March 15 – Fushimi
One of the many things that works with egullet is that you get the opportunity to meet people who share your interests. In the case of this trip, I was able to meet up with the Prairie Girl herself, Rona (aka Prasantrin).
We met on the platform at Yodoyabashi station. Rona had been helping out a lot during the planning (if what I do can be called “planning”) of the Osaka trip, and is responsible for all the things that went right. I’m more than capable of getting things to go wrong for myself, so I seldom have to have assistance in that area.
Incredibly, she was able to recognize me in the crowd at the subway. I guess I’m just not blending in as well as I should.
It’s fun to have someone to yack with over food and train rides. Like meeting up with Doddie in Korea, there’s a lot to talk about regarding food and the expat life. It was enough fun that we almost missed out stop.
First on the day’s plan was the shrine at Fushimi Inari-taisha. This is the one with the big red torii that march off into the forest. It’s one of those shots that you always see in the tourist stuff, so I wasn’t about to miss it.
I’d seen the stock photos before, but what I hadn’t appreciated was that the shrine was entwined with fox spirits – kitsune. This was a bonus, as fox spirits play throughout the ghost stories of North East Asia (and in North America, from foxes in the NorthWest to good old Coyote down south).
Foxes also played a role in Pompoko, that great film about the destruction of the tanuki by the spread of urban development. The foxes, sharp as ever, were able to make the shift to living alongside the humans (generally running hostess bars and pachinko parlours) while the tanuki, not quite as sharp, were slowly beaten down.
I’m straying again. I got off on this track as we did come across a tanuki (stuffed) amidst the bits and pieces out on sale in the tourist trap at the foot of the shrine.
The shopping strip is a pleasant enough thing, and we were attracted by the little birds on sticks. At least I was. Rona wasn’t big on the idea of little birds at that point (although we did get to discuss the ortegal topic that’s come up as a tie in to the foie gras bits), so I crunched my way through a quail on my own. We’d really wanted to try the sparrows (suzuru), but they were out, so quail it was.
Isn’t it fun coming to countries where you have no idea what you’re supposed to do? I broke down as much of the bird as I could, crashing through the crispy bones, but still had a couple of points where I couldn’t get through without risking some dental work.
“You’re crunching an awful lot.”
I did eat the head, though. Can’t say much about the brains, as a quail’s head is a pretty insubstantial thing (unlike a rabbit’s).
I did also look at some charcoal, of interest to me for filtering. This looked perfect (and it’s purpose was, supposedly, for filtration), but they wouldn’t sell just one piece, and $18 for three pieces of charcoal wasn’t quite my thing.
Rona’s eye was taken in by the cotton candy. How can you say no to cotton candy in a Hello Kitty bag? She has a very detailed high pressure approach to the enjoyment of cotton candy, but I’ll leave that for her to spec out (if she so chooses). I wouldn’t want to give away state secrets.
Second stop was a couple of stops back up the line, more in Fushimi town proper. We were meeting others for lunch, but had a little bit of time to kill, so we ambled down to one of the cafes in the arcade.
Among my first impressions, I can say that Japan is in no apparent shortage of running out of cafes and pastry shops. Rona vouches for the quality of the pastries, and, given her interest in baking (note: you never go hungry around her; there’s always a nice bit of pound cake or a caramel somewhere) I have not the slightest reason to doubt her.
The coffee was acceptable. It was black, and it was hot. That’s enough for me, especially when I haven’t had any caffeine for a day.
We met Rona’s friend and from there made our way to lunch, with a brief look-in on a sake shop. We were curious about what looked like tofu in the bottom middle of this picture. It’s used in soups, the lees of the sake brewing process.
We ate at a very pleasant little restaurant (Rona, what was the name?) where we discussed Victoria and Vancouver – Rona’s friend’s mother having spent some time in Victoria - and from there stretched out into anime and film, and into talk of the Kansai.
Lunch, for me, was a set. A prettily wrapped bento, two onigiri, a bit of layered vegetables, and a soft soup of wee mushrooms.
A bento is always a joy. There’s that mystery just before you open the treasure box. For me it’s just difficult not to rush the matter, but I tried to restrain my eagerness.
Sashimi, egg, sweet potato, yakitori, fish, nigiri, and inside the duck was a little mochi, if I remember correctly.
And for dessert there was a sorbet (pumpkin? Rona?) and a custard with two of those strawberries that had been an issue of discussion in Amy's recent blog
. For my part, I found them very sweet and pleasant, and quite capable of holding their own with the products of the Okanagan.
After lunch we took a short stroll.
I needed to learn about sake.Next: classtime
P.S. - as I'm indicating in the asides, please feel free to jump in and correct. Part of egullet is having one of the best sources of proof readers to be had on the face of this planet.