Monday, November 29, 2010

Posh sushi bar -2-

This sushi bar is called "Maneki zushi", and I came to this sushi bar for the second time this year. When I want to have sushi, I often end up eating some at a Kaitenzushi as I told you before, but ordinary Japanese people wouldn't be able to suppress the urge to have good sushi for a long time.

I'm not writing this blog to "advertise" certain restaurants and shops, but good restaurants would make foreign people want to come to Japan. I came here with three friends, but two of them were late.

Foreign people in my city like to come to this sushi bar, and as you can see English explanations are written on the menu. While having dinner, I could hear foreign people laughing out loud in the room next door.

Usually, if you come to a good sushi bar, you'd have to speak to a waitress to order, but this restaurant had this button.

This plate cost more than 3000 yen. Of course all the sushi tasted very good, but my favorite was definitely that yellow sushi, sea urchin.

Do you remember I introduced this cat "Maneki Neko"? The shop owner places this cat in his restaurant or shop to "beckon" in many customers.  

I sometimes hear people in NYC like to have Japanese dishes, but imo, our dishes are not so addictive like Mcdonald's. But Japanese dishes are often very healthy, and such dishes wouldn't be liked by people instantly. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tribe (Coffee Shop)

A new cafe opened two months ago in my city, and an ad said I could have a coffee for 200 yen there. You know, a coffee of Doutor costs about 200 yen too, so I think that's the psychological threshold for those who love to drink coffee so often. 

The name of this cafe is "Tribe", and this cafe served coffee made from beans harvested mainly in Africa.

Can you see the pictures on the sides of the counter? I thought those black people represented the word "Tribe".

There were only four seats for customers, and basically you should buy coffee to take out with your own cup. The right brown stuff is called "Karintou", and it is a snack made from wheat and sweetened with black sugar.

The coffee I ordered tasted really good. And the shop clerk roasts coffee himself with that machine and that must be the reason for the tastiness.

I hoped this coffee shop will do good business for a long time to come. I sometimes find good cafes, but some of them go out of business so easily. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trip to Nikkou -3-

After walking around in the Toushouguu area, I came to this lake called "Chuuzenji ko". This lake was just a few kilometers from where Toushouguu was, and it was worth seeing 'cause it was so refreshing to see a lake so huge as this.

 I took this pic from a temple that overlooked this lake. I was thinking of showing the temple in this post, but these days I doubt foreign people would enjoy seeing temples after temples.

This fall is called "Kegon no Taki", and considered one of the most renowned three falls in Japan. The water comes from the "Chuuzenji ko" that I showed you in the first pic. I wished the trees had more yellow leaves so that the fall would have looked better.

 And people were selling things that were peculiar to Japan. These are fake swords, but would you still associate Japan with Samurais?

As I showed in the previous post, there was an artifact called "Mizaru", and "Kikazaru". And sure, Nikkou is known as a place where you could see monkeys strolling in the streets. And this is the reason why they were selling these stuffed monkeys.

A street of the town near the "Kegon no Taki". You can see many souvenir shops.

I was thinking of having something typically Nikkou, but all I could have was this Soba with fried "Yuba". "Yuba" is a sheet-like stuff taken off the surface of boiled soy milk, and it doesn't have a taste like Tofu. And I don't think Yuba could be had exclusively in Nikkou.The yellow fry to the right of the Soba was Yuba.

After seeing the garden, temple, lake and fall, we decided to go home, but I was again feeling hungry from walking around. This is a coffee shop near the Nikkou station. The shop clerk said this shop was based on a French style, but what would you think?

I had this cake that was full of chestnuts. The coffee was very good too.

Do you know we have places to rest in called "service areas" on a highway? You can go to bathroom, or buy drinks and even snacks as well. People would get tired after driving on a highway for hours on end.

 Saw these Hello Kitty straps for your cell phones. You can see the Hello Kitties resembling a monkey. The red Japanese reads, "The three Nikkou monkey Kitties". Would you want one?

