Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kairakuen -3-

-continued from the post "Kairakuen -2-"

After I got out of "Koubuntei", there was this resting-place a few meters away. I sat there for a while, but as I'm tall the seat was a bit too small for me.

I said before you can find a shrine next to a temple. However, Kairakuen is not a temple, but I could see this shrine. The shrine maidens were busily doing their jobs .The right window is where you can buy charms called "Omamori".

I found multiple-fold Torii on the premises of this shrine. I searched for the reason why there were so many Torii, but in vain. It is where birds rest and in fact, "Tori" means "bird".

Did you see the first post of this year? I went to a nearby shrine to hang an Ema, which is the same as these wooden plates. If you write your wish on an Ema, it is believed to come true. Lots of examinees like to visit shrines in the winter to hang Emas. You know, the entrance examinations for college start in January or a bit earlier in Japan.

I bet you remember I showed the colorful Komainu with this picture. This isn't as colorful, but usually Komainu is plain-colored like this. It seems like a lion to me, but it's basically a dog, as "inu" off the "Komainu" means "dog". 

I'm planning to visit a shrine in January next year so that 2011 will be more fruitful for me =)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ringer Hut

Let me introduce a restaurant called "Ringer Hut". This restaurant originated in Nagasaki prefecture in 1970, and it now operates across Japan. Though almost all restaurants are having a hard time during this recession, this "Ringer Hut" is now in good business.

It is also known as "Nagasaki Chanpon", and it is a flagship specialty this restaurant offers. I wanted to show you a pic of "Nagasaki Chanpon", but it was too hot when I came here. All kinds of Chanpon is hot like Ramen, so I didn't try it. But FYI, please take a look at pics of it. 

Nagasaki was a place where people from many countries like the Netherlands, Portugal, and China got together in the 16th century, and Chinese people invented the Chanpon by mixing many features of foreign dishes. But on this day I wanted to try the noodles you see on the hanged ad.

This one was called "Natsu no Men" or noodles of the summer. This is similar to "Tsukemen" that I introduced in this post, but the difference was the soup was cold.

And this soup (or broth?) tasted like Thai dishes. I went to Thailand 3 years ago, and I liked almost every food of the tropical country. Honestly I was thinking only restaurants owned by individuals were good, but this Ringer Hut was beyond my expectation. 

I'd like to give this restaurant another try. A Ringer Hut is available in Asakusa too, so please visit it when you go there  =)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sutera brewery

Have you ever tried Japanese liquor called "sake"? As I'm over 20, I'm allowed to have alcohol in Japan. But I don't drink nor smoke usually, and when I'm feeling like drinking I have a beer or wine. However, sometimes wine nor beer doesn't go well with Japanese dishes.

So I came to this brewery called "Sutera". According to my research, there were only two family-owned "sake" breweries in my city, and this one was situated just at the foot of Mt. Tsukuba, which I showed in this post

It was raining the day before I came here, but we rarely see a flog in September. This one called "Amagaeru" was at the entrance of this brewery, and is the most commonly seen flog in my area.

These "sake" barrels are called "Taru". We associate fat people with "Taru", as their bellies are often protruding like these barrels.

And this is a place where many kinds of sake were sold. The clerk said this brewery was small, but sold so many different kinds of sake, from light taste sake to thick.

This is a sake that the clerk strongly recommended to me. The dark blue label had a word "Ginjyou", and it means the ingredients of the sake were carefully selected, and the sake was also carefully brewed. If you find a sake bottle in your neighbor, please buy one called "Ginjyou"-something.

This brewery offered a place to sit and enjoy sake. There were a few kinds of sake you can order here whose names were written on the paper.

Those who usually don't drink might prefer this "sake cake". I have ever tasted some cake with "sake" flavor, and the alcohol the cake had was slightly strong, and it tasted very good. 

I showed a winery in this post, but foreign people would be more interested in sake breweries. =)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kairakuen -2-

-continued from Kairakuen -1-

This is the South Gate that leads to the traditional house called "Koubuntei".

