The onsen waters of Matsunoyama Onsen are well-known throughout Japan. It is one of the top three curative spring areas in the country, and they have also started to harness the geo-thermal power to make electricity for the town. The onsen water is definitely seen as a treasure of the town.
The very hot spring water (it comes out of the ground at 98 degrees) is also being put to another good use – cooking. Tsunan Pork is a famous brand of meat that is raised locally and this is now being cooked at low temperatures for a few hours in a flowing bath of onsen water to produce wonderfully soft and juicy pork. The ideal temperature is a very small window between 63-68 degrees, and the cooking time is about 3 hours. Touji-buta has now become a famous product of Matsunoyama Onsen. The same process is used to cooked eggs and vegetables.
We saw sealed bags of pork cooking away in the onsen waters outside Chitose Ryokan and went inside for lunch. There are several different dishes on the menu making use of the slow cooked onsen pork. The bowl of pork on rice was wonderful. Another treat worthy of attention is the long cooked pork. This came about as a bit of an accident when some meat was forgotten about and left in the cooking water for around 12 hours. The resulting meat turned out to be pretty fantastic and real melt-in-the-mouth stuff, so made it onto the menu.
Touji-buta is definitely worth putting on your list if you are over in Matsunoyama Onsen. [Touji-buta sandwiches and eggs boiled in the onsen waters of the town also happen to be the lunch menu on the Matsunoyama Royal Snow Tour.] They do cooking classes in a traditional farmhouse style building using ingredients that can be picked in the surrounded mountains – shoots and vegetables in spring, and mushrooms in fall. You can also make dough out of a combination of rice flour and wheat flour and cook it on bamboo sticks over the indoor irori hearth. Homemade rice flour bread sticks with slow cooked pork anyone…?