Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Banner!

Just want to say a public thank you to my sister Molly who drew me this new banner for the blog. She is the best sister ever.

Thanks Molly!

The Rusty Buildings of Makurazaki

08.09 Makurazaki-city-3

Makurazaki is a city of 24,000 on the southern edge of Kyushu. It's the terminus of the Ibuski-Makurazaki line of JR Kyushu, the most southern JR line in Japan. The station, pictured earlier, is tucked behind drug store and some cafes with only the smallest of signs giving direction. Only 6 trains leave from this station daily. I came to this city only because it's the end of the line. My goal was to ride that line from end to end. Besides that, I had no clue what else this city had to offer when I set off on a 2 hour walk around the downtown and harbor area.

08.09 Makurazaki-city-1

Although I'm posting photos of rusty buildings, that doesn't mean I didn't like this town. In fact, I found this sleepy little fishing village to be a very clean and pleasant place with many new roads and nice houses. My eye is just attracted to old buildings and rust. I wouldn't mind living here even though it's super humid and sweaty in the summer and the many typhoons that hit the city. The city's major industry is the fishing and fish processing of katsuo, called bonito or skipjack tuna in English. Katsuo is used mostly in making dashi, soup stock, and katsuobushi, dried fish flakes that are used as a condiment. I stopped by a city run shop that sold locally produced goods and bought some great tea there and found the locals to be very sweet.

08.09 Makurazaki-city-2

Monday, October 26, 2009

HAMBURGERS! - Japan Blog Matsuri Oct '09

This month the Japan Blog Matsuri takes on the pressing (HA! get it!) topic of HAMBURGERS!

It might not seem a truly Japanese topic, but the Japanese do create a great hamburger. In a way it's the oppisite of sushi. In Japan most American style sushi with cheese and avocado seems gross or strange, but, as many of us know, it's great! Well same thing for hamburgers. While they came from America the Japanese have put their own unique twist on the hamburger.

I hope you enjoy these stories documenting the hamburger is part of the Japanese landscape, and one that plays an important role in many a gaijin's life. So with out any more blathering here are the posts!
  • [freshnessveggieburger.jpg] Andera at Japan Please tells us about her unfulfilled quest for vegetarian friendly avocado goodness at Freshness Burger.
    *David says: I've had the same problems trying to order this thing.*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • Lee at loneleeplanet gets yummy, political, or both showing of a fried whale burger served up in Hokkaido.
    *David says: If it's anything like the fried whale meat we get in our school lunch--I'm getting one of these.*
    (photo from Wikimedia)

  • Dave at In Praise of Izakaya reviews GIGGLE a beer and burger place up in Kanto.
    *David says: Looking at that monster burger I'd say "BURP" would be a better name for this place!*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • Harvey at Japan Newbie shows us a Chinese "burger" served up fresh in Kobe's Chinatown
    *David says: Had this one many times. Quite yummy!*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • Joe at <3yen just discovered the glory of the Japanese burger and wrote up a special "To-Eat List."
    *David says: Trust me Joe. I'm here for the sushi, nabe, udon... and all that too!*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • Elizabeth at Chibaraki Life reviews a cafe in Kashiwa, Chiba that looks like B-52's would eat there.
    *David says: Ohhh... waffle fries!*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • Darg at The Durgacile finds a great burger at The Great Burger!
    *David says: Ha! "meaty solace" indeed!*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • James at James' Blog praises Freshness Burger not only for it's great burgers, but also nice flooring and furniture.
    *David says: Look me up when you come down to Kansai!*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • GoddessCarlie of her blog eponymous blog doesn't come up with a burger so much, but does notice some western food failure at KIX.
    *David says: Thankfully the airport itself isn't pungent.*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • Dr. Senbei of Tokyo Scum Brigade combines some Halloween fright + burgers + 2chan and tells a tale of... well let's just leave it at that.
    *David says: The only burger on this list I wouldn't/couldn't eat. I'm married.*
    (photo by the post's author)

  • Lastly, I posted on my blog sleepytako a bit about adopted home city of Nishinomiya and it's great hamburgers.
    *David says: Hmmm, hamburgers...*
    (photo by the post's author)
Thanks to all of you for submitting stories and thanks to Nick and JapanSoc for running the Matsuri. I hope you all keep your ears open for the next Maturi announcement which will take place over at Instant Ramen.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stations along the Ibusuki-Makurazaki Line

Some pictures of train stations I passed through riding the Ibuski-Makurazaki Line in southern Kagoshima Pref..

