Mariko Morning Market

Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | 0 comments

   Sunday morning, we got up bright and early and headed off to the Mariko morning market, a local event that takes place on the 28th of every month. How this happened to escape my attention for 3 years, I'm not sure, but I'm glad that we eventually came across it.
 Mariko was originally a lodging spot for travelers on the Tokaido road, which was constructed under the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu's rule in order to connect Edo (Tokyo) with Kyoto. There were 53 lodging stations total, Mariko being 20th from Tokyo.
 Today, it's a rather sleepy area of Shizuoka, very peaceful and beautiful. Well, I imagine that it's usually peaceful....on this particular day, the main street was quite crowded with locals there for the market.
  We were hoping for a lot of farmer's market fare, and while there was a fair amount of vegetables, there were a lot more festival-type stands than expected: tako yaki (grilled balls of dough with octopus and spices inside), yaki soba (fried noodles), ramen, you name it. Overall, it seemed more like a street fair than a farmer's market.
  The entire road leading up to Odatara Fudoson Temple was filled with market stands, but the temple was definitely the best sight. A little waterfall streams down from the top, where the temple is, and you get to climb through a mossy haze past tons of miniature Buddhas. I wish that our pictures did it justice, but the lighting was rather hard to adjust for.

At the foot of the main street

           Konnyaku...a kind of root vegetable. Famous for being extremely low-calorie

                                           Sample wares

                                        The 'town'

Eating toasted motchi (pounded sticky rice cakes)

Some of the mini Buddhas

                                        Odotara Fudosan Temple

                                            Maneki Neko...the good luck cat

                               Seigan Temple, another temple along the main road


Posted on Sunday, March 28, 2010 | 0 comments

  We took the Wasa-monster out on a small neighborhood expedition to see the sakura (cherry) blossoms yesterday. She did remarkably well, considering that she rarely gets to go outside. We did have a minor temper tantrum at the end, but I guess that's understandable: I'd probably be annoyed too if someone kept lifting me high in the air and shoving my face into flowers.

                  In the local park. There were quite a few comments of 'That's a CAT!'

                                  Sniff, sniff

                             Getting fed up with the whole experience

                              NYAAAAAAAAA! Wasa-monster appears!

               The cherry blossoms aren't quite in full bloom yet-they're predicted to be at about 100% next weekend, which is when Shizuoka is having its annual cherry-blossom festival. Perfect timing. We're going on Saturday afternoon, so you can expect more flower pictures some time around then.

Bubble Boys: Yet Another Crazy Game Show

Posted on Friday, March 26, 2010 | 0 comments

          For this variety show episode, the competitors had to: 1. wear what appeared to be silver latex suits, with inflatable balloons attached (see for yourself); 2. play ping pong, and 3. while playing, come up with names of items in a selected category, for example: 'Colleges in Tokyo'. Every time someone missed the ball or couldn't think of another item in the category, a button was pushed to slowly inflate the team's balloons. Here's the ending, with the losing team 'exploding' on camera. Enjoy!

Going Bananas!

Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2010 | 0 comments

            Here are a few new products that I came across last week...there seems to be a banana theme going on for some reason, although I have no idea why. The last time bananas were in the news here, it was a couple of years ago, when the 'Banana Diet' was huge. I think you were supposed to eat just a banana for breakfast and then maybe one for lunch, too, in order to lose weight. Whatever the case, for some reason bananas were over-priced and selling out like mad for about 3 months until the next fad diet came along; it was ridiculous.
 Not that these products are going to help you lose weight, but here we have a banana-flavored Crunky chocolate bar and also a banana-flavored Kit Kat bar. We tried the Kit Kat--not bad. Just imagine the same banana flavor as those banana Laffy Taffys, and then add some wafery-crunch to it.

                                          Bananas everywhere!

