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Showing posts from January, 2011


Theme music for this post: Bless This Morning Year by Helios The title roughly translate to, a cloistered daughter; in other words, a sheltered and overly protected child who knows absolutely nothing about the world. I'd say there's a large swath of Japanese ladies under the age of 30 who know absolutely nothing about themselves, their country, and the world. ============================================================= A famous quote from one of my favorite playwrights goes something like this: "There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating,--people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing." (Oscar Wilde) ================================================================= I remember this quote quite vividly in Contemporary Lit. class, while we were reading a story called " The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. And for the record, I have always been an admirer of Oscar Wilde's work. Here's another quo…

Shiobara Green Village: Fukunoyu

For nature lovers like myself who enjoy auto-campsites that have onsen, Shiobara Green Village offers just that and more. The name of the onsen in this picture is called Fuku-no-yu, and it's famous for having an open-air bath with a stone Maneki-Neko, a beckoning cat which is thought to be a symbol of good luck in Japan.

There are some Japanese who will journey far and wide just to say they had a chance to snap a photo sitting in an open air bath next to this maneki neko. I am not really into the legends and stuff like that. Our original purpose for stopping over here was to enjoy the quality of the water and the nice winter chill. The hot spring itself is a natural rich mix of sodium calcium chloride, carbonic acid hydrogen salt, and sulphate. The temperature at the fountainhead is 49 centigrades andPH is 6.6

I highly recommend this water if you want something with good emollient properties.
[The photo has been copyrighted, so please do not use without my permission]

Kinoko No Yado

This Yado (mansion)/ryokan(Japanese inn), is truly an experiment in cuteness. Kinoko means mushroom in Japanese and this mansion is built in the shape of one. If you click on the link you can see the view from the outside. This uniquely designed inn was a mix of modern and classical themes; old wooded baths with modern amenities.

The tub is a real tree hollowed out and made into a bath. I was barely able to squeeze into this thing, but I did and it was a very unique experience for me. The snow was a plus, too. Aside from this fact, another interesting hot spring I posted about before is located right next door to this Japanese inn called Unkaikaku. The indoor bath was modest, but not as hot as I would have liked it. What we enjoyed most about this inn was the food, the theme, and the overall general atmosphere. The staff were friendly and everything was just homely and comfortable.Lots of fresh sashimi and seasonal delights, and of course mushrooms which were in the pot were excellent…

湯荘 白樺

ゆそう しらかば [yuso-shirakaba onsen]

One of the oldest onsen we've ever stayed at was here at this place. Getting here was a bit difficult too since the road conditions were horrible for driving. Luckily my buddy a native of Hokkaido, knew more about how to handle a car on icy roads better than I did.   I'm from SoCal.

These out of the way hot springs are not so popular because often times they are smaller and older, but like I've harped on before, it's all about the water. Most people who visit these places do so more for the quality of the water than the hotel itself. And I have learned that over the years as the best way to view and enjoy a hot spring, so don't expect too much in terms of luxury and so on, the place is very bare bones.

Another key feature is the white milky color of the water. On a cold wintery starry night these are by far my favorite hot spring to dip in. If you can tolerate the sulfur smell and the high temps then you should love this type of wa…

舟伏の庄: Gifu Soba


One of the nicest treats during winter in Japan would be a nice hot bowl of udon, a thick wheat-flour noodle. Often times it is served hot with different toppings depending on whatever region you are in. Every region in Japan has its own particular favorite style of udon. Where I'm eating this udon is in Gifu Prefecture at a place called Funabu-Senosho, and although the local specialty of this region is nishin-udon( udon with herring), I'm eating a bowl of braised pork udon, which is hands down my favorite style of udon. There's just something about hot thick noodles and pork in a hot bowl of broth that's just devine. No matter where you go in Kyoto, Nagoya, or Gifu, you'll always be able to find a place that serves excellent soba. The reason I chose this shop was because it's a little ways out, and has that down home feeling. I love old wooded restaurants.


The title says [Tokai-Dairotenburo] which basically translates to" large open-air bath of Tokai." The hot spring itself is situated in Okuhida, a pristine region in Gifu prefecture known for its amazing all natural outdoor baths and spas. For me, especially during spring, visiting these mammoth outdoor baths can be simply amazing. Winter season is good too, but you find that most of your very large baths like the ones you see in this post close during winter, so if you're planning a vacation than keep that in mind. Okuhida is one of many thermo-treasure troves and requires several trips to really take in the true Japan onsen experience of that region - it's my fourth time there. These amazing [dai-rotens] are really nice when taking a break in between destinations. I really enjoy relaxing in, and soaking in the surrounding green and crisp clean air. What a pity so many people miss out on these very simple pleasures. ( all photos are watermarked)

Tomamu: Hotel Villa Sport

For those who have a chance to head up to Japan's northernmost island, I highly recommend Tomamu in Hokkaido, the largest prefecture in Japan. The picture above is the hotel we stayed at, which had lovely pristine views of snow clad pines and snowscape wintery spruces.

