Friday, February 26, 2010

Relics of War

There is a building called "Yokaren Peace Memorial Museum" in a nearby town called Ami, and it displays many things related to war, such as a letter left by a very young pilot who later died in the World War 2. The meaning of "Yokaren" would be "a preparatory military base". 

 I wasn't allowed to take any pics inside this museum, but what I saw was really graphic. For example, there was a film that showed me how a 17 years old boy decided to be a pilot and later became "Kamikaze(suicide attacker)" and rammed his fighter jet into an American battleship.

And there was a memorial park where there were statues of two young men who enrolled in the preparatory military base in this town. This park was made to soothe the souls of those who died in the war against the allied forces. 
Adjacent to the memorial museum was a military base that allowed me to take a look at old weapons, some of which were used in the early 20th century.
 I think there were more than 40 or more old tanks that were displayed. I made plastic models of tanks when I was a kid, but this was the first time for me to see real ones. It was freezing cold on this day, but if the weather had been nice and the cherry trees in front of the tanks had been in bloom I would have seen them differently. I mean, I felt chilly upon seeing these tanks.

 Let me show some of those weapons. This is called 15G and had been used until '97. It weighs about 13 tons and can fire 40 times per hour. 

 And this weapon was made to attack tanks, and the canon barrel can be raised or lowered to hide itself in the bank to protect the soldiers.

 In this building I could see things like old engines that were mounted on tanks. 

 This is the propeller of the reconnaissance jet below. As you can see by the size of the doors, it was so huge. 

 This jet had 450 horse power and was used in the Sino-Japanese war, which broke out in 1937. This reconnaissance jet was meant to fly over the water.

I came to this place in order to take pics of the tanks, but I was informed by a military personnel that there was a museum where I could see how young boys trained and later sacrificed their life. When I was just seeing those old weapons I wasn't so overwhelmed, but the films shown at the memorial museum were so real and I was a bit scared. I couldn't guess what it was like to become a Kamikaze pilot at the age of 17 and die without experiencing any romances.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jonathan's (breakfast)

As I didn't have anything to eat at home for breakfast, I went out in the morning to fill my stomach. I don't know much about the situations in foreign countries, but we Japanese rarely have breakfast at a restaurant. But due to this recession, the family restaurants in Japan started to offer breakfast very cheaply. By doing so, they think they might be able to have the same customers for lunch or dinner. 

 Jonathan's set up its first outlet in '80 as a coffee shop that sold hamburgers, waffles, and coffee. But later it changed its business to restaurant for families that offers mainly Italian dishes.

It is reported in the Net news that family restaurants nowadays don't attract many families, but couples. In the '80s, a father was a dominant figure in the family and he maintained his dignity by letting his children have whatever they want at a family restaurant. But now most of the fathers in Japan are almost equal to their spouses. 

 As it is still in February, I was tempted to have a hot coffee, but I rarely have it hot when there is iced coffee. You can also choose tea of course. And you can have unlimited refills by taking advantage of this self-service machine.

 Some of the Japanese family restaurants offer not-so-good iced coffee, but Jonathan's iced coffee was brewed fresh and I like it personally. The other three drinks are iced tea, vegetable juice, and grapefruit juice. You can also have as many refills of these drinks as you want.

 And yeah, I chose iced coffee of course. I usually bring an iced coffee before the waitress serves my dish because I want to have some before, after, and in the middle of a meal. 

This is called "hot sandwiches morning". They have slices of ham and cheese that are hot and are served with fried potatoes. I usually don't have much for breakfast, so this was enough for me. You can have this set with the coffee and juice for only 5.3 us dollars. 

There are many more family restaurants in Japan, so I like to introduce them one by one later. I like most of those family restaurants, but I patronize Jonathan's partly because it serves good coffee. =) 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Plum Blossoms

As most of you know, Japan is well-known for its cherry blossoms, but before they bloom in April, we can enjoy plum blossoms. The latter is not so gorgeous as the former, but the plum blossoms are enjoyed by people who can't wait for the spring to come. It starts to get warmer in the Kanto region around the end of February and it's the time when the plum trees start to bloom. 

 I once referred to Mt. Tsukuba in this posting, to which I went yesterday to take pics. It was by accident that I noticed a plum blossom festival was being held, and I was lucky to have taken the camera with me.

 I parked my car in a parking lot near the site where the plum trees were, but I had to walk this narrow and rugged path for more than 20 minutes.

 After walking for 15 minutes or so, I reached this point. It was hard for me to walk up and down the path on end, and the old people I saw were taking care so that they wouldn't trip over something on the path.

These are plum blossoms. We can see them almost everywhere in my city, but it was so refreshing to see the blossoms coupled with this landscape. As I had walked on end until I came here, I was already sweating even though it was in the latter half of February. 

