Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sushi, Sushi, Sushi!

Hello again!  Today I bring you some of Fukuoka’s finest.  And by finest, I mean cheapest (but most delicious)…sushi!  I have fallen in love with a local sushi restaurant that is just 5 minutes away from home and wanted to bring you along with me on a sushi-licous adventure.  With that, we embark!

Enter, mortal…

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Once inside you are seated at one of the many booths.  The conveyer belts that carry the sushi plates run up and down the rows of booths, entering the back kitchen at each end.  Above the conveyer belt is a digital touch display that can be used to order items individually (drinks, dessert, special sushi, etc) and they arrive on the upper belt.  I have a video later on to show you it’s fantastic-ness in action!

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Here we have the accompanying items, including ginger, wasabi, tea powder, spoons, soy sauce, the hot water spout for tea, and the plate return.

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All plates are 100 yen (more or less equal to $1.00), although these specially marked plates are more expensive, and super fancy.  I’m too cheap to try them, but, maybe someday when I’m feeling really ritzy.

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Here we have the pickled ginger.  I am not a fan, but have heard (for those who like it) that it’s tasty!  Mmm, gingery.

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Now this is one of my favourite parts.  The wasabi!  Notice that it’s not the wasabi paste that most of us are used to.  And holy cow does it make your face explode when you eat too much, dear god!  But SO delicious!  If your eyes water, you know it’s good.  Mmm, want to eat!

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Next, a tea demonstration!  Here Leah prepares our yummy tea from the green powder you see at the bottom.  You just press your cup against the button and voila, hot water for everyone!  We learned the hard way that three heaping spoons of powder is a teensy bit too much.  Noted for next time.

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The finished product!  Mmm, greeny.

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And here Leah uses her expert sushi plate removal technique to capture our next victims.  The little plastic lids flip up automatically when you start to the lift the plate.  What will you think of next, Japan?  (Please note the young man pictured back right also displaying his fine sushi plate removal technique.  Bravo, sir.)

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And here are a few of the MANY plates we enjoyed that day.  From top middle, clockwise….corn and mayonnaise, cucumber maki (rolls), sweet potato sticks, ebi (shrimp) and sake (salmon).

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Next we decided to order a few things from the menu.  You can just select what you’d like and it will be brought to you on a cute little tray when it’s ready.  The tray is constantly zipping back and forth during your meal, delivering random tasty treats to various tables. 

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I decided to order some shrimp tempura sushi.  They were hot and freshly tempura’d.  Nommers!

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I wanted to film a bit of the experience because the photos don’t really give you the full picture on how fun this is.  Enjoy!  (PS: I finally stopped being an idiot and figured out how to film with proper picture quality, phew.)

Now, as you saw in the video, we unfortunately lost the plate game.  But!  We have won before, and if you do, a cute little plastic bubble pops out of the top here and you get a silly prize.  They all seem to be little wind up sushi toys that are fun to make crash into things on the table.

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And to finish off an incredible meal, I ordered one of the 100 yen desserts.  This is basically a giant ice cream filled cream puff thing.  Very puffy, and very delicious!

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Well, that ends the sushi adventure.  I hope you are now good and hungry, I know I am just from posting these photos!  I have to admit I was never extremely fond of the giant fish topped sushi before coming here, but I seem to eat them quite a lot now.  Either the fish quality is much better here, or I’m turning Japanese.  One of the two.  Or both?

On a side note, holiday time is fast approaching, and things are starting to feel a lot like Christmas around here (aside from the blazing sun during the day and 15 degree temperature).  I hope everyone is gearing up for a nice holiday season.

Until next time….take care, folks!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Dazaifu Sumo and Shrine Adventure

Well, it sure has been a while.  How are you?  Keeping well?  Busy?  Chipper?  Thank you for keeping in touch via blog! 

For my next installment, I bring you to Daizaifu, again!  This trip was a visit to the local sumo practice stable and then the Tenman-gū Shrine. 

*You are warned, bazillion pictures ahead.* 

Immediately stepping off the bus we walked along this gorgeous sidewalk.  Already, I knew I was going to enjoy this trip.  Beautiful.

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We walked down what appeared to be a touristy street on the way to the shrine and sumo stable.  We arrived early in the morning and the shops were not quite open, nor were there many visitors filling the streets yet.

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This little fellow was happy to see us though…

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Upon entering the area where the shrine and temple were.

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Our path to the sumo stable was a splendid walk… definitely a breath of fresh air after being in the city.

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After about a 15 minute walk we reached our first destination.  We were very fortunate to be allowed inside the sumo stable while many of the wrestlers practiced.  There was a bit of discussion and for a brief time it sounded as though it may not be possible for us to go inside, but luckily things were settled and we were able to keep close to the walls and watch for almost an hour!

The practice was quite fascinating.  There was a very prominent hierarchy visible upon watching the practice.  The darker belted wresters were the low men on the totem pole.  They had first practice and boy did they go hard.  The wrestler crouching with his back to the camera was being “picked on” for some reason and I was sure he was going to vomit by the end of his training, he was breathing so heavily and falling on the ground.  Thankfully, he didn’t.  He did get kicked around (literally) by the lovely gentleman standing facing them in the white.

