Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2010

玉露 Gyokuro: Jewel Dew

In the world of teas Japan is King.  Don't get me wrong here, I don't want to take credit away from big brother China.  I know they've been cultivating  tea for over a thousand years.  They are the great teachers of tea then and now.  But like most things, the refinement and aesthetic beauty handed down to us today by the Japanese is unmatched the world over, dating back as far as the 9th Century.  Jewel Dew is roughly what Gyokuro translates to.

This post is not about Japanese tea culture,though, but more about how teas pair well with traditional Japanese sweets.  When it comes to sweets the list is endless.  I could sit here for years and go down the list of Japanese sweets.  What I seek to do with this post is highlight I few very popular sweets along with a premium Japanese tea called Gyokuro.   In the world of Japanese tea this is one of the highest grades of tea you can drink.  It's quality is partly attributed to how long it's left to grow in shade.  Shade a…

Add This to your Summer Drink List: Kiwi Yoghurt Liqueur

On  hot humid summer nights like tonight, beer or Japanese sake usually hits the spot.  But tonight, I decided to switch over to Japanese liqueurs.  I have about three big hitters in my fridge right now, but for tonight I will highlight a delicious fruity summer treat called kiwi yoghurt liqueur, that's right, yoghurt liqueur!

Can you put together some of the flavor profiles in this drink?  Kiwi+yoghurt+citrus+Jasmine, and all over ice in a nice bell shaped Riedel glass.  It's creamy and green!  And it's got 7% alc.   I didn't know summer could taste so good.    This liqueur hails from Nara Prefecture deep in West Japan from Kitaoka Honten, and can be purchased from here

The Kiwi used for this liqueur are domestic and are not from New Zealand where they grow in abundance.  Typically, I am not really into to sweet drinks, but I cannot leave any stones unturned in Japan.  I must try everything.

Rare and Precious Waters Collection!

Water is fast becoming a rare resource in the world today. I just wanted to showcase some of Japan's finest bottled mineral water from all over Japan. I continue to chronicle Japanese water.  This time ordered seven different bottles.Hita Sui from Oita Prefecture in JapanHardness: 66 !
Very good. Nice hard taste, but still very natural at the same time.   It's called Hita Sui from Oita Prefecture.Awa Heart Water from FukushimaSpring water tapped after 100 years of sleep ! This is a carbonated water.Yakushima Island Jomon WaterKagoshima
Hardness 12
Nice refreshing. Very easy to drink. Hyotan MizuRemember, this water springs from a gourd deep in Nara the ancient city in Japan.
Hardness: 89.5 This is the same mineral water but a different bottleMashyuko from HokkaidoHardness: 19

Fukushima Peaches

Store bought peaches vs. brand named peaches mean very little to people who rarely eat the peach.  For me, summer wouldn't be complete without sinking your teeth into a juicy peach.  In this photo you can see a Fukushima-grown peach!  The juiciness and sweetness in this peach is by far the best I have ever had.

Both Fukushima  and Yamanashi Prefectures are prime peach growing regions in Japan - there are other areas, too.  However, if there had to be one prefecture that's very well known and recognized for its peaches  for decades then Fukushima is one such prefecture.   In Japan, the Japanese are blessed with fertile land and can grow just about anything.   However, Japan agriculture is mainly focused on small, high quality grown fruits and vegetables, unlike in North America where numbers are more important than quality, and this has a lot to do with NAFTA.

I have been to this prefecture over a dozen times to pick these incredibly delicious peaches.  There really is a dif…

Wasabi: Japanese Horseradish

An Asian plant of the mustard family.  The pungent, greenish root of this plant, which can be grated and used as a condiment is one of the most important additions to a variety of Japanese cuisines.I admit that prior to coming to Japan I didn't like wasabi at all - I was traumatized.  I was tricked into drinking a cup of liquidized wasabi by a bunch of ill natured caterers at a dance I was attending with my date.   I must've coughed up everything on my brand new silk tie and had to leave early that night because of it.  I didn't touch wasabi anymore after that.After moving to Japan I finally started trying wasabi again, little by little.  I still didn't like it much even in Japan.   Then  I took a trip down to Joren no Taki where they grow organic wasabi, not the mass produced and over processed stuff, but real wasabi.Even tried wasabi ice cream.  After that trip I never purchased processed wasabi ever again.  I buy the real plant root then grind off the desired amount…

Taka 貴 Happo Nigori 発泡 にごり

Another delicious Natsu Junmaishyu summer all rice sake which uses 100% Yamadanishi, a rice grain that's indigenous to Hyogo Prefecture.  Seimai is at 60% which indicates how much rice was used.  The nihonshu-do is plus 5, which indicates in a very general sense the sweetness or dryness of a sake; -3 and +10.  Higher numbers indicate dryness and about +4 is average.  

