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Showing posts from September, 2008

Hailing From Aizu Wakamatsu " Ore No Juban"

Fukushima×36°32'10.04"N138°57'18.28"EGoogle EarthMSN Virtual EarthMapquestWorldWindGoogle MapsYahoo Maps Introducing "kokken Ore no Deban" "This is my turn". This sake caught me completely off gaurd. I loved this taste. It came recommend by the brewer. Tokubetsu honjozo "gohyakumangoku" rice. Very flavorful for a honjozo and complex. You can taste a lot of maturity in this sake. Again new rice. All of the sake I taste is very recent. The bold print "kokken" is the name of the sake and ore no deban is a special brew made by kokken shuzo ! As for pear nose, not much there. Taste is acquired so saying something taste like this or that is subjective to ones own perception. You either like sake or you don't. This Autumn should see some nice sake come out. Stay open and try everything. You'll be surprised what sake will do for you.

Oirase Gorge in Akita

A major stopover for many tourists heading farther up north to Aomori. This gorge is a must visit place when exploring this area. I have camp out twice up here and loved it.

Rice Field

This photo was taken of the back-country in Niigata. Driving along a long stretching country road in the Tohoku region of Japan, one can catch gorgeous views of these beautiful golden rice fields.

Nogami Honkan

Nogami Honkan is ideal for foreign travellers who have limited Japanese ability. The owner speaks fluent English and is very friendly. I especially want to mention that he was nice enough to let me check-in at midnight! He even allow me to use the onsen,too. As most hotels don't allow check-in after 6pm, I was very lucky he allowed me to check-in.

Shintakayu Onsen

Actually, this onsen is attached to Azumiya Ryoukan, which is regarded as a hidden springs location in Yamagata. The reason for posting this photo was because it showcases a single bath made from a tree trunk. Again a harmony between water, earth, and wood.

And then the views!   Autumn and winter would be perfect times of the year to be up here.  Of course getting here is best by car, the only way actually.   Crisp chill air and nice aromatics from the steam is excellent.

Sannouiwa Rock !

This is a famous sightseeing spot for couples visiting Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. The reason I posted this photo is because it has very natural elements in it; sea,rock,and earth. This is also a very good place to reflect on oneself too.

Konyaku Sashimi !

I had to add this one because Konyaku's under represented in Japanese cuisine. Make no mistakes ladies & Gents, this is Japanese food. This gelatin like food stuff is widely enjoyed through-out Japan, and especially in Gunma ! No. It's not made from fish either. Most Americans wouldn't probably like it because of its overall blandness, but like everything you try for the first time here in Japan, it's an acquired taste.

Yume No Kaori

Yunohanachya Shinzaemon no Yu

Yunohanachya Shinzaemon no Yu, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. This is a poorly taken photo from an instant camera with no tri-pod.
The reason I posted this pic is because it is absolutely one of the best day-use onsen in Yamagata a person can go to, especially in the winter. The water quality is awesome !
number:023-693-1212 ; 600 yen to for day-use;10~21pm
From JR Yamagata by bus is 36 minutes. If you are coming by car then there's plenty of parking(60 spaces).

The Soul of Sake

Japan without the emperor is not Japan; Japan without nihonshu is not Japan; Japan without the legacy of the Samurai is not Japan; Japan without Mishima and Kawabata is not Japan; Japan without the Japanese woman is not Japan; Japan without manga and goofy comic books is still Japan. Japan without Tony is not Japan; Japan without Buddhism is still Japan; Japan without Shinto is not Japan. Japan without Shintaro Ishihara is not Japan !

Shirogane Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture

Located in Ginzan onsen, an onsen town, there's a very small and comfortable little onsen called Shirogane Yu. In just about every travel magazine in Japan this onsen is featured, so a few years ago I went there and tried it for myself. Glory ! At any rate, a few hours ago I was looking through the 2008 Rurubu, travel magazine, and found Shirogane onsen in it ! How impressive that after all of these years this onsen is still listed as one of the best in Yamagata. So, going through my old photos I found a picture of it and posted it tonight. Very heavy milky mineral water content that relaxes your muscles almost immediately. The unique feature of all of my onsen pics is that the information regarding them are all up-to-date and current and thoroughly enjoyed by many locals.

Nagoya Ko-Chin !

