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The Other Japan


BonVivant

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Not much happening on our final 2 days here. We only wanted to go swim in the coral lagoon and walk.


Covers on Kikaijima. Fish, corals, seaweeds etc.
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Every single day on Amami island and here, 24/7, you'll hear this super loud, skull-piercing racket. O.M.G.! Once your brain gets used to the noise it ignores it. Their lifespan is the length of summer. Finally, saw one cicada in the open where I could easily make a photo of it. If somebody has never seen one... it's huge.
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Fun with macro photos of some tiny, teeny corals at the beach.
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Then I dropped a pinch of sand on the "craters". The grains of sand are barely visible and now in super macro mode you can actually see individual grains.
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All the tourist attractions on this island: Sugarcane road (only sugarcane fields in this area), huge banyan tree, butterflies, and flora. There are butterfly colonies in the woods at highest elevations.
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Found a good photo online taken using a drone. This is the natural coral lagoon we came to swim every day. Kikaijima is a 100% coral island. The second fastest growing. The "fastest" is somewhere in the Bahamas.
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Typical citrus tree common in people's gardens. Thick-skinned and green.
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In Japan you put household waste in this cage to be collected (on a certain day of the week). No tall containers with wheels. Japan has strict and complicated rubbish disposal rules. If you don't separate your rubbish correctly it won't be collected and you might be fined. Has to be in (semi) transparent bags (rubbish collectors and your neighbours should be able to see the contents!).
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Sooner or later we had to hit the supermarket for beer and new snacks. Fried chicken wing flavour and "4 cheeses". Can't you really taste Gouda, Cheddar, mozzarella and Camembert at the same time, though.
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"Fried chicken" and Takoyaki (octopus balls)
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Interesting that on this small island far away Mutti tomotoes cost so little ($0.87), at home it's $2.70.
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Suggestions for eggs. But in the photos they are fried and topped various bowls.
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Snacks at the beach (brought with us). No taste of spicy roe.
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The mochi on skewers were a mistake. I finally got over texture of mochi but it's the small balls like these trigger my sensitive gag reflex and bring back childhood trauma. The small balls have no filling, just pure dough. The partner ate all of it, I ate the big balls with bean paste filling.
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And breakfast earlier today. I wanted to try the hotel's "Western breakfast", the partner said I would regret it.
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Back to Japanese breakfast again tomorrow.
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Partner's breakfast. I like to make photos of the side dishes. They are quite fascinating. There are established standard side dishes and there are ones that you only see/eat if staying at a private guesthouse. (Home)cooks combine any ingredients and flavours they find tasty. FYI, there are small shops that sell only side dishes. Supermarkets have a big section for just side dishes and condiments with which to eat alongside.  
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Dinner at a restaurant just a few minutes on foot from the hotel. Had to check and check again on 2 maps to make sure it's the right place. Looks like a house in this residential neighbourhood. Well, it is a house that's also a restaurant.
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We had a reservation and were the first to arrive. Lone diners and pairs sit at the long counter.
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2 straw mat rooms for families or groups.
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Directly in front of me. Behind the curtains is the kitchen.
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Some type of big shellfish. Very good and meaty.
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Big clam sashimi. after 3 days it's clear this clam sashimi is typical on Kikaijima, whereas on Amami it's strawberry conch.
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People usually order both big clam and assorted sashimi so they serve it on the same plate. The big clam shell makes even middle-aged males pull out their phones and snap some photos.
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Besides fresh (shell)fish, Kikaijima also has a goat cuisine. This restaurant is one of the few that are goat sashimi specialists. Islanders go to a specialist they trust. This restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike, in high season it's harder to get a seat but in October it's quiet again. Anyway, first time goat sashimi for us. As sashimi it's always sliced from frozen.. All the tourists order the big clam sashimi and this goat plate.
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We actually ordered 2 plates.
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The daughter of the owners showed us the "island cuisine" section on the menu. Our phone translated one of the items called "mountain yam somen". When it came out we looked at the bowl in silence, thinking wow, nice, and where's the yam or somen? The "somen" was the shredded yam. They must have a very good mandoline to shred the yam so perfectly and finely. This yam is notoriously slimy.
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A simple dish beautifully presented. Daughter behind the counter told us the broth is dashi. We absolutely loved this dish.
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Rolled omelette in dashi. Another nice one. So fluffy and moist. No wonder Japanese food taste good to me, I think it comes down to dashi (and bonito flakes) and seaweed. In many cuisines, before you start cooking anything you slice/fry onions (and garlic, too). Here you probably get the dashi prepared/ready and then whatever else comes next.
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Amami-style somen. It's different at every restaurant. I may also contain more vegetables and/or tiny dried fish. The somen is nicely al dente. Half submerged in liquid that's dashi again. This restaurant makes exquisite dashi. Btw, every dish comes with its specific dipping sauce or condiment and they insist that you use which sauce for which dish. The counter was soon full of small dishes of sauces.
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When we were not eating we answered questions or asked questions. It's easy to them to speak into their phones and get instant English translation. They said something into the phone and then showed the translation to us. Only possible when online, though. We had to type using a translation app. The restaurant phone rang constantly. It's a popular restaurant. Daughter and mother run front of the house, father is the cook. He came out to say hi to us and bowed. Lots of smiling and more bowing on our way out. Kikaijima is small and has only a few restaurants. We picked a good one. What a nice experience this was.