I had to pay about 190 yen as the admission fee. But looking back, I think it was very cheap 'cause the interior of this house was worth looking at.

This Koubuntei has several rooms, and the local lord Nariaki Tokugawa used those rooms to invite poets and calligraphers to hold events. This is "Room of Bamboo".

And this is called "Room of Maple-Tree" I liked this dimly lit room. I think every Japanese-styled room is based on the theme of "tranquility".

While I was walking from room to room, I saw this garden. It seemed to me nice as parts of this garden was under the shadows.

There was this tiny yard that should have been taken care of so often. That object made of stone is called "Tourou". Usually "Tourou" has a candle inside, and it was once used as a road sign.

This house has a upper floor where I could command broader views. The stairs were so steep that I had to hold onto the rails.

When I left home it was very cloudy and I was concerned if I could take good pics. But as you can see, it was bright enough to look over.

I was about to leave this house, and I saw a prototype of the current elevators. This was used to lift meals to the upper floor. It should have been a novelty back in the 19the century of Japan. 

-to be continued- 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kairakuen -1-

The third Monday of this month was a national holiday "Repect-for-the-Aged-Day", and I went to a place where lots of old people like to visit. It's called "Kairakuen", and was originally made by the 9th local lord of the Mito clan "Nariaki Tokugawa". This park is best-known for its plum trees, and gets overcrowded in February and March.

The main gate is at the northwest side of this park, but people usually go through this East gate. You can enter this park for free, but you have to pay about 2 dollars to see a traditional house that I'm going to show you later.

I've seen many Japanese parks, but this is the second biggest city park in the world after Central Park in New York City. While I was in this park I didn't know where I was exactly.

What is interesting about this park is that one of its sides is occupied by a railway called "The Joban line", which I showed you in this post. The train cars you're seeing is a limited express "Super Hitachi". 

As seen in any other tourist spot, this park also had some souvenir shops.

As I told you, this park is known for its plum trees, so it was selling plum ice cream. I wanted to try it, but I was still on a diet. I hope this dieting will be over soon so that I can show you many sweets with close-up pics.

The city this park is in is called Mito, and it is the capital city of my prefecture. Mito is famous for fermented soy beans called "Natto", which I also showed you in this post. And this is a pic of Natto souvenirs. This Mito Natto is often coupled with a pic of Tengu, which is this red long-nosed goblin.

What would you say to this Natto snacks? It didn't taste good when I had it years ago. Natto is good as it is. The three guys on the package are from an anecdote "Mitokoumon", in which they traveled across Japan to sort out the bad. Its TV series was enjoyed mainly by old people. Here's a link to a Youtube video of Mitokoumon.

And I saw telephone booths that were set up the Japanese way. Old people wouldn't have cellphones, so they'd need these to call up their family members.

This Kairakuen is also renowned for its bush clovers that blossom in September in Japan. But when I came here most of them weren't in full bloom. You have to check the official website of this park in advance to be informed of a nice day to come here.

-to be continued-

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tennis in the night

I've avoided topics about my personal life or hobbies, but today let me show you what I do on a weekly basis. It's tennis. I've played tennis since I was 12 or so, and I often check news on Wimbledon or US Open to see who are winning. But I think the most popular sport in Japan is definitely baseball, followed by golf or soccer.

I wish I could play tennis during the day, but I'm usually free in the night. I had to pay about 8 dollars for the lighting. And the tennis court for 2 hours cost me another 8 dollars.

The racket you see is one made by Babolat. It was once used by many famous players, and it's still popular among many Japanese people. You just have to be careful about hitting the ball in the very center of the surface. 

But those who don't know much about tennis wouldn't be interested in such a topic. I took some pics of insects that were active in the night of fall. This is of course a mantis, and it is called "Harabiro Kamakiri". It is a bit fierce so you're not supposed to touch it.

And this is a kind of grasshopper called "Shouryou Batta". I used to catch a lot of it to feed mantises when I was a child.

