Halloween 2012!!

After 2 weekend of Halloween parties in Kobe and Osaka it’s safe to say I’m Halloweened out! A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join a krew dressing as nigirizushi for Halloween.

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The Saturday prior to Halloween a couple dozen of us pilgrimaged to Amemura アメリカ村 (America Village) in Osaka the Friday following we did it all over again for the annual Kobe JET Halloween party at IZNT in Sannomiya.

Here’s a couple of photos from both!

Please Wait a Moment しょうしょう おまちください

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皆ーさん しょうしょう おまちください
Gomen (Presumably) loyal readers, I apologize for the lack of updates recently.

Parentals are in town and we headed to the capital leaving me little time to blog, so hang tight whist Nihonomnom takes a short break this week.

I shall update on my adventures soon
(^◇^)

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri 岸和田 だんじり祭

On the weekend of September 15th, myself along with a pair of Mikes headed over to Kishiwada 岸和田 for the annual Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri 岸和田だんじり祭 (float festival).

Although technically in Osaka 大阪, Kishiwada over 30km away from the city center with a population of over 200000 it’s hardly inaka.

We were lead on the days adventures by the ever hospitable and informative Tsuji-san, who is a local resident of Kishiwada.

It has been recorded that the Danjiri Matsuri began in 1703 the 16th year of the Genroku era. Started by the Daimyo of Kishiwada, Okabe Nagayasu, when he prayed to Shinto gods at Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社 (my favourite place in all of Japan) for a plentiful harvest.

To summarize what exactly occurs on the weekend of the matsuri, each district of the city pulls their respective danjiri 檀尻 (portable shrine) through the streets of the town.
Consisting of anywhere from 200-1200 families each district has its own danjiri and alongside this a unique uniform that displays the name of the neighborhood, and the danjiri’s symbol.
They are accompanied by a kumi 組 (Pulling team) who pull the cart (which I was told weigh around 4-4.5 tons) via one of two long ropes that are attached to the front of the danjiri, whilst yelling their respective kakegoe 掛け声 (a chant to encourage activity).
Meanwhile the seinen-dan 青年團 (Young man group) on board the danjiri beat taiko 太鼓 (Japanese drums) kane 鐘 (Japanese bells).
Fueled by a plethora of onigiri お握り (rice balls) and Asahi beer the seinen-dan pull the danjiri round corners at frightful speeds. In fact each team try’s their best to out do each other in how fast they can maneuver a corner!
To add to the spectacle trailing the danjiri is a grand entourage of chanting spectators, made up of members of the local community from children to elderly.

Comically there is also a guy called the daiku-gata 大工方 (cartwright) who ‘surfs’ on the roof of each danjiri riding each corner as if its a giant 4 ton skateboard! Traditionally this role is reserved for the carver of the danjiri but these days it’s often a young man from the community, who can dance around the roof of danjiri, wave around his fans yet still maintain balance!
Also to add a scary note to things, I was told around 40 men have died participating in the Danjiri matsuri in the past 100 years, and unsurprisingly it is one of the most dangerous matsuri in Japan.

During the rest of the year the danjiri is kept in storage in one of these large gararges. As the matsuri draws near, the danjiri decorated each year with elaborate flower arrangements, prayer cards and ornaments by members of the local community,

Of course amongst all this Danjiri Matsuri has all the regualr fanfare of a typical summer matsuri, food stalls selling dishes such as takoyaki  蛸焼, baby castella ベビカステラ, kakigoroi かき氷, wataame 綿飴 and aisu kyuuri 氷胡瓜. We picked up some delicious Chinese Xiao Long, aisu kyuuri and chocolate coated bananas ^_^

Also along side the food there was also a range of vendors peddling Japanese carnival games for children and we are of course all just big kids!

World Craft Beer Tasting – In Umeda, Osaka

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Last Sunday a couple friends and I headed over to Nakazakicho Hall in Osaka’s Umeda area for a World Craft Beer Tasting event, that was on over the weekend of Sept 22/23 2012.

 

For 3000円 we each received 5 Drink Tickets and a commemorative glass, I for one was quite excited at the prospect of finally being able to drink some nice flavourful beers after spending the last couple months drinking the boring and flavourless watery swill Japanese seem to regard as beer.

