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The Other Japan


BonVivant

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On the little crabs - we rented a beach house once where the bats on the patio would leave sand crab carcasses. My Vietnamese friend said next time we were on last day we would go to wet sand and harvest, simmer with aromatics, pound, strain and have a lovey broth. But hopes not as planned.

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9 hours ago, BonVivant said:

 last couple of days there's been a lot of heavy rainfall that couples with thunder and lightning the whole time...

 

Last night it rained so very hard and literally non stop, all night, lightning lit up the sky and thunder rattled the windows until morning. I hardly slept a wink.

The food looks so beautiful.

 

I miss that kind of rain. You've made me nostalgic. I might have to perversely go back to Kerala mid-monsoon!

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22 minutes ago, gfweb said:

the snakes are off-putting

bite rate is 2/1000 locals

they don't say what the gaijin rate is

Reminded me re Sartoric's image - python dropping rom tree and strangling a large mammal. Hope there is an anti-venom - though that requires quick treatment ad ccess. Huge neuroscience study area. I've been to a venom lab - very cool. 

 

I also enjoyed hearing the member's take on enjoying the slow pace/enjoyment eating style. 

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I've seen these 2 flavours in Spain, costs round 5 euros each. Always fun to check out what artificial flavours different countries make. In Japan I've not come across "fried eggs" flavour, which is typical in Spain.
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Fried chickens, and onions and cream?
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Probably pickled sour plums. I shall try this one next.
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Breakfast. Notice the tomatoes are always 3 small pieces and symmetrical in presentation. Like in other south east Asian cuisines, okra are a common vegetable here, usually eaten raw, blanched, or fluffy tempura.
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Fish cake (photo above), dried shrimp, raw herring roe and fried mackerel at 7 in the morning.
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Used to be a phone box, now a bus stop/shelter. It's big enough to fit a bench. My guesthouse is opposite.
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Old buoys became planters. If you are observant you won't fail to notice they have a knack for finding creative ways to give new life to old things.
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Some snacks. Ginger for the bus rides (motion sickness, in highly mountainous places). The peel is near transparent and the root is not fibrous, like Taiwanese ginger.
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Snacks made from sugarcane. Not for us but wanted to try anyway.
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Lunch at the fishmonger, at the ferry port.
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Super fresh and high quality seafood. Best part is it's cheap (meal 950 yen/$6,40, draught Orion beer from Okinawa 500 yen/$3,40).
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My table next to where the fishmongers work (father and sons)
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Lobster and fish tanks next to my table
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Half of the shop is the kitchen (mother and daughter run it). There's a queue at lunch time. I came at 3pm, 30 minutes before closing time. Went there the second time on another day and had to join the queue. They have 5 or 6 small tables.
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Right in front of the port ("sea station" in Japanese). Blackfin tuna aquaculture is big, no huge, business in this part of the island.
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Speaking of fish, many fish packages contain a piece of the head (but there's also whole heads). Eye is clear and not collapsed is a good sign.
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Cloudy golden hour seen from my private deck
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Time for beautiful dinner again.
Living dangerously... chicken sashimi. The meat is always from the thigh and breast. Not near the guts.
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The partner's plate, here you can see the thigh meat and the breast meat more clearly. You eat it with grated ginger and garlic, and a chicken sashimi sauce. Plain salt is also an option.
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Oden (a type of stew) with kabocha. I love hot pot type of food. Grandmother of guesthouse owners made this herself.
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My request: seaweed tempura. It's common on Amami islands.
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A common local fish, I've had them several times in a week, in different ways. To my delight, every single one of them had a pair of roe sacs intact. (Sorry roe were out of focus, these fish are really small.)
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I don't eat tempura at home, prefer to eat it in Japan. Assorted vegetable tempura (okra, aubergine, bitter melon, seaweeds, and fish).
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And the rest, including miso soup with clams. On the long plate: pickled vegetables, sago palm seed miso with peanuts and strawberry conch.
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It's a one man operation. His kitchen and counter, facing the dining area. He has a grill specifically for frying fish in the morning and it's on the lower counter. We talk about food every day, he shows me some stuff he's got and discloses how he gets things done. One of the best guesthouse and home-cooked food experiences in my travels.
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The kitchen (behind the shochu "bar" and curtains).
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Btw, these are maturing sago palm seeds. The same thing islanders use to make "nari miso". The seed head is absolutely huge. Processing the seeds is labour intensive, and even though food is plentiful now they are not giving up this old tradition. Impoverished islanders turned to the seeds in order to survive in times of hardship. They are poisonous to both humans and pets so you can't just eat them without proper processing.
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We don't have cool things at home, because if they can't steal them they will vandalise them. Kerb light/reflector with built-in solar charger.
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I include the channel drainage with cement cover. The drainage system has to be efficient and good. With the amounts of heavy rainfall they receive they need it. On the plus side, these islands are extremely lush, moist and dense. Not to mention the free fresh water supply from nature.
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On 10/8/2023 at 11:51 PM, Kerala said:

The food looks so beautiful.

 

I miss that kind of rain. You've made me nostalgic. I might have to perversely go back to Kerala mid-monsoon!

 

Japanese has this philosophy when it comes to food:

Let little seem like much. So long as it's fresh and natural. (and beautifully presented, I would add.)

 

It's a balance of beauty, nutrients, flavours, simplicity, enjoyment. (At least what I think.)

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2 hours ago, gfweb said:

Wow. Sago palm seeds are lethal. You ate them?

Google around there are various varieties - not all toxic. I don't like them mostly because peopke would donate them wanting a donation veritication for IRS and nobody wanted to buy them.

 

 

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Kagoshima-style natto is minced and pretty mild (I prefer it strong and the soya beans whole, if I had to choose one version ...). Neba-neba kind of food is something foreigners can't/won't enjoy eating. Japanese are  delighted that we like neba-neba (= slimy/sticky) ingredients/dishes.
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In Japan you'll be eating neba-neba breakfast at least once, or multiple times. To eat this you mix the natto with included mustard and sauce packages, other slimy ingredients and a raw egg. I have an aversion to slimy texture/foods but it appears to be selective, as I enjoy eating okra and various types of seaweed, and also natto.
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At home I slice pineapple into chunks, sprinkle with salt and chilli flakes, eat with a fork. My host would rather make pineapple more presentable.
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Gas meters. Mine at home is still analogue-style.
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An old telly, someone turned it into a porch light. (The shop now fell in disuse and disrepair.)
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I am asthmatic with multiple (potentially fatal) allergies. Here I experience no allergic reactions to plants, foods or exhaust/pollution. One of the reasons is the lack of traffic. My lodging is in a rural area, but these empty streets are in a small town nearby where I first need to catch a rural van and then wait some time for another bus to anywhere else.
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This is a "long distance" bus (that goes from the airport and all the way to this town at the far end of the island, where I'm staying. This route takes more than 2 hours.)
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After snorkelling (with a tour = us, 2 guides and an Australian resident who's also 1 of the guides' English teacher) we were dropped off at a Kei Han ("chicken rice") specialist.
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Sashimi and seaweed
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Toppings for Kei Han (chicken rice). Fine threads of egg, pickled gingerroot, cooked shiitake, shredded chicken meat, pickled daikon.
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To eat you make a small portion of rice with the toppings, then add the scalding broth. "Chicken rice" is one of Amami's specialities. In the Edo period it was served to (high ranking) government officials and the likes. Now everyone can enjoy it.
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Dinner back at the guesthouse.
Sashimi
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I think this is how I like pig's ear: pickled. I like okra and bitter melons raw. Vegetables in Japan are often much smaller (in size) than the  giant stuff we have at home.
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My favourite vegetables again. Okra and aubergine in a nice sauce (I don't know what it is...)
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Cube next to the fish is breaded tuna. Looks like a lot of food but it's just 2 bites of each thing. We really don't need more than that.
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This is the setup. After the photos I put them all back in their original position on the table.
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A special, imaginary bus stop for children. It's an anime loved by Japanese children.
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On 10/4/2023 at 1:38 PM, Katie Meadow said:

These islands look incredible. I never knew they even existed. Fantastic trip.