Nagoya is home to this very delicious free range wild chicken called Nagoya Ko-chin ! This is the juiciest, most delicious tasting chicken I ever had ! And if you know me, you know I love chicken! This photo was taken by me at a very well known restaurant in Nagoya called KURURU in downtown Nagoya near the Nagoya Station. I had to do my homework on this one by searching through a well-known travel magazine called "rurubu," which lists some excellent restaurant choices around Japan. Like everything else in my blog, my information is carefully researched and tried by me ! I generally refer to "rurubu " and "mapuru," which are excellent travel magazines that I frequently use. In this picture you can see a boneless grilled ko-chin chicken thigh grilled to perfection next to a nice mellow glass of shochu(Japanese potatoe wine). There's definitely a difference between regular store bought chicken and free range wild chicken. You haven't experi…

Yamanashi Grapes

Dear Reader, There are many web sites out there with information written about Yamanashi grapes, including this one. One keypoint I would like to highlight is the grape picking and the season in which the grapes are available. From August to October is the best season, and at these locations: Daimaru Park(0238-43-3594), Mahorobokankougajyuzen(0238-52-0588), Kushibiki(0235-57-5008),Yamadakjyuen (023-695-2427) and lastly Takahashihuru Land(023-673-4706)

Kushiro Blue Fin Sanma ! (Seito Sanma)

Straight Characteristics, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. There are two types of Saury; fresh saury and Seito Blue Fin Saury ! What you are looking at is a brand name saury that was fished 33 km off of the coast of Kushiro . It cost me a fortune to have shipped here. Fresh saury isn't firm like Seito Blue Fin Saury. Only this brand saury has this characteristics. If you hold it upright in one hand it never flops over. This is a sign that the saury is fat, healthy and well fed. Most saury flop over when holding it upright. Real Hokkaido Blue Fin or Seito Sanma as it's called in English. The Japanese name is called Seito Sanma, which is a seasonal fish only available in Autumn. When it’s shipped out you get a certificate of authenticity with the time; date; and location of where these fish were caught. Along with the names’ of the fishermen ! From left to right: Mr. Sugimoto; Mr. Sunaniwa; Mr. Kadowaki; and Mr. Honma are three of the top fishers working in Kushiro. O…

Takatomo Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture

What I look for in a good onsen part 2 ! Ugly beauty; smooth roughness; Remote and approachable; hard softness; Individually communal; smelly goodness; Painfully healing; milky watery; muddy cleanliness are what Describes this onsen. The third highest onsen rating in all of Tohoku !

How to Enjoy a Good Onsen Part 1

1) Good hot spring source is key: In this picture you can see a milky colored hot spring which is repudiated for its healing properties. For me, milky colored water is stronger and more mineral rich than most hot springs. These types of hot springs contain some of the largest amounts of sulfur known in Japan. The only downside is that after soaking for a prolonged period of time, the sulfur stays on your body for days, sometimes even weeks, no matter how much you shower.

For those who want to take advantage of this type of hot spring’s curative properties, I recommend taking a few days off from work first.  For me, I do think the benefits far out weigh the risk of stinking, though. Bathing in this type of water for 8 minutes could easily put you out for the day. Finding a really good milky colored source is not easy, though. Some establishments have been dishonest about their hot spring's mineral content, like in the case of Shirahone Onsen in Nagano a few years back where it was…

Myoko Kogen Fall Foliage(watermarked images)

Drizzling rain; neighing horses;sizzling bacon;spurting fountains;cool autumn breeze early in the morning. The colours of autumn in this part of Japan are priceless.

When it's you, all alone, in that hot tub at 5am on a very cold, crisp autumn morning, in the quietude of it all, you get a real sense of the seasons.   The steam is extra aromatic from the morning dew, and the smell of freshly cut wood.     It's a type of heaven.  

Hiyaoroshi-Tokubetsu Junmai from Kisoji in Nagano

Hiyaoroshi-Tokubetsu Junmai from Kisoji in Nagano, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. Hyaoroshi-tokubetsu junmai from Kisoji in Nagano
Black white label(taste almost like one; very good smell; fragrant; very easy to drink.)

Sweet, flowery, beautiful.

Another Autumnal Gem !

Dewa Zakura Ginjo Nama

Dewa Zakura Ginjo Nama, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. This is the Autumn Edition of Dewa Zakura. Taste is full and strong. Very nice !

Suehiro of Fukushima

Suehiro of Fukushima, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. Hiyaoroshi Junmai shu. This is the first edition for this Autumns sake lineup from Fukushima Prefecture. This sake is excellent with mixtures of sourness and sweetness. A truly Autumnal sake for the seasons.


Imo Koi

Imo Koi, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. Local specialty of Kawagoe in Saitama prefecture in Japan. Arguably the most recognized delicacy in the entire prefecture. Very very good and it goes well with hot tea.

Wild Vegetables !

Seasoned Veggies, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander.

The Disputed Burial Grounds of Christ !!

