Monday, July 31, 2017

good to be home

It's like 10 degrees cooler than Japan here...bonus: I got to see this beautiful sunrise glow from the right side of the plane.

I'll be posting from here for awhile, but the dates and time will reflect Japan time.

Have a good week!

Friday, July 28, 2017


Warning: this post is about semi (cicada)...

When I was in Tarumi the other day, I noticed several trees loaded with semi (cicada).

If you are looking at this post on a smartphone, pinch the photo to'll see all of them.

I also lightened the photo, so it is a little easier to spot them all...

Midori and I were sort of screaming as we took the photo...eek!

If you are interested in seeing the video I shot of them a few years back you can click here, to hear just how noisy they are.

Tidbit from Satoshi: only the male cicadas chirp...

Hope it is cooler and quieter where you are...have a nice weekend.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

cafe ria ria

Yesterday I got to meet up with Midori and Naomi.

It had been 4 years since the last time I had met up with Midori and many many moons since I had met up with Naomi.

We met up at a little cafe called Cafe Ria Ria.

The owner is a friend of Midori's.

She grows most of the veggies that she uses.

Our lunch had all sorts of different flavors...and also came with some grilled eggplant soup and brown rice...1500 yen (tax included).

Dessert was a melon shortcake.

In Japan, shortcake is a layered cake with fruit--different from the shortcake found in the States, which I think is made from biscuits.

The melon had just been picked that morning.

Lunch also came with a beverage...Naomi & I chose seasonal fruit sodas (kiwi and ume respectively) and Midori tried a sea buckthorn drink (which looked like coffee with lots of milk in it...she said it was very different, a bit sour).

The food was delicious and I liked the laid back feel to the cafe.

It was nice to get together and hopefully our schedules will jive to meet up again later this year.

Thanks Midori & Naomi!

Cafe Ria Ria
1-2-7 Kasumigaoka
Tarumi, Hyogo
Phone: 078.771.0863
Hours: 9:00-18:00
Closed Mondays

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

minoo candle road

Saturday night we checked out the Minoo Candle Road event.

Candles lit the way to the Minoo Falls.

So many people out and about.

The walkway through the shopping arcade was packed with vendors and people!

Of course, the humidity was killer.

Ramune, a drink seen a lot during Summer in Japan and Yuzu Cider were definitely needed...

(Even though both were labelled with Minoo's logos, both were not made in Minoo (bummer), though the Yuzu Cider did use yuzu (citron) from Minoo.)

My archives do not show this event so I think this was a rare time that we were able to check this event out.

(I think most times we are in Hawaii or remember after the event is over)

Even though it was super grossly humid (and we didn't go all the way up to the Falls), I'm glad we checked it out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

gate 2

Recently a baseball themed salad shop opened in Grand Front Osaka called Gate 2.

To understand the humour behind the name of the shop, you need a little background...Gate 2, pronounced in Japanese is "get two"...translated to baseball speak is a double play.

The main shop is called Fielder's Choice which apparently means this.

The shops interior circles around the Yankees, with the seating area looking like their locker room...all their salads are named after baseball players.

Satoshi chose "Babe"...mixed lettuce, smoked salmon, egg, avocado, corn, cucumber, red onion with onion dressing...1200 yen (plus tax).

He also chose the soup set...300 yen (plus tax).

I chose "Mantle"...mixed lettuce, chicken, quinoa, granola, apple, red cabbage, broccoli with honey mustard dressing...980 yen (plus tax)

The salad is then chopped to your liking...I chose fine, while Satoshi chose the standard, you could also do chunky.

All salads can be turned into wraps or added to rice bowls for additional costs.

The one peeve Satoshi had was that "Jackie" named after Jackie Robinson was not a Yankee...

A bit pricey, this was actually a nice portion of salad.

They do also have a breakfast menu, but only on weekdays.

I dunno if we'll be back but I do want to try to recreate some of the other salads at home.

Also, it is nice to see more and more salads appearing as mains here.

Gate 2
Grand Front Osaka South Building 1F
Umeda, Osaka
Phone: 06.4256.6766
Hours: 8:00-21:00 (Monday-Friday), 10:00-21:00 (Weekends, Holidays)

Monday, July 24, 2017


Hankyu Department Store in Umeda is having an Asian Fair.

All sorts of foods and knick-knacks from countries like Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam.

I recently tried this...called Ku-lon in Japanese, the kanji (chinese characters) translated to English is Kowloon.

The dessert is made by a shop called Hong Kong Sweets Ka Ka, apparently a Japanese company with shops in Tokyo.

Kanten (agar) orbs hold tiny pieces of fruits...blueberry, kiwi, mango, watermelon, as well as many others (in some photos online I spotted raspberries, strawberries) floating in a simple syrup.