 

After WW2 the southern archipelagos were under US administration for some years. Islanders would rather be part of Japan so this resulted in much anger and fear. Amami islands were "returned" to Japan in 1953. Other islands were occupied until the early 70's. After that Japanese government started modernising and developing all the southern islands. Before researching and seeing old photos I would never have thought these islands had endured so much hardship for so long. Now it's hard to find remnants from those dark times. Now the southern islands are the Hawaii of Japan.

 

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Bus stop sign on Amami-Oshima island
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It could rain whenever. Most bikes are unlocked. At home they would be gone, even if you lock it. I had 1 bike stolen and another bike's chain lock got cut and left on the ground.
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There are freeze-fried foods as souvenirs all over Japan, of course they also freeze-dry their speciality "chicken rice" on the southern islands.
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Plain sago palm (coarsely ground). At home you can flavour and use this ingredient to your own taste.
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Postman on a Honda. Too bad they don't have many electric cars and scooters on the islands. I've seen only 1 or 2 charging ports. Also, petrol is only half the price.
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Not a florist. You see this all day long. Some people don't have a big front garden so this is the solution, as long as you keep the plants within your property.
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A simple house, heavy rain and typhoon-worthy.
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A takeaway kiosk. They sell packaged meals.
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Breakfast
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Finally found it. Happened to walk past a butcher's shop on the way back to the bus stop. The dragon fruits and guavas still had dirt on them. They came from the butcher's own garden.
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We bought all the dragon fruit. Cost about $15.
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Lunch was at the fishmonger again, but with someone whom we invited to join us. We are a bit of an attraction in this small town. Some people do a double take, some unruly children stop in their tracks and stare at us in silence. The boss of our new friend asked if he could take a photo of us for the town's news publication! We were taken by surprise. (It had happened before in Mexico at a restaurant we went to every day for clams.). This part of the island rarely sees tourists from "The West". Our new friend works for the town's tourism board and tourist info centre.


Sashimi bowl and tuna tartare bowl.
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Last dinner at our rural lodging. After the meal we enjoyed talking with the owner and another guest until bed time. Every day the owner told new guests about us and how we found his place etc.
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Preserved pig's tongue the owner made himself. Knowing I am interested in the food he makes sure to tell me about it every day.
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Island black pork (and the sauce to go with it)
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Pure dashi broth made by the cook
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The setup for shabu-shabu (Japanese-style hot pot). I said to the owner my 2 favourite meals involve sitting round a fire (but without the dancing and singing). I meant "hot pot" and cheese fondue.
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The last sunset from our deck. We moved on to the another place the following day.
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Some photos from a snorkelling tour. Forgot to change white balance to "underwater". Looked amazing in person, though.
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Ken, I actually have 2 with me here. For the snorkelling pix I used a Kodak (https://kodakpixpro.com/shop/wpz2)

I forgot to bring a lens ring that I removed from my real underwater camera (Olympus TG-6) so it could not be submerged without it.

Can't buy any spare batteries for the Kodak (only sold in the US) so that's the first and last time I buy anything Kodak. The 1 and only battery that comes with the camera lasts about 30 minutes.

 

Love my waterproof Olympus. If you remember this photo of a whale watching me watching it.

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On 10/16/2023 at 7:43 AM, BonVivant said:

A special, imaginary bus stop for children. It's an anime loved by Japanese children.
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Totoro and Nekobus!  This is great!

 

Here's our wind-up Totoro:

 

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And on my car: 

 

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And on the other side of the car: 

 

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"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

"Imagine all the food you have eaten in your life and consider that you are simply some of that food, rearranged."  -Max Tegmark, physicist

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

 

"...in the mid-’90s when the internet was coming...there was a tendency to assume that when all the world’s knowledge comes online, everyone will flock to it. It turns out that if you give everyone access to the Library of Congress, what they do is watch videos on TikTok."  -Neil Stephenson, author, in The Atlantic

 

"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." -Galileo Galilei, physicist and astronomer

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2 hours ago, BonVivant said:

Bus stop sign on Amami-Oshima island
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The hiragana at the top reads "[o]shima bas(u)", with that ostensibly kawaii (cute) whatever it is on the left acting as the "o".

