Wednesday, February 28, 2018

osaka castle area

Monday, I had an appointment but it was cancelled last minute.

Since I had planned to check out the ume at Osaka Castle before the appointment, I decided to get out and about anyway.

It was sunny and a little on the warm side.

The area in front of the Osaka Castle station has gotten a face lift.

Lots of eateries.

If I'm not mistaken, I think this area opened up late last summer.

I told Satoshi about it and he wants to check out this are too.

Spring is coming, slowly but surely.

Hope you are having a nice week.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

thankful (part 2)

Recently V, was in Japan.

She was so nice to send me a book we had talked about when we met up last year as well as snacks and pu'er tea.

The kakipi (kakinotane rice crackers with peanuts) were from the Toyoko Inn. A chain of hotels near train stations around Japan.

I love how there were more peanuts than the rice crackers.

And how you can use the cap as a bowl.

Thank you V!

Monday, February 26, 2018


My pen pal, LJ, recently sent me a haul of chocolate because she felt that I shouldn't have to wait until White Day (March 14).

Am so thankful for friends.

Thank you LJ!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

the spoon

I had been looking for the spoon with all the holes in it ever since we had tan tan men at Hokkai-ramen Susukino...and finally found it at Shimojima...a shop in Osaka that sells all sorts of stuff.

Shimojima reminds me of a shop in Hawaii called Fisher Hawaii...they have paper goods, as well as stuff for the office and kitchen.

Anyway, I am glad I have these now, next is to put it to use.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

kyu yamu tetsudo

It had been awhile since I had eaten at Kyu Yamutei.

They have since expanded and now even have a shop in Tokyo.

Anyway, this particular shop's interior is the inside of a train car.

They have 3 choices...aigake (choose two of their 4 curries), triple (choose three), all (all 4 curries).

I chose the aigake.

The curries I chose were the pork keema with bacon chutney and the chicken keema with hijiki soymilk achaar.

During the weekdays, you can also receive one of the two soups to add to your curry to change up the flavors.

On this day, it was a japanese stock or thai curry, and I chose the thai curry.

Choose your rice...brown or turmeric...I chose turmeric.

Everything was good on its own and nice mixed together.

I don't often get to the area where Kyu Yamutei is these days so I am glad I can get my fix in Umeda.

I'll be back.

Kyu Yamu Tetsudo
Lucua 1100 B1F
Umeda, Osaka
Phone: 06.6151.1544
Hours: 11:00-24:00
Closed when Lucua 1100 is.

Friday, February 23, 2018

fylgdu mer

Have been wanting to check out Fylgdu Mér out for some time.

Not sure how to pronounce their name.

Apparently it is Icelandic for "follow me".

I think their food is Moroccan.

This was their Mezze plate.

Loved the falafel, avocado hummus and all the veggies.

On this particular day, I had gone to the dentist and found out that I need some major dental work done in the coming's gonna take at least 4 or 5 visits...eep.

Hoping I'll be able to eat after these appointments...

Oh and I'll be back to Fylgdu Mér when I'm in the area to try their other menu items.

Fylgdu Mér
1-13-17 Shinmachi
Nishi-ku, Osaka
Phone: 06.4394.8715
Hours: 11:30-17:00
Closed Sundays

Thursday, February 22, 2018


We went to check out Bills earlier this month.

If I am not mistaken they opened late last year.

I've seen their lines for breakfast but luckily the line for lunch wasn't too krazy.

Satoshi had their cheeseburger which he said was tasty.

I had their chopped salad because "beets" and "avocado" were calling out to me from their menu.

The food is kinda pricey but everything was delicious and service was good.

I'm glad we got to try them...We'll be back.

Lucua 1100 7F
Umeda, Osaka
Phone: 06.6456.2500
Open when Lucua 1100 is
Hours: 8:30-23:00

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


The next morning, the streets had a new layer of snow which meant that some spots were super slippery.

Down the street from the hotel was Niizato Tofu.

They have been in business for over 60 years and besides tofu, sell freshly pressed tonyu (soy milk) for 100 yen a cup.

Mrs Niizato measures the soy milk using the square container and takes the soy milk out from that blue bucket.

Still warm and so delicious.

Definitely better than the packaged stuff we find at the markets.

Tsurushi bina and other decorations at the Tohno station.

When we arrived in Hanamaki, it was snowing steadily.

From there it was a short taxi ride to the airport.

It was my first time seeing them de-ice the wings...thank you!

We had a nice time in Akita and Iwate.

