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Travelogue: Spirited Away


Peter Green
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Wonderful travelogue. Loved the Sake brewery and lunch photos. Please continue to "Feel Human Touch of Osaka People" and "Eat and Drink Big"

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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It's Nanny Ogg's Strawberry Wobblers!

Was there any "Toffee Surprise" on offer? :biggrin:

The cup used for sake tasting (kiki zake in Japanese) is called a kiki choko. (I didn't know how it was called, so I had to google.) The blue circles are used to check the clarity of sake.

Thanks, Hiroyuki! So, if you can't see the circles, the sake isn't clear enough?

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all the food looks great (and its nice to finally see what rona looks like (: ) but you need to eat more greasy food!!!!!

Hey! There are pics of me on eG somewhere! They're just usually blurry. . .

Oh, we were camera equipment shopping at Yodobashi Camera in Umeda, not Hankyu. I love Yodobashi Camera.

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March 16 – Part 2 – Clowing Around

We ate at the sign of the Clown, cui-daore (that’s how they spell it).

If you look it up it’s “kuidaore” – taken from an old proverb as “indulging in food until you’ve ruined yourself financially”.

I can respect this as a lifestyle choice.

The restaurant is a landmark in Osaka, so I dug through the link that Rona sent me. Cui-daore opened in 1949 as a two-story wooden affair, the house specialty being sukiyaki. The founder, Yamada Rokuro, in a famous bit of advertising, walked an ox carrying a steel pan through Dotonbori. In 1950 he topped this bit of Madison Avenue with the clown, which was intended to draw in the kids. (Scud still gets uneasy around clowns, ever since watching Steven King's It when he was small).

In 1952 he preempted the modern American style of having television screens in restaurants by installing one of the first tv’s in Osaka at the front of the shop, so crowds would gather to watch the couple of hours of broadcasting available during a week.

By 1959 it was time for the old building to go, and a 9 story air conditioned edifice went up. It was at this time they were talking about getting rid of the clown as “too old fashioned”, but the clown hung on, and by 1970, with Expo, things were going well for Cuidaore Taro in Osaka. When the Emperor passed away in 1989, and they changed the clown over to black and white stripes for the memorial, he went into national fame, and he was safe to stay.

In 1990 they started swapping him out on special occasions with a “banzai” version. And in 1992 they started putting up “I can’t swim” signs on him as protection against the local habit of tossing look-alikes into the river when the Hanshin Tigers are doing well in the baseball standings (Colonel Sanders’ immersion led to the Curse of the Colonel, but that’s another story).

And speaking of stories, they serve on 8 floors. The fourth to eighth floors are “Kappo”, full course meals; the third floor is for set menus in a more casual atmosphere; the second floor is their bistro/izakaya; and the first floor is intended for the rug rats.

We ate on the third floor, as there was tempura on display. Rona – sensibly - subscribes to the school of “frying is good”.

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Several pieces of tempura on a bowl of rice, sauce for the tempura, miso, and something in the small bowl that I can’t remember.

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Obviously, my note taking goes to the dogs when I’m busy socializing.

Showing my usual indecisiveness, I went for a set that covered both fish and meat.

It’s like when they ask you those tricky questions

“Would you prefer the beef, or the fish?”

“Yes.”

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The was tuna and something paler (I told you, my notes were off). Hiding in the back is a pretty little thing of sweet rice wrapped in a seasoned sesame leaf.

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The beef was thinly sliced meat from Kagoshima. Not a bad dish, and one that stopped the rumbles in my stomach. The meat was soft, and had enough fat to keep me content, and the broth that came out was just the way I like it.

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And my dessert, if I can trust the scribble I have written down (maybe I should’ve listened to my mother and been a doctor? I’ve got the handwriting for it) was a chawanmushi, a steamed egg custard. Not something I would rant about, as I’m not a big pudding sort of guy.

When it comes to a sweet, I’d rather have bitter chocolate on a stick.

Next: Armpits Galore

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Isn't chawanmushi normally served as part of the meal? I've never had it as dessert before. Was it sweet?

I found it a little on the sweet side. Not cloyingly so, but enough that I wasn't thrilled.

As for the order of eating.......I think it was there with everything else, and I just assumed it came at the end. It looked like it belonged there.

Rona, jump in here and correct me.

Maybe I should get one of those little scanners and feed my notes into it?

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I found it a little on the sweet side.  Not cloyingly so, but enough that I wasn't thrilled. 

As for the order of eating.......I think it was there with everything else, and I just assumed it came at the end.  It looked like it belonged there.