 

The hiragana at the bottom is "noriba" -- bus stop. The kanji in the middle is clearly a place name, but sad to say I've lost most of my kanji over the past 35 years.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

"Imagine all the food you have eaten in your life and consider that you are simply some of that food, rearranged."  -Max Tegmark, physicist

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

 

"...in the mid-’90s when the internet was coming...there was a tendency to assume that when all the world’s knowledge comes online, everyone will flock to it. It turns out that if you give everyone access to the Library of Congress, what they do is watch videos on TikTok."  -Neil Stephenson, author, in The Atlantic

 

"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." -Galileo Galilei, physicist and astronomer

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5 hours ago, Alex said:

The kanji in the middle is clearly a place name, but sad to say I've lost most of my kanji over the past 35 years.

 

It reads 古仁屋小前. You should be able to Google that or even a Google translate may help athough, place names are often impossible to really translate.  I would have tried myself but Google is inaccessable from China at the moment.

 

 

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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5 hours ago, liuzhou said:

It reads 古仁屋小前. You should be able to Google that or even a Google translate may help athough, place names are often impossible to really translate.  I would have tried myself but Google is inaccessable from China at the moment.

 

Good idea. A straight Google search showed it to be Kagoshima.

 

 

Edited by Alex (log)
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"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

"Imagine all the food you have eaten in your life and consider that you are simply some of that food, rearranged."  -Max Tegmark, physicist

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

 

"...in the mid-’90s when the internet was coming...there was a tendency to assume that when all the world’s knowledge comes online, everyone will flock to it. It turns out that if you give everyone access to the Library of Congress, what they do is watch videos on TikTok."  -Neil Stephenson, author, in The Atlantic

 

"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." -Galileo Galilei, physicist and astronomer

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  • 3 weeks later...

Arrgh... I hate to be back in hell.

---------

 

Last breakfast at the guesthouse. Natto with raw egg and raw okra.
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One last look from the deck
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A week's worth of beer
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After saying our farewell we took the bus to Naze, the biggest town on the island, where we stayed the night so we could catch a flight early the next morning. On the first trip to Japan we had a hell of a time trying to find the flush button on the control panel. There was no English on it back then, rarely. Now most toilet control panels have English. (This one is in our room)
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Immediately went to check out the town and its supermarkets etc. New number plate, so far seen only on newer scooters. The creature in bottom left corner is actually a rabbit. Endangered Amami wild black rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi). There are not many left in the wild and not only that, they are found only on Amami and another island south of Amami. I've seen a taxidermy of it, looks more like a big rodent without a hideous scaly tail.
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Together with the blue bird they seem to be the island's mascots. Seen on all kinds of brochures, banners etc.
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This one is not endangered at all and has an easier life than the rabbits.
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2 hours later he had only changed position.
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The islands don't have huge supermarkets, tinned fish section is rather small and not really interesting.
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This supermarket has posters with suggestions for some ingredients. "Goya chanpuru" (stir-fried bitter gourd with eggs and tofu) is suggested here.
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I always go straight to the fruit section first. Imported dragon fruit here. Dole means it comes from a big farm in Vietnam/the Philippines or some other south east Asian countries.
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I like to drink soy milk when in Asia. A bit disappointed to see how small the selection here is. Cow's milk has its own big section. I buy the yellow and green packages when in Japan.
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Kimchi is quite normal in Japan. If I don't make my own I have to go to an Asian supermarket in the big city elsewhere to buy it as standard supermarkets don't stock kimchi at all.
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Shopping trolleys have a separate child seat. I don't use one at home. They never clean it, people put their children and/or dogs in it. Gross.
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Finally, craft beer from the tap! The tiny brewery is only a couple of minutes on foot from my lodging. Immediately drank 2 rounds of IPAs.
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The beer bar has some fancy-looking and interesting tinned seafood and meats. Never saw them again anywhere else after this.
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Late lunch at a "chicken rice" (Amamian speciality "Kei Han") specialist. "Big clam" sashimi. It's from a big clam, hence the name.
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Bitter gourd with Amami grain miso
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Aubergine with miso
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Chicken rice components
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Top rice with some of the ingredients and then pour the piping hot broth into the bowl.
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Soon after lunch I saw this...
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Shaved ice with beans and sweet potato mochi (purple balls)
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Only had room for snacks in the evening. Black sesame "pudding".
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The town is small, there's a fishmonger on my street. Island's own tuna
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Butter flavoured crisps. Overwhelmingly buttery. Shegunin is a local citrus. Does not work in the "sour ale". Tasted medicinal, but not "sour". Strange.
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Craft beer from the brew pub in the neighbourhood we visited earlier.
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It's just a short flight to neighbouring island Kikai(jima) in the Amami archipelago.
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The airstrip on coral reef island Kikaijima. The settlement near the airport and the ferry port, has the most inhabitants. (Photo found online).
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Aerial photo of Kikaijima. Much flatter and tiny next to very mountainous Amami-Oshima (25km/16mi away). They say it takes about 2 hours (by car) to circumnavigate the island. Kikaijima is the world's second fastest growing coral island. There's an institute for coral research here.
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I opened my reading material and started to read, not even reaching the bottom of the page then I heard the captain on the PA "crew be seated for landing". It's the shortest flight I've been on. For inter-island flights JAL use this type of aircraft. The partner couldn't stand up all the way, ceiling is a bit low for tall people. And on these inter-island flights there's an English-speaking stewardess who would personally brief us on what's happening or what the captain says.
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Probably the smallest airport I've used. Step inside and immediately behind the glass door is where you wait for your baggage to unload and pick up.
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Still more than 5 hours until we could check in so we left our rucksacks at the hotel and hopped on our rental bikes and started exploring. It only takes a few minutes to reach the countryside, which is pretty much the entire island. We were a bit of an attraction on Amami but even more here on Kikai. When paying for something in a small shop the owners were keen to find out where we came from and had many questions for us. They were especially delighted to hear we decided to visit their island ("nobody has heard of us"), and using bicycles to get around. Almost all Japanese tourists use rental cars.
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Some grain being dried
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The best quality white sesame in Japan comes from Kikaijima. The island is also the biggest producer in Japan.
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One of the top sites on the island.
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Over 100 years old, 17m high last time it was measured. It's indeed big.
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Most restaurants are located in the main town near the (air)port. We were happy to find this one in a village along the way. It's a canteen inside some kind of institute but anyone can eat there. We saw villagers, government employees, maintenance employees etc. They all arrived almost at the same time (after us).

