Wednesday, November 30, 2005

the last day of november

Well, the last day of November was brrr...cold. For the past week or so we have been enjoying temperatures at about 21C (69.8F) during the day. The temperature dropped all of sudden with the high today at about 12C (53.6F) and low at about 7C (44.6F).

Since it was Ladies Day at a movie theatre in Minoo, I decided to see a movie that Satoshi had seen a couple of weeks ago when I wasn't feeling too well; "Always: 3-chome no yuuhi". It was a great heart warming movie set in the Showa period (about 1950's) in Tokyo. It was great to see the simplicity of life in those times. A lot of people cried in some parts of the movie, even the guys!!

The reason I decided to go to this movie theatre was that you can you pay for your ticket using the "debit card". (If you remember, I won an Edy card with 1000yen on it). So, I used the card to pay for my movie. Another reason that I decided to go to this movie theatre was that with your movie ticket stub you can get discounts from participating restaurants in the mall. I chose to have lunch at Baqet.

At this restaurant, with your meal comes all-you-can-eat bread, and with your movie ticket stub, you can either receive ice cream after your meal or a bag of 6 assorted rolls to take home. I decided to get the rolls. I was a little disappointed with the choice I made for my meal though...what I chose was roast duck with wasabi flavored vinagrette. The Japanese word on the menu was "fuumi" which I thought I understood as flavored or hint of. When I got my dish, it was like I was eating wasabi with some sort of meat and salad that had no taste...with the wasabi zooming through my nasal and sinus passages I thought I would surely start crying...boy, was I glad when it was over...whew!!

Well, it is 31 days until the end of the year...are you ready?

Minoo Visola Shopping Mall
1-17-22 Nishijuku
Phone: 072-729-1090

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

scone (part 3)

Well, I finally found a good scone recipe.

It was in the book that my brother gave me for Christmas this year! (Yes, we already celebrated in August when we all went home to Hawaii...) Thanks Keoki!! The scone came out fluffy like an airy biscuit. It wasn't sweet, but that's what jelly is for...

I guess I'll have to open a bottle of Mom's guava jelly. :)

Have a good week!

Monday, November 28, 2005

what a mess!

Recently in the news here there has been a big problem. Some companies built about 100 or so condos (or "mansions" as they call it here) and some business hotels in the Tokyo/Yokohama areas (I think they are slowly finding more in other prefectures, it's just a matter of time...) but cut safety corners (girders and beams were lessened) in order to cut costs.

It seems that all the parties involved did their share to cut corners in order to get a quick buck and more business (because they were fast and cheap). One party altered the data that they needed in order to draw up the blueprints for the building. And one party also used false data to submit to the people who actually build the buildings, inspections of the building after completion were also "overlooked" but submitted to the government as passing inspection.

A lot of firms were pressured to falsify data or be passed up for new business. (I, myself would have let them pass me, after all, how can you knowingly put another's life in danger with something that you were responsible to build safely!) Can you believe that they were actually waiting for a natural disaster to happen so that the fact that they faked the data would never be revealed? Unbelievable and outrageous!!

Most residents got suspicious because there have been a number of "small" earthquakes in the Tokyo/Yokohama areas recently but their condos have really swayed and have shown signs of cracks! I'm not too familiar with the building codes here, but after the Great Awaji-Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, I think most buildings built from 1996 on have to be able to withstand a 7-point something size earthquake. Anyway, all the companies involved are pointing their fingers at each other and also trying to put the blame on the government.

The victims in this whole mess are the people who bought the condos...they are now stuck with a 30-year loan (some just moved in!!) and no where to live (a lot have started to move out of their condos for fear of safety). One company involved says they will take care of these loans and give back 106% to the people who bought the condos...the catch: if this company files for bankruptcy, all deals are off...which leaves the people in the same predicament--a 30-year loan and no where to live...sigh. As if there aren't enough things to worry about, yeah?

Sunday, November 27, 2005


"Korakubiori" means nice weather to take a trip or go on an outing. Today, the weather was perfect for going out and about.

We started out early and walked to our favorite cafe, Hiro.

