Friday, May 27, 2011

Show Me Japan Vol 1 Issue 27

IMPORTANT: Please enter a link to a specific post on your blog, not a general link to your entire blog/website. Thank you!


Welcome to the 27th edition of Show Me Japan. 第27回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。



To say "Konnichiwa" to Bartman, take a ride above.


To see more of goofy Mr Samurai and lots of other things, click on the photo above.



Them fish, them fish, gonna swim around... To visit Jdonuts click on them fish.


To see what JayDee has been up to, click on the image above.


To see more of Yousuke fabulous photos, click on the image above.





If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。




And now it's your turn!!!







Show Me Japan Participants

1. Loco
2. Lina
3. Rekishi no Tabi
4. misadventures with miso
5. Jon (Tornadoes28)
6. Ichigoichielove
7. Spooning with a Schoolboy
8. Punching Rip Slyme
9. Mullenkedheim
10. Haikugirl
11. sixmats
12. JapanDave LaSpina
13. bartman
14. Contamination
15. Fernando Ramos
16. Expatriababy
17. Muza-chan
18. birdmini
19. SurvivingInJapan
20. YOUSUKE
21. Rafal
22. Jay Dee in Japan
23. Lina
24. Jay Dee in Japan
25. Laura

Friday, May 20, 2011

Show Me Japan Vol 1 Issue 26

IMPORTANT: Please enter a link to a specific post on your blog, not a general link to your entire blog/website. Thank you!


Welcome to the 26th edition of Show Me Japan. 第26回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。


From Alice at Super Happy Awesome, click on the image to visit her blog. 


From Ms. Expatriababy, pick up the shoe to be taken to her blog.



From Japan Dave, hit the drum to go over to his blog.


From LifeYouTV - stop monkeying around and check out his blog. Now!


From We Love Kansai. Click on the image above to give Kansai some love.





If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。




And now it's your turn!!!





Show Me Japan Participants

1. misadventures with miso
2. Haikugirl
3. Jon (Tornadoes28)
4. Momma's Boys
5. Lina
6. David LaSpina
7. Rafal
8. YOUSUKE
9. bartman
10. Rekishi no Tabi
11. Loco
12. sixmats
13. Ichigoichielove
14. Contamination
15. Expatriababy
16. Yoshi
17. Jay Dee in Japan
18. Alice Vyxle
19. Laura (tokyololas)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Inaka udon

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with udon. Anytime you ask me what I want to have for dinner, my answer is always the same. Udon. Udon. And udon.

I've never met a bowl of udon I didn't like. Though there were some I wasn't all that crazy about. I admit that. Last year, in Shikoku, in the sanuki udon paradise, I realized that I preferred udon prepared the Tochigi way. Or is it the Kanto way? I wanted my broth to be flavorful and with some oomph. I wanted the noodles to be thick and chewy. I wanted udon with chutzpah and personality. Sadly, sanuki udon has neither. Call me crazy, but that was one of the reasons we didn't move to Kagawa. Sanuki was OK, but would I want to eat it every day? Probably not.

But there is udon I'd gladly eat every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's made in an almost dinky, unassuming place along Route 4 in Tochigi. In Shimotsuke city. Who would have thought?



The restaurant is called Inakaya (田舎や, inaka = countryside), and it's a very fitting name. And what do they serve? Inaka udon. Like all highly addictive substances, it takes a bit of time to get used to it. Eating it might be a chore, especially if all you're familiar with is the sanuki variety. But the feeling that overcomes you when you're almost, almost done with your bowl - one of a kind. And I'm not talking about indigestion here. At least not only about indigestion, because if it's your first time at Inaka, you'll get it - guaranteed. No, I'm talking about the sheer sense of accomplishment after licking your bowl clean. I'm talking about a sore jaw from all that chewing. I'm talking about the high that only really awesome and really addictive food (or substances) can give you. THAT's what Inaka udon is all about.


Mister is not a fan of the place, so we don't go there very often. And maybe it's a good thing. Probably I would have weighed 300 lbs by now if we did.



