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Travelogue: Spirited Away


Peter Green
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Sushi:

back, left to right: anago (conger eel rather than freshwater eel), salmon (lemon is a giveaway, also the orange color), uni

front, left to right: kazunoko, hamachi (at a guess), squid, prawn

I'm not 100% sure that's hamachi (young yellowtail), but it looks right, and it's Osaka, so hamachi!

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

His name was Gigi.

His best food-related quote: (When Kiki was complaining of having to survive on pancakes)

"I find pancakes sufficient, provided there is enough butter."

Truer words have never been spoken.

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Peter, Rona - yes, it was a blip with my ISP. Now all the pics are showing up. Sorry for the interruption. Please do go on eating, picturing and posting. :biggrin:

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Ek Chuah is a great shop. Their salt chocolate and is really nice. They have these ice cream floats that are essentially ice cream floating in melted ice cream that are way better than the hot chocolate in my opinion. Ive only been there a few times, I feel a bit self conscious as the only guy in a room full of oshare women eating chocolate. But the atmosphere is worth it.

What was your overall impression of Osaka? Did you stay in the 1700¥ a night hotel in Dobutsuenmae?

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What was your overall impression of Osaka? Did you stay in the 1700¥ a night hotel in Dobutsuenmae?

John,

I'll wrap up the overview of the three cities at the end, but I have to say I like the Osakans. As I wrap up now in Tokyo, I find I miss the place.

I only found out about the 1700 yen a night place later when I picked up one of the green flyers from the tourist info folks.

As was, I paid a few times more, but not outrageously so. And I felt it was the right atmosphere for the Osaka stay.

More soon.

Peter

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Peter,

I am dying here looking at all the food, and the chocolate shop! AHHH I must head downtown for the chocolate fix!

The sakura cake/mousse looks gorgeous but I love their tea cup set and spoon! There is no way I would pay what they are asking. WOW :P

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March 29 – The Breakfast Report

I’ll step out of the timeline for an update, this being our last full day in Tokyo. Tomorrow will be an affair of suitcases, getting from Roppongi to Narita, returning phones, and making sure that the boy gets checked into his flight, at which point I'll find the Cathay Lounge and settle down for the flight to Hong Kong.

While I’ve been prepacking this morning, Scud’s been conducting important research.

It’s always wise in Japan to be carrying a certain amount in case places like the one we’d just hit don’t take cards. Rona had advised that the two places you can count on for honouring foreign cash withdrawals were the Post Office and 7-11. And, of the two, you’ll have more luck finding a 7-11. (As an aside, I remember in the literature that most people would keep their savings with the Post Office in Japan, rather than banks. Is this still the case?)

Of course, while I was taking care of high finance, the boy had been scouring the place for manga and Pocky.

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Given our limited remaining time, he picked up three that he hadn’t tried yet.

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Each box carried three foiled packets of four sticks, each stick noticeably thicker than regular Pocky. Two of these were Marble Pocky. One was done with white, which Scud felt just tasted like the vanilla flavour used in industrial ice cream, while the other was chocolate on chocolate, with the background of the brown flavour used in industrial ice cream (I was slow on the mark, he’d already researched his way through the first box).

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The other was New Pocky. This appeared to be the same as regular Pocky, but smaller and thinner. Take this in contrast with Men’s Pocky (which we already covered) which doesn’t get thinner with age and is more bitter.

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We didn’t have a "regular" to compare directly, Scud having devoured the contents of a sack of Pocky yesterday in record time, which only allowed me to get this blurred “Bigfoot” style shot from when he was ravaging the contents of the packets

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but a stick count showed that New Pocky came with twenty-three pieces in a foil pack, compared to the 17 in the regular.

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That’s enough science for now.

Back soon.

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March 17 – Culture

Scud was now, officially, in Japan, and it was time to get in some of the traditional culture of the country.

We were off for Takarazuka.