Are they impressive? I think plum blossoms are enjoyed mainly by old people due to their modesty. But when you take a closer look, they are pretty similar to cherry blossoms.
There was a hut where I could rest and take a broader view. 

 As you can see, Mt. Fuji is so far from here. But on a sunny day, we can see it from this place. It takes more than 4 hours from where I live to reach the station in Shizuoka prefecture, from which we go to Mt. Fuji, and people often take "Shinkansen" or the bullet train to go there.

This is a view that I could command from the hut. My friends said that when the blossoms here are in full bloom people put up stalls to sell things like "Takoyaki", but on this day I didn't see any stalls. But I felt peaceful amid these trees without people pitching food.

I often say to foreign people that April is the best time to come to Japan, but if you want to see the advent of the spring earlier, you should come to my country around the end of this month and stay until the middle of April, when cherry blossoms start to fade.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lunch at Aqua City

After walking around in the area called Aqua City, I got hungry and my friends and I decided to have lunch on the 7th floor of one of the buildings where it was converted like a Chinatown. The place is called "Daiba Shou Hongkong" (shou means "small"). I went to Hongkong last year, and as I know the Chinese city very well, I was expecting to relive my memories.

 The elevator was painted with signs of Chinese restaurants. Like foreign people we Japanese also like to have Chinese food from time to time. There is popular restaurants called Bamiyan in Japan and they serve Chinese food on the cheap. But the holding company "Skylark" decided to convert many of Bamiyans to Gusto, which is also a family restaurant where you can have food like hamburger steak.

 Upon seeing this setting, I remembered my stay in Hongkong. The city was so glitzy in the night that I went out with my friend to have dinner, buy cds, and take a look around.

 And we decided to have lunch at this Chinese restaurant called "Yokohama Chuukagai" or Yokohama Chinatown. You can have as many dishes as you want for only 13 us dollars. 

 Like the "revolving sushi bar" that I introduced before, the dishes were rotating on the conveyor. You can have any kinds of dish on the menu by ordering the chef to make. 

 I really want to explain the dishes I had the Chinese way, but I can only explain from the viewpoint of a Japanese. This one is sliced chicken that were fried and tasted a bit sweet. You can see some green onion atop them.

 This is a steamed meat bun. We can buy some kinds of steamed bun at the convenience stores in Japan that each tastes like pizza, curry, and has some sweet bean paste.

 This one is called "Subuta" or sweet sour pork. This is my favorite, but I haven't seen many restaurants that serve very good "Subuta". I like pieces of pork to be very soft and the vegetables (carrot, onion, green pepper) to be a little chewy. 

 On the plate you can see pieces of chicken and yellow pepper, mushroom, green onion and cashew nuts. They were all stir-fried and tasted a bit sweet. 

 Some of you might know these are egg tarts. I went to Macau while I was staying in Hongkong, and it is the place you can have authentic egg tarts. I always like to remember my sweet memories, and having the same food is the best way to remember how I felt back then.

As I showed you in some of the pics, there are the seaside, a place where you can see the Rainbow Bridge, and nice restaurants in Aqua City. And there are many more things, which I like to introduce in the future, so it would take long before you get enough of this entertainment facility in Tokyo. I think foreign people would want to experience not only shrines, but something new like this =) 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aqua City Odaiba -2-

I think this reclaimed area called Odaiba is mainly for couples, but since numerous events are held through a year, even old people visit this place to experience things that aren't available usually. There is Tokyo Disney Land nearby, so if you come to the American amusement park, please drop by this place, too. 

This "Statue of Liberty" was made after the one we rented from France in '98, and '99. As you can see, this is much smaller the real one in the USA, and its height is only 11 meters and it weighs 9 tons. This spot is considered to be the best place in Aqua City to take pics. This statue is also called "Daiba no Megami", or Goddess of Daiba (you can drop "O" when you want to say Odaiba).

On this day I came here by car, but you can take advantage of train as well. There are some good bars in this area, so if you want to feel good with sips of vodka and doze away on your way home, take a monorail called "Yurikamome". 

 As the weather was really nice and it was warm for winter, I didn't get tired at all while I was walking. It snows a lot in the areas that are facing Sea of Japan, but in the areas that surround Tokyo, in which I live, it rarely snows and is often sunny during the winter. 

 You can have Hawaiian dishes at this "Longboard Cafe". On the menu are hamburger, locomoco, hot dog and so on. This cafe is situated in front of the Statue of Liberty, so you can have the nice view and lunch at those tables. 

 This boat is called "Himko" and it started its operation in '04. This is designed by the renowned cartoonist "Leiji Matsumoto" and modeled after a teardrop. You can go to Asakusa from here.