08.09 指宿枕崎線の駅-1
Some benches along an unknown station.

08.09 指宿枕崎線の駅-2
The monument to the most southern JR train station in Japan. Nishioyama station.

A comment came in about this picture asking if there are trains in Okinawa. The most southern station in Japan is Akamine station on the Okinawa Monorail in Naha opened in 2003.

Nishioyama is the most southern of the JR stations. Further up the line is Yamakawa station which is the most southern manned station. Nishioyama is an unmanned station and all fares are collected by the engineer.

According to the Wikipeda on Nishioyama station (accessed 10/26/2009 09:00 JST):

現在は標柱に「JR日本最南端の駅」と記されている。なおこの標柱の書き換えの際、当初は「本土最南端の駅」としていたが、「沖縄は本土ではないのか?」という意見を受けて2004年に再度変更した。

Currently the pillar reads "The most southern station of JR," but the pillar was rewitten from "Most southern station on the mainland." The Okinawans said, "We're not the mainland?" and it was changed in 2004.

08.09 指宿枕崎線の駅-3
The end of the line: Makurazaki station.

08.09 指宿枕崎線の駅-4
Makurazaki station is hidden behind a row of cafes and a drug store. This alley is the only entrance.

08.09 指宿枕崎線の駅-5
Some of the stations are built right up against the hillside. Eiokawa station.

08.09 指宿枕崎線の駅-6
Underneath the staircase at Ibuski station.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nishinomiya, a city of hamburgers

The following is my post for the Octobter, 2009 Japan Blog Matsuri.

I've been lucky to have been placed here in Nishinoimya when I first came to Japan. I didn't choose it, my exchange program paired me with a nice lady that lived in the hills that overlook the city. Nishinomiya has given me my wonderful wife, many friends, a job, introduced me to sento, and has many great hamburger shops. My two favorite hamburgers are both here in this wonderful city.


Awajishima burger / 淡路島バーガー
〒662−0019 兵庫県西宮市池田町4−1
Hours 11:00-20:00
Closed Wednesday

10.10 AwajishimaBurger-2

You wouldn't know Awajishima burger existed unless someone told you about it. This little shack is about the size of a normal city bus is located in an area of warehouses that sell fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and other food products to the restaurants of Nishinomiya. There are 5 seats on the inside, a CD player, a couple of coolers, a small counter, a grill and a fryer. The menu is just as bare. Hamburgers: large or regular. Toppings: cheese, onion ring, bacon, egg. Side orders: Onion rings or french fries. It's basic. It's raw.

10.10 AwajishimaBurger-3

The ingredients that make up Awajishima burger are, when possible, sourced from the island of the same name that sits between Hyogo and Shikoku. Awajishima (Awaji Island) is famous for its sweet onions and is a close to home tourist spot for many in the Hanshin area. The meat is thick and peppered. It is a little crumbly. The bun has a thin golden brown crust on the outside and is sponge soft under that, the flavor is a bit sweet like Hawaiian bread. The cheese is real and has a strong cheddar flavor, something rare in Japan.

10.10 AwajishimaBurger-4

You have to be careful when you eat this thing. First you don't unwrap it. That foil is protection for your shirt. Guard it well. The offical instructions on how to eat the burger, included with every order, states that you have to first squish the burger then carefully peel away the tin foil as you eat it. Typically you'll end up with a pool of sauce at the bottom of the foil. ProTip: Ask for less sauce - they normally put too much sauce on those burgers.