We usually go to the one in Minoo, but this time we went to the one in Kitaitami (it was our 2nd time here). It is actually the same distance from our place--about 2.5 km.

On the way to Kitaitami, we came across an "izumi" or spring.

Apparently, there are different stories, but the famous warrior Benkei stopped here for a drink on his way to Kyoto--so it is named "Benkei no Izumi".

The spring was and still is used by farmers to water their fields. To preserve the memory of Benkei there is a festival held every May 3rd.

After breakfast, I wanted to show Satoshi this field of nanten (nandina) plants that had changed colors.

Nanten is a member of the Barberry family and the leaves look like bamboo. It is sometimes called "Heavenly Bamboo".

On Tuesday, when I went to Nakayama, I came across this field of nanten. I took a picture with my cell phone and sent it to Satoshi. He was amazed to see the fields up close.

From Nakayama, we took the train to Minoo and walked all the way in until the Minoo Falls.

Along the way, we stopped at Ryuanji, a temple inside Minoo Park.

After going to the falls, we had lunch at an Italian restaurant called Vlla San Michele (I think they forgot the "i" in Villa). The food was very good, but unfortunately my camera's memory was full, so I have no photos to show. :(

Vlla San Michele (UPDATE: as of 4/08/2009 this restaurant is no longer in business)
5-12-16 Minoo
Phone: 072-725-0766

We sure did a lot of walking today (I think about 10km in all), but we got to see a lot of fall colored leaves. Hope you had a nice weekend and have a great week.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

ogurasanso, palet d'or & crochet

On Tuesday, it was Ladies Day at the Meifu Cine Pipia (a movie theatre at Meifujinja station). There was a Japanese movie that I was interested in seeing, "Haru no Yuki". I went to the first show at 10:30am, what I didn't realize was that the movie was close to 3 hours long...sigh. It was a love story type movie with a not-so-good ending, but it was still a good movie.

What I've come to notice in Japan is that there are a lot of people with weird habits, some talk to themselves, some have weird twitches, but while waiting in the lobby of the theatre, there was one lady who had a sniffing habit.

At first I thought she had a runny nose or something, but she kept sniffing every few seconds, "sniff sniff" "sniff sniff" got to be quite irritating, so I move away from her. When it came time to be seated for the movie, I waited for my number to be called and hurriedly entered the theatre so that I could find a seat FAR away from her...she unfortunately sat at the end of my row...during the quiet parts of the film you could hear her, "sniff sniff"....ugh...

After the movie, I walked towards Nakayama and went to my favorite arare (rice cracker) shop, Nagaokakyo Ogurasanso. Previously, when Satoshi and I went to the movies, I came upon the store when we were walking to have lunch at an Italian restaurant, Fraulein.

This time, I bought my favorite--chocolate covered kakinotane(a spicy rice cracker in the shape of a persimmon seed (kaki)). Ogurasanso uses the highest quality Belgian chocolate from OCG Cacao, called Chocolate Couverture which means chocolate covering. This chocolate has more cocoa butter than regular chocolate and is good for coating things like truffles...if only they would use dark chocolate only. :)

Nagaokakyo Ogurasanso-Takarazuka store
12-1 Meifuhigashinomachi
Takarazuka, Hyogo
Phone: 0797-83-0030

Today was my bead crochet class. I had to catch-up since I missed the last lesson. This was the project that I finished today. A very gaudy bracelet...I have some other "homework" to do before the next lesson, so that I can catch-up with the others.

Since I was in Umeda for my beads lesson, I stopped at a favorite chocolate shop, Chocolatier Palet d' Or. They are celebrating their 1st anniversary with a chocolate called Marl Chocolate. It is 100% Cacao mass with a hint of sweetness from different types of honey.