Rona, jump in here and correct me.

Maybe I should get one of those little scanners and feed my notes into it?

It wasn't sweet. I thought you had fruit for dessert? Or ice cream? I can't remember now.

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It’s like when they ask you those tricky questions 

“Would you prefer the beef, or the fish?” 

“Yes.”

Wonderful reporting as always. The above quote brings to mind my Aussie brother in law who had quite a go round with a waitress in the U.S. when she asked "Would you like soup or salad?" -he replied "yes". This went on for some time until my sister realized he thought she was saying "super salad"- well who wouldn't like super salad? Looking forward to the rest of your journey.

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It's Nanny Ogg's Strawberry Wobblers!

Was there any "Toffee Surprise" on offer? :biggrin:

The cup used for sake tasting (kiki zake in Japanese) is called a kiki choko. (I didn't know how it was called, so I had to google.) The blue circles are used to check the clarity of sake.

Thanks, Hiroyuki! So, if you can't see the circles, the sake isn't clear enough?

We are talking about sake, that is, seishu (refined sake), so I don't think that this will ever happen. I think the circles are for determining subtle differences in clarity.

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March 16 – The Running Man

With lunch settled, we did some more of the Dotonbori neighborhood, dropping in on the Glico store to ogle the famous armpits.

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Ah, Ezaki Glico. How can you not admire the people who make Pocky? Whether you’re young or old, the appeal is there. They’ve just done so much to make so many so happy.

Consider, if you will, their philosophy on life.

A Wholesome Life in the Best of Taste

Be inspired by tastefulness!

Provide delight through wholesomeness!

Glory in the resplendence of life!

At Glico, we are inspired to contribute to a tastefully wholesome delight in the resplendence of human life.

Aren’t those words to live by? Just reading them makes me want to go out and resplend!

I hadn’t realized before this trip how far back the Glico brand goes. It stretched, at one time, across the Japanese Empire, with factories not just in the islands, but in China as well.

Glico, a name taken from glycogen, “a starch-like polysaccharide harvested by boiling oysters”. This was used to make Glico’s original candy, the heart shaped caramel brought on the market in 1921 by Ezaki Riichi. The founding date is officially given as 1922, though, as that’s when the goods went on sale at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Osaka.

(On the topic of vending machines, which we’ll touch upon from time to time, they first started selling goods in vending machines in Tokyo back in 1931.)

And the landmark Glico poster in Dotonbori that we were looking at earlier had its first appearance in 1935.

The war put them back for awhile, their factories being bombed out, but by the 1950’s they were back in business, producing candy for the people.

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In 1966 they brought Pocky to the market. Sure, they’re other work in curry roux and food additives has been extensive, but it all comes down to Pocky. We love Pocky. Scud’s been going through about three boxes a day for the last two weeks (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

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Besides the caramels and Pocky, though, there were plenty of other snacks, many with anime/manga tie-ins and other gimmicks to get your attention. Here’s just a small selection of the okonomiyaki senbei they were offering (with the trademark spatula on the box). These looked good, but I was still full from lunch, and starting to fret about the evening pick up of the boy.

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As you can tell from this picture of Rona and I, I was feeling nervous about Scud making the transfer from Narita through Itami. It was hard to get a smile back on my face.

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Still, I can only fret so much, and contented myself with looking at what else was on the shelves of Osaka. What’s this one? It’s fugu of some sort, but what?

The 100 Yen store got me out of the dumps a bit. Whatever name or currency you put to them, these are some of the best stores, especially if you want a spatula, or Hello Kitty shoelaces, or some other indispensable item.

The store leaves you with those puzzling questions you know will disturb you for weeks. Why would you sell fake fingernails in multiples of 12?

On the other hand, some things are made crystal clear.

The fake dog ears were clearly labeled “White ears for white dogs” and “black ears for black dogs.” Lord knows what would’ve happened if I’d got that wrong.

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Okay, the 100 Yen store, combined with the Sanrio Gallery cheered me up to a certain extent.

And then this really brightened my day. I spotted a place alluringly named Brewsky’s that looked to have late-night potential, but then our attention was snagged by the name next door.

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Seriously, who uses a name like this for a public shop? I know that in some cases the use of romaji is more a style issue, but don’t people look in their dictionaries? This we had to have in a picture.

Okay, that had me in a good enough mood that I could do chocolate.

We were off to Ek Chuah, Rona’s favourite place for hot chocolate. (Ek Chuah is the Mayan god of merchants and selling. I had to look that up)

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It’s worth visiting just for the building its’ nestled in, an old wooden affair that hosts Ek Chuah and a few other boutiques.

