Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Christmas Gift To My Liver

12.25WinterBooze-1, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

For Christmas and New Year's Eve I've got myself 2 magnums of Anchor Brewing's always wonderful winter beer. One of those is for Christmas night. The bottle of Goshon sake is for New Year's. It was Yuko's father's favorite brand, so I'm really looking forward to having (and sharing) it!

It's a Snowy Christmas!

12.25SnowyChristmas-1, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

A bit of snow is slowly floating to the ground now in Nishinomiya. Although it's not accumulating, it's still quite beautiful.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Sleepytako...

enjoy a smoke...
 or a kiss.

Thank you for checking out my little blog this year. I'm working on some fun projects for the coming year. I hope you'll stick with me until then.

Merry Christmas or, as my students say, メリクリ!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Live Crab Vending Machine - In Shanghai

OK. Now I'm getting worried about China's growth. They are encroaching into Japan's long held title as the country with the oddest vending machines.

A live crab vending machine has been introduced in Shanghai. The crabs sell for ¥200 to ¥600 depending on quality. These crabs are selling well too. They are reporting sales of 200 crabs a day.

The vending machine is kept at -10c to put the crabs, which are packed in plastic cases, into a state of hibernation. The company that runs the vending machine is also offering a refund of 3 fresh crabs if your crab is... dead on delivery.

The Japanese article and video is here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hashimoto, Yawata, Kyoto

Common in Japan is a neighborhood map such as this. The houses are identified with the resident's last name instead of a street address or house number.
Months ago, when it was still hot and sweaty out, I took a trip to ride the remainder of the Keihan lines that I had not been on at that time. After riding the Otokoyama Cable Car, Keihan's only cable car, I walked down the back of the mountain towards Hashimoto station on the Keihan Main Line. Otokoyama itself was quite interesting. There was a fine old shrine, a park, and a memorial to Thomas Alva Edison. The latter being something that I feel would warrant inclusion in the Japanese version of Roadside America.

The trees in the distance cover a small shrine on this steep street.
The hilly neighborhood of single family houses connected by steep narrow streets provided an interesting walk. I'm glad I don't walk up those streets coming home from work everyday however.

I've learned how to judge the population of a neighborhood by the size of their mailboxes.

The ku and su of kusuri (medicine) are barely hanging on to the side this pharmacy in a small enclave of commercial buildings set among the houses.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

We Can Ship To The States Again!

Quick note here. If you were annoyed by the 470g limit on packages to the USA that happened in mid-November, it's been lifted as of December 1st. Well, if my Japanese serves me right it has.

Here's the press release:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hanshin Expressway - MukogawaIC Loop


The Mukogawa off ramp on the Hanshin Expressway is one of the most elegant pieces of urban infrastructure in Kansai. Driving it is boring, but looking at it from below is breathtaking. A large loop towering over the local community center, park, and a few houses.

The expressway traveling down the narrow coastal plain between the mountains and Osaka bay offers a great view of how this area has been developed. Typically congested, it allows the driver to take in some of the scenery while waiting in bumper to bumper traffic.


I grabbed this shot while driving towards Kobe around 4pm. The sky was just incredible.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nishiki SA - 西紀SA

A quick tour of Nishiki SA on the Maizuru-Wakasa Expressway (Maizuru side). I enjoy a lovely bowl of wild boar udon... very recommended if you like wild boar.

A sign advertising the wild boar udon, soba and sweet black bean soft cream

My wild boar udon


Saturday, November 06, 2010

Yonegees ヨネギーズ


Yonago, Tottori is a city 148,000 people along the Japan sea coast. It's a local population center and provides access to Kaikae onsen and Minatosekai, the home of Gegege no Kitaro.
I love traveling along the San'in coast and stopping at Yonago station is always a highlight. Don't know why, but I really Yonago.

Recently the city created it's own mascot characters. Something not too uncommon, but the Yonegees are just way too cute, with a touch of the ehhhh...
The city's mebutsu or famous thing is green onions, and using the green onion motif they created a boy and girl green onion character. Negita and Negiko. Ta and Ko are common kanji used in boy's and girl's names. Negi being the Japanese word for onion. Negita and Negiko are joined by Kashiwagi-san an acorn character.

The characters all have full backgrounds, including the date of Negita and Negiko's marrage--March, 31, 2005.

The tourist info center at Yonago station sells various Yonegees goods. They have their own page on the Yonago city website. You can even download graphics for your cellphone. Oh, and of course... they are on Twitter... as am I!

Pins and a cell phone strap that is also a screen cleaner
The towel is sold rolled up like this so it looks like a green onion. The tape is the same tape used on real onions you'd get in a super market
Close up of the characters on the towel

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Fantastic Trains of Keihan

A newer car on the left. An older model on the right.

Keihan stations never seem to be level.


Keihan operates a single cable car line to the top of Otokoyama.

Keihan trains are always very clean on the outside. Design is important.


This is one of the most unique features of Keihan trains. They have bench seats that raise up into the ceiling during rush hour making more standing space and opening up another door.

Keihan operates between Kyoto and Osaka hence the name kei (京) for Kyoto and han (阪) for Osaka. They have some of the best appointed trains running, including trains with TVs and double decker trains. I always enjoy riding Keihan when I have the chance. This last trip on Monday, October 11th riding the Keihan spur lines to Uji and Kisaichi, and the cable car up to Otokoyama means that I have ridden every on every Keihan line operating.

Deer Biscuts

09.25Nara-21, originally uploaded by sleepytako.
It's awful for people!

In Nara Park there exists a herd of deer which wander through the crowds just like the rest of the tourists. Well, that's until you buy a bundle of the deer biscuits (shika senbei 鹿せんべい). Then you get hounded just like Justin Bieber arriving in Osaka.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Yes! We have an Engrish menu.

