamed in a corn husk.
But the highlight of the evening is the Mole Poblano, a thick, dark sauce made from chocolate and almonds, in which chicken is slowly braised until the meat falls straight from the bone. The meal is rounded off with dessert and one or two shots of specially imported tequila to ensure I sleep soundly.
The culinary adventure continues the next morning. Vast plates of huevos rancheros greet me at breakfast, in addition to a basket of freshly baked breads. This provides an excellent opportunity to sample Karina’s wide range of homemade hot sauces and jams such as her Red Jalapeno Jelly, or my personal favorite, the unforgettable Pear Jalapeno Jam.
Victor shows me one of the eight fields near the guesthouse where he grows jalapeno, poblano, serrano, bhut jolokia (ghost peppers) and Carolina reaper peppers for the sauces. “For some reason they like it here in Toi,” he says, telling me how the peppers acquire their fiery flavor during the hot summer months.
Groups of six or more can also enjoy a lunch of freshly made Mexican-style pizzas, another great way to enjoy Karina’s creations. I set off for home with a full belly, a stockpile of jams and sauces, and feeling refreshed after a restorative weekend in this lovely corner of Shizuoka Prefecture.
La Posada is located at Toi 46, Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture 410-3302. For more information, visit laposada.jp. La Posada jams and sauces are available for sale through the hotel.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5