July 1, 2011

Some Restaurant I Didn’t Eat At…

Hiroshima  (Day 5)

Veggie picks in Hiroshima are limited. Like extremely limited. Essentially I looked up any menu I could read, then looked for vegetable tempura. I figured if there is vegetable tempura, I will be able to eat. I found one spot, so we made a bee line for:

But then saw this sign:

I have no idea what it says either. But as we stood there like sad kittens a waiter approached and shooed us off. Hand gestures finally got it through to us that they were closed for a private party… I think.

June 1, 2011

Torii Torii Torii!

Miyajima Island (Day 5)

The Itsukushima Shrine stands both on and off the island. Stilted above the waxing and waning waters, the shrine grips the islands edge to keep from floating away. The Torii Gate is poised in the distance. Affixed to an ocean floor that only revels itself at low tide. This was the first (and there will be more) structure where the construction flabbergasted me. Not that it is build in the ocean, but the pillars, the pillars are so large. Thick and rigid and towering over the sea.

Build from 500-1600 year old camphor trees, grown and groomed by nature alone, it stands between the spirit and human world. Not secured to any foundation, it holds to the earth by gravity alone. At first I was disappointed to not proceed between the pillars, the ocean’s mid-tide holding us off at a distance; but maybe it was for the best. Maybe it’s a world I’m not ready to enter.

This photo captures the scale of the Torii. It is huge.

May 31, 2011

Ferry to Miyajima Island: Now With More Deer!

Miyajima Island (Day 5)

After what already felt like a full day, we met our Goodwill Guide and took the JR train to meet the ferry to Miyajima Island. The JR Rail Pass granted us access to the chill 10 minute ride. The ferry was one of the few time we encounters other Americans; a couple enjoying the breeze beside us on the deck.

The entire time you can see the island approaching, rising out of the water beneath the beating sun. Hazy blues turn to shades of brown, then green…  then the ferry makes a sharp turn to run parallel with the island’s shore. The island turns greener and greener until a flash of vermilion red signals our arrives. The Torii Gate looks petite against the steep peaks and I feel underwhelmed. This feeling dissipates the moment I stepped foot on Miyajima Island.

We are greeted by hordes of tourist and school children… and deer. Deer! Everywhere!

And the deer are not like just in the public places, they go everywhere: on the beach, to the temples, into the stores. All the while eyeing you for food; but they don’t beg. I get the idea that they don’t have to. Such is the benefit of being a beautiful creature.

Okay. I’m going to stop posting pictures of deer.  Don’t fret, there will be more the the next post.



May 31, 2011

Saka: A Little Bit About My Past

Saka (Day 5)

In the small town of Saka, just outside of Hiroshima, my mother was born. While I claim the hapa title now, my mom was a different kind of hapa back in Japan. Her mother is an Japanese-American, born and raised in Colorado to parents who immigrated back to Japan during the Great Depression. But instead of finding a better life, they found another depressed county, a world war waged against them by their homeland and an atomic bomb detonated over their heads. Due to a series of fortunate events, my entire family survived the bombing. 10 years later my grandmother moved back to the U.S. with a Japanese spouse and children in tow.

And now I’m back, with no info, guide or directions and only 45 minutes to wonder around the town. I meandered up a hill and saw some homes, small farming plots mingling with burial sites, and a view of the ocean. The only people I encountered were two men cleaning headstone who paid me no mind.

I had no idea what I was looking for, I can’t even say what exactly I found, but here is it. Here is Saka.


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May 7, 2011

Le Petite Déjeuner: Finally, good (French) food in Hiroshima

Hiroshima (Day 5)

The melting pot has spoiled us Americans. Whatever we want for breakfast–be it pancakes, burritos, pizza, croissants–can be found on any menu in Anytown,USA. But so far on this trip, breakfast of any variety has been nonexistent. Hotel Flex’s Petit Dejeuner changed all that.

A dining room set with small plates of delicately prepared vegetables and breads with soft boiled eggs cradled in wicker white metal arms besides petals of ham and spears of asparagus. The table continues with young lettuce leaves folded with watermelon radish, a glass bowl of cherry tomatoes and crescents of steamed kabocha.

A pitcher of milk and a bowl of yogurt–a rare sight–atop an ice bed with mixed fruit.  I’m not entirely sure what the milk was for…

The rarest sight of all was the petit wheel of camembert cheese… of which I’m quite sure I ate the entity of.

This was one of the best meals of the entire trip. Yes, the non-Japanese meal. I feel like an ass saying that; but it’s true.

March 25, 2011

Kyobashi River: In the morning light

Hiroshima (Day 5)

The morning light falls into Kyobashi River as we sat in our tiny  Hotel Flex room and watched the day unfurl. The water called us. So we took a morning stroll along the river bank.

