Friday, October 21, 2016


Untitled Sendai has great loop bus called Loople.

For 620 yen, you can get on and off at various stops along their route and it runs about every 20 minutes depending on traffic.

Untitled We first got off to see Zuihoden, the resting place for the first feudal lord of Sendai, Date Masamune and his family.

Um, the day before there was a bear sighting in the area...gulp!

Untitled And then we visited the Sendai Castle Ruins, where there is a huge statue of Date Masamune.

Untitled We also visited the Osaki Hachimangu, designated as a national treasure, this shrine was built by Date Masamune and covered with dark black urushi (lacquer) and vibrant colored carvings.

These 98 stairs were nothing compared to the 700-something we climbed a couple of weeks ago.

Untitled Once back in Sendai, we enjoyed the lush green streets.

Untitled And then it was time to head back to Osaka.

The Sendai Airport was also badly damaged with the tsunami.

To give you an idea of how high the water was, you can see where they marked it (with a blue arrow) on a pole, and compare it with Satoshi's height (5'7" (170cm)).

This adventure was an eye opening experience and we were glad we made the trip.

I hope we can visit other Tohoku prefectures in the future.

I'll post some of our omiyage in another post and I hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as we did.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Untitled If there is one thing you should try when you are in Sendai is beef tan (tongue).

While we were in Sendai, we found a great izakaya to have dinner at...Donpachi.

Their amuse bouche was some super tender oxtail, simmered with daikon, carrots and a sweet-salty shoyu based sauce.

Untitled The tan was grilled perfectly.

Served with spicy miso, this was addictingly good!

Untitled Iburi gakko is a tsukemono (gakko) from Akita prefecture, the daikon is smoked (ibusu) then pickled.

The pickles combined with some cream cheese was so good.

Smoky, creamy, tangy and crunchy.

I'm glad we got to try this and want to recreate this.

Untitled Salmon wasabi nuta (new-tah).

Nuta is fish combined with miso and a little acid, like vinegar.

Untitled And to end this ox tail soup ojiya-style (with rice and egg).

It was a great day, and we were glad we were able to taste a bit of Sendai too.

2-6-34 Chuo, Aoba-ku
Sendai, Miyagi
Phone: 050.5787.3618
Closed Wednesdays
Hours: 18:00-2:00

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


The next day, we awoke to sun, but the wind was icy.

Untitled The hotel we stayed at had a lot of construction workers, probably people helping Ishinomaki rebuild.

I was impressed with how hearty the breakfast bento was.

earlier❤︎  #石ノ森萬画館 #石巻 #石巻 #ishinomorimangamuseum #latergram #ishinomaki #tohoku #japan Ishinomaki is the second home to artist, Ishinomori Shotaro, creator of characters like Kikaida, Kamen Rider to name a few.

During the tsunami, many of the statues of his characters were washed away.

I'm glad they got this museum up and running again, even though I am not too familiar with all the characters, this was nice to see.

Not too many businesses were open, since it was a national holiday, so we headed back towards Sendai.

Untitled We were feeling a little hungry and shared this bacon, cheese taiyaki from Taiseien.

As well as one filled with sweet bean.

Since we were used to the sweet version it was nice to try a savory one.

This tiny shop used to be in the temporary shopping arcade that was put up after the tsunami.

It was nice to see that they were doing business from a permanent shop now.

From Ishinomaki, it is about 40 minutes to Matsushima.

Apparently Matsushima is one of three beautiful spots to see in Japan (the other two are Itsukushijima (Miyajima, Hiroshima) & Amanohashidate (Kyoto)

matsushima This photo was taken back in 2001, when we first visited Matsushima.

I was sad to see that most of these trees had been knocked down by the tsunami.

Luckily, the temples, Entsuin and Zuiganji at the end of this walkway were not badly damaged.

Untitled At Entsuin, you need to pay admission, but once inside, this cute grandpa, took us on a free tour of the grounds.