           Next product (nothing to do with bananas): Baskin Robins-themed chocolates. Strawberry cheesecake, Jamoca (sp?) coffee, orange sherbet, and vanilla flavors. I didn't try these either so can't give them a rating. I was slightly surprised that they weren't in the freezer section, though.
                       I'd like to see triple-chocolate Moose Tracks out next, please


Yui and Sakura Ebi

Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 | 0 comments

  Yesterday, we took a break from planning for the big move and went to have lunch in Yui, a nearby town that's famous for sakura ebi, aka 'cherry-blossom shrimp'. This is the only place in Japan where these little shrimp are caught, and then they're shipped out from here to the rest of the country.
 I'd never eaten sakura ebi before, but Yuki knew of a place that serves good shrimp-related cuisine at a reasonable price. Problem is, everyone else seems to know about it too, judging by the line we had to wait in, first for parking and then to get into the restaurant. I think we waited about 45 minutes, all told...and we didn't even arrive at the restaurant until 2 pm!

  The restaurant itself is quite simple and unassuming--rather like a local diner, actually.

                        My appetizer: Japanese-style omelet with sakura ebi inside

 Yuki's lunch: fried sakura ebi, rice, raw sakura ebi, boiled sakura ebi salad, and soba. Notice a theme here?

                                My lunch: fried sakura ebi and soba

                          I have no idea how many tiny shrimp are in this thing

   After stuffing ourselves, we drove around town on the way home. I don't know the name of this little temple, but it seemed to be the main one in Yui. Very quiet and peaceful.

   Upon leaving Yui, we ended up driving down the main street and came across the sign that I think we were supposed to see on the way in: a huge pair of sakura ebi and a banner that said that name of the street was Sakura Ebi Road. (It may have said something else too, but my kanji-reading skills aren't all that great).

                                          Giant Shrimp Attack!!!

New Curry Senbei Snacks

Posted on Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 0 comments

        Found this new flavor of kaki no tane senbei ('kaki no tane' means persimmon seed, since the little crackers in the pack sort of look like them) at the store yesterday. Yuki and I are all for trying anything spicy, let alone curry flavored, so we gave them a taste last night. Yeah...big disappointment in my book! First off, they weren't spicy at all; they were actually sort of sweet. Upon inspecting the ingredient list, we found syrup listed about midway down...yuck.
Yuki said they were 'edible', but I wouldn't eat anything besides the peanuts after the inital taste. General consensus: if you want spicy curry, stick to the real deal!

Whole Wheat....So They Say

Posted on Tuesday, March 16, 2010 | 0 comments

  I finally gave up on finding a reliable source of whole wheat bread here after not locating any at 3 different grocery stores this past weekend. I honestly just don't understand the lack of it. Plus, you may recall me venting previously about how most of the white bread contains trans fats (margarine or sometimes shortening). WHY?? If I could find someone in the food industry or government to write to about this, I seriously would! Trans Fats = The Devil, people!
  Well, instead of buying any bread, we went to an import store and purchased whole wheat flour instead. I made 2 loafs of lovely, preservative-free bread last night. Only problem being, I'm not quite convinced that they're 100% whole wheat! The color of the flour was a lot lighter than the usual whole wheat flour that I'm accustomed to, and the bread turned out to be quite a bit softer than I'd expected. Anyone have any insights into this?  Does the import shop have a scam going on in the flour aisle? 

                                 Always Curious

                               See how light the dough is?

                         The finished product

                           Tastes great, but it just didn't scream 'whole wheat' to me

Okonomiyaki with Wasabi

Posted on Monday, March 15, 2010 | 0 comments

    Yuki and I made okonomiyaki for dinner last night...I think I've talked about what that is, exactly, before? Even if I haven't, I don't have time to go into details right now, but it's a kind of Japanese pizza/crepe mixture. I always put seafood on mine, but lots of times people top theirs with bacon or ham.
 Wasabi, of course, had to 'help' us while we were mixing the ingredients!

                                  Whisk = new toy??

 Oh boy! Way better than my bouncy ball!

  The finished product

Topped with Okonomiyaki Sauce

If Only It Could Cook...