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Coming out of the station, you’re struck by what a pretty, tidy place it is, backing up against the hills out here . The walkway along the river is clean and well tended. There are postcard English tea houses wherever you look

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and everywhere we went there were souvenirs, all related to the Takarazuka Review, an all female production company (contrast this with traditional Kabuki) that’s been performing here since 1913. We’d passed a huge screen back at the station in Osaka that was advertising for this, the current production being Me and My Girl, and there was a crowd thronging the theatre proper, on the lookout for a star or two.

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It all had the most…..”proper”….air about it. Quite refreshing, after the hectic jumble of downtown Osaka. I had to suppress an urge to raise my pinky finger as I shot video.

Obviously we hadn’t come all the way out here to get in touch with our inner housewives.

Our purpose was to take in the Tezuka Osamu museum.

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Mr., or rather, Dr. Tezuka (he studied and gradueated as a physician) is probably the most influential of all manga/anime creators. Miyazake Hayao is justifiably famous, and just as important in many ways, particularly with fueling the current craze for anime that’s been burning for the last couple of decades, but Tezuka Osamu is the one that created most of the stereotypes we expect in Japanese comics nowadays.

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The “big eyes”? He incorporated that style from Betty Boop cartoons, and made it the trademark of all cute anime characters (there’s a question, did the famous velvet paintings of children, dogs, and clowns also develop from Betty?).

Treasure Island was his first big hit, the one that made him commercially successful, and they’ve got original pages from that here.

And then there’s Kimba the White Lion, the tale of a young prince of lions who’s uncle steals his birthright and……Oh, you know this story? ☺

He also popularized the more adult approach to manga in the 60’s and 70’s with new stories incorporating characters such as Black Jack and “A Woman of Ill-Repute In the Land of Deep Congo”.

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But, hey, did I mention Astro Boy? You gotta love Astro Boy. At first, in front of the museum, we were going to brill cream our hair into that little trade-mark swizzle he has, and then Scud pointed out that I don’t have enough hair.

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After Scud got up off the ground and healed a bit we went inside.

Now, bear in mind that I’m partial to this sort of thing. I like time-lines, and I like following a story that I already pretty much know. It makes it easier on old folks like me.

It’s still a good story. A young boy with real talent, who’s family wants him to be a doctor (and he does, too, as he wants to help people), but who maintains another personality centered around his art.

And when you look at what he was doing as a little kid, something you need to come here to see in the pages on display, you get a feel for someone with the cinematic story-board type skills of Will Eisner.

An excellent summary of his life, and of the development of his work, along with a film that, even if it is in Japanese, makes sense once you’ve read through the supporting material in the museum’s primary displays.

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Plus, the theatre’s ceiling is great, with details of all his characters out there somewhere.

That was the other thing about Osamu’s work. He carried his characters with him, from story to story, line to line, building a cast of characters that his audience could start to recognize as “stars” of manga.

Yeah, okay, I’m groveling too much. But, if you do have a real interest in manga and anime, this place is one of those stops you have to make as a pilgrim.

Alternatively, you could have a life, instead.

With Scud I fell early into a bad routine. We would rise relatively late, make rude jokes, and then I would get enough coffee into me to be articulate (“better articu-late than never” “If I was bigger, I’d hurt you for that”). Then we’d go to do something, and invariably end up not eating when we should.

Unfortunately, Scud shares his mother’s requirement for regular feeding. It must be the Aisan genes.

This was one of those cases. We were out here in Takarazuka, with lots of petite tea shops and Italian restaurants, and loads of places where people can compliment each other on how their hair looks just like Marge Simpson’s, and there wasn’t a place to get a fast bit of food (cucumber sandwiches are not food, in our book. If you disagree, write your own book).

But, if there’s a station, there’s a mall. And if there’s a mall, there has to be a collection of restaurants there somewhere. Sure enough, back near the train we found a corner of eateries on the ground floor.

We eschewed the Chinese, considered the fried, dismissed the hot pots, and finally settled on ramen. You can always count on finding a ramen place.