His narrative was interesting and fun to listen to.

It made the temple and its grounds more interesting to look at.

And then we headed to Sendai.

I was impressed with Sendai station's vehicle rotaries and pedestrian overpasses.

After putting our things down and resting a bit, we went in search of dinner...

Ishinomori Mangakan
2-7 Nakaze
Ishinomaki, Miyagi
Phone: 0225.96.5055

no info online
Ishinomaki, Miyagi

Royal Mayflower Sendai
1-13-28 Honcho, Aoba-ku
Sendai, Miyagi
Phone: 022.262.5411

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

asamushi onsen-aomori-sendai-ishinomaki

Untitled When we awoke, it looked like it would be sunny.

Breakfast was buffet-style and I liked this sectioned tray. You could put a little of this or that into it.

No wasting of food.

Untitled After breakfast, we headed back to Aomori to check out the Aomori Museum of Art.

We were greeting by passing showers...

This huge objet, is called "Aomori-ken" by Nara Yoshitomo, an artist from Aomori.

The name of the piece is a sort of play on words, "ken" means prefecture as well as dog.

We also viewed the photo exhibit of Sawada Kyoichi, a UPI photographer, who was from Aomori that won a Pulitzer for his combat photography.

I was even interviewed by local television while at the exhibit...hope my Japanese was okay...gasp!

Untitled Lunch was this "hitokuchi darake" (literally full of one bites) eki ben (train bento).

We had seen this on tv and were happy we found this.

Untitled The lady selling the bento also gave us two bags of ikamenchi--fried fish paste, squid and veggies, so good!

I want to re-create this!

Untitled We also got a chance to ride the Tohoku Shinkansen from Shin-Aomori to Sendai...about 2 hours.

From Sendai, it was about an hour by local train to Ishinomaki.

If I'm not mistaken, this area was one of the hardest hit by the tsunami in 2011.

hubs' arigato-don❤︎  #ishinomaki #tohoku #japan #tomofukumaru #友福丸 #石巻 #東北 We asked the woman working at the tourist information office where would be a nice place to eat at.

She said Tomofukumaru.

We were in luck because it was right next door to where we were staying.

Tomofukumaru was totally destroyed with the tsunami in 2011, but due to the requests of their customers, they decided to open a shop in Ishinomaki.

Satoshi ordered their Arigato-don...all sorts of local seafood and rice grown by an Ishinomaki farmer.

uni-chazuke for me❤︎  #東北 #石巻 #友福丸 #tomofukumaru #japan #tohoku #ishinomaki I wasn't too hungry and went with their uni chazuke.

This was interesting.

The uni (sea urchin) is congealed in a collagen (gelatin) ball.

Hot water is poured over and voila, uni chazuke. There is no actual tea used in this chazuke.

I think I would've enjoyed this more had that dollop of wasabi on the side of my bowl not secretly fallen into my chazuke and disintegrated...oopsa!

At least my sinuses were clear...

Even though there is a lot of land that has not been rebuilt on, it was nice to see businesses and people moving forward.

We were glad we were in Ishinomaki.

Aomori Museum of Art
185 Chikano, Yasuta,
Aomori City, Aomori
Phone: 017.783.3000

3-15-28 Minami-nakasato
Ishinomaki, Miyagi
Phone: 0225.22.2851
Closed Mondays
Hours: Lunch: 11:00-14:00, Dinner: 17:00-20:00

Hotel Value the Ishinomaki
3-15-37 Minami-nakasato
Ishinomaki, Miyagi
Phone: 0225.92.7567

Monday, October 17, 2016

sai-shimokita-aomori-asamushi onsen

Untitled In my previous travel post, I forgot to mention a couple of Mount Osore, they have mediums that help you connect with your deceased loved ones (for a fee), they are called "itako" in Japanese.

One family that was staying at the lodge at the same time we were there, was interested in connecting with their loved one, but at the last minute got cold feet.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that Ooma is the most northern point of Honshu and they even have a monument for it (see photo above).