And even though the place looks empty in these photos, you should see it on weekends and during lunch hour - sheer craziness. On weekends be prepared to wait. For a long time.

Inaka's staff is less than efficient. The tables are sort of clean. Smoking is allowed (it's probably the only smoking restaurant that I am willing to enter voluntarily). But the udon... Oh my... Imagine thick strips of homemade dough, sort of maybe perhaps cooked. Hard and chewy and sticking to your ribs. Next to a bowl of "I'm gonna punch you in the gut" broth. Yep, you got it. That's it. That's inaka udon.

And this is how it's made:




Address:
10-5, Sasahara, Shimotsuke, Tochigi, 329-0402, Japan
栃木県下野市笹原10-5
It's right on Route 4.

Phone: 0285-43-1028


You're welcome!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An evening in Shibuya

Every few months I make an appearance in Tokyo, and normally, once I'm there, I don't linger. I get off the train, do my thing, get back on the train and only then I can breathe again. It's no secret that I'm not fond of Tokyo and if I can avoid going there, I'm happy.

I arrived in Ueno, switched to some subway (the one that goes to Shibuya) and got off at Omotesando. I did my thing there and promptly got on the right subway but going in the wrong direction. I switched again to something else and ended up in Akihabara. There, I just followed the sheep leaving the station. The herd crossed the street and went shopping. Me too. I found myself holding a Panasonic GH2 in my hand and seriously considered taking it home with me. Yes, I know, I know... I could probably buy it for much cheaper on-line, but I want it with an English language menu.



Just when the sales guy finally noticed me and I was about to start asking stupid questions, my phone rang. You see, before coming to Tokyo I announced my intent to visit the Big City on Twitter. Two of my Twitter pals announced their intent to meet up. So when my phone rang, I duly answered. It was Masa and Fernando, who were waiting for me by The Dog in Shibuya. I dropped the GH2 and ran for the train. And that's how they saved me from spending a truckload of money that I don't have. Thanks guys!

Once in Shibuya, I got lost (no surprise here, I have zero sense of direction and Mr Trouble can confirm that) and missed the Hachiko Exit completely. After a panicky phone call the guys found me at the West Exit. Or maybe it was the East Exit. Or maybe it was the South Exit. Who knows? I certainly don't.



It was the first time we actually met in person and of course I had to make the worst possible impression by having a Shibuya-induced anxiety attack. What can I say? Despite having lived in one of the most crowded and busy cities in the world, I'll never get used to Tokyo. And that's a fact. I'm a country hick at heart.


We went to Shakey's for all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. It was nice, except that Shakey's doesn't carry Coke Zero - major fail there. We gossiped chatted, ate and had a great time. At least I had a great time, I don't know about the guys. It must have been awkward to hang out with someone old enough to be their mother. LOL!



The walk to and from the station convinced me that I do indeed need an iPhone. I need it for the GPS thingy. Without Masa and Fernando, I'd still be standing and screaming on a street corner somewhere in Shibuya, unable to find my way home. And since I can't have my Mister, or Masa and Fernando, with me every time I'm in Shibuya, I need an iPhone. True, I'm not in Shibuya frequently enough (about three times a year) to justify getting an iPhone, but maybe with that GPS thingy I'd feel more comfortable about visiting the Big City more often.


When I finally got home and my Mister picked me up at the train station, he was suitably impressed that I managed all that all by myself without ending up in Nagano. Or at the very least in Yokohama.

And this is my very own Show Me Japan entry for this week. Also, it's my "long time no see" entry for Black and White Weekend.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Show Me Japan Vol 1 Issue 25

IMPORTANT: Please enter a link to a specific post on your blog, not a general link to your entire blog/website. Thank you!


Welcome to the 25th edition of Show Me Japan. 第25回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。


 To say "hi" to Loco, click on the photo above.


 To visit Anzu and her wonderful pets, click on the image above.


To visit Cocomino's blog, click on the image above.


To visit Tokyololas, click on the image above.


To see more of Rekishi no tabi's photos, click on the image above.