But, be forewarned this part of Japan is not a hot spring paradise, but more like a die-hard ski resort with excellent powder. In the picture below is me and in the backdrop are the famous Tower Hotels, the true symbol of Tomamu Ski Resort. For onsen I recommend Niseko

As you can see I was enjoying snowmobiling for the first time. I think if you have a chance to ride around on this thing you'll love it. Lots of activities can be enjoyed day or night. Hands down, for me, night skiing is the best! Especially with all the illumination and night views from the top of the slope and silky snow just below your skis, makes it the best activity before a big dinner of all-you-can-eat Hokkaido crab. For the both of us we …

Abohkan Onsen

One of the great onsen(s) in Gifu prefecture is called Aboh-Kan, and it's famous for having highly mineral rich hot spring water. In other words, a very high iron content, or hard water.I know a lot of people who get a little carried away with hot springs, I'm one of them. What I mean by that is, some people bathe too much, every day onsen dipping is not healthy for the immune system. When on vacation I typically hit up two or three different hot springs in a one week period, not every single day for one week. Your immune system needs time to recuperate. Certain hot springs, like alkaline rich baths are fantastic for the skin, but iron rich...? If you have rheumatic conditions then hot spring water high in iron may help alleviate pain, so as you can imagine lots of elderly go here. It's not as bad as you imagine, the longest most of them stay in the water per day is about 10 minutes! Women stay longer and tend to chat the experience away, no offense.The Abohkan, is not co…

Keirin School: Beauty & Strength

Aspiring professional keirin riders in Japan compete for entrance into the Japan Keirin School. The 10 percent of applicants who are accepted then undergo a strict, 15-hours per day, training regimen. Those who pass the graduation exams, and are approved by the NJS become eligible for professional keirin races in Japan. There are several videos of female cyclist in Japanese in the top video. Unfortunately, I won't be translating any of it, but you can get the gist of what they're saying.

Personally, I have been a fan of Keirin for a number of years. I always love watching how perfectly Japanese women infuse beauty with strength. Their overall physical beauty and cuteness is a far cry from what you see in reality. Strength training is something almost unheard of in the major urban areas, unless you attend a gym and do boxercise. Below is a speed demonstration by an incredible female athlete. I would love to have a Japanese woman like this ....I suspire. You must forgive my usua…

Hanaizumi Fukushima

I never get enough of anything from Fukushima. The snow capped peaks of Mt. Haruna, the Nihonmatsu Castle, the Dairin Temple. I never get tired of the prefectures autumnal brews, and its delicious cuisines. Its natural hot springs, its beautiful rice fields. The old houses. The unspoiled beauty of the countryside. It's a sleepy little boring piece of Japanese beauty that I love. Undisturbed and unfettered by the annoyances of city lights and noise pollution.

Whenever I am up this way I love to sample as much sake as possible. However, I never forget to go back to an old favorite of mine. Hanaizumi.

How to be a Japanese Woman

成人の日 Seijin no Hi

( photo credits go to dilbit) Having the courage to be who you want to be; having the courage to fuck your own men, even if it's me sometimes, just for good measure. Having the courage to choose what you want in life; having the courage to be all you can be is my prayer for today's Japanese girls 2014. |=========================================================== [what I'm listening to while writing]Tasogare Highway High (Bass Wanna Be a Singer) by DJ KENTARO =========================================================== Today is an historical event which marks the coming of age for millions of young Japanese females across Japan. In this country, 20 years of age marks the beginning of adulthood, the second Monday of every January. On this day, you can see thousands of beautiful kimono clad Japanese women walking around with family and friends. Some are snapping up photos with Mickey at Disneyland, the most ridiculous appellation of cute, cool, and chic…


How does one judge whether a sushi shop is good or not? Some like me are addicted to magazines that tell us where to eat, others by word of mouth, like with almost anything. Like in the case of this sushi shop called O-sa-ka-na-te-i,located in Tsubame in the heart of Niigata City. I have been here and the one thing that impressed me the most was at how fresh the fish was from catch to serve-visible spasms and twitches from freshly caught fish. Others may not regard this as noteworthy. Some could say customer service is key, or timeliness, or even cleanliness. Some are more focused on garnishes and visual appeal. For me, it's the freshness of the sushi. At this sushi restaurant everything is good. Am I an expert? No. Are you? Who is? We all follow word of mouth, and not so much are own tongue. If a Japanese person claims that this restaurant is good, it's usual good and if Japanese trust other Japanese then I'm right behind them.

