Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Celebrating our anniversary in Shirahama

As we’re in Wakayama now, we decided to spend our fourth anniversary (and our first one together) on the beach in Shirahama. It’s a pretty long drive south from Wakayama city, but we both enjoy driving especially along the Japanese coastline, so we didn’t mind the 3 hour trip at all! On the way back to Wakayama in the evening we made a small pit stop to do some anniversary kissing while enjoying seeing the sun set in the water:

So how did we celebrate our relationship birthday in Shirahama? Well, first we found the beautiful white beach with the blue sea, then we parked our car (for free) at the local 100 yen shop and bought some sunscreen and a huge piece of yellow plastic and some lunch at the konbini, and found a spot on the almost deserted beach where we had a nice picnic on the yellow plastic in the hot sun. After lunch we went for a swim, Yasu for a really short one because the water was too cold for his Japanese body, and I went for several long ones. I love swimming, but I’m used to swimming in cold water and the water in Japanese pools is always warmer than 30°C, which is just way too hot for me, so I had to give up swimming here. But today the sea water was nice and cool, not cold like Yasu and the other Japanese people said when they touched the water with their bare feet, actually I prefer my water to be even colder than it was today. In the beginning, I was the only one swimming in the water but later I was joined by 3 others, which of course were foreigners too!

After a wonderful afternoon in the blue sea, on the white beach and in the hot sun it was time to head back to Wakayama again. Do you know the way your hair feels after a day at the beach, I love that ‘beach effect’ and actually felt sorry when I washed it all out of my hair tonight. On the way back we stopped at the Shirahama fish market to do see some more spooky sea creatures, I’m just glad that I didn’t encounter any of these during one of my swims this afternoon:

We hoped to find dinner at the fish market like we did yesterday in Wakayama, but the place closed at 6:30 already, and we only got there just before 6. So we drove back to our hotel, freshened up in our room and found an Italian restaurant on the first floor of the building our hotel was also located in. The restaurant, Raffinato, was very romantically decorated and dimly lit, and the couches had really high backs creating nice booths and corners where you can privately enjoy your dinner. So a great place for an anniversary dinner, and the pasta and pizza were delicious!

All in all, it was the perfect way to spend an anniversary and I can’t wait to celebrate our fifth next year. Yasu, thanks for the perfect anniversary, I love you!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

4 whole years...

Today is our 4th anniversary. It’s been 4 years since Yasu made it known to me that he likes me too by kissing me in the States. I didn’t prepare anything special like the video I made last year, because this time we actually get to spend our anniversary together! So I can show him how much I love him in more conventional ways, but I think he already knows.

'You' being Yasu of course ;)

These days we no longer live in different countries and soon we’ll even be living in the same area! So our super-long-distance-relationship, then regular-long-distance-relationship (Amagasaki-Inuyama) is finally becoming a normal-distance-relationship a.k.a. a relationship. So enough reason to celebrate today!

Wakayama

It’s Golden Week (which means I don’t have to teach for 10 whole days) so Yasu and I wanted to do some traveling preferably by car, because we both love road trips. Recently I’ve been craving a visit to the beach and I’d seen many beautiful beach pictures taken in Wakayama Prefecture, so I convinced Yasu to drive us there for our little Golden Week road trip. Wakayama is the capital of Wakayama Prefecture in Kansai, and it’s just about 3 hours (by car without the use of the expensive highways) south from Osaka.
First stop we made in Wakayama was at Porto Europa, it’s a small theme park with buildings resembling European buildings. It’s very pretty there and I just wish they’d redo all the ‘modern’ buildings in Japan to look more like these, because Japanese architecture is just plain ugly (except for the old temples and shrines of course).

Next door to Porto Europa is Kuroshioichiba fish market, where they had a lot of interesting and also creepy looking fish on display. But the best discovery we did there was the outdoor BBQ restaurant. You were supposed to gather kebabs and other stuff for on the BBQ inside the fish market, and then after paying for your selections you could take them outside to cook them on a BBQ. It wasn’t cheap but of course it tasted great and an extremely entertaining way to have lunch.

