Japan

Osaka Food Marathon

I went to Osaka for the long weekend and had a great time like I always do. I’ve been to this city so many times and always enjoy myself. It’s big but laid back, with plenty of touristy things to do that never feel overcrowded or unworthy of the hype. I love being able to walk around, eat, chat, and take in the sights. This weekend in particular was full of wonderful company and food. Lots and lots of food.

Day 1: Okonomiyaki in Dotonbori (Fugetsu | 風月)

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Okonomiyaki is one of the most satisfying Japanese foods and an Osaka specialty. It’s chewy and savory in all the right ways. In Dotonbori there are plenty of Okonomiyaki restaurants to choose from. At Fugetsu we ordered four types (I almost remember accurately) from bottom left clockwise – 1) pork, egg, green onion 2) seafood 3) kimchi 4) potato and mochi. All excellent, but there’s something about the spiciness and texture of kimchi in okonomiyaki that I really love. Potato and mochi is also good, it makes it a little sweeter and more chewy.

Day 2: Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream and Takoyaki (Osaka Castle)

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 I went to do hanami at Osaka castle. By “hanami” I mean I went to see if there were actually any flowers. There weren’t but I spent a sunny afternoon sitting outside and trying some of the food vendors nearby. I had some Hokkaido milk ice cream which was very thick and creamy. They served much smaller portions of this than for other ice cream which is good – any more would be too much of a good thing. I also had takoyaki, another Osaka specialty. Usually takoyaki is covered in sauce and mayonnaise but restaurants have a lot of creative toppings to try from. The flavour above is just salt, and skipping the sauces makes it taste entirely different. I really enjoyed it!

 

Kushikatsu (Shinsekai Kushiya | 新世界串や

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It was my first time having kushikatsu and I am hooked. It was also my first time really hanging out in the Shinsekai area which I now know I have to go back to. Kushikatsu is basically just skewers of battered meat and vegetables that you dip into sauce. Generally you can order as you go and try lots of different varieties. We got an all you can drink all you can eat menu (I’m going to miss this) for around 3000 yen. You have an hour and a half to order as much food and drinks as you want! But if you don’t finish the food you have to pay a fee. They also bring continuous raw cabbage that you can munch on while waiting for your next round of food to come. At the place we went we could order up to five different items at a time and they would bring one skewer of each for each person in our group. We tried octopus, lotus root, eggplant, quail egg, chicken, beef, mushrooms, and a few more I can’t remember! The mushrooms and quail egg were my favourite, but they were all good. I left feeling very, very full.

 

Day 3: Pancakes! (Eggs ‘n Things

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… more like whipped cream and things. I was pretty pumped to order pancakes with blueberries and coconut. Little did I know the portions are massive including a tower of whipped cream (aka white cream in Japanese).  I couldn’t finish all of it and got help from other people. At home I  make an effort not to eat any added sugar and this breakfast had me had me on an intense sugar high all day. I have no regrets!! Though if I ever do it again I’ll plan on sharing.

 

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Magical Winter Illumination in Roppongi

This winter break I did a bit of traveling around Japan – to Tokyo, Osaka, and then Maibara. I spent Christmas Eve in Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills witnessing a magical illumination. Earlier in the day we went to the Takashi Murakami Exhibit at the Mori Art Museum, and then spent the evening wandering around the lights, eating crepes, and listening to a concert by a Swedish singing group. Definitely the most unique Christmas I’ve ever had, but a perfect because of wonderful company.

Happy Halloween from Kiki

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Happy Halloween! After making a No-Face costume last year I wasn’t sure what to follow it up with. It’s hard to think of something that is so easily recognizable and that gets as much of a reaction. There was also the question of time, as in, not having enough of it. I do this every year – promise myself I’ll think of something awesome to be for Halloween and then realize it’s the week before and the best idea I can come up with is being a cat. So I decided to simplify and do something that would take less time and ideally no money… and success! I decided to be Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service. I had a blue dress and a blue shirt that were the right colour. My work happened to have a broom that worked perfectly for the costume and they let me borrow it. I had also seen a card / coin purse of Jiji (the cat) sitting on one of the shared desks in the office. I hesitantly asked to borrow it not knowing who it belonged too. Luckily it had been left by a graduated student a few years before and I was told I could keep it! I pinned it to a stuffed cat I already had. All that was left was t0 find a red bow which I bought at the 100 yen store (with tax… 108 yen, just over a dollar). All in all my last minute costume worked out very well and I plan on wearing it to work on the 30th… we’ll see how it goes!

Uozu Tatemon Festival 2015

Last weekend was my second time joining the Uozu Tatemon Festival, the biggest event in Uozu of the year and something I had been looking forward since the first time. There were two nights on the Friday and Saturday. I went on Friday just to watch and while there was a smaller crowd than Saturday, there was still a lot of excitement and energy.

There are 8 floats, all weighing around 5 tonnes that get pushed and pulled along the water. Big groups of people are organized in teams and wear matching happis. Usually the strongest people get put in the centre of the float to push it (there aren’t any wheels!) and everyone else pulls from ropes at the front. After going down the street the Tatemon get pulled into an open area one by one where they are spun in a circle. A few lucky guys get to run with the ropes extended from the top; leaping in the area as they spin the float around. Once this is done the team members visit the shrine.
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The best part of the festival is seeing everyone from the city come together. The floats are all owned and stored by families and the team members are usually relatives of friends. Lots of families and groups of people to come out and watch together, eating food and taking pictures.

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