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Grapefruit IPA – North Island – Hokkaido ~6%

Very cloudy and orange in colour with little head. Hoppy bitter citrus, with a very distinctive sour grapefruit after-taste, almost Puckering. Smell is pleasant and fruity, made for a nice thirst quenching start to the day. 3.5/5

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Tamamura-Honten – Shiga Kogen Miyama Blonde – Nagano ~6.5%

Mild, interesting and very easy drinking, sporting an almost non existent head. Thin mouthfeel, light bitter with notes of grains, hops and spices. That said it seemed quite similar to the Pure Blond beer brand I used to drink back in Australia so was a winner in my books. 4/5

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Imperial Stout – Minoh Beer – Nagano ~8.5%
Not being a huge fan of stout in general I was quite impressed by this brew, with heavy roasted coffee, dark coco notes it almost tasted like a frothy frappé than a beer. Smooth and medium bodied, texture was very thick and oily, had a bitter chocolate malty finish. Bit heavy to down more than one or two however. 4/5

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Racer 5 IPA – Bear Republic – USA ~7%
Very fruity and crisp. Easy to enjoy and a nice change of pace from a regular beer. Taste is sweet and light up front with a nicely balanced caramel hop bitterness in the middle. All in all clean, smooth and very easy to drink. Nice light carbonation. Finish is lingering bitterness with grapefruit and lemon. Perhaps the beer of the day and the only I tried brewed in the USA. No wonder it has sold out by the time I went together a second one! 4.5/5

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Imperial Red Ale – Ise Kadoya Brewery – Ise ~6.3%

Reddish amber in colour and very cloudy. Had a nice amount of head, lots of caramel and toffee with a moderate bitterness, made for a nice final beer to finish the day up with.

http://www.worldcraftbeertasting.com/

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Den Den Town でんでんタウン Adventures

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Recently I headed to Osaka 大阪 to explore Nipponbashi 日本橋 with a couple of friends.
Colloquially known as Den Den Townでんでんタウン (Electric Town) it’s generally regarded as the more grimy, industrial version of Tokyo’s 東京 Akihabara 秋葉原 district.
Some would consider this Osaka’s Otaku district, whether you’re in the market for Anime goods, computer parts, insanely niche porn, airsoft weapons or an afternoon at a maid café Den Den Towns has it all (and more)!

Where Akihabara is known for its flash lights and high tech stores, Den Den Town is a much more down to earth blue collar workers district. One only has to look at the aging buildings or peer down an alleyway off the main strip, to catch a glimpse of motorcycle garages and ojii-sans siting in ancient shops filled with hub caps and spark-plugs.

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However Den Den Town really has a certain old world character and charm to it that Akihabara just really lacks. In fact this is one of the few places in Japan where it’s haggling is kosher, also rather than stores just selling the newest thing on the market (items which you could arguably get anywhere in Japan), here there is are ageing treasures and bargains around every corner!

Enjoy some photos I took amongst the adventures ☆〜(ゝ。∂)

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Cool statutes outside a shop

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So many figurines!!

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Maid Cafe I was forced into >_<

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Gina computer store banner

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Awesome Chopper and Luffy ride!

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This lil picture was attached to a copy o the new Mario Kart DS game.
I read it to be Mario and Lakutu spit-roasting the cloud (*^^*)

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Giant Takoyaki たこ焼き display

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Giant ass Gundam figure!

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Paul buying his PSG-1 (sniper rifle from MGS)

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Claw games!

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Entrance to Doguyasuji

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Freakin amazing life-sized Fallout models!!

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Crazy DVD I spotted tat I read to be combination of FFVII, Phoenix Wright and well…… Porn

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Ok this box really weirded me the fuck out, like it was in the a typical anime shop and I gathered it is used to recycle old porn DVDs, just the character with the blurred out erection holding hands with a child…… Really Japan really……..

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And I leave you with this epic One Piece display I found, each character paired with their half age equivalent \(^o^)/ byeonara!!!!

Omiyage お土産 Haul!!

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Today i returned to work after a few weeks away due to summer school, job training, Japanese language class and taking summer leave. To my delight was met with a pile of snacks on my desk from my co-workers. In Japan it’s customary to purchase omiyage お土産 (souvenirs) for friends, family and co-workers for a wide array of circumstances that I’m not going to into in this post.

