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Showing posts from September, 2010

Japanese Music

Special shout out to Nippon-Ichigo for hosting this month's Jblog matsuri. The theme for this month is called "Japanese music."

I think music is a huge part of any culture. It's just as essential to the transmission of culture as the actual spoken language of the country and its people. Before I was really into Japan I had an enormous interest in eastern European culture, especially the German culture's, language, and history and I remember the first musical piece I was introduced to called The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana; this was years ago! Moldau is German for Vltava which is a river that flows through the Bohemian countryside in present day Czechoslovakia. Though there are no spoken words to this musical piece you can get a sense of a mighty river flowing through an old city. The river isn't as mighty as it was centuries ago due to modernization and structural obstructions. Many have regarded this piece as nationalistic evoking a memory of the Republics def…

Why Hakone?

Hakone, a town known mainly for its natural hot spas and gorgeous vistas. Old Timers especially enjoy stopping through here to relive a time when there was no tourism. They also make trips here to enjoy sweet bean and fish cakes. The thing I like about Hakone is that though many tourists visit here, the town has not succumbed to the ubiquitous tourist traps found in many major vacation spots like Hawaii and Thailand. You don't see shop owners trying for force their products on to you, and haggling is almost unheard of down here. I hope it remains that way. That's probably why I keep going there.
Another thing I like about Hakone is that it is so conveniently located. Like so many vacation spots in Japan, Hakone is the most conveniently accessible by train, car, bus, and even for cyclers. If you walk to Hakone from Yokohama it only takes 14 hours, and from Tokyo 18 hours. I'm sure you won't be walking there, but if you do and need a place to recuperate your energy then …

Milk Liqueur!

I love some of the concoctions the Japanese come up with, especially when it comes to seasonal drinks and aperitifs.   This new drink from Akita Prefecture is called "Yogursh" and of all the little sweet concoctions I've tried over the last few months,  this one by far is the best.  It could be because I'm a milk drinker.   Yogursh uses 100% natural milk in this product.  It's made using low temperature pasteurization along with very basic techniques for creating yoghurt by hand. Nothing complex about it at all so I wouldn't classify it as a " sake." If anything this is more like an Amazake, which is a type of super sweet and thick drink that's enjoyed during the winter and spring seasons in Japan.



The biggest difference I notice between Amazake and Yogursh is the silky smoothness and natural texture. No noticeable alcohol on the palate at all. The sweetness is just right. Not the face twitching sweetness you get with most amazake(s). This dri…

Green Tea Heaven

Amazing how people living in the new millennium can still believe  heaven  still exists in the sky somewhere.  I could be dead wrong, but I'm pretty certain that heaven exists here on earth too, even on a plantation in a gigantic tea field.


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In my previous post I wrote a little bit about my tea picking experience in the tea capital of Japan.  This post will be a continuation of that.   After tea picking on the plantation we headed over to a restaurant called Maruobara, which is located directly on the premises. Here we were able to enjoy dishes that were made using the same tea we were picking. The restaurant only opens for lunch, which is from 11 to 2:30. There is no breakfast or dinner menu.



After being seated we were immediately served a complimentary appetizer of tempura tea leaves, some cold tea, and a small bottle of nihonshu - I ordered the nihonshu. The sake is called "Kihei" and …

Tsurushi

I would like to introduce a last minute summer sake that I feel is worth mentioning. The first is, as the title says " Tsurushi." The title has no association with the literal meaning associated with a 17th century torture technique the Japanese used on Christians to get them to recant their faith.  Other meanings that can loosely be associated with this sake's title have no specific meaning, other than one technique used to separate sake lees which I haven't confirmed yet. Quite often sake labels have little association to the meaning of the sake, or why it was named, unless it's the name of the brewery, or some exotic bird or something like that.





The way it is stocked on store shelves is with cardboard wrapped around it. I assume it's to reduce light exposure on the sake. There're other breweries that do similar things with their sake as well, but instead with different colored bottles. The whole idea is to preserve the sake's natural state and to …

Autumn Fish in Japan

Autumn, the most beautiful season in Japan, brings with it great sushi and Japanese sake. In order to start the season off right, I'd like to introduce the most popular autumnal fish in Japan. First one is called Katsuo, or Bonito, other names would be Skipjack or Bonita.