I really enjoyed looking around in Nikkou, and foreign people would enjoy this area too because of all the traditional "Japanese" things. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Trip to Nikkou -2-

I said I went to an area in Tochigi prefecture called Nikkou, and another must-see place is this "Toushouguu". It is a place where the first Tokugawa warlord "Ieyasu Tokugawa" was enshrined. He lived up to age 75, and since then he's rested in peace here.

 There were so many sightseers in front of that gate called "Torii". It was warm on this day, and the high should have been around 15 Celsius degrees.

A plaza where people take pics in front of these traditional buildings. The multiple-fold tower you can see is "Gojyuu No Tou", or a five-fold tower. It was burned down a few hundred years ago, but got reconstructed in 1818.

 I hadn't expected to see this, but you could have taken a ride on this horse. An adult would have had to pay 1,000 yen for a ride.

 This is one of the renowned artifacts in Nikkou. The left monkeys are called "Kikazaru", and the right ones "Mizaru", meaning "never listen", and "never see" respectively. Those monkeys suggest children not "listen to" or "see" bad things and grow up healthily. "Zaru" means "monkey" and "never", a kind of wordplay.  

 I introduced a place where you're supposed to clean your mouth and hands before saying prayer. The ones I showed you before weren't so flashy as this, but almost all the buildings here have gold color on them.

 The main gate called "Youmei Mon". It is said you'd never get tired of looking at this gate until the sun sets, so it has an alias, "The gate of dusk".

 And there were these dragon relieves on the gate.

 This cat is called "The sleeping cat", and in order to see this cat you have to pay more money in addition to the admission fee. The cat is basking in the sunshine, and "Nikkou" means "the sunshine" too. This cat was made by "Jingorou Hidari".

 After seeing the cat you can go up these stairs to see something more. I was almost losing my breath while scaling this stairs .

 But after going up the stairs, all I could see was this tomb. Honestly I wasn't so impressed.

 Do you remember I showed you this wooden plate called "Ema"? You can write down your wish on this "sleeping cat" Ema, and your wish may come true

-to be continued-

Monday, November 15, 2010

Trip to Nikkou -1-

I went to an area in Tochigi prefecture called "Nikkou", where there were renowned temples, a lake and fall. I'd like to show them bit by bit, but today let me show you a Japanese garden that was designated as a World heritage.

 I had to drive more than 3 hours to come to this area Nikkou.

 This is the garden I mentioned, and according to the staff, we could see trees having yellowest and reddest leaves for this year. I have to say I was so lucky.

  The name of this garden is "Shouyou en", and it was made in the Edo period(1603-1868). The period was when Tokugawa families ruled the nation as warlords.

 It is said you can take a great pic from any angle.

 As a Japanese I thought this was really beautiful, but foreign people would have thought the same way, as I saw lots of foreigners taking pics with their friends.

While I was absorbed in taking pics, I was asked by an old couple to take a pic of them. There were many impressive spots in this Nikkou area, but I have to admit this garden was the best of all I saw. 

If you come to Tokyo, you can reach Utsunomiya station by taking advantage of a bullet train called "Yamabiko", and from there you should use the Nikkou line to come to this garden. Here's a link to a pic and the details of the bullet train.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

At the top of Mt. Tsukuba

I showed you a hot spring at Mt. Tsukuba, and after that I climbed to the top of the mountain by ropeway gondola as it was so clear that I thought I could see beyond my city. 

 This was one of the two stations where the gondolas departed. I had to drive for dozen minutes to come here, and it was a bit cooler there than where the hotel was. 

 Before I got in I took this pic. You can see the name of my city "Tsukuba" on its side. Our city was named after this mountain, and people come to this mountain to visit the shrine during New Years that I showed you in this posting.