And this is "Aomatumushi", or green tree cricket. I'm a bit of afraid of touching insects that are soft. 

And you can still see cicadas in September. This is the one I introduced last summer called "Abura Zemi" or large brown cicada. This is the most commonly seen cicada in Japan.

I personally wish Japan had less insects in the summer and fall. When some come into my room, I can't sleep well.....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Le maison de campagne

Do you think visiting every cafe in your city is a girlie thing? I sometimes think having coffee at a neat cafe is not what guys are supposed to do, 'cause I'm often the only person in the cafe who's enjoying a coffee. I usually don't care about others' attention while I'm at a Doutor, or Starbucks but when the cafe is so stylish like the one below, I can't help looking around.

But as my friend recommended this cafe as very good, I decided to have coffee here. As you can see, this cafe opened in '07, or just 3 years ago, so the whole building looked so new. I liked this surrounding at once 'cause the bamboo trees made me feel peaceful.

I was just going to have a coffee, but people who come to this cafe would have not only something to drink, but a piece of cake. Every cake was very expensive like 300 yen, and I didn't think they were what people could afford daily. But the clerk who was also a patissier didn't seem to care about whether I'd buy one.

There were only 5 tables in this cafe. You'd notice the quality of the tables is very good. I'm so used to seeing tables and chairs made of plywood.

The cake-looking thing on your left is called a "Kisch", According to my research it is a French word, and it's something like cake that isn't sweet. And this had some ham and potato in between. I thought it would have been good for those who were on a diet. And I still am. 

Though the title of this blog is currently "Inside Japan", what I write about is sometimes very regional. But no blogger would be able to cover everything in his country, and neither am I...>.<

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

ShunPuu (A Ramen shop)

I went to Akihabara again on Sunday in order to have a Ramen that I had never tasted. When it comes to Ramen available in Akihabara, all I had to do was look at many blogs to pick up a good Ramen shop. And as I'm now so familiar with the streets of Akihabara, I could choose a nice shop near the station with ease.

According to a blog that I saw, this shop is renowned for the broth that is made from fish. I'm now very interested in trying various kinds of Ramen, and I think I eat Ramen both for the sake of this blog and myself of course.

This shop seemed to have been featured by many magazines. The one on the upper left of the wall is a magazine called "Tokyo Walker", and it is informative even for those who are familiar with Tokyo. The cover girl was "Aya Ueto", who was the heroine of the film "Azumi". She was born in '85. 

One thing you should be aware of when you have Ramen in Tokyo is that sometimes you can see the pictures of the Ramen only on the menu at the entrance of the shop. I chose the one on the upper left called "Koku Uma Shouyu". You know, the meaning of Shouyu is soy sauce.

I had to admit the noodles were thicker than I had expected. But the broth had a mild soy sauce taste and the fishy taste went well with the slices of pork, or Chaashuu. But I think foreign people wouldn't be so accustomed to the taste of fish as us, so they mightn't like this Ramen. 

I've heard Ramen is available also in big cities like New York, so I'd like to try the Ramen in NYC to see the difference. I just guess the taste of American Ramen is altered a bit so that it would be  agreeable to Americans. But this is only my guesswork. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I went to a store called "Loft" that sells numerous things including newly invented stuff. Though I often spend much time on typing words on my computer, I sometimes need something to write with. So I once in a while come to this Loft to find better pens and mechanical pencils.

This pen called "kurutoga" looks like an ordinary mechanical pencil, but what is different about this pencil is that its pen point always stays sharpened.

Here's why the pen point is always sharpened. The point keeps spinning while you keep writing, and while it's spinning, the surface of the pen that touches paper gets averaged. But the pen point spins only when you press the pen onto paper.

Ordinary mechanical pencils would give you a broader surface as you write (see the left pic), but this pen "kurutoga"'s surface is about a half of those of ordinary mechanical pencils, which results in enabling you to write sharper letters.

Is this pen available in your country too? I'm currently enjoying writing with this pen and what's more, it cost me less than 500 yen. =)