After lunch we walked toward the water to enjoy the view and the fresh sea breeze, we also took some searching for an actual beach, but when we finally found one it was getting late and chilly so I didn’t really feel like walking through the water anymore. But we’re going to Shirahama tomorrow, and this city’s name translates to white beach, because they actually have white beaches with blue water there! I can’t wait.

We went to Daiwa Roynet Wakayama Hotel, to inspect our room and to take a small break and to freshen up for dinner. Our room is nice and has an excellent view of Wakayama Castle and the surrounding park. We ended up eating dinner at a Japanese chain restaurant Sato, where I had sukiyaki (winter food) on a day that felt like summer.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chiki Chiki Bomber

Tomorrow Yasu and I are leaving for a small road trip to Wakayama (south of Osaka), so I already headed down to Amagasaki today. I arrived in the early evening so we still had more than enough time to try out one of the restaurants on Yasu’s list of restaurants-Louana-needs-to-try-out. Ever since he knew I’d be moving to Japan he’s been mentioning restaurants we should go to together, yet he never bothered to write them down and now that I’m actually here he can’t seem to remember most of them. We know his mental list is long, but these days it mostly consists of blanks, and filling them in has been a challenge for him. But not to worry because there are loads of awesome restaurants in Japan, so we never go hungry. One of the ones he did remember was the yakitori restaurant near his house with an interesting name: Chiki Chiki Bomber.

It’s a cute little shop, with a small bar, and only four tables of which two have Japanese style seating on the floor (which is of course where were seated as I really suck at sitting on the floor because it kills my back), friendly and funny staff and delicious food:

Even though the name yakitori implies bird meat (like chicken) the menu shows many other kinds of skewered food and even food without a stick going through it. My favorite dish was onion-on-a-stick. We had a delicious dinner and I won’t mind returning again, but first I’d like to try out some more of those restaurants on Yasu’s forgotten list.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Not my last Bon Jovi karaoke marathon

Today I attended what I thought was going to be my last Bon Jovi karaoke marathon. But not soon after we started singing I realized I could never give it up and decided I will travel all the way from Osaka to Komaki to be part of it again. Besides today we had Kazuko join us all the way from Tokyo, which is much further than Osaka. So if she can do it, so can I!
Today we used the Joysound karaoke machine again, which means ‘only’ 66 different Bon Jovi songs, but four of them are live versions where the band actually appears on the big screen and you get to sing along with Jon. We sang all 66 from A to Z with a break somewhere in the middle to eat lunch/dinner. After that we sang all live versions again, or rather we all stared at the TV and just seriously enjoyed watching Bon Jovi perform four songs. After that we did something very uncharacteristically: we stopped singing. It didn’t happen intentionally though, we just got caught up in conversation and before we knew it our time in the karaoke room was up. It was another great marathon and I seriously can’t wait for the next one!

The list of Bon Jovi songs we sang:
1) All About Lovin’ You
2) All I Want Is Everything
3) Always (LIVE VERSION)
4) Bad Medicine
5) Bed Of Roses
6) Bells Of Freedom
7) Bitter Wine
8) Blaze Of Glory
9) Bon Jovi Medley (You Give Love A Bad Name/It’s My Life/Livin’ On A Prayer/Born To Be My Baby/Everyday/Always/I’ll Be There For You)
10) Born To Be My Baby
11) Bounce
12) Complicated
13) Damned
14) Diamond Ring
15) Dirty Little Secret
16) Everyday
17) Have A Nice Day (LIVE VERSION)
18) Hearts Breaking Even
19) Hey God
20) I Am
21) I’d Die For You
22) If That’s What It Takes
23) I’ll Be There For You
24) I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
25) In And Out Of Love
26) In These Arms
27) (It’s Hard) Letting You Go
28) It’s My Life
29) I Want To Be Loved
30) Just Older
31) Keep The Faith
32) Last Cigarette
33) Last Man Standing
34) Lay Your Hands On Me
35) Lie To Me
36) Living In Sin
37) Livin’ On A Prayer (LIVE VERSION)
38) Lost Highway
39) Miracle
40) My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms
41) Never Say Goodbye
42) Next 100 Years
43) Novocaine
44) One Wild Night
45) Real Life
46) Runaway
47) She Don’t Know Me
48) Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night
49) Something For The Pain
50) Something To Believe In
51) Story Of My Life
52) Thank You For Loving Me
53) These Days
54) These Open Arms
55) This Ain’t A Love Song
56) Tokyo Road
57) Unbreakable
58) Undivided
59) Wanted Dead Or Alive
60) We’ve Got It Goin’ On
61) Welcome To Wherever You Are
62) Who Says You Can’t Go Home
63) Wildflower
64) Wild In The Streets
65) You Give Love A Bad Name (LIVE VERSION)
66) You Want To Make A Memory
67) Livin’ On A Prayer (LIVE VERSION)
68) You Give Love A Bad Name (LIVE VERSION)
69) Always (LIVE VERSION)
70) Have A Nice Day (LIVE VERSION)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bye bye Mayuka