Thank you for not having a tipping system.
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Many businesses still have these landline coin operated phones. Maybe some people still use them. They take up space and everyone has a cell phone nowadays.
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Still can't forget the yamaimo/mountain yam "somen" dish!

 

-----

Liuzhou, thanks!

There's another type of stilt house on these islands. I shall get to that very soon.

 

Also thanks to OkanaganCook and LindaG.

 

The bikes are old and wobbly. We tried to change the speed when going up or down but they made some bad sound so we didn't touch it again.

 

Have never used good bikes on Japanese islands. Ones on Okinawan islands were even worse.

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I have been to "only" a little more than 40 countries (some multiple times). Most European countries no longer give me visa stamps. Japan issues a beautiful visa sticker with Mt. Fuji on it.

 

 

 

Edited by BonVivant (log)
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Duvel, not sure. These are big.

I'm reading about citrus cultivars on Kikaijima. The five major citrus cultivars are ‘Shiiku’ (C. sp.), ‘Keraji’ (C. Keraji hort. ex Tanaka), ‘Kunenbo’ (C. nobilis Lour.), ‘Fusuu’ (C. rokugatsu hort. ex Y. Tanaka), and ‘Kuriha’ (C. Keraji hort. ex Tanaka var. Kabuchii.

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Thank you once again @BonVivantfor allowing me a glimpse into places that I will likely not visit in my lifetime. I really appreciate your laid back and "open to anything foodwise" style of travelling - it's very similar to the way I traveled when I was younger, before I met my husband. He is not a terribly adventurous eater (I was shocked when he ordred octopus!) but we usually find a way to compromise.

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Braised meatball with root vegetables. No problem at all getting more vegetables. They start eating them already at breakfast.
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Duck breast (surprisingly, but not the first time eating it so early in the morning)
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Love these savoury breakfasts in Japan.
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Finally, the nice weather returned.
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A paradise for butterflies
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Some snacks at the beach later, where we spent the whole afternoon, for the last time.
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Had to look very hard to find any. Not many of these hermit crabs on Amami islands, which is a stark contrast to Okinawan islands.
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Back to the same restaurant, for the last time.
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1 of the 2 private low-table rooms for families or groups.
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Crockery shelves behind the counter. The mother and daughter who run the front of the house also get other parts of the dishes ready. The father does the cooking behind the curtains.
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Not sure what this was. To me, it tasted like meat or tuna escabeche.
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Must have the super fresh big clam and assorted sashimi again.
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Fluffy tempura of chomeiso. A type of plant, only the tender young tips are used for tempura.
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Our favourite. It went fast so we had to order another plate.
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Goat sashimi, again.
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Prawn tempura
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And the excellent somen in dashi
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Goats on Kikaijima. They are kept in the garden and usually tethered. I couldn't find anything about the milk being used for drinking or making cheese, though. Besides, they don't exist on an industrial scale so maybe that's why. Islanders like to eat it in various dishes, soups and of course sashimi.
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Also, I noticed "mainland" Japanese tourists ate the same dishes and more, all alone. We were full splitting the dishes right down the middle.

 