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Inside it’s the sort of place I love, at least when I’m sober and not walking head first into timbers. Rafters and beams and staircases to lofts. We sat up above and ordered some hot chocolate, and some dessert for Rona.

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Rona told me their chocolate is Valrhona, and the flavour is very, very good. Extremely smooth as you take it. And the cup they use is beautiful, custom made for the shop.

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There’s a lace of ceramic to hold the cup at its base, part of the saucer. Rona told me that they would be willing to sell this as a set, but with a price tag that indicates that they’d rather not.

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I’ll allow Rona to comment upon her dessert, as I’m not qualified. But you have to appreciate a sweet that’s so anxious to please you that it can hardly contain itself.

I love the tableware they use here . The Japanese put everything they can into everything they do, and making the proper presentation is something you know they’ll pull off to perfection.

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I’d thought of the Black Cat as handling shipping and moving, and I was correct. But it’s not just the luggage and household side of things, but everything down to the delivery of purchases and gifts.

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And then, of course, I remember Kiki’s Delivery Service ( Majo no Takkyubin ). That’s where I’d heard the word takkyubin before. It makes sense that they’d deliver confections (although without the flying broom).

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I’d be happy if a witch dropped by with a box of hand made chocolates topped with bits of candied citrus and nuts.

Come to think of it, didn’t Kiki have a black cat?

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Calmed down, and knowing how to get to Itami Airport now, we finished our sweets, poked about the boutiques, and then split up for the day.

I had to get the boy.

Next: Music For Airports

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Whoops, double post.

While I'm here, you'll be glad to know I've got my hands on a Michelin guide, finally. They were sold out at the places here in Roppongi, but the Kinokuniya at Shinjuku had them at the counter.

This should allow me to do a better job of planning out my remaining meals. We have a very late appointment tonight at Ryugin which should be interesting.

But you'll have to wait for the writeup on that.

A place I'll endorse heartily at this time is Popeye's Beer Club. Again, that'll get a fuller write up later.

Can anyone recommend a brew pub in the Roppongi area? I've been to Hobgoblin now, and the Hub.

Also, the guide has one unagi place - Chikuyotei. We'd held off on ordering unagi, which Scud really likes, as we'd always thought of it as more of a Tokyo dish. Are there any places of note for this besides this one?

Okay, I'll get back to work.

It's what? March 27 and I'm still not done with the 16th.

Edited by Peter Green (log)
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Still, I can only fret so much, and contented myself with looking at what else was on the shelves of Osaka.  What’s this one?  It’s fugu of some sort, but what?

Fugu hire zake (fugu fin sake), with a special warm-up device. You can warm up the sake in five minutes. Nation's first hire zake (really?)

So, where are you? Are you in any of the photos?

Edited by Hiroyuki (log)
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Still, I can only fret so much, and contented myself with looking at what else was on the shelves of Osaka.  What’s this one?  It’s fugu of some sort, but what?

It was fugu hire shu--the sake with the fugu fins, usually served hot.

The fake dog ears were clearly labeled “White ears for white dogs” and “black ears for black dogs.”  Lord knows what would’ve happened if I’d got that wrong.

Silly man, it was "white ears for white cats" and "black ears for black cats". Although I suppose some kinds of dogs might have similar ears. . .

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I’ll allow Rona to comment upon her dessert, as I’m not qualified.  But you have to appreciate a sweet that’s so anxious to please you that it can hardly contain itself.

It was good--light and not too sweet. IIRC it was some kind of sakura mousse cake, but I think they do chocolate desserts best.

I do love that chocolate shop, though. I need to get out there more often!

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Rona,

"Dogs and cats." This is the problem when my notes get sloppy and the days pass by (and I get old and grey)

I should have bought some of that fugu sake! I didn't realize it was for drinking. I wonder if I can find it anywhere here in Tokyo? Oh, and the "special desserts", I should send some back with Scud for his school buddies.

Yeah, yeah, I really will get back to work soon.

Hiroyuki, yes, we should get some shots of me in there at some point. Scud took over the still camera once he arrived, while I worked the beast for video, so we'll see if there's anything publishable (although the last shot was pretty close....maybe it had too much hair?)

:biggrin:

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Hey, that's interesting.  The hire zake is made by a brewery in Niigata!

http://www.hakuryu-sake.com/shohin/fuguhire.html

Hakuryu shuzo.

Here's a blog that shows some photos of the sake:

http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/cmfqq054/29209266.html

Now, do you really want to buy it?