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Scud went for a straightforward bowl of noodles, the standard fare of Naruto in his early years (in Shippuden he only gets the chance from time to time, but still seizes it when available).

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Me? I had ramen with gyoza and pork. Lots of the white end of spring onions sliced up and tossed in for colour and crunch, and the greens for smell.

It’s an odd thing, and I struggle with the concept, but there’s this thing in Japan (and Korea) that you should take crispy fired items, such as tempura or gyoza, and put them in a wet environment, where they’ll lose those characteristics we admire so much in deep fried foods.

My nephew, Jason, tried to explain it one time, but it was one of those explanations that required a lot of soju.

Not the fanciest of lunches, or the most memorable (Scud can’t remember it), but at least here, any meal is going to have some good to it.

“Hey, I like ramen!” says the boy.

So do I.

Where’d I put the hair grease?

Next: We haven’t even begun to Otaku

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It’s an odd thing, and I struggle with the concept, but there’s this thing in Japan (and Korea) that you should take crispy fired items, such as tempura or gyoza, and put them in a wet environment, where they’ll lose those characteristics we admire so much in deep fried foods.

Yes, like tonkatsu covered in curry sauce, or the Korean version of tonkatsu - doncasse, which always comes soggy, and covered in a tomatoey kind of sauce...but then, is it really so different from something like poutine, where french fries and drenched in gravy? Hiroyuki is on record somewhere, explaining it, but I think he said that the pleasure comes from the contrast in the first few minutes of the dish, when the fried food is still crispy, and the wet food is smooth and soft.

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OT Question: What is the popular anime people are watching right now? I'm also a big fan of anime but haven't watched anything an awhile cause I've been too stuck on jdrama.

Well, the boy and his horde are still on Naruto Shippuden (young ninjas doing odd things with their hands by themselves....don't think about it too much)

The boy says.......D Gray Man, Bleach, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

That's not English, is it?

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OT Question: What is the popular anime people are watching right now? I'm also a big fan of anime but haven't watched anything an awhile cause I've been too stuck on jdrama.

Well, the boy and his horde are still on Naruto Shippuden (young ninjas doing odd things with their hands by themselves....don't think about it too much)

The boy says.......D Gray Man, Bleach, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

That's not English, is it?

domo arigato gozaimasu :)

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Bleach must be huge, because even I've heard of it. Right now I'm working my way through the "Kanji through Manga" series my husband bought (along with the accompanying workbook). So I can't read real manga yet.

Topic? Uh.....it's around here somewhere...... :unsure:

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Bleach must be huge, because even I've heard of it. Right now I'm working my way through the "Kanji through Manga" series my husband bought (along with the accompanying workbook). So I can't read real manga yet.

Topic? Uh.....it's around here somewhere...... :unsure:

We've been picking manga up from the overhead racks in the Tokyo subway.

Nobody seems to leave the good stuff lying around, though.

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Happy travels! And don't forget to check in from the airport!  :biggrin:

P.S. Give us your considered thoughts on beer and sort-of-beers some time - either here or in the beer topic.

Thanks, Helen!

And, don't worry, I have plenty of time for considered thoughts on beer. After Popeye's and my frequent trips to the convenience store at Roppongi Crossing, I've spent quite some time reviewing the subject matter.

:biggrin:

P.S. - Cathay allowed me to bring in a guest to the lounge! Scud lucks out. Onigiri, bacon lettuce tomato sandwiches, inarizushi, cup o' noodles, and a Wolf Blass chardonnay (I should check the year).

P.P.S. - Scud spotted a toy shop here called Akibahara and he couldn't stop himself. He had to go in.

P.P.P.S. - It's a good thing I still have two more nights. But that'll be Hong Kong, so I'd best keep it out of this thread (and start another! Remember how bad I was in tying together the Americas?)

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P.P.P.S. - It's a good thing I still have two more nights.  But that'll be Hong Kong, so I'd best keep it out of this thread (and start another!  Remember how bad I was in tying together the Americas?)