In January of this year I took an evening trip to Sakai city to try out Sarasa-no-Yu (さらさのゆ) a newish supersento that touted a carbonated water bath. After enjoying the wonderful baths there, I made my way to the restaurant and discovered some of the best Engrish I have ever encountered. I only just went through the photos on my old cellphone and found the time to upload them now. So please to be enjoying the food of gastromnic blissfulness from the restaurant at Sarasa-no-Yu.

Sermon decoration
(You remember when Jesus gave the sermon to the salmon about household decorations)
Soon tofu with pig innards
(Soon -not- to be in my stomach!)
On special Steaming scorch of pig ribs and coconut
(The worst part of this one is there is no coconut in that. Moyashi = coconut?)
Fibrous beef boiled for hours
(Hours of boiling enjoyment!)
Fry without coating of length potato
(This is my new most favorite best Engrish EVER)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

2010 August Train Trip Day 3

Video from the third day of riding trains. This video is my last leg from Tottori back to home in Hyogo. By the end of the video my camera's battery died.

In this video JR West and Chizu Express trains along the following route: Yonago - Torrori - Chizu - Kamigori


Along the following lines:
San'in Main Line, Inbi Line, Chizu Express Chizu Line


Monday, September 06, 2010

Hane / 波根

The beach at Hane station.
After sweating through all of my clothes on my way to and from Yunotsu Onsen a nice swim was in order. Consulting the Railway Mapple (recommended for any train trip) I figured that little Hane station was the closest to a beach. The little village, abandoned by any tourist traffic that might have been there merely a month ago, looked totally shut down. Little beach-side hotels, restaurants, and bars were all shut down for the season or under repair. Abandoned while the weather was hot and the swimming was great. Why the lack of beach goers? Typically the first half of August is taken up by Obon where you visit your relatives houses and pray at your ancestors graves leaving no time--or money--for going to the beach. Also, August is the month where all of the Kami, the various Shinto gods, gather in Izumo Taisha, a grand Shinto shrine located ironically a few train stops north of this beach. During this time it is thought to be unsafe to enter the water.

Housing along the road in front of Hane station

Either way there were no stores open along the beach, and only a few people bathing. I ducked around one of the giant concrete tetrapods to exchange my sweaty clothing for my bathing suit and dashed into the water. Swimming in the calm waters of the Japan Sea never cease to be one of the most amazingly blissful experiences I can have in Japan. Never too cold or too hot and always great for just floating and staring up into the massive blue sky above you. Such a peaceful and transcendent moment can scrape off many months of built up stress like plaque being taken from tooth. Just writing this, I'm thinking of how can I get back to the Japan Sea one more time before the weather changes.

The shadows offered little relief from the afternoon sun, not that I wanted any.

In the water, I chatted with some jr. high school girls who came in about the same time that I did. Shimane doesn't get many foreign tourists, and out here in the middle of no where even less. Sadly, their English comprehension and typical bashfulness did not let them go beyond a simple, yet giggly, "Hello!" Floating there in the water I talked to them in Japanese for a while. They thought it very cool that I lived in Nishinoimya to which I replied that I wished I could live in Shimane. I tried to teach them to say good afternoon, said good bye, and swam back to the shore. I was getting hungry and needed to search for a shower of water faucet of some kind to rinse my self off before returning to the trains.

A closed storefront, or just a house? Abandoned or not? I could not tell.

Leaving my damp swimsuit on and putting on my boots only, I took off along the shore. I stuck my dry, yet stinking of sun baked sweat, clothing in a bag to carry with me. My body soaked up the sun. I didn't care if I got a burn. A sign of total relaxation in the Japan Sea it would be. I thought to myself. Walking down the beach and back up the main street, I couldn't find a public shower or water faucet anywhere. Hoping there might be at the station I returned there to find nothing. Some stations have water taps on the platform for riders to use, this one, the one that I really needed it, didn't. Returning to the beach I saw a family using one of the outdoor showers mounted on the wall of a hotel. I asked if I could use the water too, but they replied that they weren't sure if they could use it either. Another person at the beach told them that the showers worked and that it *should* be OK to use. I jumped into the ocean once more as I waited for the family to finish and quickly, as I didn't want to abuse the hotel's unknowing kindness, washed the salt and sand from my skin.

Now my thoughts turned to my grumbling stomach. People say there are convenience stores and vending machines everywhere in Japan. That's right, up until you really need one. Walking the opposite direction form the station as I came, I found a little supermarket. Putting on a shirt I entered and enjoyed the cool radiating from the ancient coolers. Old refrigerators make a much better feeling cool for some reason. A sale priced tonkatsu, some fried chicken and spinach salad made my lunch. But where was the beer? A bit father down the road the cashier told me.

Looking towards Matsue and Yonago from Hane station.

The liquor shop was not that far down the street. I entered the unlit and sparsely stocked store to find no one working. A loud "sumimasen" brought out the mother of the house to take my money for two cans of Asahi. By this time I was afraid of missing my train. I'd have to wait an hour or more if I missed this train. Getting to the station with time to spare, I adjusted my bags and got ready to ride the trains again. Once the train appeared, however, there was a problem. It was packed.

Hane station.

I let the train go with out me on board, and chilled out in the heat of the station building eating my food and drinking my beer. A older couple came and were looking for the time table or map of the area, I let them look at mine. An hour later I got on the train. I hoped the smell of my soaked and dried out shirt and jeans didn't stink up the train as I watched the sun set on Shimane. It was dark as I arrived at Yonago in Tottori prefecture. I entered Shimane the same day before the sun had risen and left after it had set.