10.10 AwajishimaBurger-1

I typically end up spending 1,000 yen here getting a large burger with bacon and cheese toppings and a side.

Esquerre / イスケール
〒651−1421 兵庫県西宮市山口町上山口4−1−18
Hours 11:00-19:00
Closed Monday and Every 3rd Tuesday



10.11 Esquerre-4

A more refined taste when compared with raw flavor of the Awajishima Burger, Esquerre has a more hipster/retro feel to their restaurant. While Awajishima is a Hawaiian shack playing Jack Johnson, Esquerre has 1960's era advertisements on the wall and they play Feist. At Esquerre you'll get table service, a much less messy burger and a more diverse menu, but you'll be paying more. Oh yea, they have root beer!

10.11 Esquerre-1

I love the bun on the Dynamite Burger, as they call it. It's hard and crusty. Toasted just perfectly. The sesame seeds tie it all together. The meat is also firm. It's been formed perfectly and doesn't crumble. This burger comes with a napkin to put it in, and recommended, you an eat it without and not get too messy. The burger always comes with 3 potato wedges although you can order more. While the Dynamite Burger is the main dish at Esquerre, they also have a few sandwiches, rice dishes and their great chili fries. Be sure to check out the great take-away bakery underneath the restaurant.

10.11 Esquerre-2

I typically end up spending about ¥2,000 for my meal here. A large bacon cheese burger is ¥1,350 add on the avocado (+¥150), a can of root beer, and the chili fries things can get a bit expensive. You get what you pay for however and it's well worth it.

10.11 Esquerre-3

Another thing to know is getting to Esquerre without a car can be an ordeal. I guess you could take a bus from Nishinoimya Najio, or Sanda Station. Or the new Sakurayamanami Bus that goes up the hill from the major train stations in downtown Nishinomiya.

~Runners up~

Flowers in Kurakuenguchi has a great Gorgonzola burger. A must for any stinky cheese fan.
〒662-0075 兵庫県西宮市南越木岩町6-12 リーストラクチャービル3F
Hours 11:30-22:00
Closed Monday


The Wexford Tavern, also in Kurakuenguchi, serves up a mighty hamburger. Both my wife and I work here so you can chat with a fellow blogger, drink some Guinness or the locally brewed Rokko I.P.A. and have a great hamburger all at the same time. The Wex also has a blue cheese burger along with a menu of great pub food.
〒662-0075 西宮市南越木岩町8-13 苦楽園口第一ビル2階
Hours 18:00-25:00



~Nishinomiya Hamburger Map~

View HAMBURGER! in a larger map

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Front of Shibushi Station, Kagoshima

The things you find in front of train statations. I went to this town for two reasons. First, I wanted to ride the length of the train line it's on. Yes, I'm that obcessive about train riding. Second, the city's name is Shibushi which written in Japanese is 志布志 and that's got to be silliest looking bunch of kanji grouped together out there until you see the address of the train station:
鹿児島県志布志市志布志町志布志二丁目
Just look at that glory. I so want to live at that address.

08.07 ShibushiEkiMae1
Until I read this map, I didn't realize that Shibushi is a port town. Welcome to Shibushi, don't go past this sign unless you have the right documents. Remember to Keep A Rule! Right past this sign is a street full of snacks which are bars with girls that are there for you to talk to and maybe other things--if you have the right papers. The papers you need to booze!

08.07 ShibushiEkiMae2
The area in front of Shibushi station also had this great globe. What is not to love about this thing. The grossly enlarged shape of Kyushu, the super fancy speed boat speeding away from Shibushi harbor, how Australia is symbolized with a kangaroo and a koala bear, how rusted the entire thing is. Yes, rust and geography, my favorite things together on a big metal ball in a beautiful middle of nowhere in eastern Kagoshima prefecture, Shibushi city.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

10.10-SuperPacman-Amagasaki


10.10-SuperPacman-Amagasaki, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

I wonder what costs ¥6,000 at Super Pacman. I guess I'll never know since it's closed. *sigh*

Euphemisms! Birdman! Euphemisms!

