Monday, 5 June 2017

The Black Eggs of Owakudani

Owakudani or “the Great Boiling Valley” in Hakone, Japan, is barely the perfect tourist spot. However it’s a large volcanic caldera formed almost three thousand years ago following a large eruption of Mount Hakone. It was also known as "Jigokudani" (the Valley of Hell) by locals some time ago. Once you step foot on its wondrous soil, it will surely will take your breath away.  Owakudani is still active with boiling pools of sulphur-rich water and huge vents spewing forth steam and volcanic fumes of hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide. Because the whole area has a robust smell of rotten eggs, but it’s the eggs the tourists who visit the Great Boiling Valley are seeking for.

The Owakudani black eggs or “Kuro-tamago” are regular chicken eggs that are tough in the naturally hot water pools. The sulphur in the water renders the eggs’ shell black while also imparting a particular smell to it. Thus the local peoples say that taking one can prolong one’s life by 7 years. If you take two, and you’ll get 14 extra years added to your life. Therefore, the eggs are boiled on top of a hill which peoples can reach by a kilometer long hike or by taking the Hakone Ropeway. Here from this vantage point one can have a superb view of Mt. Fuji that lies next door. This area is prone to landslides due to the continuous volcanic activity. In potentially dangerous conditions, the walkways to the egg boiling springs may be closed.

The eggs are continually cooked in large batches in the waters of a spring located on top of a hill. They’re loaded onto large metal crates and plunged into the 80˚C spring water for about an hour. Then they are steamed at 100˚C for 15 minutes. They come out perfectly black, with the insides still white and yellow like a regular boiled egg. The eggs are eaten right there, also the spring where they are boiled and sold. So, small wooden tables are laid out in the open for guests to peel the blackened shells and enjoy the soft sulphur tinged flesh inside. The black eggs are so popular throughout Hakone and one need not always visit Owakudani to eat them. They’re sold in numerous shops around the town in small bags of six for 500 Yen. There is nothing wrong about eating sulphur boiled eggs, actually. If you think they are gross, you should sense how the Chinese like their eggs.