When I search through all of my intellectual…


Takemichi has a peculiar taste to it that gives it similar characteristics to white wine. It's elegant and light on the palate with its own unique effervescent qualities in the first sip; a little fizzy, gassy. It's well balanced, delicate tail. The nose very pleasant and aromatic. The bounty of Shimane comes through on every sip.( The prefectural seal of Shimane Prefecture, which represents the Peony, fish, Japanese black pines, and the Whooper swan).

The reason for selecting this sake for this post is because it's one of those Sea of Japan sake brewery greats. It's one of those hidden gems of a sake that rarely gets any attention. Most people associate good sake with Niigata and rarely do they ever mention Shimane. I remember back in 09' Tokyo Food Cast editor offered me a ticket to attend a Shimane sake tasting event in Tokyo. Not sure I had a chance to thank her for that invite, so Etchan, if you are reading this, thank you. I don't often get around to shak…

Dear Kami: My Hatsumode

Dear Kami, Thank you for a very interesting year. I learned a lot about people, about myself, too. I learned that it's ok to forget and to release the past. But, at the same time I also learned that it's not OK to entirely  forget the past because it's from our past that we learn our future, yet the future does not exist, yet the past is are only indication of what may lie ahead, for if we do not learn from the past we are bound to make the same mistakes again.

I closed myself off and stopped socializing in order to reassess my bearings, and why I was socializing in the first place.  I'm glad I did.  I do intend to make a major come back on the social scene this year, though, and with a goal of putting myself out there, so to speak.   To further the gospel of Japan love, Jukujo, and Japanese sake.  Thank you for all the people I have met over years. Thank you for all the happy times, even the sad ones. The heartbreaks the let downs, the disappointment, the joys.

I h…

じゃがバター: Super Calories

The boiled potato that's been battered and deep fried in butter.   
There's a breaded coating around this huge potato.   A huge mound of butter slabbed across it!   
The butter just oozes deep into and all around the potato. 

Salt and pepper is sprinkled generously on the potato!

Miracle miracle food, miracle food. 
What an outstanding potato! 
These can be enjoyed now during the new year holiday at temples and shrines, or during summer. 
These and other wonderful pics can be viewed here: Show me Japan


The navigation on my rent-a-car wasn't able to pinpoint the exact location of the New Otaka, so I had to pull over and ask two locals. One was a bus driver and the other was a lovely Jukujo who was ripe and sweaty from shoveling snow, a picture perfect beauty. Of course I forgot what the bus driver told me, but when the lovely matron apologized because of not knowing the whereabouts of my hotel, I was left with having to go to the visitors bureau for help. ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Stepping in, I was greeted by a young and narrow figured Japanese girl. She was very helpful and told me that my bearings were off by 6km and that I needed to continue heading up the main road until I reached the very top. She made it extra clear to me that snow tires were absolutely essential if I were going to make it up there, and she was right. Lucky for me the studless snow tires were on the rent-a-car at no extra cost so I was able to ma…

The Three Kings of Azuma Rikishi

( orange label ) Azuma Rikishi Brewery is famous for aged sake with its huge labyrinth of cave tunnels are perfect for sleeping sake undisturbed.   I had a chance to pick up a bottle,  a Junmai Ginjo Shiboritate Nama.

Nihonshu-do: plus 1
100% Go-hyaku-mangoku
Seimaibui: 55%
( flavors: deep tones for a nama [unpasturized] Flavorsome).

The center bottle is from the same brewery, and it's a Hiyaoroshi this time. aJunmaiGinjo Nama Genshu type. Again, rare and local jizake types that deliver on taste every single time. 100% local grown Tochigi rice was used for this.
Seimaibuai: 60%
The last Azuma Rikishi is a Nigori Nama Genshu Kurakuchi. Nihonshu-do: -10

The first sip is so thick and flavorsome on this one. I can't quit put my finger on it, really. The effervescence, the thick creaminess, the sourness and sweetness all combined. It's good.... In the picture I was lucky enough to have a ledge next to my hotel window. Everything was so serendipitous for me during my trip.

If ever i…