September 2010

japan and japanese vending machine drinks29 Sep 2010 08:50 pm

Technically this is not a vending machine drink. Tetrapack cups like this are normally only seen in convenience stores, but whatever.

This coffee is from the Seattle (American?) chain Tully`s. There are a few brands that use popular American coffee chains to sell their liquid caffeine. I am not sure if they are legitimate partnerships or not, but the coffees do taste a bit better as well as cost a bit more. They are kind of the premium items in the cooler of the convenience store.

The coffee was rich but a bit bitter for my tastes. However, it was not thin and tasteless like most of Japanese coffees. It was a latte, so there was a bit of milk in it, but I like a thicker taste, so I added some cream and sugar and it was pretty decent, actually.

Food: Asia and japan27 Sep 2010 05:07 pm

I am always in the mood for soba. I love the chewy glutinous nature of fresh noodles. I love the slurping. I love the savouriness. They are addictive. I heard about this restaurant on a Japanese blog, and decided to give it a whirl with Mike.
This tiny place only opened in March 2009, so it is pretty new. It is open for a few hours for lunch and then again for dinner, closes whenever they sell out of noodles.
With this in mind, we headed there shortly after their evening service started at 6:30pm…and met a line up of people about 8 deep waiting to get into the 15 person restaurant.

Non assuming entrance

Sanchikujyu Soba is known for its from scratch noodles. They proudly display the machine the use for making them in the window, even.

I love eating at the counter at restaurants, where you can watch the kitchen.

Oh, shiiiiit.

The major challenge was trying to decipher the menu. Often at some restaurants there is a picture menu or some sort of menu heading we can use to help us figure out what we are getting, but not in this case. To make matters worse, they were taking orders as people waited in line, so there was little time for bullshit and hemming and hawing or looking stuff up in our useless food book. It was kind of like a Soba Nazi restaurant.

As the waiter crept closer and closer to us, all I could figure out were the size of the noodle servings. So I got a medium size and Mike got the larger size and just pointed and nodded when the waiter asked us a question.

Turned out we got mori soba – cold noodles with a hot broth. The broth was very thick and pork based (therefore, Okinawa style), with pieces of fish cake in it as well as chunks of pork, green onion and nori seaweed.

It was stellar. We slurped down our noodles at the small counter, downed some pickles and then got the hell out. Soba noodle bars are not the place for dawdlers.
Sanchikujyu Soba
Makabi district in Naha, Okinawa
Closed: Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Open: 1130-1500, 1830-2100 (or until they sell out)
This is a small restaurant just to the east of the Lawson.
japan and japanese vending machine drinks26 Sep 2010 08:43 pm

Because Japan is well known for its vending machines and because Okinawa is steaming hot and I have occasion to drink many different drinks in a day, I will start a new feature about the different drinks I try here: drink-a-day

I read about this drink in the news, oddly enough. The company (DyDo) that makes it released it as a special edition after teaming up with Morinaga, a company well known for its pancake mixes. I spent a few days combing vending machines looking for it. Finally, down a side alley in Naha I found this elusive drink: pancakes and syrup in a can.

It was cold and thick, tasting vaguely of vanilla and maple syrup. Not chunky, just smooth; like a milk shake. Pretty forgettable to be honest, but the oddness of breakfast in a can obviously worked on me, and they got my 110 yen. Maybe it is better hot?

Food: Asia and japan24 Sep 2010 07:49 pm

Everyday I eat atleast two things I could blog about, but until I get regular internet it is just the stand out things that will receive a blog post. Calcium Cafe is one of those places.

Last week I attended a speech competition for work, and was lucky enough to be provided lunch with some teachers and the student bravely taking part in the competition. We took some winding roads from our town to a nearby one and ended up at Calcium Cafe near a town called Yaese.

As one of my coworkers said: it is a vacation! This little place was part French farmhouse, part eastern seaboard beach cottage. The decor was really awesome, and well done. I really luxuriated in the whitewashed wooden furniture, large tables and cutesy vintage decorations.

Beautiful cupboard full of plates and bowls that mismatched…yet matched.

But the food was also really awesome. Most people in Japan get lunch from 12 to 1pm on the nose, so lunch places get PACKED. We arrived shortly before lunchhour, but as the place filled up, I knew it had to be something special. With restaurants three deep on some streets choices abound, so when there is a line up or large crowd, it is guaranteed you will have a good meal.

It was buffet style featuring mainly Japanese dishes, with various Okinawan favourites, some Chinese, some sushi, and French and Japanese desserts. I really enjoyed the goya champuru (a stir fried dish very popular on Okinawa with bittermelon, bits of spam – in this case, real ham – and bean sprouts) and some steamed eggplant dish. It was the favourite of everyone at my table actually.

Mini meatloaves!