The Katsuo is in season twice a year. During spring the first Katsuo are leaner and more flavorsome. Around September returning Katsuo appear. The fish are fatter and are much heavier than the spring Katsuo. I recommend visiting Kochi Prefecture, Kochi is on the southern coast of Shikoku if you want to eat absolutely the best Katsuo. But, even if you are not able to travel that far, then local supermarkets around Japan should start selling them around mid September. If you are around Shizuoka I recommend visiting this site called Shizuoka Gourmet which is an amazing site packed full of useful information about Japanese food, and nihonshu ( Japanese rice brew).


Another big name fish for Autumn would be the Kohada, …

Good Blogging Journals For Mac Users

Leaving the world of Bill Gates, expensive software, and a junk load of hardware behind a new era of computing has begun for me. I am cool, I am chic, I am....a Geek.

There's but one thing I miss though, it's the one thing that for me is the most important blogging platform client in the world. It's called Windows Live Writer, and it's a pity Mr. Jobs hasn't jumped on this mega mammoth new era in world communication. It's no secret that Steve Jobs hates us bloggers! He prefers news aggregates for his iPads by making it clear that he's more interested in making how we get our news more profitable for the giant newspapers and himself. Us bloggers have and are changing the way the world gets its news. The blogging community is reshaping the entire world of communication, so I hope that Mr. Jobs will see the demand for this and bring us something better than WLW.

I had to give up WLW when I converted to Mac, and I am having to struggle to learn a whole new platf…

Tea Picking in Shizuoka

No blog on Japan would ever be complete without some kind of fruit or tea picking. So, knowing me, and how much I over indulge myself in the host country I took a trip down to the tea capital of Japan where over 50% of all the tea is grown and cultivated in this country, Shizuoka Prefecture.



Of course tea is grown in other areas through-out Japan also, but in Shizuoka, namely Nishi-Ogima in Makinohara City, is where most people go to get a hands on feel for how authentic Japanese tea is grown and cultivated.





In order to start my trip off right I have a beer breakfast FIRST, and then I always grab one of these eki bento boxes( train station lunch box). Kanagawa Prefecture is famous for a few good eki bento. This one in my hand is a saba( horse mackerel), on rice.   





I was on my second Kirin Beer when I realized that in the wee hours of the morning, nothing can top an ice cold beer before a big trip; it’s just good for the blood circulation.  

Most of your urbanites and Tokyoites who …

Sawanotsuru

Thank you all for your patience. Now I'm back up and running. I recently changed computing platforms. A major change by the way. I have fully converted from PC to Mac and I am not looking back baby. I have had my last straw with Bill's software monopoly and I won't tolerate it any longer, but enough of that. Listen to the pronounciation of this sake: clickbelow.Closing summer out right I will be introducing a couple more summer sake. This one " Sawanotsuru" comes from a very well known and established brewery that has a well known reputation in the sake drinking community. By the way, the name "Sawanotsuru" literally means the " Crane of the Swamp." The reason for purchasing this brand is because normally, the nihonshu I choose come from smaller less known breweries, and since this one didn't I thought that I should offer my readers a little something more readily accessible. You can find this brand anywhere in Japan.Now the nihonshu I am…

My First MacBook

So I gave in and finally purchased my first MacBook. So far I have no regrets, actually I love it, everything about it. Its design, weight, ergonomic feel, and ease of use. But what I find myself missing most, the only thing really, is Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer! Arguably the greatest blog writer ever made. Unfortunately, for Steve Jobs this amazing software is not available for the MB, and it’s a real pity too because I have so many journal entries backed up on my WLW; I haven’t even posted my summer vacation posts. I don’t see a work around for this coming down the pike anytime soon so I went ahead and downloaded MacJournal, the next best thing for WLW. So far it’s smooth and operational. I like the typing experience and relative ease of use. I haven’t fully tested it out yet, that’s why I’m writing this post. I picked up a MacBook Pro at Bic Camera yesterday for 74000 yen after signing a three month OCN contract for home internet service. Retail for this MB…