At least the weather was more cooperative this time around.

I hope you enjoyed our little adventure as much as we did.

Niizato Tofu
1-2 Higashide-cho
Tohno, Iwate
Phone: 0198.62.3332
Hours: 6:00-18:00

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Since Momo no sekku or Hinamatsuri (Girl's Day) was coming around, it was nice to see all these tsurushi bina. (These were at Shizuka-tei).

Apparently in the Edo period most people could not afford the elaborate doll displays, so many would sew these types of tsurushi bina (literally hanging dolls) out of kimono fabric to pray/wish for the good health and happiness of their daughters.

After checking out, the inn dropped us off at the station.

Since we had almost an hour wait for our train, we went to have some coffee and something sweet at Yoshinoya.

This sweet shop has been in business since 1915!

The cream puff that we shared was delicious, not too sweet and filled to the gills with custard cream!

The owner's wife also gave us a taste of their sakura yokan (a thick, jellied dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar).

From Hiraizumi to Tohno it was 2 and a half hours by train.

When we arrived the snow started falling slightly.

We had intended to look for lunch, but we also wanted to check out Kappabuchi, and luckily there was a bus that was scheduled to arrive in a matter of minutes, so we hopped on and headed out instead.

The snow was coming down quite steadily now, so we headed inside of Denshoen in search of lunch.

Hittsumi is the local dish filled with some veggies and "noodles" that are made by flattening and "pulling" at the dough.

The soup is shoyu based...what a great way to warm up!

We also tried the local sweet called ganzuki.

A steamed cake made from black sugar and is topped with walnuts and black sesame seeds.

The cake was so airy.

The snow had stopped and we were ready to look for kappa (river creatures).

On the way to Jokenji, we stumbled upon a farm that grows some of the hops for Kirin Beer.

It was cool to see how tall the hops grew!

On to the kappa...legend has it that Kappa were pranksters.

Once a kappa pulled a horse's tail and the rider fell off and got hurt.

The villagers heard what the kappa did and caught the kappa.

The kappa knew that if it was out of water too long it would die, so it pleaded to be spared.

The villagers made the kappa promise never to do pranks.

The kappa promised and the villagers set it free.

Nowadays, parents use the kappa story as a way to "scare" their children, saying that if they get too close to the edge of the river, the kappa will come and get them, in hopes that the children won't play near the rivers.

You should also know that Kappa apparently like cucumbers, which is why kappamaki have pieces of cucumber in them.

Anyway, behind Jokenji, is a river where you may see kappa.

While we were there, the wind picked up and made the area quite eery.

The blizzard also made things harder to see...

Of course, my new "friend" scared the bejeezus out of me appearing out of nowhere...

Since the bus wasn't running too often, we went back to Denshoen and called a taxi.

After checking in, we spent some time watching another blizzard whizz by our window...

Then after the blizzard stopped, we checked out the Tohno Museum next door to the hotel.

The museum shows life in Tohno before modern times and there are also displays of kitchen gadgets, farm tools as well as toys.

I was particularly intrigued by these wooden blocks.

Apparently on each side is a different picture with descriptions on them.

You roll them like dice and make up stories using the different pictures that turn up.

The lady working at the museum also showed us some custom blocks that were made using the German language instead of Japanese.

Down the street from the hotel was Matsuda Shorindo, a sweet shop that has been in business for over 150 years!

They created the sweet called akegarasu.

It is a semi-soft sweet that is made from rice flour, black sesame seeds and walnuts.

When sliced, the walnuts look like crows flying into the morning sky, thus the name "akegarasu".

These were slightly sweet and had a slight chew.

Bummer that their other sweets we purchased called Kappa no osara (kappa's plate), a manju like sweet had artificial sweeteners in it.

The owner's wife also mentioned that in a couple of days they would have a hinamatsuri event where many shops in the area would display their dolls.

Too bad we would miss this...I counted the shops on the map she gave us and there were over 40 to see!

We headed back to the hotel and just before dinner, there was a woman telling local folktales in Iwate about foreign language!

Dinner was again huge, though I didn't think this dinner was as good as the ones we had in the previous days.

Still, even if we didn't see any kappa, I'm glad we were in the area.