Okay, now on to today's post...

The next morning, we awoke to drizzles.

Untitled Breakfast was an assortment of things, including some seafood like ika (squid).

The nori was thicker and "rougher" than I was used to, I think the owner makes her own.

Since Satoshi said that public transportation ends at Sai, he had originally thought we might take a sightseeing cruise of the area past Sai, and maybe even take a ferry back to Aomori, but since it was raining, we decided we might not be able too many sights from the boat and it probably wouldn't be too nice if the ride turned choppy.

So, we caught the bus from Sai all the way back to Shimokita...2 hours or so.

And another 2 hours or so from Shimokita to Aomori by train.

The temperature had dropped quite a bit with the rain, so we went in search of ramen for lunch.

miso curry milk ramen with butter❤︎sounds weird but so good! #aomori #tohoku #ramen #onishi #青森 #東北 #ラーメン #味の札幌大西 Miso Curry Milk Ramen from Aji no Sapporo Onishi.

The family that runs this shop is originally from Hokkaido.

I know it sounds weird, maybe even a little too much going on with flavors, but the miso gives the soup a salty component, the curry a spicy component, and the milk balances everything out.

They even top the ramen with a pat of butter, to give it some richness.

I'm not too sure what the base of the soup was.

I liked that the noodles were a bit firm.

The toppings were wakame (seaweed), bean sprouts, menma (bamboo shoots) and char siu (roast pork).

Even at 1-ish in the afternoon, we had to wait for seats, but the line moved quite quickly.

Untitled I really liked that Aomori's city streets had apple trees everywhere! Cute tiny crab apples and even regular sized fuji apples too.

I wondered if people that live there were allowed to pick fruit from the trees?

Then we were off to Asamushi Onsen (about 40 minutes by train from Aomori).

At this point it was drizzling quite steadily.

After checking in, we warmed up in the onsen, rested a bit then went down for dinner.

The dinner was a variety of foods.

Untitled Starting off with a little assortment of appetizers and raw fish.

There was even matsutake (mushroom--its price is based on quality, availability and origin) dobin mushi (a traditional Japanese seafood broth, steamed and served in a dobin tea pot with lime, and matsutake).

Then you could choose all sorts of things from their buffet.

We enjoyed this type of dining and everything was delicious.

After dinner, everyone was invited to a Tsugaru Shamisen show in the lobby.

It was quite a long day and we hoped the weather would get better for the next part of our adventure.

Aji no Sapporo Onishi
1-15-16 Furukawa
Aomori City, Aomori
Phone: 017.723.1036
Hours: 11:00-21:30

Nambuya Kaisenkaku
31 Hotarudani Asamushi
Aomori City, Aomori
Phone: 017.752.4411

Friday, October 14, 2016

okara scones

adapted mom's okara scone recipe, will post the recipe if it tastes good!🙏  #okara #scone #japan I want to share with you an okara recipe and will continue with more of our travels next week...

Back in 2008, I had a baking session with my Mom and she made her okara scones.

She didn't want me to post her recipe, so I'm not.

I've adapted it and that is what I am posting.

Please note that these do not come out flaky like scones, but more dense like oatcakes.

adapted recipe a success, will post on the blog soon:) #okara #scones #osaka #japan Okara Scones : adapted from Mom's recipe : makes 10 (more or less depending on how you scoop your dough out)

1 cup okara (soy lees)
1.5 cups flour
1 cup oats
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 large dried figs, cut into fourths
1 handful of walnuts
1 handful of sunflower seeds
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 handful of dried blueberries

Put the first 9 ingredients into a food processor and pulse
Add the wet ingredients and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball
In a bowl fold the blueberries into the dough
Scoop out with a spoon (or ice cream scoop for more accuracy), and flatten a little with your hands
Bake at 400F (200 C) for about 16 minutes

NOTES: I usually bake on parchment (because I am lazy and it is so easy to clean up afterwards), but think that it might be okay to bake these on a greased cookie sheet.