I'm glad I tried this, I don't know if they actually have a dessert like this in Hong Kong but it was so refreshing and hit the spot on such a hot and humid day....540 yen (tax included).

Saturday, July 22, 2017

colorful tomatoes

Been seeing colorful tomatoes at the market lately...

I used some to jazz up some instant pasta the other night.

And some to jazz up our omelettes for breakfast the other day.

These were quite sweet.

Rainy season has ended here, though the weather dude says we will have a rainy week next week.

Have a nice weekend.

Friday, July 21, 2017

foodie thursday in blazing kyoto

Yesterday I got to meet up with Hiromi.

It had been awhile since the last time we met up.

Instead of hanging around our area, we ventured to Kyoto.

We were worried that the weather might be rainy but it was blazing sunny.

Lunch was at Yaoichi Honkan.

If I am not mistaken, this shop was originally a fruit & veggie grocer turned recently into a high-end grocery store with restaurants and other shops.

We ordered the steamed veggies this came with all sorts of side dishes...1380 (tax included)

You can have seconds of rice & miso soup too.

The veggies are apparently grown up on the rooftop...Delicious.

As we left, the place was packed.

Then we walked across to the Higashiyama area for something sweet at Kisshokaryo, a shop dedicated to kinako (soy bean powder).

Hiromi ordered their matcha milk shaved ice.

While I tried their kinako parfait & an iced coffee...1520 yen (tax included).

The top is a meringue which you need to gingerly break.

Next layer...Tea jelly (I think it was hojicha (roasted green tea).

Then...Tonyu cream (soy milk cream).

There was also some cookies in the middle.

After eating the meringue there wasn't any sweetness to the rest of the parfait so they give you some kuromitsu (literally black honey).

I enjoyed eating this as it wasn't too sweet or filling.

Even though it was blazing (and super humid) was nice to get out and about.

We hope to come back (when it is cooler) to check out more places...Thanks Hiromi!

Yaoichi Honkan
220 Sanmonji-cho, Sanjo-sagaru, Higashitoin-dori, 2F
Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Phone: 075.223.2370
Closed Tuesdays
Hours: 11:00-15:00 (lunch), 17:00-21:00 (dinner)

306 Ishibashi-cho, Higashioji-dori Higashi hairu Furumonzen-dori
Higashiyama, Kyoto
Phone: 075.708.5608
Hours: 10:00-19:00

Thursday, July 20, 2017

551 (namba)

We got to try the main store for 551 on our way back from Nara.

The restaurant area is located on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building.

It was after the lunch crowd and there was still a line for seats.

I was actually surprised that the line moved quite quickly.

I ordered their mabo eggplant yakisoba.

A combination of deep fried noodles and sauteed noodles, topped with their spicy mabo sauce, eggplant and veggies.

It was a change of pace to see cucumber and watermelon radish in there...

I tried their char siu man (bun), something only sold at this shop.

I had envisioned it to be similar to the steamed manapua (char siu bao) we have in Hawaii, but it wasn't the canton style char siu and there was lots of shiitake in there.

Still, it was better than the nikuman (meat buns) sold at the convenience stores.

Even though it was blazing hot, Satoshi almost always never fails to order soup noodles of some sort whenever we eat at places like this.

This was their seafood ramen.

And another item he almost never fails to order is gyoza or "gee-why-oh" as he likes to call it...

I'm glad we got to try the main shop's food.

They have more items on their menu than at most other of their restaurant type shops.

I guess whenever I want to get my Cantonese char siu fix, I need to check out Ou-lou or Heichinrou.

3-6-3 Namba
Chuo, Osaka
Phone: 06.6641.0551
Hours: 11:00-22:00 open everyday

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

imai-cho, kashihara jingu, koriyama

Less than 5 minutes from where we were staying was Imai-cho, a cluster of preserved homes that are from the Edo period.

They have some homes open for viewing, but when we arrived on Saturday, we were too late to visit and on Sunday, we were too early...

How cool is the tofu/aburaage vending machines in front of a tofu shop?!

Some roadways were so narrow that cars cannot pass through.

On Sunday they were having blessings done all around their neighborhood, we happened to stumble upon this one near a preserved home.

I didn't photograph the service out of respect.

We then headed down to Kashihara Jingu, which dates back to 1889.

The buildings here are similar to those at Ise Jingu in Mie prefecture and exhibit classical Shinto architecture.

The shrine is dedicated to the mythical first emperor Jimmu.

The sun was even more blazing at this point...

From Kashihara, we backtracked to Yamato-Koriyama.

I wanted to check out this cafe...K-Coffee.

