Tuesday, May 31, 2011


A huge, local, organic strawberry, covered with a sweet azuki bean paste, then wrapped with mochi which is like a rice dough. I like a strawberry that takes three bites to eat and leaves juice all over your hands, chin, and shirt.

Japanese design

Less is more in Japan. A single pine tree surrounded by small pebbles will serve as the landscaping for an entire yard. The focus is the pine tree. When you sit at stare at a single tree standing just two meters tall you notice every detail of the needles and the bark. You see every curve of every branch and you appreciate what the tree brings to the space. The photo above is momiji or Japanese maple(Acer Palmatum). This has always been one of my favorite trees. When I was young, there was a Japanese maple in my neighborhood that had long limbs that stretched out in every direction. As kids, we would crawl out on a branch and lay down; hovering over the sidewalk. People would walk right under us and not even know we were there. It was great fun for many years until one day the tree was cut down. We were pretty bummed for a few minutes, but we found other trees to climb up; we never found another tree we could climb out.  Climbing up a tree was like climbing up a ladder; climbing out on the limbs of the maple was almost like flying. I have seen many huge maples here in Japan, but none seem to be as big as the one we climbed as kids.

Here are some cool designs I have seen in the last couple of days.

A simple strech of lavender. The smell was so strong I wanted to lay down for a nap.

A nice entry to a home.

Keep it simple.

Harborland. A mall on Kobe.

A little bit of old and new. Rice fields in front of cake mansions. A mansion is a way of describing larger apartments. They look like square cakes, hence the name; cake mansion.

A nice bridge with cool lines we crossed on the way to Arima.

The river through Arima.

Arima is the oldest hot spring retreat in Japan. They love the water in this town. They bottle it. They bathe in it. They turn it into beer.

The upper part of the river.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sushi, Garden, and Sake

We went to dinner at a kaitenzushi restaurant. You may know it as conveyor belt sushi.

This place was great! The most popular dishes cruise down the belt. You can special order your favorite dishes by touch screen at the table.

This is matcha, or green tea powder, that is on every table. You mix a small amount with hot water from the spout on the table to make your own tea. I love this stuff. I drank about six cups. I don`t think this system would work in the States. Someone would burn themself on the hot water and sue the joint.

Very tender pork simmered with sake and soy sauce.

Ika or squid. Maybe cuddlefish.  Very soft and easy to eat. We had a few plates of this one.

A special pork dish heading down the line.

When you are finished, you press a button at your table and a staff member comes over to count your plates. She prints out a check tableside and you pay at the front door.

Naturally, we stopped by a yasai-ya (vegetable shop) on the way home to get a few things for breakfast.

This is the butter we keep at the house.

This is chirimen. A small fish, dried, and slightly salty. It is nice to put on a salad.

A water lily we found near the house.

These are some flowers we snapped shots of at a community garden. Any help identifying these flowers would be appreciated.

Kiku-masamune. A famous sake brewery in Nada. We went to the museum in Sumiyoshi.

These are a few sake barrels they had in front of the museum. The original brewery was founded in 1659.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Popular form of transporation

Two kid seats and a basket for the groceries. This is a common way for Japanese moms to get around the neighborhood. The Costco parking lot was also packed with bikes.... I never thought of taking a bike to Costco.

Ramen near Sumiyoshi

Mokkosu. Shoyou ramen, soy sauce based soup.

This soup was loaded with fresh scallions and thin sliced pork. I loaded it up with white pepper and garlic.

I couldn`t identify this car, but it was loud. The dude driving took off like he was racing somebody.
UPDATE: So I remember the logo on the back of this car. It is a TVR. These cars were produced in England in limited quantities.

The TVR. A pretty sweet car.

Izakaya hopping in Osaka

This is a rose garden near our house. It is nicely maintained by a local group of ladies.

I couldn`t believe how many layeres this rose had.

We had to stop to buy tickets to a baseball game. Where? 7-11 of course. Now that is convenient!

This is our station. Settsu-Motoyama. It is very convenient to get to Sannomiya or Osaka, but the only problem is you have to climb about twenty stairs to get to the train platform. If you can`t climb the stairs, you can`t use this station. It is a pretty old station that hasn`t been made handicap accessible yet. Construction is planned.

This is Shinsaibashi on a Wednesday afternoon around 3pm. Thousands of people, all with a very unique style.

Ikayaki at Hanshin department store. This is like a squid pancake; one with egg, one without. Ikayaki is one of the things the Hanshin snack bar is known for.

Takoyaki. Balls of dough with pieces of octopus inside. It is toppped with okonomi sauce, mayo, and bonito flakes(katsuobushi).

Next we had some dessert. Gozasoro with shiroan. This is a warm cake with a sweet white bean paste inside. The drink is a blended green tea from Morihan.

Next, we stopped at an izakaya with friends. I had tofu with spring onion and tororo kombu, a type of seaweed. Also a nice slice of daikon with konyaku.

Agetako... fried octopus.

Next we stopped at this place. A izakaya next to a fish market in Namba.

I thought this was going to be a standard hot sake but....

It was flamed tableside for us then....

I noticed it had roasted fugu(blowfish) fins inside. It gave the sake a nice smokey taste.

Aji (horse mackerel) sashimi looked awesome. I went to grab a peice and I realized the fish was still alive, breathing, and flipping it`s tail. We ate the sashimi and then the chef fried the fish into chips. The entire fish was consumed. I could eat about five of these.

Grilled clams. They were very juicy and tender.

This is a hook that hung above the table. It is used to hang a nabe (boiling pot). The center of the table has panels that can be removed to uncover a heat source. This fish was pretty awesome.