 On the fifth floor of this Aqua City, there is an area where you can taste Ramen from Hokkaido, Tokyo, Fukuoka and so on. 6 or 7 Ramen shops per half a year has opened since '05. But you can have those Ramens until the end of this month. 

There is the headquarter of Fuji Television Network in Odaiba. It held an event called "United States of Odaiba" in the summer of '09, where people could see a variety of concerts, and experience games. The line you're seeing in front of the building is the monorail "Yurikamome", which I referred to a little while ago. I took advantage of this line to see the life-size Gundam last summer.

The Ferris wheel you're seeing is in an area called "Palette town" It takes about 10 minutes on foot from Aqua City. It runs from 10am to 10pm and a ride costs you about 10 dollars a person. You can command an overall view of Tokyo from the summit and I recommend you take a ride in the night. 

I came to this place with a girlfriend years ago, and I still think this is the best place for a couple. We tend to get sick of our daily routine, but if you want to get out of it and refresh your mind, this is the place in Tokyo where you would feel liberated  =)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Aqua City Odaiba -1-

Do you know a place in Tokyo where you can enjoy yourself and command an ocean view? This place called Odaiba is one of the biggest entertainment facilities where you can do shopping, dine at the posh restaurant, and take a sip at the bar. There are some complexes in this area, and I went to one of them that is called "Aqua City".

 The bridge you're seeing over there connects Aqua City and Venus Fort where you can buy any kinds of brand goods. As I didn't have enough time on the day, I decided to take pics of Aqua City only.

 A street where many shops such as Gap, a.v.v, Lowrys Farm, Museum&Museum and what not line up on both sides. I'm not so familiar with those shops, but you would find something that would suit you.

This classical car was displayed on the 3rd floor. It reads, "Daiba Shopping Avenue 1st Block". Passers-by were staring at this car, and I think it shows how chic this shopping complex is.

I caught a glimpse of this shop Murphy&Nye. This shop was originally selling clothes for sailing, but then it expanded its business to include casual clothes for men, women and kids.

It was really refreshing to walk on this deck. Basically this Aqua City is intended for couples, so I was an odd man out. But it was so warm that I thought I could have stayed at this place for quite a long time.

This restaurant is called ANCHORS, which serves American dishes. You can command Tokyo Bay from the seat. As it serves wine as well, you would enjoy sunset while sipping some wine in the evening.

This is the Rainbow bridge, which connects Tokyo Metropolis and Odaiba. The distance between the bridge and the sea surface is about 52 meters, and the height was intended for RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 to pass by.

Aqua City has a movie theater Mediage and it has 13 screens. You can watch a movie for 1,000 yen or about 11 us dollars on the 1st day of a month. And there are many restaurants Mediage owns where you can have a reception party.

I have more pics of this resort, so I will show you them later on =)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tayama (Tonkatsu shop)

I went to a restaurant that served "Tonkatsu". Basically it is similar to cutlet, but "Tonkatsu" is made by deep-frying a piece of pork, which is mainly either fillet or loin. Since "Katsu" means "win" in Japanese, it is sometimes had by superstitious people who take, for example, entrance exams. But since the fried pork can't be easily digested, it would be better for you if you have it "after" the exam. 

This shop "Tayama" opened recently in my friend's neighborhood. We have several Tonkatsu restaurants in my city, and it seems to me that the competition between them is not so fierce.

As I'm a Japanese, I'm used to this kind of interior, but this would seem Japanese-styled in the eyes of foreign people. It is a bit controversial if "Tonkatsu" is really a Japanese dish, but at least we consider it to be Japanese.

What differs from cutlet is that "Tonkatsu" is usually sliced in pieces like this before it is served. If you have it at an ordinary Tonkatsu restaurant, it would cost you more than 11 us dollars, but this shop was selling this set for about 8.8 us dollars. Really a bargain. 

Tonkatsu is basically accompanied by Miso soup or Tonjiru, which is  a variant of Miso soup that has tiny pieces of pork. And as you know, this one is Miso soup.

As I explained in the posting "Hanaya Yohei", this is again "Chawan Mushi". Since it involves much effort to make it, the Japanese mothers won't cook it except on special occasions. 

Even though it is a Japanese dish, most people would put Worcester sauce on it. And it is often coupled with shredded cabbage like this. I guess you might have started to wonder if it is really a Japanese dish. 

But you if you dip the pieces in ground sesame, you would agree that "Tonkatsu" is eventually Japanese. I think Tonkatsu is one of a few Japanese dishes that would instantly fill your stomach. 

You might think the Tonkatsu each restaurant in Japan serves is not so different, as it is made just by frying, but the Japanese people notice the subtle difference between them. So I think many people would patronize only one Tonkatsu restaurant. However, I haven't seen many Tonkatsu restaurants go out of business. I think it is mainly because they are less expensive than the steak houses in Japan.