If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。




And now it's your turn!!!



Show Me Japan Participants

1. Lina
2. Loco
3. misadventures with miso
4. Seedy Porno Vendor
5. David LaSpina
6. Haikugirl
7. David
8. Tiffany Atkin
9. LifeyouTV
10. Karolina
11. Rafal
12. Muza-chan
13. Alice V
14. We♥Kansai
15. sixmats
16. Jay Dee in Japan
17. kirsten
18. Expatriababy
19. Anna
20. Ichigoichielove
21. Yoshi
22. BiggerInJapan
23. Laura (tokyololas)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ja Matsuri - 蛇祭り 2011

I had been waiting for this year's Ja Matsuri so impatiently that sometime around February that was all I would talk about. The first proper festival of the summer season. Held in a compact area. Relatively easy to observe. Moderately crowded. Friendly. Pleasant.

And then March 11 happened. Two of the most important local matsuri got cancelled. I was afraid that Ja Matsuri would share their fate. Personally, I think that cancelling public events right now is a really stupid thing. We're not exactly in Fukushima, we haven't been flooded by the tsunami, life goes on. How can you convince people to go out, enjoy themselves and entice them to spend money if you take away the traditional reasons to go out and spend money?

Fortunately, Mamada Hachimangu in Oyama, the shrine organizing the festival, seemed to have this figured out, and to my huge relief, Ja Matsuri was scheduled to go on as planned.

We wrote about the history of the shrine and about the event itself last year, so I'm not going to repeat myself. Visit this link, if you're curious. Here's one more.

This year, the weather decided to get pissy and it was cold, rainy and windy. I wasn't dressed appropriately and I was freezing. That's why I'm now sneezing. But at least it wasn't me who had to jump into the cold and filthy pond!



Here are some photos:

The snakes are getting together before the event. It was all very organized, with sections for each team marked on the ground.

After they all got together, one by one they marched to the main shrine area.


Then came the priest.


One of his many responsibilities was to offer sake to the snakes.


After that, and of course after the religious part of the festival, it was time to get dunked in the pond. The objective was to get the snakes to drink water...



...without drowning yourself in the process.


Doesn't look too difficult, now, does it?

Here's the video:





And this is my own entry for this week's Show Me Japan.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Show Me Japan Vol 1 Issue 24

IMPORTANT: Please enter a link to a specific post on your blog, not a general link to your entire blog/website. Thank you!


Welcome to the 24th edition of Show Me Japan. 第24回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。

 To visit A Modern Girl, click on the image above.


To console Bridget, who's missing Japan so much, click on the image above.


To get your ass kicked by Bad Boy in Japan, click on the image above. There's adult content in there, consider yourself warned.


To day "hi" to Bird and fly with the carps, click on the carps.


To see how Jon L sees Japan from LA, click on the photo above.



If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。




And now it's your turn!!!




Show Me Japan Participants

1. Lina Still In Hiroshima
2. Ichigoichielove
3. LifeyouTV
4. misadventures with miso
5. Loco
6. Vincent
7. Floating Camera
8. Japan Australia
9. Kawaii Culture
10. Schoolgirls v.s. Stewardesses
11. Anzu
12. Lina Says Victoria Beckahm Ate Natto Too
13. Haikugirl
14. JapanDave
15. YOUSUKE
16. Jay Dee in Japan
17. bartman
18. Rekishi no Tabi
19. cocomino
20. Expatriababy
21. sixmats
22. kyushudan
23. Muza-chan
24. Bad Communication
25. Rekishi no Tabi
26. Nobu
27. Yoshi, Japan
28. Anna
29. Laura
30. birdmini

Monday, May 2, 2011

Damaged roads in Shirakwa, Fukushima

Shirakawa city lies in Fukushima prefecture, right across the Tochigi border. We go there pretty often, time permitting of course, because that's where the Auschwitz Peace Museum Japan is located.

It's hard to believe that a city so near us suffered such serious earthquake damage. The Komine castle grounds are pretty much totally destroyed, though the castle itself is still standing. And the roads, well... More than a month after the Tohoku earthquake some are still closed and off limits to traffic.