My spread; roasted kabocha pumpkin, goya champuru, breaded fish, spring rolls, seaweed salad, braised pork

Then, dessert. I had to try their famous soft serve ice cream – it lived up to the hype. It was creamy, rich and deep in vanilla flavour. It also came in an adorable little shot glass. I also had a serving of what I think was homemade yogurt. Most yogurt in Japan is thin and a bit flavourless, but this was thick and tangy, which lead me to believe it was house made. There were azuki beans, tiny mochi and blueberries to put in the yogurt, but I enjoyed it plain which I think is the true test of yogurt.

My mini dollop of ice cream

At 1,200 Yen (I think!) the lunch buffet was a great treat for my stomach and the decor a wonderful break from the ordinary. I would like to return soon – as soon as I feel confident making reservations for lunch that is!

Calcium Cafe
Yaese, south Okinawa
Lunch 1,200 Yen

Food: Asia and japan07 Sep 2010 12:46 am

Until I get a better handle on reading Japanese characters, there will be a lot of these kinds of posts. I do not know the name of this restaurant, I only know it was a tonkatsu restaurant.

Tonkatsu is basically pork. It is a style of cooking pork (ie., a cutlet breaded and fried, served on a bed of rice with a special sauce), but this restaurant specialized in all kinds of pork dishes, including pork udon soup and Okinawa pig foot soba soup. I got a grilled pork set lunch.

My bento lunch. I got to choose between brown and white rice (I picked brown) and got some pickles (cabbage and plum in this case), miso soup and a traditional tonkatsu accompaniment, shaved raw cabbage. It also came with hot oolong tea. Cost was about 700 Yen.

Adorable pig mascots greet you when you enter.

The food was good – not incredible, but good. I look forward to finding a special pork restaurant I can make my own on Okinawa. Pork is probably the most prevalent meat available, and they pride themselves on their pigs. Mimiga (pigs ear) and tebichi (pig foot) are very common and I have already tried both. I am unsure if they were on the menu at this restaurant, but they probably were.

The restaurant is on the main floor of Naha San-A Main Place, beside the Italian restaurant, up the way from Starbucks.

Food: Asia and japan06 Sep 2010 04:31 am

I spent a day with some other JET teachers on Kerama Island a few weeks ago. We went to Zamami, a very small town surrounded by beaches. The island is quite gorgeous and I hope to return sometime soon. It is very accessible from my home – 30 minutes on a bus then another hour on a boat and I am there.

One of my favourite things was this tiny mango stand. It reminded me of the small banana pancake huts one finds on southern Thai islands. They sort of support a tenet of Anthony Bourdain`s credo of “one person, one product” cooking.

Anyhow I got a mango smoothie, but should have gotten the Okinawa shave mango ice. It looked great. Next trip.

My mango smoothie was very refreshing. The mangos have been top notch, and may be one of my favourite fruits available thus far. It was basically mango puree and ice together, so more of a fresh juice than a western style milky smoothie.

You can find Mango Cafe by walking straight up the main street from the dock where the ferries arrive on Zamami. The stand is near the main store called 105. It is open 9am to 10pm.

Many fruits come in expensive packaging here because, well, they are expensive. Fruit can be a serious indulgence here, pricewise, and is often given as a gift, hence the boxes. But it tastes incredible. And you really savour it.

This drink was beyond refreshing. I drank it near a small garden of bonsai trees someone was raising.

Two styles of shave ice available.

For more information on visiting Zamami, check out David – a fellow ALT`s site. He lives on Zamami and has an extremely interesting life, even more so than most JETs, I think. You can read more about his life on his personal blog: davesensei.

japan05 Sep 2010 12:31 am

It has been a month. A month that has raced by, and I fear I will never catch up with the posts that I hope to upload. New forcasted date for the internet at home is late in September. Mike is due to arrive in a few weeks as well. I hope life becomes more normal then. Every time I go out I find a neat new place to eat at or blog about, and it is literally driving me batty I cannot have internet at home.

It is incredibly hard to post at the moment, so forgive me as I post a bunch of smaller less interesting things in the coming weeks. I still have not hit my stride here in terms of what tone I want my posts to take, so until I do so (and get regular internet) this will have to do.

Here are some photos I have taken with my phone, using an application called Retro Camera. It oversaturates and post processes the photos a bit, so they get an interesting look. I tend to upload these to my Twitter account after I shoot them, so forgive the quality and size. It is less of a concern with this method of posting.

A guava my supervisor brought me in preparation for the typhoon.

The day before the typhoon, we readied the school by securing thing and cleaning up tree branches etc. The special needs teacher grows a small garden with local veg with the help of her students, so here some goya (bittermelon), sponge gourd, green peppers and eggplant that had to be picked before they blew away.

Hibiscus flowers

Two views of Kerama Islands from the ferry. I was there on a day trip two weeks ago.

Shisa `guard dogs`. They are part of the local culture and people use the clay figures to protect their homes.

Crazy cloud the night before the typhoon hit.