Tropical Japan: Adventures in Ishigaki 石垣島

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For the last week of natsuyasumi 夏休み (summer break) a couple friends and I headed off to Ishigaki Island 石垣島, one of the smaller less populated islands of Okinawa 沖縄, for a little adventure travel and R&R in paradise!

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Our journey began last Monday evening on the last bus to Osaka International Airport from Kobe. If you find yourself with a flight departing prior to around 10am (ours was 7:20am), shacking up overnight in the airport is the only way to hope to make it in time!
Although not being what one might think to be the most comfortable or classiest of nights, if you borrow some blankets from the information desk and find a nice dim spot it’s not a half bad way to grab a little shut eye.

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We opted to stay in a cheap little youth hostel called Iriwa on the inaka side of the island, although located a little far from society at only 2000円 a night who can complain! The website is below.
http://iriwa.org/about-english.html

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In order to compensate for our location, we rented a car from said hostel for the week to explore the island. At only 3000円 a day it lived up to our expectations of what you might receive from such an appropriately priced vehicle.

Seemingly held together with rust and duct-tape we soon named the little guy gokiburi kaa ゴキブリカー (cockroach car)!
As shortly after departing for the first time we were soon attacked by several cockroaches! this led to the conclusion that the only way to justify the number we encountered within the interior, was that a nest of the insects must have been hidden away in its rusted doors!

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With a car at our disposal exploring the island even from our some what remote location was no trouble. We spent evenings watching sunsets on beaches sipping cool beers, dinning upon fancy local cuisine and chilling in the common room of our hostel.
Days we explored ishigaki and its neighboring islands, some of exciting activities we got up to included swimming in waterfalls, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, canyoning and cycling! Basically ALLTHE EXERCISE!

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On a final note here is some of there awesome omiyage (gifts) I picked for my coworkers! These beniimo taruto 紅芋タルト (purple yam tarts) are particularly popular as local fare so I grabbed a box sparing a couple extra for my own nommings! Basically just a tart base with a fluffy purple sweetened yam filling, delicious town! It was hard to part with them when the time came to hand them out!

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Not that I have visited Naha yet but from why I have heard Ishigai offers a much more rural and isolated experience of Japanese island culture in Okinawa. To be honest there were times when I forgot I was in Japan all together, quite a lot of scenery and tired little towns looked like they belonged in south east Asia.

That’s not to say I don’t recommend the experience 100%, just bring a long a couple good friends, a pocket full of yen to burn and the spirit of adventure!

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 15 Gomatamago ごまたまご

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Welcome to another instalment of the Mochi Diaries, Chapter 15 Gomatamago ごまたまご! Once again these guys really aren’t mochi but in fact intricately designed cakes, however they are omiyage お土産 nonetheless and so kawaii I couldn’t resist!!!

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During my last top to Tokyo 東京 I picked a box of Gomatamago ごまたまご (Lit. Black Sesame Egg) cakes on my way home as the packaging intrigued me. Furthermore Gomatamago are a meibutsu 名物 (Specialty product) of the Tokyo region, so it’s not as if I would have the opportunity to purchase them again in the near future.

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As far as omiyage go these are on the pricy side of things at 700円 for a box containing 8 pieces, that said they are each individually wrapped and sizeable.

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The centre is a sweet paste consisting of kurogoma 黒胡麻 (Black sesame seeds) and anko 餡子 (red bean paste) which is supposed to constitute the ‘yolk’ of the egg…… Perhaps they are piitan 皮蛋 (Chinese century eggs) ( ^ω^ ).

This ‘yolk’ is then coated in a thin layer of kasutera カステラ (castella cake), a type Japanese cake originating in Nagasaki through trade with the Portuguese in 16th century that is immensely popular here. Finally the tamago is coated in a thin layer of white-chocolate to form a delicious crispy ‘shell’!