Today is Sento Day! 10/10

Edit: I went to a sento in Amagasaki after taking a nice bike ride to get there. It wasn't free today, in fact the owner didn't even know it was Sento Day. *Doh*


A promotional poster saying "I love sento".

1010 is the nickname for the national and various bathhouse (sento) organizations across Japan. The national bathhouse association's webpage is http://www.1010.or.jp/zenkoku/ and I always wondered why they used 1010 for their address. I guess it was easier to write then zenkokuyokujyokumiai.com (全国浴場組合).

So today when I woke up and checked my RSS feeds I saw this post about Moe Day from What Japan Thinks, a great blog that translates surveys in Japan, and found out that today was also Sento Day (銭湯の日) and I was shocked. How did I not know this before. Me the creator of Kansai Onsen Review and the soon to be opened Sento/Onsen webpage. I who has been to over 150 sento and onsen did not know that October 10th was Sento Day. I have disgraced myself. It would be sepuku time if I did not have the weighty responsibility of hosting this months Japan Blog Matsuri. (I've only got a few submissions in on it by the way.)


水木湯
A sign in front of a sento that says "I Love ゆ" a pun as yu, or ゆ/湯 in Japanese, means hot water.

Anyhow I still did not know why 10/10 was Sento Day, in comes the always intelligent and lovely Yuko. While she didn't know what Moe was, and I'm kind of glad she doesn't, she did know why 1010 means sento.

1010 is made up of 1000 +10, right?

1000 is sen せん
10 is typically jyu じゅう in normal counters, but it can be to と
If you combine them: sen + to = sento
せん + と = せんと
so that's why 1010, one thousand and ten, is sento. Put a / thru the middle and you get 10/10, or October 10th... Sento Day!

I hope that made some sort of sense.


IMG 9371
A typical sento in Nagata-ku, Kobe

According to this article from the Tokyo Shimbun published yesterday Sento Day was established 18 years ago in Tokyo in order to promote more people to come back to their local bathhouses. On 10/10 many participating bathhouses are free to use. Sadly, the article continues, since the event started in Tokyo the number of sento in the area has almost halved from around 60 to 32 sento.

I've not taken a bath yet so I'm going to hop on my little scooter and find a sento to enjoy--even though its 1PM here in Japan. I hope you all go out and experience a bit of living Japanese history before it disappears.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

jump


10.01-Jump, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

Typhoon #18 - Photos from the Japanese Press


台風の夜明け Typhoon dawn, originally uploaded by kamoda in Eastern Hiroshima.

If you weren't aware a typhoon is hitting Japan now. It's the first to make landfall in 5 years. The typhoon has yet to pass over me completely as I write this. Wait never mind, they just canceled the weather alert (警報) a second ago. That means I'll have to stay at work today and classes will start in the afternoon. Bummer.

Riding my scooter up the hill to my school this morning the streets were empty and covered with leaves and branches. Near the school the fire department was dealing with a fallen tree that had knocked over a fence. The storm itself wasn't too strong in my neighborhood, I was wishing for something more substantial.

Here are some photos posted by the Japanese media.

A photo gallery from Mainichi Daily News

This one has many photos from Kagoshima and the southern areas of Japan.

A taxi getting stuck in a flooded road from the Asahi Shimbun.

High oceans and strong waves hitting the coast in Wakayama (In Kansai) and Miyazaki (in Kyushu)

A photo gallery from the Asahi Shimbun.


A photo gallery from Yomiuri Online.

More photos of the aftermath from Yomiuri Online.

A photo gallery from Kobe Shimbun.

Flickr user vitroid stitched together this panorama of Nagoya port using a remote access webcam just prior to the storm hitting.