6-chiwari 5-1 Tsuchibuchi-cho
Tohno, Iwate
Phone: 0198.62.8655
Open 9:00-17:00

7-chiwari 50 Tsuchibuchi-cho
Tohno, Iwate
Phone: 0198.62.1333

Tohno Museum
3-9 Higashide-cho
Tohno, Iwate
Phone: 0198.62.2340
Hours: 9:00-17:00

Aeria Tohno
1-10 Shinmachi
Tohno, Iwate
Phone: 0198.60.1703

Friday, February 16, 2018


We woke up the next morning and the snow was slightly falling.

I didn't eat much breakfast (good thing it was buffet style) because I was actually still feeling a little full from the night before.

Of course, guess who ate like he hadn't eaten in days....sigh!

I was super impressed though that they had a guy hand pouring coffee!

After breakfast, we checked out and went to stand at the bus stop in front of the hotel.

Look at how much snow had accumulated over the last couple of weeks!

At least it was "sunny" and was forecast to be "warm" 4C (39F)...

We caught the bus from Nyuto Onsen to the Towadako Station where we rode the bullet train to Morioka in Iwate Prefecture.

The weird thing about this bullet train was that there were only 3 cars.

2 of which were reserved seats and 1 was the green car (which is super expensive seating).

Our tickets were non-reserved so we were supposed to stand (in the connecting areas between cars)...though if there was no one reserved for that leg of the trip, you could sit in the seat.

The guy that was checking all the tickets, knew which seats would be empty for each part of the trip, BUT didn't bother to tell many of us were standing for most of the trip...grr.

The reason we stopped in Morioka was to try reimen (cold noodles).

Not the best choice during winter...I think reimen is similar to Korean Naengmyeon.

Since the wind had picked up and it was snowing a little, we wanted to find a place close to the station, so we checked out Pyonpyonsha. (love saying the name!)

Luckily they had half sized reimen.

Choose your spiciness (they have 4 levels)...I chose the most mild (1), while Satoshi chose "a little spicy"(2).

With my bowl, the kim chee came separately, so that I could adjust the heat with the amount that I put into the soup.

While Satoshi's bowl, the kim chee was put into the soup already...I can only imagine how spicy (and red) 3 and 4 were...

I loved the chewiness of the noodles.

The piece of meat was on the hard side!

This version was served with asian pear but I have also seen photos of versions with watermelon in it.

Definitely a summery food but I'm glad we tried it and would love to try other places the next time we visit.

From Morioka, we caught the local train to Hiraizumi.

Satoshi wanted to check out Chusonji, an area with many temples.

We had actually visited this area in 2001 (pre-blog), but we were on a tour at the time.

The most impressive thing to see here is Konjikido, a golden structure that also holds the remains of 4 generations from the Fujiwara family.

It was a very tranquil place.

Another tranquil place is Motsuji (about a 10 minute walk from Hiraizumi station).

A temple and a huge garden area gives one a feel of the elaborate garden parties and lifestyle of the Heian period.

I could just imagine how beautiful this place must be during the other seasons.

About 15 minutes away and off the beaten path is Shizuka-tei, the tiny inn we would be staying at.

They only have 10 rooms and luckily, they have a pick-up service.

Our room had a massage chair which Satoshi and I took turns using.

Dinner was again huge and everything was delicious especially the steak that was served, so melt in the mouth tender.

Another busy day, but I'm glad we got to see the areas that Satoshi wanted to check out.

Morioka Station
9-3 Morioka eki-mae-dori
Morioka, Iwate
Phone: 019.606.1067

10-5 Hiraizumi Nagakura
Nishiiwaigun Hirazumi-cho, Iwate

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Thank you all for entering.

I loved reading all of your comments.

The winners for the giveaway are Kalin's Mommy, "N" & De-Aloha.

Please email me your snail mail address: kat(dot)nsatoshi(at)gmail(dot)com so I can mail out your care package.

I'll send you an email when I send it out and if possible, please send me an email when you receive it.

Thank you again for entering and helping me celebrate.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


From Osaka, it is about an hour and fifteen minutes to Akita Prefecture.

The airport has bus service into Akita city, but since we were going to Kakunodate, we booked a taxi.

The type of taxi was a "share" type...50 minutes later we were in a village that has many samurai residences.

The Ishiguro residence is the only one with actual family descendants still living in it.

It was awesome to be able to see a couple of the rooms of their home.

We were also lucky as it is close to Hinamatsuri, so they had their doll display out. (these are the top rows,

 and these are the bottom ones.

Next door was the Aoyagi residence.

This property was huge!

6 different buildings to wander through with all sorts of samurai swords and armor.

Akita has a sweet called "butter mochi", I thought it might be similar to the type we have in Hawaii, but since it had artificial sweeteners in it, we didn't try any.