Our manager Mayuka has been transferred to a new school in Nagoya, where she will start in May. Today was the last time I got to work with her, because I don’t work on Sundays and Mondays and Tuesday is when the Golden Week holidays start, so the school will be closed for 8 days. So yeah, I’m happy to report that I don’t have to work for 10 consecutive days! Anyway, Mayuka didn’t want to have a farewell party because she’s too busy so we had the students write short messages to her:




But of course this wasn’t enough for our students, I mean they are Japanese and the Japanese love to give presents, hence the students have been bringing her a mass of presents. Every night she had to carry a truckload of flowers and stuff with her on the train, then on her bicycle to her Japanese (so not big) apartment. Just halfway through the week husband already started complaining about the amount of flowers.




It’s too bad she’s leaving the Inuyama school because I had a lot of fun working with her. Still, I only have 3 more weeks of work left without her and the new manager is our old assistant manager Moe, and she’s great too. But saying goodbye is always a bit sad, and I’m really not looking forward to saying goodbye to my students at my farewell party next month.



Thursday, April 24, 2008

How-to Onigiri

The first time I tried onigiri I totally screwed up opening the package and there was yakinori everywhere. So the second time I asked someone Japanese for help and discovered how easy it really is when you know how to do it. So in an effort to help people to not make a mess of their first onigiri, if they ever come to Japan, this is how it’s done:

Step 1: Go to a konbini or supermarket and buy something called an onigiri. This actually translates to rice ball, but as you can see it’s not as much round as it is triangular.
Step 2: Grab the piece of plastic that has the number 1 on it and start pulling.

Step 3: Carefully pull it all the way around and off.
Step 4: Grab the piece of plastic that has the number 2 on it and start pulling.

Step 5: Carefully pull it all the way off.
Step 6: Grab the piece of plastic that has the number 3 on it and start pulling.

Step 7: Carefully pull it all the way off.
Step 8: Admire the result of your careful plastic pulling.

Step 9: Put part of the onigiri in your mouth, bite, chew, enjoy the taste and swallow.
Step 10: Inspect the filling of your onigiri to make sure you got what you wanted and not something scary, like pig intestines. Then repeat step 9 over and over until the onigiri is gone.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How-to Yamachan

Nagoya is famous for its tebasaki (chicken wings). And Yamachan is a famous chain restaurant with the most delicious chicken wings ever, as its specialty. Yamachan has stores all over Nagoya and sometimes they’re ridiculously close to each other. We were taking a walk in the area behind AEON Honbu today (simply because we hadn’t seen it yet), and found four different Yamachans in one (small) block, two of them were even in the same street, on the same side of that street, separated by just one other building! And somehow they all stay in business.

Maybe that’s because their food is really good, especially those chicken wings, I’ve been there a couple of times and the Yamachan izakaya never disappoints. They also have their own brand of beer and liquor, but I’m not so interested in those, I go there for the tebasaki. There are no Yamachans in the Kansai region, so tonight we had dinner at Yamachan again, just because soon it won’t be that easy anymore. And of course, the food was great again, and yes we did order things besides the chicken wings. But somehow I always end up wondering why we order stuff too, because nothing tops those scrumptious chicken wings, not even salmon sashimi.