They had 5 dark types and 5 milk types. I wanted to buy the 5 dark types, but ended up only getting 3 dark types and 1 milk type. The dark types: Rouge (raspberry puree with berry honey), Citron(lemon paste with French lemon honey) and Orange (orange filling and Spanish orange honey). The milk type: Provence (Assorted South France floral honey)...can't wait to try them. :)

Chocolatier Palet d'Or
Herbis Plaza ENT 4F
Phone: 06.6341.8081

With a holiday in the middle of the week the week seems to have flown by. Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving and have a great weekend.

fall colors in kyoto (part 2)

After our Chinese lunch, we caught the train again to a station called Omuro. There is a huge temple called Ninna-ji. This temple used to be the residence for the previous emperor, Uda. And is now the headquarters for the Omuro school of the Shingon sect and Omuro school of flower arrangement (ikebana).

Ninna-ji had a beautiful Zen rock garden area where you could sit and look at the fall colors and just day dream...

From Ninna-ji we were back on the train to the end of the line, Kitahakubaicho. We stayed on the train and rode back to the transfer point, Katabiranotsuji, and then transferred to the Shijo-omiya line. This part of the line actually runs alongside of the road that cars run on!! If you're not careful, you could get hit by a car when getting off the train!

I didn't really care for riding on the Keifuku line, for one thing, the car is very narrow. And with the tourist season being at its peak, being crammed into a narrow car can be a bit tiring and frustrating. Also, a lot of people in Japan have stopped using their mouths, they cannot politely say "I'm getting off" or "Excuse me", they just PUSH their way on or off the trains.

Instead of moving into the back of the train car, they just stand in the doorways...At one stop, we were trying to board the train, an older man was in front of me and he was also trying to board, a young couple from inside the train apparently wanted to get off but of course didn't bother to say so, so the older man continued to squeeze himself onto the train.

As the bell was ringing to board the train, the younger man decided to SHOVE the older man off, who in turn jabbed his elbow into my chest (OW!) The older man shouted at the younger one...and we all ended up feeling frustrated...If only the younger man had said, "I'm getting off", the older man would have waited to board....sigh...

Aside from this bad experience, Satoshi & I had a very nice day....where to go this weekend....hmm

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

fall colors in kyoto (part 1)

Today was a holiday, so we decided to check out some areas in Kyoto. The Hankyu train line had a one day pass to use the Hankyu train lines and the Keifuku lines. For about $13, you can get on and off the Hankyu train lines and also the Keifuku lines as many times as you wish for the whole day. Part of the Hankyu line runs from Kyoto to Umeda. The Keifuku line runs between Arashiyama and Kyoto city.

We got up REALLY early and went to Nagaokakyo. There is a temple called Aokomyoji. We visited this temple a few years ago and the leaves were bright red then. This year it was reddish-brown, pinkish and a bit orange. I made us a breakfast bento, so we enjoyed this while looking at the fall colors.

From Nagaokakyo, we went to Arashiyama. This area is known for its autumn colors, so it is always packed with people! Near the Hankyu Arashiyama station, I read that there was a little cafe called Gateau de Bigaro. It was REALLY little and the seating was outside. We enjoyed our tea break here with cheese cake (fromage) and chocolate truffle cake (namachoco cake) and then were off to Ookochi Sanso.

Gateau de Bigaro
Arashiyama Higashiichikawa-machi 3-19
Closed on Mondays Phone 075-872-3707

Ookochi Sanso is the garden area of the famous actor, Ookochi Denjiro. We also visited here a few years ago, here the colors were very nice, especially when the sunlight hit them! From Ookochi Sanso, we walked through the famous bamboo forest walkway to Tenryuji temple. Last year, I took my aunty and her friends to this temple, but we a bit early for the color change. This time, the Tenryuji temple's pond area was very nice.

After visiting Tenryuji, we caught the Keifuku line (or Randen line, as the locals call it) to Kurumazaki. There is a temple called Kurumazaki temple which has a god that helps people with the arts.

A lot of actors and actresses are said to come to pray for their talent and crafts here. There is an area where the actors and actresses pay for prayers and the temple displays their names on a plaque for 2 years.

A lot of Japanese dancers as well as some actors and actresses' names can be seen here. We were lucky to visit on the day of the Hitakisai. This is a prayer ceremony in which you write down your wish onto a stick. They make a fire using a "kama" (wood burning stove) to call the Gods--Okutsuhikogami & Okutsuhime. At the end of the prayers, they burn the "wish sticks" to ward off evil and to fulfill the prayers.