During our second trip to Aizu Wakamatsu we wanted to try a different route, more local and more rural. Our first choice was prefectural road number 37. On our map, it looked like a convenient shortcut across the mountains, with a lake along the way. I was excited to see parts of Fukushima I haven't seen before.

However, it wasn't meant to be. Even before we left Shirakawa, we encountered this:


Driving became quite dangerous. We thought the conditions would improve, but it instead, it just got worse. When we finally joined route 37, signs were posted that 6 kilometers further up, the road was closed to all traffic. There was a detour marked, supposedly leading to the lake, but not knowing these local roads well, we decided to turn around and stick to the popular highways, the ones we drove on before.

And even though it was the first public holiday (April 29th) of this year's Golden Week, road crews were busy with repairs:


This is a clip I filmed when we had to turn around and return to the main highway:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Trip to Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima - part 1

Yep, Fukushima. After the earthquake and during the ongoing nuclear crisis.

While people left, right and sideways are talking about supporting Fukushima, and Fukushima this and Fukushima that, very few actually do what they preach. Apart from the volunteers and those engaged with all sorts of NPOs (some of questionable usefulness, at least in my opinion), the general thinking seems to be that it's best to stay away. Consuming produce from Tohoku? God forbid, lest we suddenly sprout a third arm and a couple of extra eyes. Actually going to Fukushima? Are you like, insane, or something?

On the Tohoku expressway we saw convoys of SDF disaster dispatch trucks. We also saw trucks hauling earth-moving equipment, some from as far away as Kobe. We took the expressway to Nasu and then switched to local roads.

Yeah, something. Because we live relatively close to the Fukushima border, we thought it would be a grand idea to see for ourselves all those third arms up there. Sadly, we haven't noticed any. Maybe people camouflage them under extra clothing. Or maybe the Tohokans glow in the dark, instead. Unfortunately, even though we went to Aizu Wakamatsu twice, we haven't stayed the night, so I can't tell you whether they glow or not.

Easy! I'm wearing a mask because of my dreadful asthma and pollen allergies, not because of radiation.

Either way, we went there to show that as long as you stay away from the exclusion zone around the crippled nuclear plant, it's safe to visit Fukushima. That tourists are loved and desperately needed up there right now. And that anything that can be done to support the local economy is welcomed.

We ended up supporting the economy at a local Aizu ramen shop (right behind the Lion d'Or supermarket on route 118). The place, called "Tonchinkan", was of questionable cleanliness and decor, but their ramen - delicious.

In fact, it was so good, we decided to return there during our second trip to Aizu Wakamatsu.

The idea was to drive up to Aizu Wakamatsu and see the famed Tsuruga castle over there. I, of course, was hoping for sakura. Our first trip in mid April was so lovely, even though the cherries were not ready to bloom just yet, that we decided to return two weeks later to see the castle in all its cherry blossom glory.

Even though the weather was gorgeous during our first trip, it was still pretty chilly up in the mountains. When we stopped at Ematto, there was still snow on the ground.


No wonder then, that when we finally reached Aizu, there were plenty of cherry trees, but no cherry blossoms.

Taken on April 17th, 2011 - still no sakura.


We consoled ourselves by going inside the castle (ticket 500 yen per person, you get a free gift with your ticket purchase). The "I love you Fukushima" song played in a constant loop by the ticket office. There were a lot of visitors at the castle, .and even though I seemed to be the only westerner there, nobody paid me any attention.

You get a set of chopsticks with the Tokugawa emblem when you buy a ticket to enter the castle.


Once inside the castle, we consoled ourselves some more by purchasing stupid amounts of souvenirs. Ok, I consoled myself.

The castle itself - it's magnificent. There was no doubt we'd be coming back when the cherries are in full bloom.


On the way back home Mister was amusing me with an endless stream of historical trivia about the Boshin War. And we stopped by at Shirakawa to see the castle there - what a shocker that was!

To be continued...

This is my own entry to the Show Me Japan series.