Mr. Yamachan himself explains how to properly eat his tebasaki on the back of the chopsticks package (and on his website), but it’s in Japanese:

The pictures do make it easier for non-Japanese speakers to understand, but just in case it’s still a bit unclear, Yasu will show you how it’s done:

Step 1: Take one piece of chicken wing from the huge pile you undoubtedly ordered at Yamachan.
Step 2: Use both hands to wiggle both sides of the wing up and down, up and down, and up and down.
Step 3: All the wiggling in the previous step will have made it possible to separate the wing tip (the small part with very little meat) from the wingette (the bigger part with all the good meat).

Step 4: Enjoy the taste of the moist and spicy meat on the wingette, by biting into the meat, chewing and swallowing it.
Step 5: Repeat step 4 until you’ve eaten everything but the bones of the wingette, admire the naked bones.
Step 6: Find the earlier discarded wing tip and prepare yourself mentally.

Step 7: Try to eat the small amount of meat on the wing tip, or just suck and crunch it to enjoy the taste.
Step 8: Line up the bones on your plate, because Mr. Yamachan says so on the chopsticks package, and let’s face it, it’s fun.
Step 9: Sprout wings and fly away, unfortunately Yasu hasn’t quite mastered the art of sprouting wings yet and his back still looked very normal after eating the tebasaki.

More pictures

My new visa

Today I returned to Nagoya’s immigration office, fully prepared to wait an estimated 6 hours for my new visa and multi-entry permit (so I can leave Japan and come back as many times as I want during the validity of my new visa). Yasu came along to offer linguistic assistance when needed and to keep me company, he tried to escape in the beginning by suggesting he wait in a nearby cafĂ©, naturally I wasn’t going to let him get away with that. Instead he got us some coffees at the konbini down the street and made my waiting in that crowded third floor sauna a lot more enjoyable than last time.

The place was crawling with foreigners of course, it being the last Monday before Golden Week (when everybody has a week off and time to travel abroad) and before the office closing down for their big move to a new building. Yet somehow it seemed less busy than 3 weeks ago, maybe so many people were avoiding the just-before-Golden-Week-&-big-move crowd by coming a couple of weeks earlier that it actually thinned the crowd today.

This time I had to get in line four times. First, I had to buy a 6000 yen stamp to pay for my new (I already have one, but it’s only valid in combination with my old visa) multi re-entry permit, but that line was virtually non-existent. Then another quickie was the short line at counter number 10, where I handed someone my passport so that they could stick the new visa in it. There an immigration officer gave me a ticket with 722 on it, when the big sign said something like 653 or something. So even though I wasn’t technically in line, as I was wondering around in search of a seat, that’s where I wasted the most time (about 100 minutes) patiently waiting for my turn.

After acquiring my new visa it was time to apply for my new multi re-entry permit, which meant taking a number from a machine and waiting for the fourth time, but I had already taken a ticket from that machine long before I actually got my passport back, in an effort to jump the line later. But the people at the re-entry permit desk were going much faster and ‘my’ turn came way too fast… twice. The number on my third ticket came about 10 minutes after I finally got my passport back and luckily sticking a new re-entry permit into my passport was only a matter of minutes, so there was no need for a fifth line. To my surprise and delight, we left the immigration office ‘only’ about two hours after entering it and with a new visa, which by the way is valid for 3 whole years!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The perfect strap

In Japan cell phone straps are immensely popular. People love to dress up their keitais and their straps express their individuality (just a little bit in this collective culture). They sell straps everywhere and of course everyone has at least one hanging off their phone, but more often than not people have a whole (inconvenient) bunch. I’ve seen some awfully ugly straps and some really cute and beautiful ones, but so far I hadn’t found ‘my’ cell phone strap yet. I mean I’ve had one on my phone since I can remember, a Hello Kitty dressed up as a yellow monkey, but it wasn’t the perfect one, it was just ok. Ever since I got that one about 10 months ago, I’d been looking around for that perfect strap but to no avail. Until last month, when Kumiko and I were getting some coffee at Starbucks. I laid my eyes upon the most beautiful cell phone straps I’ve ever seen:

I couldn’t believe how perfect this strap was. I immediately bought one for me and for Yasu, who’s also a huge Starbucks freak and also loved the strap. And we’ve been proudly sporting our new straps ever since. I wanted to buy one for my brother Gyano too, another Starbucks addict, but remembered his cell phone has nothing to attach a strap to, so I decided not to buy him one. But when I told my mother about it later, she convinced me Gyano would love it too and would probably find something else to attach it to. But when I returned to Starbucks they told they were sold out in the whole Nagoya area and there weren’t any new ones coming! I guess we aren’t the only ones in love with this cell phone strap. But the next day I found some left over in a Starbucks somewhere out in the country, and last weekend I saw them all over Osaka. So I bought my brother one too, but it’s a secret until I give it to him next month so don’t tell him! He never reads my blog anyway, so I felt pretty safe blogging about it without ruining the surprise.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Namba

I’d been to Osaka many times, but never had I seen those things I always saw in pictures of Osaka in travel guides and on people’s blogs, like the running Glico man and the huge crab. Apparently most of those pictures are taken in tourist hotspot Namba, but we’ve never been there before because Yasu feels it’s a noisy and dirty place. But today Yasu humored me and let me be a tourist and took me there, and being the city girl I am I totally loved it! And even Yasu had a good time in that noisy (but not that dirty) neighborhood of Osaka.

Dotonbori is the most exciting part of Namba, it’s a shopping/restaurant street running alongside the Dotonbori canal. Apparently it used to be a red-light district, but now it’s famous for it theaters, shops, restaurants and the very entertaining colorful neon and mechanized signs. You can find some of the most interesting, monstrous, creepy and even cute exterior building decorations in Dotonbori:

As you can see we also came across that creepy Kuidaore Taro (with the red and white striped outfit) proudly banging a drum in front of restaurant with a banner that supposedly reads “eat until you’re dead”. I didn’t see the banner, that may be because I don’t read Japanese that well or because Yasu failed to point it out to me or because it’s been replaced with a huge text balloon saying that the gluttonous clown’s restaurant will be closing down in July. I guess eating until you drop dead isn’t that popular in Osaka anymore. I enjoyed all the flamboyant decorations in Namba, even that creepy clown but my absolute favorite was definitely the famous Glico man:

Glico is a snack and candy manufacturer and they have a giant electronic display of a runner crossing the finish line on a building above the Ebisubashi bridge. The Glico man was originally installed in 1935, and is one of Osaka’s landmarks often featured on postcards, advertisements, travel guides and people’s blogs. I’d been looking forward to seeing this running guy the most, and it didn’t let down at all! Yasu was surprised how ‘energized’ the billboard made every time I saw it and probably wondered if I ever felt like I’d taken enough pictures of it. I loved Namba, and anyone that’ll visit me in Osaka in the future can expect me to drag them to this place!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yakiniku

Tonight Yasu’s aunt and uncle treated us to dinner at a small yakiniku restaurant in Amagasaki. I love meat and I love barbeques, so I’m always up for some yakiniku. I’ve done yakiniku several times since my arrival in Japan, but never like we did tonight.

First of all, we went to a small local kind of restaurant instead one of those big chains, I have nothing against big chains or small local places by the way, I love them all equally. Then we had to take of our shoes and sit on the floor, which is very Japanese I know, but sitting on the floor always seriously kills my weak back (which is why I bought a regular height table and chair for my apartment). And lastly, the barbeque wasn’t the typical built-in one, instead it was a bucket of hot charcoals sitting in a hole in the middle of table with a thin iron grill on top of it.

It looked quite amateuristic but the little restaurant had a very nice atmosphere and the meal was delicious. I didn’t even mind eating the cow tongue which I normally find too chewy. There was only one thing I didn’t like, which were the grey flatworms with acne that were supposed to be some animal’s stomach. I tried it but it tasted a bit sour and the whole idea of eating stomach made me nauseous.

Yasu's father, Minoru (Yasu's uncle) & Mayumi (Yasu's aunt) after a fulfilling dinner

We were going to dinner to discuss our Obon plans, which is when my parents are going to stay at their house (Gy and I will stay at Yasu’s house) and they are going to take all of us to do a bit of sightseeing. But Yasu’s father tagged along for dinner, so instead almost their entire evening was spent conversing in Japanese with him. So we’ll have to try to get together again some other day.

More pictures

Tsukamoto again

After exploring Senri Chuo we took a subway and a train down to Tsukamoto, because somewhere in that town my new apartment is located. I have no idea where exactly, but I hope it’s near the station. It’s about a 30 minute commute, which is a waste of time everyday, but Tsukamoto is extremely near Amagasaki (Yasu’s hometown) so I’m happy nonetheless.