Instead, I purchased kurumimochi (walnut mochi), which the area is also known for.

This was slightly sweet though I wish it had more nuts in/on it.

How is this grandpa?! shoveling snow off his many deaths during this time of year from people falling off their rooftops...though if they don't take the snow off their roof will cave in from the heavy snow.

We also checked out Ando Shoyu where I purchased this mountain greens to cook with rice.

I'm gonna use it in the coming weeks.

I also stumbled upon their kasanemochi (the stacked decorative mochi for New Years) which they hang to dry then fry up as "kakimochi".

Apparently this had been drying since the year before!

Another taxi picked us up and 50 minutes later we were at Nyuto Onsen, an area with several hot spring facilities.

After lunch of Hinaidori (the brand chicken of Akita) oyakodon for me and Nabeyaki udon for Satoshi, we were off to the hot springs.

Satoshi went to 3 different ones while I just went to the one that was next door to where we were staying.

If you are following us on Instagram, you know dinner was huge.

There was all sorts of foods, nabe (hot pot) with hinaidori, sashimi (swordfish, sweet shrimp and cod cured in kelp), simmered rockfish, snow crab tempura, rice with ikura (salmon roe), just to name some of the dishes.

I loved the handwoven baskets that we could use to put our towel and clothes in when we went to bathe in the hot springs.

And most of the doors had different sayings in Akita dialect.

Ours was "garitto" (gah-ree-toe) which means "isshokenmei" (ee-show-ken-may) in standard Japanese and in English means to do something with all one's effort.

It was a long day, lots of snow and lots of eating.

Ishiguro Samurai Residence
1-banchi Kakunodate-machiomote-machishimocho
Senboku, Akita
Phone: 0187.55.1496

Aoyagi Samurai Residence
3 Kakunodate-machiomote-machishimocho
Senboku, Akita
Phone: 0187.54.3257

Kyukamura Nyuto Onsen
2-1 Komagatake, Lake Tazawa
Senboku, Akita
Phone: 0187.46.2244

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

birthday giveaway

Since it was a milestone birthday for me this year.

I thought it would be nice to do a giveaway to celebrate.

3 lucky winners will be picked at random.

Just do the following to enter:
1) enter only ONCE to be fair to others
2) in the comments please write what you'd like to eat in Japan and where you'd like to visit in Japan
3) if you do comment anonymously, please do write a "nickname" with your comment so I can tell the anonymous entries apart
4) you may enter even if you have won in the past.

Comments will be closed at noon on Thursday, February 15, 2018 (Japan time)

I hope what I put in the box will meet customs requirements where you are, and not be anything you may be allergic to, if not, I'm sorry in advance!

Good Luck!

p.s. we're back from Tohoku, will try to get some posts up this week.

Thanks for entering, comments now closed

Thursday, February 08, 2018

another year & ristorante raffinato

If you were paying attention to some of the comments on yesterday's post, you might have figured out it was my birthday.

Very low key day.

For dinner, I bought some herbed chicken avocado salad and fried shrimp from the department store food floor.

We also had some wine and cheese.

Berry cheesecake from Antenor.

Didn't like the way the guy packed these cakes into the box...they were kinda squooshed!

(I actually wanted to buy some cake from Rocket or Patisserie a Terre, but they were closed yesterday, will try to get something from them next week...)

Flowers from Satoshi.

Lunch today with my host mom and host brother's wife at Ristorante Raffinato.

Carrot mousse with uni(sea urchin) good!

Kanburi (a type of amberjack) salad....loved all the different veggies in there!

Crepe filled with spinach, cheese sitting on top of housemade tomato sauce...simple and delicious!

Hokkigai (type of mollusk) and broccoli risotto sprinkled with bottarga...scorching hot! but super delicious!

Kinoko (mushroom) pasta...earthy!

Wagyu so tender that it melted in my mouth!

Gorgonzola pannecotta and raspberry gelato.

Espresso to end.

There was also a sudachi (type of citrus) palate cleanser between the main dish and dessert.

Everything was delicious and nicely portioned, still, I was so full afterwards!

Appreciate my host-family always treating me like part of their family.

Also thankful for being able to celebrate another year....hope your week is going well!

Ristorante Raffinato
13-15 Shinozuka-cho
Ashiya, Hyogo
Phone: 0797.35.3444
Closed Tuesdays
Lunch: 11:00-13:00, Dinner: 18:00-20:30