The one I will be referring to us associated with travel, returning to work after taking a trip it is expected that one will bring his/her coworkers a present from their holiday destination (called meibutsu 名物 – literally regional produce).

There is a wide array of rules that come along with this, omiyage must be individually wrapped, packaged attractively and ideally be something that can be consumed.

Now being gaijin I’m pretty much except from the rules of omiyage as its presumed that the average foreigner is completely oblivious of all Japanese customs.

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I however like to make a little effort and since I spent the last few weeks either on shuchou (business trips) or sitting at my desk doing nothing I bought my co-workers some okonomiyaki senbei お好み焼き 煎餅(japanese savory pancake themed rice crackers) from one of my many visits to Osaka in the past few weeks, which they are famous for.

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That said, my little omiyage was pale in comparison to the mass of them that had piled up on my desk during my absence over the past 3 weeks.
やった‼ Happy days!!!!! \(^o^)/

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 3 – Yatsuhashi 八つ橋

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Welcome to Chapter 3 of ‘The Mochi Diaries’ (餅の日記) ☆〜(ゝ。∂)

Today I shall be introducing the original mochi that began my infatuation many years ago during a trip to Kyoto!! Without further a due I present my holy grail of mochi the triangular, deviously delicious Nama Yatsuhashi 生八つ橋!!!!

Nothing screams like ‘I’v just visited Kyoto’ than bringing back a box of
oh these as omiyage お土産. With an origin dating back over 300 years yatsuhashi were named after Yatsuhashi Kengyo八橋 検校, a famous composer and player of koto (a traditional Japanese 6 stringed instrument) music. He was the man who is credited as the first musician to introduce and enlighten the general public into the art of koto and so  his is often regarded as the “Father of Modern Koto.”

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Four years after his death in 1685 a vendor near Shogoin Taisha began selling a sweet that was shaped like a koto in his memory. By the turn of the 20th century Yatsuhashi began to become popular as an omiyage gift from Kyoto, since as a baked cookie with ingredients composing of only pounded rice, cinnamon and sugar, it has a very long shelf life of around 3 months.

Now there are two types of yatsuhashi, baked 八つ橋 and unbaked 生八つ橋..The un-baked are those of which I am particularly fond of and are called hijiri 聖 (meaning monk or priest) or nama 生 (raw) yatsuhashi.

The soft hijiri/nama kind began to be sold in the 1960’s. When making this variety instead of baking the dough, it is steamed, flattened and cut into little squares. Azuki 小豆 (red bean paste) is then placed in the centre of each piece and folded into a triangle, not dissimilar to ravioli.

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I actually purchased this box not in Kyoto but in Osaka on my home from the Tenjin Matsuri 天神祭り last week in Sakuranomiya.
Evidently I was quite ecstatic to come across yatsuhashi outside of Kyoto as its not really a place I frequent all that often, so my opportunities to nom the deliciousness that is yatsuhashi are far and wide!!

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If you actually look at the packaging I found the writing is a little amusing, alongside the name namayatsuhashi 生八橋 these mochi are also regionally known as O-Tabe お食べ(lit. please eat). On these particular ones the name written on the box is kyounotabe 京のタベ, although this literally translates to ‘Capital Eat’ the meaning is something more akin to Kyoto Yatsuhashi.

Upon opening the box I was presented with a box being half filled with lightly brown coloured triangular sweets and the other half a pale green, these correspond to the flavours which are nikkei 肉桂 (cinnamon) and matcha抹茶 (green tea), that said the centre of both consists of the same is koshian 漉し餡 (red bean paste) filling.

Now these are the most standard and plainly flavoured yatsuhashi (they in fact come in dozens of seasonal and regional varieties), however they are a time and tested favourite amongst the Japanese. Having tried these sweets a decade ago when I visited Kyoto as an exchange student indulging in the soft, delicate texture complimented by the mildly sweetened koshian centre, my senses were overwhelmed and mind flooded with bitter-sweet nostalgia.

To this day in my opinion yatsuhashi represent the perfect mochi culinary experience, biting into one is infatuating enough to you to a whole new world of wagashi heaven, if you ever find yourself around Kyoto keep an eye out for them!! 5/5

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Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 2 – Doyo-mochi 土用餅 (Doyo no Hi Special)

<———– Last

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 4 – Kibidango (吉備団子)

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