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Showing posts from February, 2010

Obasaan English Club

A few times a month I teach an English for Obasaans club around my area. I get the greatest amount of enjoyment teaching these women, they are so fun. Once a month we have a pot luck and they each bring their own homemade specialties. This week was natural foods week, and boy, did they bring some very unique dishes. The way it works is that I eat while they explain to me how they made their own dishes in English. Most of them just sit there taking notes and eating a little here and there.(N.B. These are students only!)The rice dish you see on the left is full of fava beans and garlic with bacon. Very delicious. And then there’s the pudding like dish which is plain yogurt and dried mangos. Next to that is a tofu cake full of rum raisins and vanilla extract. Yum!From the noon position is a cinnamon and walnut apple cake made with all organic ingredients. At one o'clock there’s a lemon cake with lemon peels on top – Fabulous. The bottom half was made with oranges and a…


It’s time for me to shift from winter mode to spring mode. I know it’s a bit late for that. It’s also time for me to introduce yet another sake, a food item, and a lovely Jukujo too. Leading into spring mode I want my readers to understand from my own perspective what I consider the most beautiful elements in Japan, but let me not get ahead of myself either, let me take this post one step at a time.

First of all, Japan without Shinto, the indigenous religion of this country, isn’t Japan. And with that in mind I’d like to introduce one of my favorites goddesses. Her name is Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto. She is known in Shinto lore as the goddess of dawn and revelry. She is worshiped today as the Great Persuader, and The Heavenly Alarming Female. She’s also a woman who revels in her sensuality. This is a beautiful Kami, by the way. Nihonshu and Shinto go hand in hand. You can’t have Shinto without the nihonshu, and vise versa

The nihonshu listed below is called Oze no Shim…

This is called a 冬季限定 (tokigentei)or, in other words, winter time reserve, 賞味期限(shoumikigen) expiry 30 day nigori Junmai from Akita prefecture. The brewery is called Shirataki.

Sake meter value is at 65%. Nihonshu-do, which is the sake's density to water is -13. Most ordinary sake would be around plus 3 to 5,which would indicate a degree of dryness whereas minus would indicate sweetness. Some sake are plus 8( very dry), or like in the case of this featured sake minus 13! SWEET. Acidity is +1.5. Alc. is 15~16度. This is good though, as this is a milky colored sake.  Most all nigori(unfiltered) type sake will share this intense sweetness. This sake is also a bit gassy too.

                                "  Doburoku is not a real sake, but a type of sake "

Okay, so I ordered it, received it, tasted it, and fell in love with it. It was everything I would’ve expect from Akita prefecture, plus more. It had a creamy thick soupy consistency and yet, it didn’t o…

From My Train Window

I love riding the Tokaido Line. “Tokaido” literally means East Sea Route in Japanese and it’s one of the oldest and most frequently used routes in Japan, which also include a vast network of rail lines , too. These photos below were taken from the train window.Via Takasaki Station, I rode the Tokaido line up a winding stretch of track through sparsely populated pockets of small rural towns dotted along the outer fringes of nowhere. Places that hardly even exist in the minds of most people. A person was born here, lived, and died never once seeing anything other then his own little country hamlet grow empty and desolate and laying barren and wasted. These headstones are what’s left.( top pic)Someone lives here. I’m sure it makes a comfortable home for someone who lives here. These ramshackle homes are so interesting to me. I just want to go inside one and look around. These are the types of structures you begin to see the farther you ride up into the countryside.�…

King Crab Part III:極太

All good things shouldn’t be enjoyed just once.  They should be enjoyed as often as possible, like another shipment of king crab legs I ordered last week, 3kg!  And these were not just your ordinary king crab legs, these are called in Japanese 極太 or Gokubuto which is a generic term used to describe something extra thick, especially in the legs of an object or thing.And so I ordered, all 11,000 yen worth through my favorite online shop Rakuten.   Leggggzzzzz….And the sake for tonight; one that came highly recommended was called “ Wataya “ of Kanenoi Brewery in Kurihara city, Miyagi Prefecture.   It’s  a Junmai Ginjo Nakatori(sake taken from the middle layer) Namagenshu.  The rice used is called Akaiwa Omachi at 50%( An Okayama varietal).I used a light vinegar when dipping the crab meat which went excellent with the light fruity texture of this deliciously nihonshu.

Winter Wonderland: Onsen

I always look for this sign when researching about the hotels I plan to stay in. The sign says “天然温泉” Tenen Onsen, and in English it means “natural hot spring.” Having this sign posted in an onsenryoukan hotel means that their onsen is registered as a real onsen and not something out of a tap that’s treated. A mineral rich hot spring comes out of the earth as it is and at varying degrees in temperature and mineral richness. This post is best enjoyed over a tokkuri of hot sake and a nice soft track, I recommend Kenny “G’s” Esther – studio version. Not live.Night shot of the annex bathDay time view. Nothing compares to having a hot bath on a snowy day. The bitter chill, steamy hot mineral water, and nature all fused into one.Below is a new installment called onsen theater. Enjoy. Press Play.The thing I love most about Oigami’s water is it’s softness on the skin. Very mild calcium/sodium rich onsen that soothes tired muscles and works wonders for fatigue. What many don’t real…

Winter Wonderland II

In Japan there are many popular places that the Japanese flock to during the cold snowy months, namely, places like Kusatsu, Karuizawa, and Niseko.    Surprisingly enough though, is that the  Japanese have ignorantly squandered away a gold mine of a ski resort town ( Niseko ) by allowing Australian developers to move  in and develop condos and  property that they market very heavily in Australia as the Mecca of ski resort towns in world.     As a result, thousands of foreign nationals flood into this quiet town annually painting the town red in revelry.

Of course the money generated is recycled back into the city -- back into foreign pockets in reality not the community, that is.   The reason for mentioning this is because Niseko is blessed with some amazing hot springs and silky snow.  Other places like Tomamu, another ski resort town in Hokkaido, has been attracting mainly Japanese.   There are no onsen sources there, none, so I couldn’t include that in my list of must – see- place…

Winter Wonderland

( Nervous anticipation for my snow trip up north. My train)
If you miss a Japan winter what a real pity as this is an excellent year for some of the heaviest snowfall on record. This year, the snow came unseasonably early and fell hard then stopped in some parts of Hokuriku and Tohoku. Last year the snowfall was nowhere near as heavy as it was this year though, and I made it just in time. Northern Gunma prefecture is a fail safe part of Japan that always snows every single year without fail and on time. By the time I post this entry the heaviest snowfall will have probably finished. From now on, expect light snowfall from this time until March, if any at all. The brunt of winter is over.
I did good for myself on this recent trip. I completely narrowed down the three most important things of my trip: onsen, food, and sake. This was another solo trip where I had to literally brave through cold and snow near the Oigami, Tonemachi Interchange on foot for 2km; buses don’t r…