 I was looking down all the time while I was on this gondola. Somehow I saw lots of old people, but it would be hard for such people to climb to the top of the mountain on foot after they get out of this.
 There was this stone at the top that was inscribed with the directions and what you can see beyond from the peak. According to this stone, we'd be able to see Mt. Fuji to the southwest on a sunny day without fog. 

I took this pic while I was looking to south. This is the highest spot people could climb up to, and I wanted to show you the center of my city that could have been seen beyond if there hadn't been fog, but unfortunately....sorry. 

It was a bit early to see autumn leaves, but I think one or two weeks from now most of the trees at this mountain would be yellow or red enough to entertain your eyes. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Roten Buro at Mt. Tsukuba

I had a chance to go to a hotel that had a hot spring. I think the best season to bathe in hot springs in Japan is definitely fall, as you can see yellow leaves on trees.

 This hotel called "Aokiya" was basically an ordinary hotel where people stay overnight, but it was accepting people who came only for the purpose of taking in the hot spring. This hotel was at Mt. Tsukuba, which was just a 1 hour's drive from where I live.
 I had to pay 1050 yen to take a bath. According to this ad, the hot spring would make you recover from fatigue, and ladies have smooth skins.
 There is this type of hot spring on the roof of a hotel in Japan which is called "Roten Buro", and "Roten" means "open air" and "Buro" is a bath. And the name of this "Roten Buro" was "Unjyou no Yu" or, "The spring above the clouds".
And this was the hot spring this hotel had. I could command the magnificent view from here. Basically the water in hot springs should come from the ground, but I thought this hot water had some groundwater mixed in the running water. 

Foreign people aren't accustomed to taking a bath with strangers, but we Japanese just do that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Milano Sandwich

Have you ever had any sandwiches or some other foods at Starbucks? It is considered in Japan that the foods you can get at Starbucks are not as good as ones you can get at Doutor. 

 I've introduced Doutor several times, but have you gotten used to seeing this logo? The second "O" is red probably because they wanted it to resemble a coffee bean.

 Had this Matcha latte. Matcha is basically bitterer than ordinary green tea, so it went well with the sweet cream on top of the glass. I usually have coffee, but in order to show that this blog is about Japan, I purposely ordered it.

There are always three types of Milano Sandwich, A, B, and C, but their ingredients are often changed so that customers would never get tired of the menu. And this one became available recently, which is another Milano Sandwich with soft chicken and half-boiled egg. You can compare it with the picture Doutor uses as an ad by clicking this and scrolling it down. I thought the real one really differed from the ad, but the taste was very good.

Sorry, my blog has been on Japanese food many times recently, but I haven't had time to go to interesting places in a while. Whenever enough time is available, I'd go and take some pics for sure.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Inaka no Nichiyoubi (Organic restaurant)

There are two restaurants in my city where they serve "organic" dishes. You know, there are so many foods out there that have chemical substances and additives, so Japanese people are starting to appreciate foods free of those potentially toxic stuff.

 This organic restaurant called "Inaka no Nichiyoubi" opened several years ago, and it has been doing good business until now. The meaning of this restaurant's name is "A Sunday in the countryside".
 I came here for the first time, but I was already familiar with this style of offering foods. I don't know why, but organic restaurants serve food in the buffet style. The fries you see nearside are Japanese tiger prawn. You can see a pic of the prawn by clicking this.

 I was looking for meat but all I could get was made of vegetables, eggs, and grains. I didn't think I was supposed to eat something greasy at a shop like this. 

As you can see, this is rice and curry. Or are you familiar with its Japanese name, "curry rice"? This curry didn't have any meat, and was full of vegetables like onion. And this grain replaced ordinary white rice. 

Had this as a dessert. The white balls (Dango) you see are something like rice cake, but they are not so elastic as rice cake. These balls are similar to the ones in this pic that I uploaded before. The brown stuff that is sitting on the balls is red bean paste.

It has been rainy over the past several days and the low was about 10 degrees in my area. It is considered very cold for this period of the year.