The disputed burial grounds of christ !!, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. In a little town called Shingo in Aomori Prefecture there is a place that is arguably the burial grounds of Jesus Christ of the Bible. It is said that 12 years of Christ's life is missing from the scriptures and that during that time Christ had traveled to Asia! According to some accounts Jesus traveled to India where there are records of The Christ performing miracles there. He also traveled to Japan and it was here that he married a Japanese woman and fathered a child. It is also said that his younger brother died for Jesus in proxy! Of course this is just lore and not to be taken literally. If the town of Shingo wants to spend its money on stuff that has no meaning for its people then so be it. Thousands of tourist flock to this place year after year to commemorate the frienship between Isreal and Japan, and to entertain the idea that Jesus once lived in Japan. No other country on earth has …

Language of Japan

The Japanese language was once a beautiful collage of rhyme and meter, and it still is, but a lot of the language itself has been lost in a sea of broken English words that have not only polluted the Japanese language, but has handicapped the learning processes for millions of Japanese who are struggling to learn to use and say English words properly.

The Japanese have grown too comfortable with misspellings and mispronunciations of literally thousands of English words.    The use of Katakana - a Japanese syllabic writing used for foreign languages - and downright laziness by not trying to figure out the correct way to “say” or “spell” a word. Just because it’s a foreign word and you have a separate writing system for foreign words doesn’t make it okay to misspell or mispronounce a word just because it’s easier to utter.

Words like [gas-o-rin] or [empitsu] just don’t cut it. Personally I think Katakana should be abolished, and in its place should be a rigorous set of guidelines to …

Kubota Suijyu

This sake is pronounced [ ku-bo-ta su-i-jew] And can be purchased from Asahi Brewery in Niigata Prefecture, the motherlode of sake. This sake had to be chosen for this site because it's a Kubota and it's a bit rare. The flavor characterictics are clean, crisp, and lightly fruity. As you can see from the picture I was eating Bonito(katsuo) with some excellent shoyu from Shikoku. This is another sake that can never go wrong.   Thanks.

Kono Ha No Yu " Balneotherapy"

How I keep fit and in a clear state of mind is by soaking in natural hot springs. Of course exercise and good diet are essential too. In North America, if you do a little research, there are tons of natural hot springs all over the place. Hot springs are very therapeutic and can aid in weight loss if done on a regular basis. Even sitting in a hot bath at home can increase blood circulation naturally, which in turn makes you perspire while expanding your blood vessels. As a result, you get increased blood flow. If you do a little calisthenics,...i.e. moving your arms and legs while sitting in a bath this will aid in burning excess calories. The neat thing is that anybody can do this, even injured people. In fact it is highly recommended by some health care professionals. The below excerpts are of my experiences with balneotherapy, and my overseas work in discovering natural hotsprings.

This onsen, Konoha, d…

Kikuyoi of Shizuoka

Kikuyoi of Shizuoka, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. A surprisingly delicious tokubetsu junmai. The yeast that was used to make it is grown only in Shizuoka. Highly recommended from this part of Japan. Even the koji mold is from Shizuoka !

Maru Aki Beef Eatery

Maru Ake Beef Eatery, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. On this thread I will be showcasing Japan's best beef and yakiniku eats from the three big beef cities; Gifu, Yamagata, and Mie...I haven't been to Kobe yet but if it's anything like Gifu then it's the best. First, we have "Hide Gyu" ひで牛 in the city of Takayama, Gifu. This beef comes from virgin female cow and is fed beer and given daily massages everyday so it gets fat, thus fatty beef. The restaurant in the photo is by far the most popular of all the beef haunts in Gifu, and the oldest. Adjacent to the restaurant is a meat processing center so you can't get any fresher than that.

Aburiya of Kanagawa !!

Aburiya of Kanagawa !!, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. If I had to recommend a very reasonable and delicious Yakiniku place, it would have to be Aburiya. It's located on route 17 in Kaminagaya, Yokohama. for two, I paid 8000 yen for six plate of gyu, three bowls of rice, babimba, and roasted garlic. The beef is very very delicious !

The Pouring of Koshi no Kambai

Cup Overfloweth !

Cup Overfloweth !, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander.

Echigo Tsurukame

Echigo Tsurukame, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. This sake hails from Niigata and was made by Uehara Chuzo, one of  the only sake breweries in Japan that's licensed under the emperial household to brew sake for the royal family.

One of the finest and is well known throughout Echigo Yuzawa in Niigata. This is a Junmai-shu!  Got the hinoki cup on the side, onsen in the backdrop.   I shudder

Midorikawa Shuzo; Junmai Ginjo

Midorikawa Shuzo originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. Snow cooled sake; all natural; delicious and refreshing. One of my favorite !     Midorgawa is another very well known and established brewer in Niigata that never fails at brewing fantastic sake every sake brewing season.    You want some light with a good texture and balance?   This is it.