 

Saucy meat balls
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Braised pork (with tofu and eggs)
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A small kitchen runs by 2 men. You have to remove your shoes upon entering. After eating/sitting/sleeping on the floor for a week we were happy to see chairs again.
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There's still some time to kill before returning to the hotel. We decided to check out a "supermarket" in the neighbourhood. It's more like Walmart (?), has some essential food and alcoholic items, clothes, household goods, souvenirs, that kind of stuff. It's a small island.
I was curious about this bread
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Sesame snacks
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And other sesame products
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Can Calbee really recreate the flavour of Japanese "glass shrimp"? I should try non potato snacks next time.
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DP 2010 in a general store on a small island, just like that. At home I have to order it from a wine shop.
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They also have many egg gadgets.
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Kikaijima is tiny and rural, not only are there few restaurants but they are also small. I've read people without reservation might not get in. It happened to us tonight. Luckily, 2 Tokyoans who came at the same time had a reservation invited us to join them in their private tatami (straw mat covered floor with a low table) booth. One of the men used to be a military personnel here on Kikaijima, now comes back often to do spear fishing. We all enjoyed the meal and ourselves so much the time just flew by. If we didn't have to go back to sleep we would probably have talked and drank until the wee hours.


Was brought to the table immediately. Not sure what the morsels on the right was.
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Today's specials.
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Crunchy and super light tempura. The herb/plant is Eucedanum Japonicum, for tempura only the young and tender leaves are used. There was more food but with company it was not practical to photograph each dish the moment it arrived.
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Baked purple taro roots. They like it like this on the island.
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Shortly after returning to the hotel the heavy rain and storm really picked up. We opened the curtains, turned off the lights and watched the thunder-lightning-typhoon show. It lasted until afternoon the next day. It was frightening and fascinating at the same time, such is the power of nature. How's that for the first night on this coral island.

 

 

 

 

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So much to see and comment on! I love the gleaming floor in the restaurant where you had to remove your shoes. The selection of beers, wines, snack foods, tinned seafood is amazing and enticing. The scenery is beautiful.