From Kurumazaki, there is a station called Katabiranotsuji where you can transfer to a line that goes to the Kitanohakubaicho area. (The thing you notice the most about the Randen line is that all the trains kind of go at their own pace.

If they want to pack more people into the train, they wait for another to bring more people.) As we were already packed with sardines, we ended up waiting for another train to pack in more people! While we were waiting to be squished even more, I noticed a sign advertising a Chinese restaurant at the next station, Tokiwa.

I told Satoshi we should get off and have lunch here especially since it was almost 2pm!! We arrived at Tokiwa and we made it just in time for the last order for lunchtime. (whew!) We must have been hungry because we ate REALLY fast. :)

Monday, November 21, 2005

scone (part 2) & kinpira

Today we had sunny skies, so with the cool weather it was very nice and comfortable.

Instead of going somewhere, I decided to try the scone recipe again...This time I put oatmeal, cranberries, orange zest and chocolate chips.

The dough was really stiff, but when it baked it really spread out...I have a feeling it's the amount of butter (I think it may be too much). I'll try to cut it back some more the next time I attempt to try this again. :)

Anyway, the scone was really good with a glass of milk.

I also made some kinpira for our dinner. Kinpira is gobo (burdock root), carrots, konyaku (jelled devil's tongue--made from sweet potato) cooked in dashi (seaweed & bonito stock), shoyu (soy sauce) & mirin (sweet rice wine). I also add a little chili pepper for some kick.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

kanazawa & sasebo

Well, we ended up not being able to go to Kyoto this weekend because of maintenance problems with Australian Airlines....Satoshi ended up having to go to work on Sunday. :(

This was our dessert yesterday, Murakami's wagashi (from left in clockwise order: kuri kinton (mashed chestnuts), mushi kuri yokan (steamed jellied bean paste with chestnuts), mame daifuku (black bean rice cake) & kuri daifuku (chestnut rice cake)). The mushi kuri yokan had gold leaf flakes on it!! We cut them all in half so that we could taste each one. :) Murakami is actually a wagashiya (japanese confection shop) in Kanagawa; Ishikawa prefecture, but they have a kiosk in Daimaru Umeda.

For lunch today, there happened to be a Nagasaki food fair at the Hankyu Department store in Kawanishi. Nagasaki is located on the island of Kyushu. (There is a US Naval base there). We decided to try the Sasebo burger from Basestreet. Sasebo burger is the Japanese version of the American hamburger and was supposedly in Japan before McDonald's. Apparently there are two sizes(there is actually one larger than the burger we bought)...on the patty they have a slice of bacon, scrambled egg, onions, and a sauce...kind of messy when you eat it, but it tasted pretty good.

Well, this week we have a holiday, Kinro Kansha no Hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day). This is a holiday in which thanks and appreciation is given to the laborers in Japan. (kind of like America's Labor Day & Thanksgiving put together?) Hopefully, we'll be able to check out Kyoto on this day.

Have a great week.

Friday, November 18, 2005

fall colors, cafe feole

Since Satoshi worked on Saturday & Sunday last weekend, he took Tuesday and Friday off. We didn't do anything on Tuesday because I still had the sniffles, but we decided to check out the fall foliage today.

The first place we visited was Katsuoji Temple. It is about 10 minutes by taxi from the Minoo station.

We were a bit disappointed because the leaves weren't too red. In fact, most of the trees leaves were kind of drying and brown.

We caught the bus from Katsuoji down the other side of the mountain towards an area called Senri.

We decided to check out the Sanshikisaido near the Kita-Senri Station. Here the leaves were light pink, light orange and light green...way nicer than Katsuoji.

After walking the Sanshikisaido, we decided to have lunch in Onohara. There were a couple of cafes that I wanted to check out there, so we decided to have lunch at Cafe Feole. The pasta lunch was very good and it came with a salad. We also added on coffee and dessert. Delicious!

This weekend we're planning to check out the Arashiyama and the Nagaoka areas.