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We were informed that this gentleman below was the stable owner.  For all but 5 minutes of the time we spent in the sumo stable, he disinterestedly sat reading various print…the newspaper or random magazines brought to him by some outside errand boy.  I would like to note that his cell phone had a ridiculous number of dangly charms on it, and his track suit says HELLO KITTY in block letters up the leg.  Fashionista, let me tell you.  Although, he seemed like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with, so probably best to keep the ribbing to a dull roar. 

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This gentleman was the Sumo Master.  He was a former wrestler who now trains the up and coming.  I also got the impression he was someone not to be toyed with… mainly due to the fact that we were asked not to look him in the eye and to bow while walking in front of him.  Done and done.

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After the lower rank wrestlers were finished their training, they re-sanded and swept up.

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The serious business was next.  I decided to stop taking gazillion photos, but I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of what went down after this…

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After sumo time, we wandered over to the area where the shrine was.  Another gorgeous walk.  Luckily the weather cooperated and, unlike at the Balloon-less Fiesta, was not scorching hot, but sunny and beautiful. 

Some funky looking flowers that I don’t know the name of.

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Before entering the main area it is customary to rinse your hands here.

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The main entrance gate to Tenman-gū Shrine…

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Inside of the above…

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This was the Shinto priest that assisted us in getting around to the areas we visited, and also told us a brief history of the area and the shrine.

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We happened to be here on the day of the Shichi-Go-San Festival.  This festival is when parents bring their children age 3, 5, and 7 to a local shrine to pray for their healthy futures.  (More info click here: )  What this meant for me is that I got to stalk adorable children wearing kimono, all day.  I almost died.  Eventually parents started having their children pose for me.  So, so, so cute.  Wow. 

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You could pay 500yen ($5.00) to write your name plus whatever wish you have and hang it here.  I was too cheap to do so, surprise, surprise.  But here`s a photo!

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I am unsure if Charlie Sheen stole this from Japan, or Japan from Sheen.  It was entertaining nonetheless.  

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On a serious note, there were many amulets and various good luck charms to be purchased.  This shrine is over the burial ground of Sugawara no Michizane, who was most renowned for separating Chinese and Japanese literature and education, and assisting Japan in becoming more autonomous by developing a Japanese style of poetry and education.  Most families and children come to this shrine to pray for good luck with their studies.

On a not so serious note, this is my new Japanese family.  They were irresistible, and I had to steal a photo as someone was taking one of them.  Loooove.

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And here is proof that I actually am in Japan, and not just ripping off all these photos from the Internet and adding my ‘oh so witty’ commentary. 

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And back to the adorable children!  Oh my gosh!”//$%?

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With a fish-feeding man stuck in there, just for fun.

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And then we stumbled upon this creepiness…a monkey show!  o_O

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Have to give monkey some credit though, he could walk on stilts… yeesh.

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I am still unsure, however, what monkey shows and Japanese leprechauns have to do with each other.     

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This one I had to take a couple photos of because the back of her kimono was so intricate and , well, she was just gorgeous!

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It took every ounce of my being to not pick up this cute young man and bring him home with me. 

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And now to keep the balance in nature, I give you my other secret obsession in this country.  Dapper old Japanese men.  Yeah.

I have selected just a couple of my favourites of the day, as not to bore you….or creep you the heck out, either one.

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And now for the tackiest store you will ever see.  Hello Kitty-rama.  I actually don’t know what the name of this monstrosity was as I couldn’t focus my eyes in the direction of the store for long, due to the disgusting amount of pink glaring back to me.

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After all this excited we were starving and ventured to this yummy ramen shop.  For those who aren’t familiar, quite often in Japan you order your meal from a ticket machine and then take it in with you and give it to the servers.

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Not a huge place, as you can see.

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I unfortunately scarffed down my ramen so quickly I forgot to take a photo.  So here is one of the ramen next to me.  Goodness, just posting this is making me hungry.  It was really good!

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And my favourite part of the restaurant, the funny bathroom poster.  You had the pleasure of staring at this while in the stall.  How glorious…

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Who’s your favourite?  I can’t decide between angry glasses screamer near the top right, or chubby angry eyebrow guy second row near the left.  Hahahahaha, so good.

Next, tummies full, we ventured to the Buddhist temple where the 700 year old garden was located.

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The entrance to the building was lined with beautiful rock gardens. 

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These really put my tiny desk-sized zen garden to shame.  I’m sorry, Japan.

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Luckily, this little fellow hung around long enough for me to get a nice photo of him.  Thank you!

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And here it is.  Really stunning.  It is one of the most famous gardens in all of Japan.  And if it weren’t for the group of old Japanese ladies to my right yammering away constantly, it would have been the most peaceful garden I have ever visited!  Oh well, it was still remarkable.  Look!

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This gives you a taste of what it could look like when the leaves start to change colour, oh my.

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And as usual, something silly at the end.  Well, this isn’t THAT silly…mostly cute, I suppose.

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But can you get enough of these great hats?  I can’t!  The store keeper was so kind as to offer to take a picture of us.  Only in Japan.  So nice.

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Just in case you were worried, no I did not buy that hat.  Although it was pretty hard to resist. 

There you have it!

I don’t have anything too exciting after this to post as my life has become somewhat boring.  And by boring I mean busy.  I decided that filling all my spare time with tutoring English would be a fun way to keep myself from having any fun.  But, I’m sure I will get around to something interesting eventually, and when I do, I will do my best to post it within 6 months of doing whatever it is… hah.

Hope all is well, wherever you are!

So long, folks!