 

I don't think I've ever seen sesame, except for the seeds. Can you say more about those bundles? Are those stalks from a field, growing the way rice grows? Or are they small branches off a bush? Did you take more photos of the sesame plantings and production?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
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  • 3 weeks later...

The storm didn't stop until sometime in the afternoon so we were stuck inside the hotel/room the whole time.


The hotel offers only 3 same sets of breakfast every day, but at least they vary the sides a little. Too much spam in this Goya Champuru (stir-fried bitter gourd with eggs, tofu and spam). Gave all the (salty gag-inducing texture and taste) spam to the partner.
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Kei Han (Amami soupy chicken rice) is one of the 3 breakfast options.
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Before the shredded ingredients went into the bowl
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Apparently you "should" eat maybe 30 "healthy" food items per day and must include something fermented. Seems hard for most of us at home to consume that amount, but I think it's quite easy to accomplish this goal in Japan. I count 5 fermented food on this tray alone. Getting your 5 servings of vegs and fruits a day is easy here. Just eat small portions of a few things each meal. The idea is it's better to vary the ingredients.
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We lost much of the day to the miserable weather but when it was finally dry again we did go out for a long walk for a few hours. The drainage system on the island is very efficient. They have to save all the rain water for. After such a long and heavy rainfall there was no puddles on the road. Our system here at home is worthless. Japanese are always surprised to hear that. They think we are a developed, "advanced" Western nation, and must have good engineers/city planners etc. Hah!


Natural coral lagoons, there are many of these on Kikai island. When the tide is high you can enter the lagoons to swimm or snorkel.
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Found new snacks. "Steaks".

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Mentaiko (?) roe flavour
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Beefy wasabi flavour
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Dragon fruit I  brought from Amami survived the flight. There's a mochi stand in front of a (proper) supermarket where we bought new mochi every day. Mochi is one of the foods I have managed to overcome and now can't get enough of. Though, I still can't eat many foods with mochi/slimy/pasty texture.
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Dinner at a small mother-daughter run restaurant in the neighbourhood. They have 2 private tatami booths and a counter. We had to sit at the counter in the hallway. It's actually just a restaurant inside a private home, the front was converted into a restaurant. Only 2 traditional straw mat booths and a hallway counter. The family live in the same building. We thought we'd get there "early" to secure a spot, the 2 private booths were already occupied by islanders.
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Southern islands did trade with other south east Asian countries/communities such as China, The Philippines, Taiwan etc so you can't fail to notice the many stir-fry (and other) dishes in their repertoire. These similar dishes usually contain dashi, whereas in other places it's more often fish sauce or soy sauce.


(Soupy) tofu with cabbage.
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Amami-style somen, a little soupy again. I don't like "somen" at home but here it's delicious. Chewy, al dente, not a gloopy mess.
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We ordered some rice and got this.
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The setup, from where we were seated, at the other end of the counter looking straight at the kitchen, 2 private booths on my left. The counter could fit 2 more people if you got rid of the clutter on it.
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When we were paying the bill the mother and daughter grabbed someone from a private booth to translate our conversation! They had many questions for us. So funny and sweet. We gladly indulged islanders in their light-hearted curiosity.

 

On 11/11/2023 at 7:09 PM, Smithy said:

I don't think I've ever seen sesame, except for the seeds. Can you say more about those bundles? Are those stalks from a field, growing the way rice grows? Or are they small branches off a bush? Did you take more photos of the sesame plantings and production?

 

It's my first time seeing drying sesame. I looked it up. Sesame does not grow like rice, in a flooded field. Needs well-drained soils and has low tolerance for salt. Takes about 5 months until ready to be harvested.

 

HeidiH, I think they just sell a bit of everything, including Champagne. It's a small island.

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Finally, a break in the weather we have been waiting for. A good day to go biking, but first breakfast.