Cafe Feole
2-2-32 OnoharaHigashi
Minoo, Osaka
Closed every Wednesday and every 3rd Thursday of the month.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

nama choco daifuku

There is a little wagashiya (Japanese confection shop) near us called Korakudo. They make all kinds of mochi (rice cakes). One of my favorites from this shop is the "nama choco (ganache) daifuku (rice cake)". It is a very soft mochi (rice cake) filled with chocolate ganache and covered with cocoa powder. This shop only makes this daifuku during the autumn and winter season (since it is cooler).

Since Satoshi hasn't tried this yet, I decided to get some.

2-12-30 Asahigaoka
Ikeda-city, Osaka
Phone: 072-762-5188

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

edy, tortillas & saita 2

In Japan, a lot of food items have contests--turn in the bar code to be entered to win a prize, answer a question to win and so on.

In September, I had bought 2 desserts from a convenience store and was eligible to enter their contest. All I had to do was send in my receipt and I had the chance to win an "Edy" card. "Edy" is the latest way to pay for things in Japan.

Some cell phones have this chip installed so that all you need to do is swipe your cell phone over the vending machine and it pays for your juice. A lot of convenience stores also have this system, and recently some train lines also have this system. You can put money into the card and it will subtract from your card to pay for things. Another type of "Edy" card is like a credit card where you pay for things at the end of each month. I was lucky and won one of 6000 cards with 1000yen (about $10) on it!!...what to buy next. :)

If you are like me and like Mexican food, you'll realize that a rare commodity here is tortillas. You can find salsa and avocados, but tortillas...A while back, I had found some in a gourmet supermarket, but after that never saw it again. Recently though, while doing my daily grocery shopping I found some. There were only 5 in a package and it was close to $3!! Still, I bought them and made us some soft tacos for dinner--they were good.

In October, I had bought a "healthy" box lunch which 7-eleven and Saita (a ladies magazine) produced. This past week, they came out with the 2nd version of their "healthy" box lunch. This box lunch has hijiki (seaweed) with komatsuna (a type of chinese cabbage), sweet potato boiled in a lemon sauce, tofu hamburger with minced chicken and tomato sauce, kinpira (burdock root & carrots cooked in sugar and shoyu), broccoli & carrot and 7-grain rice with soy beans and adzuki (red) beans...Yummy!!

Well, after a week of losing my voice, I still have the sniffles, but other than that am feeling much better!! Hope you all have a great week.

Friday, November 11, 2005

interesting book

Recently, on a morning television show, this book was talked about and it caught my attention. It is a dictionary which you can look up a food term or food name in Japanese, if there is a Chinese character it is given, the English term is given next and if there are terms in other languages (such as French & Italian) for the same food; they are also given.

The book was written by Kazuhiko Nagai & Kikue Suzuki under the supervision of Yukio Hattori. Some may know Mr. Hattori from the television program, the "Iron Chef ", where he was a guest commentator.

A lot of times trying to figure what the katakana word for some foods or things can be a bit stressful.

If you have been to Japan and/or understand some Japanese, you can understand why katakana can be a bit stressful, for example, ba-su could mean bath or bass, ro-zu could mean rose, rows or roads.

Katakana is one of the four Japanese writing systems (hiragana, kanji and romaji are the other three).

The main uses of katakana in modern Japanese are for onomatopoeia--used to represent sounds, like hii means "to sigh", for technical and scientific terms, such as the names of animals, plant species and minerals and the transcription of words from foreign languages (gairaigo)--television would be terebi in katakana.

Although nowadays people use hiragana for foreign words too.

For people learning English, I would suggest that you give up using Katakana because you will lose the true pronunciation of the English word.

Anyway, if you're a foodie, like me, I think you'll find this book very useful.

emergency, more sweets and metro what?

After our adventure the other day, my condition didn't improve much. In fact, that night I ended up with a 38.7C (101.6F) fever. When Satoshi came home, he took me to the emergency. (I felt bad for Satoshi because he didn't have time to eat dinner!! Sorry Satoshi!!)