The brewer is called Nagayama Honke from Yamaguchi Prefecture.  This time I will also include some confectionary with this sake.  The word "Taka" denotes something precious and "Happo" means something that's either bubbly or gassy.  Nigori means a cloudy sake, i.e. sake with some lees remaining.  So what I'm drinking here is a precious sparking cloudy summer sake and on a record breaking hot summer afternoon from my balcony.

We had record highs in southern Yokohama today.  The ice I had in this bowl melted in less than five minutes, even tipping the glass over! I had to refill.

Taka  was …

Summer Junmaisyu

( Summer Edition Masamune Junmai)
Please click here for the winter edition of Yamagata Masamune Junmai. There you can find the write up for this brewery. By the way, the name Masamune is not associated with the great sword smith.
One of the nicest times of the year to be in Japan is around July and August because it's during this time you get the biggest fireworks displays, especially around Tokyo and Yokohama. And it's during this time Japanese gather with family and friends to enjoy a fun filled evening of lights and sounds, often times with chilled nihonshu or beer.

This special summer edition sake was crafted with a premium rice grain called gohyaku-mangoku at 60% milled, acidity 1.3, alc 16%, and the nihonshu-do is plus 5. Mellow taste with hints of ripe melon and fruit. Nice summer taste here. Best if enjoyed chilled, sometimes you can even add ice to it. What this does is help release the acid. When I imbibe on this sake all of my old memories from many su…

Kyougoku Natural Mineral Water

This is a well water, in Japanese well water is called " 鉱泉" or Kou-sen and I've been sitting on this box of water for a few days already.  I purchased it directly from the source from a small town called Kyougoku in the Abuta District on Japan's large northern island in Hokkaido which by the way is famed for its delicious seafood, and natural country beauty.  Acres and acres of farmland and cow grazing pastures as far as the human eye can see.  Where there's delicious water there's good sake, good food, and good onsen.Near the foot of Mount Yotei there is a spring called Fukidashi Park that has delicious water that many Hokkaidoans travel to from all over the island.  The last time I was there was about 4 years ago on my way to Sapporo.  I remember it was an early Autumn afternoon so the water was especially cool and crisp.
View Larger Map I have several photos of this place , but decided to show you this pick.  I remember the water being so cold when it came…

I've Got a Screamer!

So I've been the King of the Road now for a month with my  50cc master blaster sporting my super large Darth Vador/German war machine helmet and skeleton face mask.  I'm loving it.  ( Blade High Performance Series Muffler)I finally got my call today that my new muffler had just arrived along with the weight rollers I had especially ordered.  ( Old 53g weighted rollers.  Heavy on the clutch!)Often times people forget to replace these little rollers in the clutch when installing a new  muffler.   These little things help distribute torque evenly to increase speed; the lighter the roller that faster you go.  Often times factory bought bikes will have 53g weighted rollers installed and then a high performance muffler which actually slows the bike down.   The ideal weight should be around 43g weighted rollers(six rollers), or roughly 7.5g per roller.  What this does to a two stroke engine is increase the speed significantly!   Perhaps the biggest enhancement to any bike that's …

Mori Kara no Okurimono: Water

Gift from the forest is what this water is called and It's  from Miyazaki Prefecture, Ebino Kogen, Minami-Kyushu(southern Kyushu Island).   I received a 20 liter case of this delicious water a few days ago and am just now getting around to drinking it.  No fancy bottles this time, just a plain ordinary looking green and white cardboard box.   
View Larger Map First impressions were clean with a  medium hard texture, well balanced and easy to drink.   Summers are great and it's always interesting when I have a chance to discovered new water brands, not the usual Avian and Volvic water.  Onsen, like mineral water, are limitless natural assets this country has to offer.  For me, water is so important for everything; sake, onsen, and just plain drinking.   My fridge has three compartment spaces so I stored this one in the middle, which is usually reserved for vegetables.   When you open the box there's a huge plastic container.  There are a few other articles to catch up on her…


Washkit Originally uploaded by McAlpine AlexanderMy wash-kit consist of, from left to right, a basket, scalp scrubber, shaving cream, razor, toothpaste, nylon towel, and lastly a cotton face towel. Studies have shown that the cotton hand towel cleans the skin better than a nylon towel. However, for therapeutic value, and for exfoliating dead skin the nylon towel is more beneficial. I get a new kit every six months or so. I always love looking around for interesting new stuff. I got a chrome razor this time and an extra hard nylon towel. Of course most people don't bring all of these things into a public bath house, some people bring absolutely nothing. I think having these toiletries add to the enjoyment of being at a spa. Welcome to Japan