@MaryIsobel: it's an adventure in eating on the islands. Menus don't have photos like in most places in Japan, and the phone app translates funny things into English. Our MO is never pass an opportunity to indulge in local fare!
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Last breakfast at the hotel. An employee was surprised to see us again. Everybody gasped "huh, so many days? There's nothing here". (Well, exactly why we liked it.)
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For the last look... wonderful island for a quiet holiday. We'll miss it. Nothing happens here, small enough to bike, a tiny population, nobody wants the hustle and bustle of Okinawa or elsewhere in Japan, most islanders are farmers. Welcoming and friendly, too.
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Picnic table we liked to occupy at the coral lagoon beach.
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The last goodbye
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This is the style of earlier type of stilt house in the archipelago. Nowadays they use this design for many things. Here at Kikaijima airport it's a place where you wait or pick up/see off family/friends. It's big. The actual stilt house is much smaller and has a thatched roof.
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Have landed back on Amami-Oshima island after a very short flight (10 minutes?). There's that stilt house again. One can rest or shelter from the sun. I call it a gazebo.
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Finally had to try this fast food restaurant in the centre. First time trying Japanese-style "hamburger". There's cheese inside.
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Without cheese
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Check out the knife handle. Felt very odd holding it at first.
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There were servers but also this robot server zooming round, all the while making loud sounds, too.
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Just for fun I looked at the children's menu:
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It's a nice fast food restaurant. Price-quality ratio is good. Lots of locals take their time eating, drinking coffee, meeting up with friends/family. First time eating Japanese fast food. We plan to do more of that on future trips.
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Kikaijima was very nice but it's also good to be back here on Amami-Oshima. Spent the afternoon walking and checking out supermarkets to make an assessment so I could decide what to buy to take home, and how much room left in my rucksack.


Dinner at a local place in the neighbourhood of my lodging. Strawberry conch again. I had missed them.
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Another southern islands' favourite. Stir-fried bitter gourd with eggs and tofu.
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Amami somen. Every cook make it to their taste.
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Seaweed soup
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A counter for lone diners and a few low tables for party of 2 or more.
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Very small, very local. Mother cooks, son takes care of the front and takeaway. Daughter(-in-law?) works in the kitchen, too. Half an hour after we arrived the place was full, clientele of all ages. A good spot for home-style (island) food and to see the dishes local dinners order.  
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Unfortunately, today was the craft beer bar's rest day so we had to get their beer in bottles. Good to put our feet up again after a long day.
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Fascinating look into your travels - thank you. I had a giggle to myself imagining our group of friends dining at one of those low tables. We would all need to be on our hands and knees with a grab rail near by in order to get up!

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@BonVivant, thank you, as always.  Question about the low dining tables:  is there any accommodation for rickety old people, of which I understand Japan has more than a few?  Or does a lifetime of excruciating culinary contortion prepare little old ladies for pain traditionally reserved for Samuri seppuku?

 

 

 

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Cooking is cool.  And kitchen gear is even cooler.  -- Chad Ward

Whatever you crave, there's a dumpling for you. -- Hsiao-Ching Chou

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9 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

@BonVivant, thank you, as always.  Question about the low dining tables:  is there any accommodation for rickety old people, of which I understand Japan has more than a few?  Or does a lifetime of excruciating culinary contortion prepare little old ladies for pain traditionally reserved for Samuri seppuku?

 

 

 

 

I was wondering that myself.  I'm not yet rickety, but I sure don't fold or unfold  like I used to

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I don't know about in this locale, but I've seen old people all over SE Asia comfortably squatting way lower than I ever could on my best day.  I think if you do certain movements continually throughout your life, it doesn't stiffen up like it does for us who do them only occasionally.

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40 minutes ago, KennethT said:

I don't know about in this locale, but I've seen old people all over SE Asia comfortably squatting way lower than I ever could on my best day.  I think if you do certain movements continually throughout your life, it doesn't stiffen up like it does for us who do them only occasionally.

 

A  lifetime squatting over Asian squat toilets develops the necessary muscles!

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Thank you, everyone. I'm only half way through the trip. 😆

 

Doing everything on the floor, without having been trained since childhood, is painful. Low tables with a recessed floor underneath for the legs are a bit better but those are not so prevalent. We watch in awe every time, how Japanese people of any age do it with SUCH ease. They can also sit on their calves for a long time.

 

They have shown us how it's done but we just couldn't do it! Might be easier if one isn't fat but we are not and still it's near impossible. They laugh so much at the partner's height (almost 2m/6.4f) and long legs that don't fit anywhere in Japan.

 

Hard to see the leg space but it's there. You can at least stretch your legs. Our table doesn't have leg room, the partner sits to one side to be able to stretch those super long legs all the way past the table.

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Painful but so worth it and will do it all over again.

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I saw more middle-aged and elderly people (and many are very elderly) than younger ones everywhere in Japan. And what else? They are healthy, and are still working, even past their retirement age. It's a wondrous thing to see.

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I was in Japan a few yrs ago ...going to dinner at an old restaurant in a group. They filed through the door and I followed...until I got hit in my 6'2" forehead by the doorframe and got knocked down. 

 

When they were sure I was ok they thought it pretty funny...me too... (there had been a good deal of drink already).

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/17/2023 at 9:05 PM, gfweb said:

I was in Japan a few yrs ago ...going to dinner at an old restaurant in a group. They filed through the door and I followed...until I got hit in my 6'2" forehead by the doorframe and got knocked down. 