Yup that is goldfish in a telephone booth. (click on the photo to see a video).

Using an old gas station, this cafe serves coffee and shaved ice as well as other items too.

Luckily, we were there early enough to have some shaved ice.

I chose coffee while Satoshi chose ume.

The coffee shaved ice also had coffee jelly (gelatin) as well as coffee powder on it.

The ume shaved ice was super refreshing! But bummer no color though...

Apparently this area is known for goldfish breeding.

You can see goldfish farms here and there.

They were doing some brisk sales at this farm.

some goldfish were so tiny others were really huge!

cute manhole cover.

We also saw the ruins of the Koriyama Castle.

We were thankful that we had good weather but it was so blazing hot and humid that it made walking around very uncomfortable.

Hope you enjoyed our little adventure as much as we did.

4-46 Yanagi
Yamatokoriyama, Nara
Phone: 090.6986.3255
Hours: 10:00-17:00
Closed Thursdays

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

bucket list

When we stayed in Nara, I accidentally got to cross off something from my bucket list...staying at a love hotel or what the Japanese call "lah-boo-ho" for short...

When Satoshi saw the building, he said..."oh em gee"...

Apparently this love hotel had been changed to a business hotel, but upon looking at google was still categorized as a love hotel...

The building itself didn't look like some of the gaudy love hotels I've seen from the freeways, but the entrance is hidden off to the side and the lobby is quite dark.

To get up to the rooms, you use one elevator, to leave the building, you use a different elevator.

You almost never see anyone coming or going...

When we opened the door to the room, all these spotlights and the tv went on..

There was a huge jacuzzi style bath & shower area.

I'm not sure, but think if you order food & drinks, they pass it to you through this built in door...

Satoshi mentioned that this hotel had a meal plan, but we wondered where one would eat, as there wasn't a restaurant or cafe in the lobby...maybe that was what the built in door was for?!

Way more spacious than some of the hotels we've previously stayed at.

The sign telling you to use a different elevator to leave the building...

To get a feel of just how big this room was here is a video (the door after the silk flower arrangement is the toilet and the large blackish closet looking thingy is the bath area.)

While the interior of this place was overly bright with the spotlights and a bit gaudy, I appreciated the space, two televisions & two sinks.

Smoking was still a bother, but at least it wasn't coming through the walls.

Probably not an authentic lah-boo-ho experience, but it was just enough for me to cross off my bucket list.

Monday, July 17, 2017

ofusa kannon, hiroan

Saturday, after Satoshi's German class, it was the start of a 3-day weekend, so we headed to Nara to check out Ofusa Kannon's Fuurin (wind chime) Festival.

The sound of the wind chimes are supposed to evoke a "cool" feeling.

Also Buddhism believe that these wind chimes ward off evil.

This temple has many rose plants and also has a rose festival during the Spring and Autumn (which I hope we will be back to see).

I think it might be a rare thing to see western rose plants on a Buddhist temple ground.

I know when we were looking for flowers for my mom's funeral, roses (her favorite) were apparently not a good choice.

Anyway, when we got there, we went to the back of the property to their tea room in hopes of having some shaved ice.

They didn't really have a system and it was chaotic, so after being blown off and then being told they had run out of ice, we made our way to the hotel we would be staying at.

I will post about this hotel in a separate post.

(one more photo to click on to see a video I shot)

After freshening up and cooling down a bit, we went to search for dinner, we were again blown off by an apparently "reservations only", when your waitress/wife looks at us as we enter, and you, the chef/owner do the same, not even saying "irrashaimase" (welcome), not even approaching to tell us it is a "reservations only" place...we leave.

In the end, we ended up at a tiny izakaya near the station called Hiroan and the food was so good!

Yuzu cocktail thingy.

Assorted sashimi.

Okra & Nagaimo (chinese yam) salad..the shiso (perilla) dressing was super refreshing!

Ume dashi soup gyoza..I didn't care for this dish as it had a very "meaty"/gamey smell but Satoshi enjoyed it.

Perfectly cooked shrimp with homemade tartar sauce.

They didn't have those amuse bouche (things you pay for but didn't order)...whoo! so our total bill (with a beer, sake & cocktail) came out to a little over 5000 yen (which is cheap for us, usually our bill comes out to 7000 or so)

> Despite the bad service at those other places and the krazy heat & humidity, I'm glad the bulk of the day was nice.

Ofusa Kannon
6-22 Ousa-cho
Kashihara, Nara
Phone: 0744.22.2212
Hours: 7:00-17:00

1-9-6 Yagi-cho
Kashihara, Nara
Phone: 0744.23.5672
Open from 17:00
Closed Tuesdays