Izu No Hu U Ka Mase: Mizu Manju

Izu , summer taste.In my other post on mizu manjuI highlight a favorite shop of mine in the Tohoku region that I used to frequent in between onsen stops some time ago. That shop was my favorite, and still is. Good food and good manju can be found anywhere in Japan, but I feel that some manju are worth mentioning. The picture below is one of them, a mizu manju from Mase Confectionary in Shizuoka prefecture. While writing this, I was listening to "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" by Kanye WestManju is a soft bean jam filled jelly treat that comes in various forms. The way I love eating these is when they are ice cold and on the rocks!HighlightsOn sticky sultry summer days in Japan these slide down the throat well. Best if you use your fingers. Sometimes I see people trying to use chopsticks and it's hilarious. The shops homepage is: http://www.mase-jp.comThe shop name is kou-nichi-ahn mase, and there're a few chains located through-out Shizuoka.They have a very l…

Tama-Reien 多磨霊園

This cemetery is located in Chofu, near Fuchu, where the largest cemetery in Tokyo is and the final resting place for millions of Japanese.  The reason I visited this place was to pay homage to the late great man  Mishima Yukio, a famous playwright and author, best known for his famed suicide back in November 1970.   Another reason I was here was to help one of my girlfriends wash her family tombstone, so it was like killing two birds with one stone; pay homage to the man, and visit her folk's tomb.(This picture is owned by me from my flickr account.)
View Larger Map I'm not necessarily posting this information for people to visit, just for a better understanding of where I am talking about.  Cemeteries in Japan are far from gloomy, not like in North America where the mood is somber and depressing, it's like you want to get out of there as soon as possible.  The energy at most cemeteries I've been to here are tranquil and well maintained.  I made my way to Mishima Yukio&…


A famous spot many locals flock to in order to enjoy a dessert called (shio-daifuku) 塩大福 is called Surugaya.  What this is is a rice cake stuffed with salt-seasoned bean jam.  Actually, you can find these at almost any major supermarket in Japan.   One of the most recognizable sweets in this country is the daifuku, it's one of the most common sweets foreign tourist get to try when sightseeing here and it's available through-out the year.  How about a real taste of Japan.....?  Nothing artificial about these.I love these soft chewy little powdery desserts that go well with tea.   I posted this one because they taste better than most of  your store bought ones and are not factory made;all are made and rolled by  skilled hands.  You gotta appreciate tradition.  You have to appreciate waking up at 4am to ready everything, and to organize the racks and  ladles  that help create the finished product.   The rest is all skill and patience.  I have a photo of this opened, but I saw no …

Kamakura Surugaya Honpo

Another spot that offers up some really tasty treats, and a place that’s another local fav spot is right in the Kamakura Station on the Enoden Line side.  What initially got my attention  were these small cake or balls of minced meat, poultry, or fish, or of rice, potatoes or other food stuffs.   Often coated with beaten eggs and bread crumbs, and fried in deep fat are called croquette.    To be quite honest I wasn't just a curious passersby I was actually thinking this place was a branch outlet from another prefecture.  I was wrong, but pleased nevertheless at this discovery.The Japanese use katakana (コロッケ)ko-ro-ke.  Croquette is a french word, actually.
It’s no surprise the Japanese take things from other countries and then add a Japanese element to it to give it a Japanese taste.   Croquette was originally invented by the French and is a dish that has reached ecumenical status over the years, there’s even croquette in North America.   I have always loved the taste of hot, cri…

Glass Bottom Boat: Feeding the Fish

I spend a lot of time eating fish, so now it’s time to give back by feeding the fish.  What better way than to take a cruise on a feeding boat with my 特別母!The nice thing about this cruise is that below decks you can see fish, yes, that’s right, the bottom of the boat has windows you can see through.   One of the nice things about this short cruise was that it was just right, no long drawn out explanations, just simple and to the point.  Our host was gracious and very knowledgeable about the Miura Peninsula.   He gave us a brief history about the harbor and the feeding area we were headed to.   I think from port to feeding point was roughly 15 minutes.   As you can see this cruise is very popular with the aged.   I tend to follow them around as they know what's good to get into.   Trust me. The helm area was cool to look at also.Once we reached point we headed below deck.I never knew blowfish and plaice were so cute when swimming through the ocean.     When the feeding began everyb…