 

My partner is 6'5" and we have a running series of pictures from various doorways and similar in Asia that come to about nose height on them 🤣

 

@BonVivant, very much enjoying this series! We spent a week in Kyushu in April and it's remarkable how different these islands are despite being "nearby." 

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  • 1 month later...

(Firstly, finally done uploading all the photos from this trip to a new image hosting site. I got a surprise last week when I was about to resume posting to this topic. Imgur photo storage site has changed owners and is now no longer supports albums, plus other new annoyances. So, here I am, starting all over again.)
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We had wanted to visit the ethno museum but it was either not open so early or closed that day. We had fun checking out the stilt-houses outside. They are part of the museum exhibits. I regretted so much we never made it back to the museum.


The guesthouse where we stayed in the first week of the holiday whose owner/cook used to be a science teacher, he is adamant that the first people who came to Amami were tribal Indonesians. And that some styles of stilt-house are similar to those somewhere in Indonesia. However, officially, it's still unclear from where the first arrivals came.


This is a storehouse on stilts. For storing grains and food. High up away from rodents and the elements. Flow of air also prevents moisture accumulation thus excellent for storing foodstuffs. No nails are used in the construction of this type of stilt-house. They can be disassembled quickly in case of a fire or natural disaster. And of course, they must be able to withstand the frequent typhoons.
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That's the floor with an entrance. A ladder is removed so you can't climb up.
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This stilt-house is quite spacious consisting of multiple connecting rooms.
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The kitchen
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The interior
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There was a bus stop nearby so we decided to go to a beach village a little farther up the coast. We killed a few minutes checking out this vegetable shop only steps from the bus stop. The owner wasn't there, if you bought something you just put the coins in a little piggy bank. Meanwhile, the supermarket self-checkouts here at home stealing is becoming a big problem.
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I do like winged beans. Should eat them more often.
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After riding the "bus" for 20 minutes or so we reached Yamato village. It's small but has a few important cultural events.
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There's that stilt-house again, on every cover in the village.
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Quiet village life
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My quick snack. Shaved ice with green tea and adzuki bean paste.
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The young owner couldn't stop laughing! She had never seen tourists from "the West" here. Pulled out her phone wanting to make a photo of us (but we politely declined). We chatted for a long time using a translation app. Encounters with friendly, warm islanders were one of the highlights of the trip.
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Yamato village has a beach and just 1 place to eat. The informal beach shack is run by a friendly English speaking Japanese (bohemian) pair. The menu is very short and most simple. Chicken with home-made curry (only found out it was "curry" when the food was brought to us). Chicken is the only meat they cook and curry is the only spice they make themselves. Unfortunately, my system can't process curry and the spices in it (also no coconut milk/cream) so I had to scrape it all off (and eventually stopped eating, the partner ate my leftovers).
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The shack has no door, rustic (very uncomfortable) furniture.
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The open kitchen
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They have many chickens. The problem is they crap everywhere and there's a smell.
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We took the bus so this is where we got/on off. (Photos of beach another time.)
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Back in Naze centre later. Many beers at the craft beer bar before heading back for dinner.
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Pineapple NEIPA ("New England IPA) was more like an alcoholic juice rather than beer. Excellent.
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IIRC, they didn't charge me for this second or third glass of the NEIPA because it was too foamy.
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So thick
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I was invited to look round the tiny brewery just on the other side of the glass wall. One of the employees acted as a translator. Actually, they had no idea about NEIPA until I mentioned the pineapple beer tasted like it. Asked if they had bottles but the beer was just ready to be tapped when I got to the bar. They filled 2 bottles directly from the tank for me to take away!
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Dinner at a local restaurant again. Tuna sashimi.
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Garlicky, spicy prawns.
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Gyoza
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Stir-fried pork (more onions, though). We enjoyed eating on these southern islands. Sometimes you forget that you are not somewhere in SE Asia because some of the dishes are similar. (FYI, Japan's southern islands had traded and had contact with China and other cultures in the region. The culture and food here is a blend of all of that.)
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Found a restaurant supply shop in my neighbourhood. Very simple, the stuff sold there is not of very high quality or known brands.
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Spotted very few of these smoking establishments on this trip. Smoking inside is one of the top reasons Japan is only my unofficial number one favourite country (to visit). Happy to say we didn't have any problem with indoor smoking on this trip. Japan is suddenly getting much, much closer to the number one spot on my list! (Maybe next trip it will be official...)
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This clamp on the steering bar is probably for holding an umbrella.
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About 98% of bikes on Kikaijima are unlocked. Here on Amami it's probably 50%. And elsewhere in Japan 0%.
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