Nagoya port before storm, originally uploaded by vitroid.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

HAMBURGERS! - October '09 Japan Blog Matsuri Announcement



This month’s Japan Blog Matsuri is:

HAMBURGERS!

10.06-HamburgerStuff
Some hamburger related magazines, free papers, and fliers I've collected.

Besides finding sento my other big hobby is finding new hamburger shops. On any given weekend my wife, her two sisters, and our 2 year old nephew will pile into the car and drive halfway across town to get a good hamburger. I’ve had some great ones, and I’ve been let down more than once. Awajishima Burger reigns supreme while Sasebo burgers are over rated. Maybe you disagree. I want to see that post. Anyhow, I’m sure there are a lot of you who also have a favorite hamburger or hamburger related story they can share. The Mr. James--the fake gaijin--is out there promoting the McDonald’s so I think its time for some real people who actually live out here show what a real Japanese hamburger looks like.

Posts can be submitted in one of three categories.

1- Reviews of a hamburger shop. You can love it or hate it. Look for a great classic burger or find one of the more unique creations. No matter what I said about Mr. James, reviewing a burger at one of the big hamburger chains would be fine too. If you do this please put a section at the bottom of your post with the address, the shop’s hours and holidays. I’m going to set up a special Google map with all the submissions. Also please include at least 2 photos, one of the shop and one of the hamburger. I expect most of the posts would fit under this category. I have two examples from my blog.

Shin’s Burger

Ata-Go


2- A hamburger related story that has to do with your experience in Japan. For example, a post about the history of Sasebo, or learning how to order at a Mos Burger would fit into this category. A photo would be nice, if possible.


3- A post about a something which is not an actual hamburger but hamburger related. I can think of some candies and other treats that would go in here. Please include a photo.

09.20 Kansai Hamburger Festival 4

The Japan Blog Matsuri was first created by Ken Y-N and it has been picked up by the folks at japansoc.com. Every month the bloggers of japansoc.com come together to contribute a post on a common topic. I’d like to thank Andrew at ALTDirectory.net for hosting last month’s Matsuri on learning in Japan. More information about the Japan Blog Matsuri, more links to past editions, and how you could also be a host can be found at this FAQ.

Posts can be submitted directly by email [insert the name of this blog here]@gmail.com or via the blog widget found to the left of this post. The deadline is 25th of October, 2009 so start munching on some hamburgers people!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Aoshima, Miyazaki Pref.

08.07 Aoshima-2
Aoshima Island south of Miyazaki city in the prefecture of the same name is one of Japans most spectacular geologic formations. The heavily forested island is home to a Shinto shrine and a walking path that circles the island. When I was studying Japanese at the University of Arizona I had a picture of this island in my folder. I looked at it when I needed inspiration to study Japanese. My idea was to go down to Miyazaki when I was going to school at Konan University in Kobe, but I never got around to that until last August. I'm glad I went, but I was covered by sweat before I got halfway around the island. Miyazaki is a very tropical place.

08.07 Aoshima-3
The rock formation that rings the island is called the "Ogre's Washboard." You can see the rocks from above on Google Maps. With all those parallel lines it almost looks like it's man made.

08.07 Aoshima-1
The shrine on the island has this unique tradition where people tie 50yen coins with pieces of colorful string to a pole. I'm sure its for some type of luck. I couldn't read the Japanese sign that explained it all.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Undokai - Sports Day

10.01 SportsDay-2
The first year boys performing their group exercise.

The Sports Day is an important event in the year of any student in Japan. The entire day is given over to various foot races, relays, synchronized dances or exercises, and other games. Each class amasses points over the day and in the end the pride in the winning classes shows. It makes me wish I had a chance to be a student for this day, while, at the same time, it solidifies my goal to become a full-fledged teacher--either here or back the the USA.

10.01 SportsDay-1
7AM, setting up the ground.

The layout of my current jr. high school also gives me a chance to pull out the selective focus lens I have and take a few shots from the buildings overlooking the grounds.

10.01 SportsDay-3
And the crowd goes wild...