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2010 | 0 comments

  I got this hairdryer as a present last weekend (thanks again, Otousan!). It's one of the new 'nano' models which is supposed to provide moisture to hair by blowing out platinum ions, which I think are encapsulated in water. Or something like that. I never did like chemistry. Biology, yes, chemistry, no way. I also saw on a website that this particular model (or maybe all nano-dryers) is supposed to help protect against or repair UV damage. Whatever the case, I do know this: it dries my hair faster than our ion-dryer, plus both Yuki and I have noticed that our hair is smoother and not so frizzy after just one week. It's a miracle worker! Now I just need to read the instruction manual to see if it can vacuum, too.

   Is it a bird? A laser gun? No, it's the Panasonic Nano Care Hair Dryer EH-NA91!!!

Pan Roasted Scallops With Sesame Sauce

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2010 | 0 comments

   I finally got around to trying this recipe from Health magazine that I'd been hanging onto for years...and I'm glad I did! Very easy, and it tasted great. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a Japanese recipe or simply an Asian one, but the ingredients are all things that Japanese kitchens are always stocked with (besides the crushed red pepper, that is).
The only substitution I made was using baby leeks instead of green onions, and the scallops that I bought still had their beards on.
If you're in a rush, this recipe is supposed to only take 8 minutes total. Not too sure about that, but it was definitely pretty quick.

                           My version...

New Kit Kat: Sakura Matcha (Cherry Blossom Green Tea)

Posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | 0 comments

   Stopped by the local 7-11 today after going to the post office, since I figured it was about time for a new Kit Kat to make an appearance. And they didn't disappoint: Sakura Matcha Kit Kats are out, just in time for cherry blossom season.
 I almost didn't buy one, since I've had both the matcha (green tea) Kit Kats before and the sakura (cherry blossom) Kit Kats, so I already had an idea of what this one would taste like. But, for the sake of getting a photo, I caved. Yuki and I did a taste-test right after he got home from work. We gave them a strong 6.5, maybe a 7. I didn't get any hint of cherry blossom, and it was milder than the usual matcha ones. Still, not bad. I would, however, like to see these done on a dark chocolate base at some point, instead of the usual white chocolate.  ***If you're not familiar with the way product sales work here, most things are seasonal, and you'll see a yearly rotation of food items, albeit with slight variances. For example, each spring that I've been here, I've seen sakura and matcha/green tea kit kats, sometimes in varying flavor combinations like the one above. They've always used white chocolate as the base for these 2 particular flavors, though***
Next year, I'm hoping for something like sakura and sake Kit Kats. People drink sake at cherry blossom viewing parties anyway, so why not combine them?

Missing Jicama

Posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | 2 comments

          Yeah, that's the name of a vegetable, not a person (or a communicable disease, for that matter). For some reason, I've been craving some tonight. I really wish that they imported these lovely little roots into Japan, but so far I have neither seen nor heard of them. On a side note, we did find Greek yogurt for sale online here---for the price of a mere 1800 yen (about $20) per large container! Add that to my list of things I will only be eating in the US.
  Some things I've been unable to find here so far:
   1. Shoes in my size (unless I go to the 'big woman' store in Tokyo, where they only sell ugly big shoes
  2. A decent-sized jar of natural peanut butter. I did find a mini jar once, but only once. And there's plenty of that nasty Jiffy stuff, yuck.
  3. Jicama
  4. Turkey. Ah, turkey. How I miss thee.
  5. Reese's peanut butter cups. What's up with the lack of peanut butter products?
  6. Taco Bell. Not that we tend to eat Taco Bell all that much, but still...
  7. Aspirin. Who knew that aspirin was prescription-only in this country??
  8. Wasabi's tail. Hah, just checking to see if you're really paying attention. But yes, she's still searching for it...

            Jicama, in case you've never seen it. Pronounced 'hick-a-ma', just imagine a pickup with a Confederate flag and a gun rack and you'll never forget how to say it

I ate the whole thing in one day!

                    Our little monster, hiding under the covers. No tail there, either.