This is THE FIRST AND LAST piece of litter I saw in Japan.

Someone raked the leaves into a neat little pile, like an impromptu dry garden.

March 24, 2011

Blue Grass State: More American Booze

Hiroshima (Day 4)

Back on the streets of Hiroshima, we meandered through hundreds of Japanese signs until another bit of English caught our eye (his eye).

Up the one flight of stairs and we found ourselves in a half round room with four door leading to who-knows-where. In our continuing game of ‘Follow the English’ we entered Blue Grass State.

We found a booty-load of bourbons and whiskeys! The shelves, stacked 2-3 bottles deep, offered ever brown booze then one could imagine. Plus, an English speaking owner/bartender.

We allowed him to guide us through a few “special” and “reserve” bottles of bourbon. I have zero recollection of what they were. But my BF wrote them down at looked them up when were got back home. None of them actually existed. They were all black market knock offs. Though it seems like that would diminish the experience, it actually makes it more exciting. Like a real speakeasy.

After all those drinks, the day was finally over. We stumbled back to our room and passed out… unaware of the amazing breakfast we would have just a few hours later.

March 24, 2011

Bar Suizokukan: I didn’t mean to buy a bottle…

Hiroshima (Day 4)

There is only one way I can find a bar in Japan, when the sign is in English. So when we saw a stark awning stating “BAR” that is all it took to get us to stumble down the rabbit hole that is Bar Suizokukuan.

It’s a tiny bar, with all the comforts of a submarine. We opened the door and through a billow of smoke (from one man) we locked eyes with the two gracious female bartender. There was no choice but to complete entry. We shuffled towards 2 bar stools (there are like only 6 stools total) at the end of the room and sat down like the stunned tourist we were.  Like the rest of Hiroshima, no one spoke a word of English, but this was a premium bar serving only American Spirits. So we communicated in the language of liquor.

I order a vodka and soda, he order a whiskey. Placing the bottle of Skyy in front of me, bartendress cracked open its seal and poured me a glass. She then offered me a bottle of club soda. The ice was cold, the drinks were strong and we were pleased with our first evening adventure of the trip! There we sat there, happily sipping our American drinks, when we noticed Smokey Guy at the end of the bar serving himself from his bottle of Jack. We looked at the bottles in front of us… and panicked. Had we just purchased the entire bottle?!

No longer at ease, we chugged our drinks and polity combined some nonsensical words and hand gestures which they correctly interpenetrated as “Check please!” The air left our bodies as we saw the small charges; something like $7 US dollars each.

We would have liked to stay longer but, flustered and embarrassed, we smiled and shimmied our way back to the dark street while whispering to each other that we would come back. We never did.

March 23, 2011

Nagarekawa: Drinking the night away

Hiroshima (Day 4)

As I write this, I have no idea how I managed to still be awake to do everything that is going to follow. This was a long day. I mean sheesh, I woke up in Tokyo, went on a whirlwind walking/instilling-American-guilt tour of Hiroshima, ate a horrible dinner and then hit the night streets.

But I did, and took photos to prove it. Welcome to Nagarekawa!

Sexy pig…

This is the view from Blue Grass State, more one that later!

I think they sell popcorn or pop and corn… but we do know that I have no idea what this place is.

March 23, 2011

Hondori Street and the worst meal of the entire trip

Hiroshima (Day 4)

The main shopped district in Hiroshima is just off the Peace Park, Hondori Street. Filled with everyday nicknacks, internet cafes and ending with a huge mall, it has a little bit of something of everyone… except vegetarians.

A travel companion craved waffles. Seeing as this isn’t breakfast-served-all-day-America and there was not a Denny’s in sight, we ended up at Cache Cache in the basement of the Parco Mall.

My vegetable curry was the lease offensive. All rice in Japan is perfectly cooked, including this. Topped with soupy sweet curry sauce strewn with bits of eggplant and shreds of some unknown white cheese, I ate it all. The cheese and curry really didn’t work together. Also, I do not endorse this as a veg-friendly dish. With very little English understood by the staff, I can only hope that it actually was vegetarian. Considering the next dish, I think I stood a 50/50 chance.

The spaghetti actually looked good! The cheese from my curry would have been better suited to this dish. The slivered mushrooms and simple tomato sauce should have made this dish the winner, but there was a secret ingredient lingering in the aftertaste: Fish. Whether the tomato sauce was seasoned with dashi or the noodles were boiled in it, we couldn’t tell. But its presences was clear, strong and distasteful.

For all I know, the chicken teriyaki was awesome. But the rule of threes tells us it was gross.