Yu Ho ! Ishikawa Prefecture

Yu Ho ! from Ishikawa, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. This is a very special sake which hails from Ishikawa prefecture. The original owner of this brewery died just recently leaving his daughter to continue the business. She and the manager put their heads together and worked very hard to make a new sake for the spring of '07. This sake, according to her, is best paired with milk chocolate ! That's quite a rare recommendation if you ask me. The sake is wonderful as I have a bottle !

Jyokigen of Yamagata

Jyokigen of Yamagata, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. Simply perfect.   Rice beer and night bathing. This sake is one of the most well respected brews in Yamagata. I don't even need to explain the taste....haha...Ok. Maybe out of was delicious. Especially while sitting out under a starry night sky in a nice onsen.   Fully textured, a bit gamey.  Nice tail.   Jyokigen is a well established brand in these parts of Japan.

Dewazakura of Yamagata Ginjo-shu Nigori

Dewa Zakura of Yamagata Ginjo with nigori added, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. This is a nigori sake(white sediment at the bottom), or in other words, cloudy sake with some lees remaining.  Full fruity notes on the tongue with a coarse texture.   Some people may not like the gassy cloudy thick texture, though.   It's definitely an acquired taste.   Served chilled and served in moderation can be very enjoyable.   I always recommend this sake for those who visit Yamagata.

Another note is the pink label on the front of the bottle.  The Japanese characters are ( zara-zara-nigori), and what that means is a coarse grainy cloudy sake with some remaining lees.  When opening the bottle be careful about the gas by holding the bottle firmly and slowly twisting the cap off.  Of course naturally, you are going to want to turn the bottle upside down to get the lees moving around, unlike aged wines where the leftover sediment is decanted, sake  lees is enjoyed for its appealing snowy qu…

Kaga Tora

Kaga Tora, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. This sake is one of the finest sake you can drink around Muikamachi in Niigata.  Excellent full balanced taste which harmonizes well with sushi. Again, another sake you can't go wrong with.   Kaga Tora is one of those long time favorites that never gets old in terms of appeal.

Tsuru no Tomo

Tsurunotomo, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. This sake has been rated in some circles  as one of the top light tasting sake in Tohoku. You can never go wrong with this brand. Never!  I strongly recommend this sake for the undecided types.   Tradition Niigata sake beer at its finest.


Masumi, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. Nagano, not only famous for beautiful alps but sake as well.   Nagano sake is pioneer sake, meaning they are the first to develop KOBO yeast which is used through-out all of Japan. This sake is called Masumi which is one of the most respected sake breweries in all of Japan. This is the brewery that developed Kobo yeast that is used today. What I was drinking was a namagenshu.   This was the finest genshu I ever tasted.  Normally, I never drink Genshu but this one was an exception. Fruity, dry, mellow, full of complex flavors.   Genshu is a undiluted, giving it a higher alcohol content.  Nama means unpasteurized.

Kamogawa, Chiba's specialty sake: Koshigoi !

Kamogawa, Chiba's specialty sake: Koshigoi !, originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. Light tasting, lightly fruity, no acidic after-taste, very clean finish.   This was one of the best sake I have had all year!   This is a Jizake style sake( not a major brand outside of Chiba). A local favorite and one that deserves more recognition.

Relaxation by the river from my balcony.

Relaxation by the river from my balcony., originally uploaded by Tony Alexander. The way to relax ! By a meandering river, in the late afternoon, cold sake, the smell of summer and jasmine.   This is Japan.

Ise Jingu Shrine

Ise Jingu Shrine, the largest and most revered shrine in Japan, the national shrine of the Japanese Imperial Family and the spiritual Mecca of the Shinto faith, is home to Japan’s most venerated god, Amaterasu. It is also home to some of Japan’s largest cedar grove trees, the sacred forest, which lends its majestic beauty to this mythical and ancient god kingdom.

Visiting this place a few years ago was awe inspiring because you could literally feel a power in the air around you. The sense of nostalgia you get when you see large processions of priest walking toward the main gate evoke visions of time immemorial when Japan was at the height of her glory and beauty. A dignified Japan that had once existed, exists no more outside of these gates. I was at awe at how the shrine was meticulously built and at how well it was maintained over time, even down to the smallest little ornate detailed relief. I chose this shrine above all others because it is more pure and spiritual and because it ha…

Rural Home in Fukushima (color swap)

Love of the country !

Koike Onsen Indoor

Simple and Relaxing !

Koito Hotel in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture.

Koito Hotel near Fukushima's coast prides itself on being steeped in traditional and is considered one of the best onsen locations in Japan (heavy watermarking for protection)