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All in all I was quite impressed by this tasty treat, I imagine they to well hand in hand with a cup of afternoon tea.
The centre retained a perfect level of moistness and was not overly sweet.
If your ever in Tokyo give a box a try! 4/5

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The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 10 – Kaki Mochi 柿餅

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Welcome to Chapter 10 of the Mochi Diaries, Kaki Mochi 柿餅!

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During a recent trip to Nara I picked up one of these boxes, having quite the affinity for anything Kaki 柿 (Japanese Persimmon) related I was quite excited to have a nom these guys.

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Now firstly upon opening them I was completely taken aback at the intricate detail that went into producing every single mochi in the box!

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Made to resemble the fruit of which they are flavored the mochi consist of four separate ingredients.

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I translated the important bit of the diagram above that came in the box explaining what they are made of.

Essentially they are mostly kaki flavored mochi filled with a core of kaki an 柿あん (persimmon flavored red bean paste).
The leaves are made of dango 団子 held in place by a thin piece of konbu 昆布 (dried sea kelp), honestly the konbu is some what annoying since you must remove it before eating each mochi being inedible.

So you ask, ‘but Daniel what is the difference between mochi and dango?’
Well they are pretty much the same thing, the only difference being in the technique used to make them.

When making mochi, you begin by grinding glutinous rice to a paste which is then steamed and l finally pounded into a sticky dough.
Dango on the other hand is made from rice flour that has been mixed with hot water to make a dough, before being boiled in salted water.

Anyhow beyond the novelty of the mochi, the taste was just ok, that said it was more than made up for by the awesomeness of the presentation of the sweets!
3.75/5

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 9 – Mochitsuki Special Edition 餅搗き増刊

<———– Last

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 11 – Kagami Mochi 鏡餅

Next ———>

Satsumaimo さつま芋 Surprise

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やった Kyoto-sensei 教頭先生 (Vice Principal) at one of my shougakkou 小学校 (Elementary School) just tapped me on the shoulder shoved a large paper bag into my hands and grumbled ‘Daniel sensei presento’. Peering inside I discovered half a dozen roasted satsumaimo さつま芋 (sweet potatoes). Omnomnom, so much for my diet (^。^)

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 8 – Kuri Yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋

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Yes today I bring to you yet another yatsuhashi instalment of The Mochi Diaries, and so this is Chapter 8 – Kuri Yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋.

The Kuri 栗 (chestnut) flavour is a popular mochi filling at this time of year as we are half way through Aki 秋(autumn).

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Of corse there is to be an autumn variation of yatsuhashi and I came across this box at my favourite omiyage shop in Osaka a few weeks ago.

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I’v tried many kuri flavored mochi in the past so I went in pretty much knowing exactly what to expect, however there is the addition of the awesome texture of the yatsuhashi wrappings that always brings the mochi noming experience up to the next level.

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This aside I think I can safely say that these are my least favourite of the yatsuhashi flavours I have tried thus far.
I find the the Japanese autumn flavours to be on the bland side of things, having a large emphasis on starchy vegetables such as Kabocha 南瓜 (Pumpkin), Kuri 栗 (Chestnuts) and Satsumaimo さつま芋 (Sweet Potato). This really shined through with these kuri yatsuhashi, filled with the vaguely sweet kuri paste which I feel doesn’t compliment the outer mochi all that amazingly.
Regardless I still ate them all hungrily however in the future I think I’d prefer to stick with the more traditional cinnamon variety.
3/5

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 7 – Ninja (Kusa) Dango 草餅

<———– Last

 The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 9 – Mochitsuki Special Edition 餅搗き増刊

Next ———>

Onigiri Senbei Omiyage おにぎり煎餅お土産

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When I rocked up to school today, Kyoto Sensei came over and gave me this omiyage お土産 from her trip over the weekend, totally meccha kawaii!!

There basically senbei 煎餅 (Japanese rice crackers) that are supposed to resemble onigiri おにぎり (rice balls).
They were only shoyu 醤油 and nori 海苔 flavored but quite delicious(^∇^)

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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^)/