I used the dry okara, but my mom used the wet type. Even though she used the wet type her scones did come out more like oatcakes too.

You can use your favorite dried fruits, nuts and seeds.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

mount osore-ooma-sai

Untitled The next morning at 6:00 we were all awaken for "o-tsutome" (literally work), and had to report to the large temple for prayers.

Untitled We then went to a smaller temple for more prayers.

At 7:30 it was time for breakfast.

Untitled More shojin ryori, I was just glad that natto wasn't on the menu.

Even though we went to bed early (well I did anyway), I had a hard time sleeping.

The fumes of sulfur would come directly through the walls with the strong winds blowing outside...*gasp*

Satoshi said that I forgot to mention that alcohol consumption is not allowed here.

Untitled Also, do not wear silver!

The sulfur fumes turned my silver ring and earrings black!

Luckily with some polishing, they returned to their shiny selves...whew!

There aren't many buses running from Mount Osore, so we caught the first one out and headed to Mutsu (about 30 minutes).

Once there, we had about an hour to wait for our next bus connection.

TIP: The thing with getting around in places where trains don't run is that you need to go by bus or taxi or drive yourself.

Bus rides in Japan can get pretty expensive as they calculate how much you owe by how far you ride.

Also, most fares need to paid in cash, if you plan to ride the bus/trains in Japan, try to have coins (not 5 yen or 1 yen, they are not accepted!) or small bills on hand.

We were feeling a little hungry and went looking for something to snack on.

There weren't many shops open around the bus terminal, but luckily we found a tiny department store called Matsukiya.

Untitled I got some pickled anzu (apricots) made by Delica Mutsu which tasted like prune mui.

There was also a tiny bakery (Tanabu Shokuryokako) across the street and I got a seafood sandwich, which turned out to be satsuma age (fishcake), mayo and bread...something my mom used to make for lunch sometimes.

Satoshi got a cream croquette sandwich.

Both sandwiches were tiny, so it was the perfect snack.

We were also happy to find a coffee machine.

From Mutsu it is about a one and a half hour ride by bus to Oomazaki.

Ooma is known for maguro (tuna), so we had maguro for lunch at Oomanzoku.

Untitled Here's Satoshi's...3 types, o-toro (very fatty tuna), chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) & akami (literally red flesh, regular sashimi grade).

He said he enjoyed this.

My 2 type (chu-toro & akami)...would have been better had the fish been thawed out a bit...

After lunch, we had some (read "lots of") time before the bus would take us to Sai.

There weren't any sights in the area, nor cafes to hang out at.

We did spend some time chatting with the Tsugaru shamisen lady, even took a short video of her playing.

An "angel" and her two children overheard us talking with the girl at the information counter and asked if she could take us to Sai.

She said it would be better than us waiting a couple hours for the bus.

If she didn't mind, we didn't mind and were grateful.

Once in Sai, we said our goodbyes and set off to find the Kawabata Ryokan.

The owner is a tiny lady who is quite hard of hearing.

After setting our things down, we went to explore the tiny town.

Untitled Dinner was a huge assortment of seafood.

I ate as much as I could and ended up giving Satoshi some too.

Another long day, with no cell service, at least we had some tv, but still turned in at about 21:00.

Tanabu Shokuryokako
1-2-22 Yanagimachi
Mutsu, Aomori
Phone: 0175.22.1480
Hours: 8:30-18:00
Closed Sundays

Delica Mutsu inside Matsukiya
1-8-8 Yanagimachi
Mutsu, Aomori
Phone: 0175.22.3126

17-377 Ooma-cho
Ooma, Shimokita-gun, Aomori
Phone: 0175.37.5633
Hours: 8:30-18:00

Kawabata Ryokan
67 O-sai
Sai, Shimokita-gun, Aomori
Phone: 0175.38.2201