On the outskirts of Tokyo, with a transfer in Shinjuku, rises Mt. Takao. We had a nice trip there yesterday, although it was quite crowded. In the ever enviro-conscious Japanese way, you can bring stuff there or buy stuff there … but you must take it with you to throw away at home as there are no trash cans. There is a chair lift to the mid-point which we used on the way up, but decided to hike down. It was quite long and tiring, and very slippery going in many areas. Beautiful autumn leaves lit up everywhere you looked. We topped it off with some sushi at a place with a special set dinner… all you can eat sushi + hot pot of seafood + a large platter of “taraba” crab…
T’was a long weekend for spring solstice so we headed over to Osaka. Osaka castle was more like a video exhibit and very dissapointing. Himeji Castle about an hour outside the city was the real thing and brilliant. I was a bit trepidated about Osaka, having spoken to Tokyoites and hearing about how loud, rude, and crass people are there. Tokyoites were lying from jealousy! The people were great. The food was wonderful! Oknonomiyaki and Takoyaki in Tokyo has always been inedible to me, but in Osaka it’s delicious! We went to a crab restaurant was I was in heaven. Course after course … chilled crab in butter, crab sashimi, crab tempura, sauteed crab, crab chawanmushi, the Osakan square type crab sushi, crab croquettes … sublime! There is also a really cool place similar (but more stylized) to Marché where you get a card upon entry and wander around for all sorts of yummy foods and then pay the card balance on the way out. This was a place that I was interested in but had no idea what it was as there is no explanation in English or Japanese from the outside; I thought we’d just pop in and have a look, but am glad we ended out spending quite some time inside gorging. This was the first city I’ve been to that I was already thinking of the next time to come back before even leaving. It was also the first time when I was sad the leaving shinkansen came too soon for liking. I did get a lot of study done on both the coming and going and gained a cursory knowledge of all the hiragana. Now for the writing practice. My Japanese Coach by Ubisoft is turning out to be a great help to go along with the books and flashcards.
Nothing to do with Osaka, but rather about the practice of courses at a meal. We always think of the idea of a full course dinner as French, but actually up until the 19th century the French method of service was to bring everything out at one go for you to pick and choose what to eat in what order. Courses in a meal are a Russian custom which impressed Escoffier (also inventor of the Peach Melba and Melba Toast) enough to introduce it to France … and it then caught on.
Well, its finally time to go home. Somewhat tired of eating buttery seafood and streets smelling like puke in the morning. But we needed one last meal before making the trip back to Lonoke, so we stopped over at The Crescent City for lunch. I had the soft shell crab, which was the best I’ve ever tasted – fresh, with light flavours, tender, and moist. Also had a half dozen fresh oysters, the biggest I’ve ever seen, really. Not bad, but I thought they could have been more creative with the dressing.
Actually got pulled over for speeding on the Interstate 65 by the Louisianian police. 🙁 And the cop even set his dog to check if there were drugs in the car – well, I was wearing a shirt that said “Fuck Milk Got Pot? – but he said something about security after 9-11. Yeah, weed is the biggest terrorist threat today.
Got back safely, although daylight savings meant we missed the 1-hour Simpsons special. Shucks.