Yasu and I stopped at this station before so I could take some pictures, but we never actually left the platform. Today Maiko and I did leave the platform and walked around a bit in the station area. It looks good, with a nice number of stores and places to get food, and they even have Jankara karaoke!

And Maiko discovered a tiny arcade in some shotengai with a purikura machine! Unfortunately is was a bit old-fashioned and doesn’t send the result to your cell phone, but of course it does print those pretty stickers.

We went to the big Cospa gym, which is just a two-minute walk from the station to take a look. They gave us a nice tour of the premises, and so far I’m really liking this gym! Cospa has elliptical trainers (which for some reason are wildly unpopular in Japan, but are my favorite aerobic workout machines), air-conditioning in summer (but in the winter they use the heater), water fountains (where you can fill your bottle) weight training machines for all muscle groups (and they’re all new), benches in the locker room, and even have private shower stalls with locks (but they also have the big communal bath where everybody gets naked together)! These might all sound like typical gym things, but I assure you in Japan they’re not. While trying out many gyms in Japan, I’ve found that most things I took for granted at my old gym in the Netherlands are hard to find in Japanese gyms.

There’s also a nice pool, but yet again heated to a temperature way over 30 °C, which I just find too disgusting to swim in. I love swimming, but our pools have cold water and the only time the water feels warm is when somebody was too lazy to go to the bathroom and therefore peed in the pool. So to me swimming in Japan feels like swimming in a huge amount of fresh pee. So thanks, but no thanks. They also have step lessons in this gym, but unfortunately they only have level 1 steps and one that’s even lower which they call kantan (= easy) step. At home I used to do step 3, which was just the right level and I loved it. Step 2 and especially step 1 used to bore me too quickly. But bear in mind, the lessons will be taught in Japanese and I haven’t done it for almost a year. So at least in the beginning even step 1 classes will be challenging, as I’m out of shape now and I still don’t speak Japanese. I can’t wait to get started again.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Senri Chuo

I went to Osaka today, but Yasu was doing a whole-day seminar, so I had the whole afternoon and early evening to myself. So Maiko and I got together, as she’s undergoing a month-long training in Kobe for her new job as a bank employee, and Kobe is very close to Osaka.
We headed to Senri Chuo, north from Osaka in Toyonaka, because that’s where my new place of work is located. Last year, when I found out I was going to work at a school in Inuyama, I tried to find as much information about the city and the school online. I didn’t find much and my curiosity remained unsatisfied. Now, I actually live in Japan and I often go to Osaka, so this time there was no need to remain curious about the new school and its location. A couple of months ago the Honbu people in Osaka told me not to visit the new school, because the school staff didn’t know about me yet. By now they probably do (as we’ve known about my replacement at Inuyama school for quite a long time by now), but I wasn’t going to disobey Honbu orders, so we just did a distant walk-by and took some top-secret pictures of the school with the secret name.
The school is located on the 4th floor of a huge mall area, and it’s so totally different from the area around my school in Inuyama. There are so many stores, restaurants and other malls there, that it’ll take me a long time to figure out where everything is. At least I won’t be bored during my breaks, and I’ll actually have options for lunch! But the absolute best thing about the location of my new school is its proximity to this:
I know!!! Starbucks is our neighbor! You can’t see the new school in this picture, but it’s right next to it on the floor next to Starbucks’ roof. I’ve imagined working near a Starbucks for so long, and now I finally will be able to go out and get some Starbucks coffee during work! So yeah, I’m pretty excited about working in Senri Chuo, it’s going to be such a different experience from Inuyama. I just hope the students will be as great as they are here though.
More pictures

Sunday, April 06, 2008

How-to Kushiage

After all that matsuri madness, Yasu and I headed to Nagoya to have dinner and see a movie. We never did see that movie because after such a happening day we just didn’t feel like catching the late movie anymore. But we did have dinner and it was awesome. Yasu choose a kushiage restaurant in Sakae and it did not disappoint at all. First of all, it had an awesome tenth floor view of Nagoya’s TV tower, which I forgot to take a picture of. But the best part was cooking your own food in a deep-fryer built in to the table. You go to a buffet area where they have a large variety of raw kushi (food on a stick), you take your pick of kushi, sauces, salad, rice, noodles and drinks and whatever else you feel like (they also have desert) and take it back to your table.