Luckily, no one else was waiting to be seen. They gave me some medicine to break the fever. (Boy, did it make me perspire!) This experience made me realize the convenience of having a car. Since we don't have one here (because the parking at our building would cost us $120 a month alone), we had to call for a taxi. Taxi to and from hospital: about $15, Hospital fees with medicine: about $50, good health: definitely priceless!

Recently (before I got so sick), we tried these treats...Daily Yamazaki's (a convenience store) murasaki imo (purple sweet potato) mont blanc. It is a rolled chocolate sponge cake with cream filling and purple sweet potato topping. It is supposed to resemble Mont Blanc-one of the highest mountains in the French Alps.

And Chikujian's kurian awamochi (a millet rice cake filled with chestnut paste) (the yellow one), and yomogi mochi (mugwort rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste) (the green one).

The term metrosexual is picking up here in Japan. (Metro what?)
Metrosexual (met.roh.SEK.shoo.ul) n. An urban male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. --Hey, I think I may know a couple of guys who are like this...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

the japanese medical system

For the past couple of days I was feeling under the weather and had a slight fever.

Since the fever wouldn't go down, I asked Satoshi to take me to see the doctor. He had a meeting, but said he would take me to the doctor.

We got to the hospital at 8:30am and checked in. After checking in, we had to wait until 9:00am for the doctor to come. Depending on the day, a different doctor is assigned, so if you want to see a certain one, you have to come on that specific day. At 9:00am, all the nurses stand in front of their areas and bow to everyone and welcome them to the hospital.

From then on, all you see is chaos. Nurses that go in one door, come out from a totally different place. It can get to be quite dizzying. And since a lot of their patients are elderly, the nurses tend to "shout" really loud when calling patient names.

Finally at about 9:30am, we were seen. Satoshi came into the room with me since there is a lot of technical, medical words that they use. After the doctor examined me, she felt all I had was a cold, but she recommended my blood and urine be checked. She also said she could check to see if we were pregnant and the results of all the tests would take about an hour. Satoshi had to get to his meeting, so he left me in the waiting room.

While getting my blood drawn, the nurse spoke REALLY slowly (like I was 5 or deaf or something)...anyway at least she was easy to understand. After getting my blood drawn, I had to give the urine sample....They also have a secret door inside the restroom to give your sample. (whew!!)

After doing all of that, I had to wait the hour. During part of my wait, another nurse came up to me and told me that the pregnancy exam (p.e.) would take 2 to 3 hours to process (where the heck were they having it checked at??), and was I still interested in having it done?...(um, yeah...) then my doctor called me in to go over the blood test results, everything was fine, but of course we were still waiting on the p.e.

Another nurse suggested I wait for the results and the doctor told her, "you're kidding, right?" Anyway, in the end, they decided to give me a call instead of having me wait for the results or come all the way back to hear them.

I was prescribed some medicine, and was amazed that the pharmacy gives you a copy of the each medicine that they prescribe to you on a sheet. This way there is no mistakes in what you are taking.

Also, as for the results, guess we'll have to keep trying... :(

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

more sweet treats

Last month, Satoshi went to Cairns for his company trip. This is one of his "omiyage" (souvenirs) that he brought back for me. DFS(Duty Free Shoppers)Earl Grey shortbread cookies.

The box is really cute!

Also, last month when we went to Kobe, we bought some cookies and friands(like pound cake) from Chocolat Republic. They had some pretty interesting cookie flavors, green tea (the green round one), black pepper (the yellow round one) and wheat germ chocolate chip. They were actually very good, even the black pepper one!!

The Kobe Chef Club is a company that makes desserts that you can find at most convenience stores and supermarkets. Their desserts reflect the rich style of Kobe.

Winter Truffle came out last year and is back again this year...I, of course, bought the dark chocolate one. It is basically a pudding that has the thick, rich consistency of ganache (the filling that are found in truffles).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


With the weather cooling down here, memories of my hometown in Hawaii come to's an interesting web site that I found while surfing the web...of course, it has a lot of info about local foods and place in Hawaii :)

FYI: Ono = delicious, kine = types, grindz = foods