You could probably just tack it on to the Hong Kong reports topic, since that's where a crapload of individual reports were merged into one topic.

How were the blt sandwiches? I find Japanese bacon to be too flaccid to be used in sandwiches. Does Cathay have the good stuff?

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P.P.P.S. - It's a good thing I still have two more nights.  But that'll be Hong Kong, so I'd best keep it out of this thread (and start another!  Remember how bad I was in tying together the Americas?)

You could probably just tack it on to the Hong Kong reports topic, since that's where a crapload of individual reports were merged into one topic.

How were the blt sandwiches? I find Japanese bacon to be too flaccid to be used in sandwiches. Does Cathay have the good stuff?

Let me go check! It's an open face. I'd put up pictures, but It's scary looking inside my hand luggage.

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P.P.P.S. - It's a good thing I still have two more nights.  But that'll be Hong Kong, so I'd best keep it out of this thread (and start another!  Remember how bad I was in tying together the Americas?)

How were the blt sandwiches? I find Japanese bacon to be too flaccid to be used in sandwiches. Does Cathay have the good stuff?

Let me go check! It's an open face. I'd put up pictures, but It's scary looking inside my hand luggage.

Yes, I'd agree on the flacid part. It's a pretty enough piece of pig, but the cut is more like back bacon, with the bit of cartilage or whatever it is (you know, the white thing) running through one end and making it a little tough to chew.

For a BLT, it's not crispy at all, which is a shame.

But it looks good!

hmmm.....sea tangle, salmon, plum, and - best of all - tuna and mayonnaise in a rice ball!

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March 17 – The Sordid Depths of the Otaku World

Okay, let me get this picture out of the way.

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The name sort of says it all.

The manga district here is only about four or so blocks long, but they pack a lot into those four blocks.

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Manga, anime, and really, really, really interesting textured advertising. I’d post the photo we have, but it may not be considered appropriate for this site, as the food tie-in is tenuous (maybe in the dairy products thread?).

I did a once through with Scud, and then looked for the chance to get some writing done. Luckily, I found a nice little café with internet access, which is where I wrote up the earlier Osaka stuff.

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The service was, I must say, excellent, even for Japan. For some reason, they don’t allow photos inside, which is a pity. It was done up as a proper little European café, with a small display ledge running up near the ceiling, with decorative plates all on display.

I had a glass of chardonnay, and unlimbered my Apple and got to work, while Scud was out exploring. He had instructions to come back in an hour, but for some reason he came back early and insisted on hanging out with me, ordering a mocha.

Honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Yes, they did have framed pictures of the waitresses up front, usually with either a pout on their face, or a little of the coquette, but everything seemed more about very formal, almost robot-like perfection in how the drinks and food were served, rather than anything lewd.

Oh, yes, and there was a little bell on the table to use for calling, if needed.

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The otaku come in for a lot of criticism. I see this in the local magazines I’ve been checking out. The letter sections seem particularly vehement, labeling them as “socially inept” and with “zero interaction skills”, but when I asked Scud about this, he said he’d been surprised at how social they were, clustering in the manga and anime sections, discussing the latest issues One Piece and the new release of In The Garden Of Sinners, comparing maids and checking their stalking schedules.

I’m a little curious about the origins of the word. I’d originally taken it as a Japanization of “techie”, something I’d read in one of William Gibson’s earlier books (probably Idoru), but Rona had descrtibed it as being purely Japanese. Regardless, it’s a term in worldwide use now, it would seem.

Obviously, I’ll touch more on these matters as the trip progresses.

But, after finishing up in the eMaid Café, we were in search of food.

I’d read in one of the pieces about a place in Namba that was famous for their curry, the curry having been included in a famous story (I’ll have to dig the reference up, but it’s buried in the luggage right now).

This set the mood for a lot of my dining with Scud. Hours of wandering in search of the right meal.

Next: hours of wandering

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