Wednesday, September 30, 2009

08.30-Eki Mae Map

08.30-EkiMaeMap, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

In front of most decent sized train stations you'll find a map set up for tourists to get their bearings. These typially feature local attractions, temples, parks, and such. This one in front of Banshu-Ako staion was a little worse for wear, but featured these cute characters. I didn't find out what story they represent, but they are cute none-the-less.

08.30-Hinase Bench

08.30-HinaseBench, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

The back of a rusty bench in Hinase station (日生駅).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Today's Short Hike

Yuko and I enjoied the nice weather and took a little walk up the hills behind us.

Some stairs in the neighborhood behind my house. I'm glad I only walk up these when I want to.

The view from a hill top in the ShinrinKoen near my house. This is looking East out towards Itami and Toyonaka.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


JR西日本ーJR九州, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

Last month's train trip was one of my best. I got to ride a boat-load of new and different trains and ride a boat too! Watching the landscape scroll by and all the little stations along the route was great. It's addictive. I got to ride the special Pokemon themed train on the Kyushu Shinkansen even. I didn't get to ride on all those trains pictured, one of them is a maintenance train for example, but I did ride most of them.

Generally speaking, my route looked like this although there were some more stops and train changes.

Koyoen -> Sannomiya -> Kokura -> Beppu -> Miyazaki -> Shibushi -> Kagoshima (via bus and ferry) -> Makurasaki -> Kagoshima -> Shin-Yatsushiro -> Kokura -> Shin-Osaka -> Koyoen

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kansai Hamburger Festival - One Day Left!!!

There’s been a hamburger boom going on recently here in Kansai. Two weeks ago a local program did a feature on local hamburger shops, including my favorite Awajishima Burger in Nishinoimya. Now, over this long 5 day weekend weekend on Rokko Island in Kobe there’s the Kansai Hamburger Festival! It’s only on for another day so go tomorrow!

09.20 Kansai Hamburger Festival 2

I was able to munch down 4 of these glorious burgers. In order starting with my favorite burger that day.

09.20 Kansai Hamburger Festival 3

#1 58 Diner - Bacon burger - From Kyoto

Amazing bacon cheese burger covered in a sweet miso bbq sauce.

09.20 Kansai Hamburger Festival 4

#2 T’s Star Diner - Takatsuki Cheese Burger - From Takatsuki

Made with local tomatoes and thick shredded cheese.

09.20 Kansai Hamburger Festival 6

#3 Tsuruhashi Burger - Tsuruhashi Burger - From Tsuruhashi, Osaka

Tsuruhashi is the center of the local Korean community in Osaka and they have their own take on the hamburger, this one has grilled steak (yakiniku) and kimchi on a sesame seed bun.

09.20 Kansai Hamburger Festival 5

#4 Giocare (ジョガール) - Mini Kitahama Burger - Kitahama, Osaka

They ran out of the normal sized burgers by the time I ordered mine so I got the small one which was so-so. I wish I was able to get their normal avocado topped Kitahama burger.

There also was Shin's Burger who've I've reviewed before. I'm considering going again tomorrow. See you there?!?!

Kansai Hamburger Festival
Going on till Wednesday the 23rd at Rink - Kobe Fashion Plaza on Rokko Island in Kobe. For a map see the poster above. More information on their website [in Japanese]:

09.20 Kansai Hamburger Festival 1

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gyoza 603 - Kokura

08.04 603 Kokura1
Hard at work at Gyoza 603

On my trip down to Kyushu last month I really wanted to sample motsu nabe. It's an offal hotpot with white miso, garlic, nira, and hot peppers. After the 10 hour train trip from Kobe I was ready to consume anything in mass quantities. Oh, I also wanted to imbibe some of Kyushu's famous shochu actually in Kyushu. I stumbled upon Gyoza 603 walking around the entertainment district in front of Kokura station. I was able to do both!

08.04 603 Kokura3
Gyoza at Gyoza 603

603 specializes in gyoza and they make those little dumplings of love in a very unique way. While they are frying the chef will pour some sort of oil which will harden and make a crispy film on the bottom of the pan. After they are fully cooked the chef will flip the gyoza onto a plate and serve them upside down. I got the cheese and shiso gyoza. If I had to criticize them I wish they had a bit more shiso flavor, but I liked them never the less.

08.04 603 Kokura2
Motsu nabe at Gyoza 603

The motsu nabe was totally amazing. I'm so addicted to this dish. I haven't had it since coming back to Kansai, and I'm about due to find it up here. Motsu is the Japanese word for offal or intestines in the edible sense. In the states I wasn't the biggest fan of offal when not ground up into hot dogs, but here I've gotten a taste for it--and I love it!

08.04 603 Kokura4
Gyoza 603 in Kokura

Gyoza 603 has other stores throughout Kyushu and if you have the chance I totally recommend popping in for some great gyoza and the amazing motsu nabe.

Gyoza 603:


Monday, September 14, 2009

Goya no Eki.

08.27 Tamba-2, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

Japan has a network of 858 official roadside rest areas that also serve as stores for local goods and produce. These rest areas are called michi no eki, or road stations. Like train stations car and motorcycle enthusiasts enjoy trying to stop at all of them. Some have restaurants serving some special dish, and most have these blue bins. These contain locally grown vegetables and fruits from the farms near the michi no eki. Typically they are sold at extremely low prices. That big goya in front is only 80 yen. Typically the price tag will also have the farmers name on it also. Locally produced foods are typically cheaper, fresher, tastier and, because they are not shipped 1,000s of miles to distribution centers and markets, better for the environment.

My Mother-in-law makes the best goya with pork and egg stir-fry dish. It's the best.

The michi no eki homepage [in Japanese] :

The michi no eki where I took this photo [in Japanese] : Tanba Obachan no Sato

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Meeting My Family In Tanba

08.27 Tamba-4
The view from one of the cemeteries

Obon is the traditional week when you go to see your extended family, pray at your grandparent's or parent's graves and just meet everyone and see how everything is going. It's much like Thanksgiving in the USA but it lasts a week. Since I was on my trip to Kyushu during half of that week and because Yuko was bust at work, we didn't have a chance to go see the family until Jizo-bon during the end of August which is the children's version of Obon. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, Yuko and myself took a trip up to Tamba in the middle of Hyogo pref. where my relatives on Yuko's mom's side of the family lives. The whole family tree stuff is way too confusing, not just for me, but for Yuko also! I learned a few things.
  1. Yuko's great-great-great grandmother was married to her cousin. Not too uncommon actually. Cousin marrages are allowed in Japan.
  2. Late August is a great time to take photos. Such great colors.
  3. Heavy rain storms will really devastate rice fields (see photo below).
I also got to go up to two small cemeteries. I've seen many like them throughout Japan. Little cemeteries seem scattered almost everywhere hidden up on hillsides and in the small valleys. I've always wanted to walk around one, but never had the reason to do so. The city planner in me wonders how these are administrated and who pays for the upkeep.

My relatives have a little vegetable garden and some rice fields of their own. They gave us a 15kg bag of rice and some sweet potatoes when we left. I have to say the rice is great! So yummy! Their house is so big and traditional. I'd love to move out there, but I might go crazy. There are no stores. There son walks 40 minutes each way to get to school.

08.27 Tamba-6
The relative's house, those are onions in the foreground.

08.27 Tamba-7
The relative's shed and some lettuce.

08.27 Tamba-10
A rice field after a torrential rainstorm. This is the view from the front of my relative's house.

08.27 Tamba-9
Not yet ripened persimmons.

08.27 Tamba-5
A ranma 欄間 in my relative's house.