I can't abide mayonnaise. The partner ate this macaroni salad for me.
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My "Neba-neba don" (or, slimy rice bowl). The one ultimate "neba-neba" ingredient missing here is grated yamaimo ("mountain yam"). Some say "Neba-neba don" is a test for the adventurous eater. People are really put off by the texture, especially when every ingredient in the meal is slimy (minus the rice). 1CSGiVF.jpg


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Some photos from the bike trip today. We couldn't see everything (only people with cars could cover the distance in one day) but still, it was a fun thing to do on the island. Hardly anyone on the street or outside but when we saw someone they would nod hello (and sometimes give a thumb up). Probably because it's not common to see foreign tourists, let alone using bikes.


The bus goes 3 times a day in each direction.
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One of the most typical sights on Kikai: natural coral lagoons (usually surrounded by coastal plants).
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A traditional island-style stilt house. The coral wall looks like it's damaged in parts, otherwise it would not be possible to see much behind it.
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A lone tree in an area full of sugarcane fields
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Sago palm and other opportunistic plants on the same lone tree
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This road is known as Sugarcane Road. 2.5km (1.5mi) long and is completely straight.
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The 3 main crops on Kikai are sugarcane, sesame, and citrus. In the old days they coudln't grow rice, were forced to grow sugarcanes. Kikai was an impoverished island throughout much of its history, including the years under US occupation. Those days are finished.
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Sugarcane fields absolutely everywhere and no one was around.
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Living the fantasy: being on a silent, people-less planet.
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A tiny supermarket in a village along the route was open. We needed some cold drink and snacks.
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Dutch traders brought potatoes to Nagasaki from Jakarta in 1598. They are still growing and eating potatoes but sweet potatoes are used far more in regional cuisines.
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Found a place to eat our snacks and rest a little. A shrine in the middle of nowhere. So eerily quiet and cool under all these trees.
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Tuna, rice parcels and citrus (thick skinned, always green but sweet).
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Came across a farm with sesame drying just next to the farmers' house (which is next to the parked car).
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The above and this is the total production of sesame. Farms here are small, like most things.
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Autumn is harvest season. No wonder we saw drying sesame everywhere.
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Passing through this village, which is on every tourist's itinerary. It's on the list of "most beautiful villages in Japan". To us, coral walls on an island called Taketomi in Okinawa is far, far more beautiful, though. The coral walls are low, which allow full views of the typical Okinawan homes, the gardens that's full of fruit trees, dripping bougainvillea and hibiscus, dragon fruit plants use the wall as a support. It's not like that here.
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The coral walls are much too high, you can't see the gardens and houses at all. In the old days corals were used in construction and to make many other things. After collecting corals was banned they used concrete. The main purpose of these coral walls is to protect the house from frequent typhoons. They say the walls also give you an idea about the (financial) status of the owners. The nicer the coral wall, the more (financially secure)/successful the people living behind it.
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More farms
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My bike admiring Kikai's sea and sky
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Not able to finished the bike tour yet but we had to head back during golden hour. Took 8 hours in total. In some parts we had to get off our wobbly bikes and walked half an hour each time until we reached a flatter surface. You would probably not feel it in the car but on a bike it's not so easy going up hill, especially in hot and high humidity conditions.


Farms cover much of the island's surface. Time passes very slowly here, islanders are cheerful and friendly. Nothing really happens here. We loved it. It's like going back in time, when things were simpler.
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Tired and famished after the bike trip we went to a simple sushi restaurant round the corner from the hotel. I don't like sushi but we wanted to give them business, and besides, it's not like there are endless choices of places to eat on this small island. Welcoming and friendly owners made me a bit more enthusiastic about sushi.
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Crispy chicken thigh meat
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And more sushi
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More beer back in the hotel room later to end this long and interesting day. Even the weather cooperated. Our legs hurt for days after all this biking. Not much going on in our remaining time on the island besides swimming in a coral lagoon.

 

FYI, Kikai is 25km east of Amami-Oshima (see enlarged inset).
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Edited by BonVivant (log)
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@BonVivant

 

Great topic and posts. Apart from the ever-fascinating food, in your last post, the stilt houses are not dissimilar to those found among some of the ethnic minorities here in Southern China. 

 

I've only seen sesame growing once and that was in Kew Gardens London's tropical house. I do remember it being an interesting plant with beautiful white trumpet shaped flowers. I'm told it does grow round here but most of our seeds, oils and pastes seem to come from further north, particularly Shandong province which is more on the same latitude as Japan. Makes sense, I guess.

 

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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