The kushi buffet

My selection of fish, meat, vegetables and weird-looking things

Then you have to go through the same seven-step-procedure every time you want to eat some kushiage, let me show you:
  1. Take one bamboo stick with a pierced piece of raw food (otherwise known as kushi) from your plate which you just loaded in the buffet area:
  2. Dip the skewer in some sticky batter you also got from the buffet area:

  3. Roll the skewer covered in sticky batter around in a plate of panko crumbs, which you also get from the buffet area:

  4. Stick the skewer covered in batter and hundreds of panko crumbs sticking to it in the deep fryer:

  5. Wait a bit, talk to your boyfriend on the other end of the table, and then take the skewer out of the deep fryer:

  6. Dip the deep-fried skewer in one of the sauces you got from the buffet area:

  7. Put the kushiage in your mouth, bite off a piece, chew and swallow (a.k.a. eat):

It’s a buffet style restaurant, so you can try out all kinds of interesting looking things without hesitating to spit it out if you don’t like it. So I did try some new things (I forgot the names though) and things I normally wouldn’t pay to try but there wasn’t anything I didn’t like, except for the two brown sauces, so I totally ignored those.

Cheese bread, a piece of hamburger and a piece of pumpkin waiting for me, ready to be eaten

Yasu and I really had a great time at this restaurant. Nice atmosphere, good food and a fun activity to keep you busy, and we only paid ¥2500 each. The only bad thing is that afterwards everything you’re wearing stinks! They have Febreze at the cash register for you to use before you leave, but it’s nowhere as strong as the kushiage smell. I’m definitely planning a return visit to this place, but I will be wearing some old clothes and carrying a bottle of perfume with me.

More pictures

Iwakura's Sakura Matsuri

After a short matsuri break, in which Yasu got himself a new haircut, we headed down to Iwakura, to see what was going on at their Sakura Matsuri.

There were an uncountable number of blooming sakura trees lining Iwakura’s Gojo river and the matsuri just meant hundreds of pink lanterns in the trees and dozens of yatai selling that interesting Japanese festival food. It looked beautiful with all the flowers and the thousands of pedals in the river. The whole scene actually looked quite romantic, but there were a couple hundred too many Japanese people around to make it really feel romantic.

We tried out several kinds of festival foods (to admire them please check my flickr), some were interesting but not that good, some were very tasty but my favorites still are the huge pork skewers we found at the festival in Inuyama.

Most Japanese people like to do hanami, as in sit down under the sakura trees and have a picnic (with loads of alcoholic beverages) while enjoying the sight of the cherry blossoms. We didn’t actually do that, I mean we did eat festival food but we never actually sat down. Besides sitting down under those trees at the Gojo river didn’t look that attractive to me, because people were sitting way too close to the water because the river bank was actually quite steep. So first you’d have to climb down that steeply sloping bank (I know it doesn’t look that bad in the pictures) and I was bound to slip or fall over on the way down. And sitting that close to the water makes me uncomfortable. Not that the river was that deep, on the contrary, I just didn’t want to fall in and have those huge Koi fish start sucking at my face.

Earlier we’d had some disagreement about the color of the cherry blossoms. One of the first times I blogged about the sakura I’d called them white flowers and Kumiko told me that they are pink not white, and Yasu agreed (well probably everybody agrees with her). Well, maybe they have kind of a pinkish sheen over them but closer inspection of the flowers just makes me conclude they’re white with a pink center.

I’m kind of a bold color girl and my favorite color happens to be pink, and I just can’t classify the regular cherry blossoms as true pink especially not compared to another kind of sakura tree we found later which sported truly pink blossoms.

But no matter if the cherry blossoms were white, pink or pinkish white (the compromise) they certainly were a beautiful sight. I can’t wait for the actual cherries to pop up in the supermarket. Although the Japanese ones are always way too expensive and I prefer the darker and cheaper American cherries which will be arriving in Japan, soon I hope.