Yes! I need a can of that before I go! I love the way that fin just sort of hangs in there!

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March 16 – Music for Airports

Why is the music I hear so dated?

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As I waited for Scud at domestic arrivals at Itami, they were playing Beautiful Dreamer. I’d arrived about an hour early, giving myself enough time to be lost, but the directions I’d been given proved exemplary.

I was having an Asahi (I think. I just asked for “biru”, but I think I saw Asahi ads), and they brought some edamame out, as you can’t “just drink” in Asia.

I like edamame with drinks. It’s a toss up of these or Columbian potatoes. I’m not certain which is better with a cold beer.

I was keeping one eye on the arrivals board and the other on the crowd. There seemed to be an inordinate number of people wearing dark sunglasses at 8 p.m.

As you’ll have gathered from the postings, the boy made it without any problems, unless you count the loss of any sense of how to dress (a blue and white Vancouver Canucks’ coat, of all things. At least I can spot him in a crowd).

We manhandled the luggage back through the monorail and the underground to our place near Dobutsuen-mae. I’d had them add a futon for Scud, and that, with the suitcases, meant we basically had to step on each other for the next few days.

Interesting times make for interesting memories, I told him.

“Do we have internet?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, this’ll do.”

Our next big concern was to get some food in us. I hustled us back to the upscale side of the tracks in Shinsekai, and we did a quick tour of the restaurants.

Very quick.

It was only around 10, but everything was shutting down. Some of the places we’d considered on the first pass were closed when we got back.

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Heck, even these guys were stuck out on the street with nowhere to go.

I’d been seeing this odd, fat statue for awhile around town (and had first seen it here in Shinsekai). Rona had mentioned that it was the Billiken, and had been created by an American as the mascot for the Shinsekai area.

I dug into it a bit (I love the internet age), and this sprite originally came to a Ms. Florence Pretz of Kansas City in a dream. She patented it (?) in 1908, and then the same guys that had made a success of the Teddy Bear from Theodore Roosevelt figured they could repeat this with William Taft.

We all know how well that went over (“William who?”)

But when Lunar Park was in its heyday in Shinsekai, back in 1912, the Billyken was “enshrined as a symbol of Americana and there was revered as The God of Things As They Ought To Be”….which does sort of sound like William Taft. One report has it that he’s seen as the “second coming of Ebisu, the merchant god”.

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Briefly, I toyed with the idea of just feeding Scud ice cream from the vending machine, but then I had a background idea of what Yoonhi would do to me if she found out (and I know she’s reading this).

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Anyone want to jump in and identify what’s on offer here? I’m assuming the top right is green tea (one of Serena’s favourite flavours)?

With everything shutting down, and that fat, gold guy mocking me with his tuft of hair, I’d go with a landmark, and gave Zuboraya another shot, but this time the modern hall across the street from where I’d eaten before.

They were a little cautious…okay, they were a lot cautious. We needed to be out by 11, which, at this point, only gave us 45 minutes to eat.

I assured them of my good intentions, and we settled down for Scud’s first meal in Japan.

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“You can never go wrong with fried things,” and we started with a tempura of prawns, vegetables, and some really nice little mushrooms, their heads just peeking out of the covers.

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Scud wanted sushi, and this he got. Uni, prawn, squid, unagi, tuna, and two types of fish I couldn’t identify, but the yellow one had a very nice fat content.

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And then we finished, just in time, with a nabe of king crab. Nice and fresh, with lots of greens and mushrooms.

And there might’ve been a few flasks of sake there. I wonder where they came from?

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Back at the room, while I enjoyed a Suntory and Scud ate some prawn crackers, we caught up on important stuff, like what had happened in Naruto Shippuden (I didn’t want to know), and the price of tea in China.

At this point I opened up the plum liqueur jello that I’d put in the fridge to set (Rona talked of this earlier).

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I did show off the Sparkling Hop can to Scud. He was really impressed by the ribbed texture on the can, giving it a lingering feel and came up with one of those insightful comments only the youth of today can make….

“Hmm. Someone on crack could spend hours with this can.”

Now we can get started on the odd parts.

Next: Crisco In the Hair

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The top right one is matcha kintoki (green tea powder and azuki jam). Kintoki means a type of azuki bean.

I think that beer and edamame are a perfect match! Besides, drinking alcohol alone is bad for your stomach, right? I can't have alcohol without some tsumami, chinmi, or sake no sakana (appetizer).

Sushi: The yellow one is herring roe (kazunoko), right. Is it fatty? The white fish I can't identify. It's so hard to identify a white fish.

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