Yokohama Ryuugaku Kikou

Monthly Archives: November 2012

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I Promised You A Yakiniku Post

…but I ate all of it. Sorry. Next time, for sure.

I do highly recommend going to all-you-can-eat yakiniku at least once, though, if you enjoy eating meat. It’s quite nice. The place I’d visited was quite cheap, too: 2,000 yen, and another 360 yen for all-you-can-soft-drink.

Oh, and if anything’s going to get me to get used to munching on cartilage (referred to as “hormone” in Japanese — I don’t know why!)…it’s probably Japan. I’d already gotten used to munching on salted grilled beef tongue back home at Korean barbecue places, but…yeah, I guess I’m now leveling up my Asian food…sensibility. I guess.

I think I definitely won’t get used to liver, though — the texture and aftertaste just doesn’t sit well with me at present. ◆

Last Train Out of Kamiooka

Yesterday was a Friday; normally, I have classes on Fridays, but this Friday was a public holiday known as Labor Thanksgiving Day — to give thanks to each other for…working, I guess. In the old days, it was a harvest festival…I guess they needed an equivalent for the modern age.

In any case, for whatever reason, the gaming arcade I frequent in Kamiooka one stop down decided it’d hold a no-strings-attached free-to-play weekend on music games; people who know me well back home (and are reading this, right? 😉 ) know I love me some music games. The machines were to be set on free play from 9 to 12 both in the morning and in the evening; I was there for both of them, unlocking as much as I could on jubeat saucer, waiting in lines of up to sixteen people.

After squeezing in a four-song game of DrumMania XG3 to finish off my session night once jubeat had stopped accepting new players¹, I headed back, amidst an Japanese-and-English-language track telling people that the store was closing, to Kamiooka Station. There, I waited for the last train back home.

The vast majority of the trains on the municipal subway’s Blue Line go in one of two directions: to Azamino in the north, or to Shonandai in the south. This one, normally bound for Azamino, read that it was stopping at Nippa, some six stops shy of the Blue Line’s true endpoint, but home to the subway’s northern trainyard. I’d seen this before, but I’d never taken a Nippa-bound train. Inside the train was also sort of eerie: the recorded announcements that played and the scrolling text displays had nothing to say of Azamino. It’s not really a huge deal, mind — the train stopped and I got off at my station just fine — but it…still definitely felt a bit odd taking the last train out of Kamiooka.

And now I can say I’ve taken both the first train out of anywhere², and the last train out of anywhere, each for the first times in my life. ◆

1: Arcade machines have recently employed something called the Shop Close setting, which locks down the machine past a certain time; it’s very handy for gently getting people out of a given shop. Sort of nifty, actually.
2: I took the first train out of Yokohama after my first all-night karaoke session, which I still have yet to write about.

The Other Kind of Okonomiyaki

I’ve covered Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki store Ganbaru-tei before; it’s only one of several places around Gumyoji to get your fix. In the same week, I accepted an invite from one of my dormmates to go to another restaurant, the one I’d been to before: Yocchan-tei. This store also serves up okonomiyaki on plates right in front of you, so it’s perfect for escaping from the cold of autumn and winter by ducking in and having a steaming hot grill to warm your hands up with by hovering them above.

Whereas Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki features layered ingredients, this more traditional style of okonomiyaki features them mixed up. Yocchan-tei actually has people mix the ingredients themselves (they’re served in a bowl for you to do so); I imagine they do this so you can get the consistency you like. (If you don’t want to, or if you don’t know how, they’ll also be happy to do so for you — but it’s not as fun, I think.) Spatulas are also provided, for shaping the mix afterwards.

Despite how similar everyone’s okonomiyaki looks, as the name implies (okonomiyaki can be translated as what you like, fried), you can choose from a variety of ingredients. They’re traditionally served with seafood inside, but there are also other options at most places, it seems; mine, for example, had bacon, cheese, and garlic inside. Then, you can top it off with whatever toppings you’d like: pictured above are the three okonomiyaki we ordered, with okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, katsuobushi (sliced bonito flakes), and aonori (seaweed flakes). Slice the finished okonomiyaki into quarters with the spatula(s), and you’re ready to eat! ◆

Pesto, Cheese, and Salmon on Rice

Caution: writing this post made me super-hungry. Reading this post may make you super-hungry and/or in a mood for sushi probably more expensive than this. You’ve been warned.

This weekend’s been quite packed with a major event falling on each day: on Saturday, the Japanese culture class’ trip to Sankeien garden (words cannot describe how beautiful this place is so I’m installing a gallery plug-in instead for the post I hope to up); and on Sunday a trip to go see traditional horseback archery in action at Zushi (also to be covered in a future post). But once was all said and done with the yabusame, my group — having replaced not having had breakfast with a light lunch consisting of a frankfurter sans bun and a bottle of ramune — decided we’d eat at Sushiro, a restaurant a train stop away from Yokohama Station. Sushiro’s notable for being a restaurant that sells all of its plates of sushi at 105 yen (100 yen + 5 yen consumption tax).

Sushiro is a kaiten-zushi (“revolving sushi”) place, where sushi simply rides a conveyor belt tempting customers. But, for those who don’t readily see what they want, they have touchscreen menus that you can order anything with, including non-sushi items such as udon, karaage, French fries (?!), desserts, and so on. When they’re ready for you, the chefs will place them on the conveyor belt and the menu gadget will signal to you that your food is coming; your order is served on top of a stand indicating that it’s for your table. Most sushi platters come with a dab of wasabi on the inside by default, denoted by the yellow plate it’s served on; certain other sushi types (such as tamago, egg) do not, denoted by the white plate. (The touchscreen has a small button allowing wasabi-less order of items that come with wasabi.)

As I’d thought, Sushiro focuses more on nigiri than on the rolls popular in Western sushi restaurants (though they do serve some); and, of course, some of the things popular with American sushi lovers aren’t to be seen here (good-bye, California roll, good-bye!). In lieu of that, there are a pair of other dishes that caught my eye —

The first one is the salted beef kalbi sushi, perhaps the closest analog I can find to American teriyaki chicken sushi. Not as cold as the more fishy offerings, but just as melt-in-your-mouth delicious. No wasabi option available (though I suppose you can attempt to add some). As shown above, it comes with a light garnish of onions to accentuate the flavor. An interesting thing I noted is that the beef sort of seemed to taste like pepperoni…I’ve not had kalbi here yet, so I’m not sure what’s up with that, but I can at least tell you I don’t have as much of a craving for pizza as I did two days ago.

The second is their basil salmon sushi, which is actually an upgrade of their cheese salmon sushi (not pictured). The green topping there is a basil pesto sauce, the likes of which I sadly hadn’t seen in a while. It’s quite nice, actually — it takes the taste of salmon and instead of stopping there finishes off with a creamy pesto flavor. This is a dish I kept on returning back to — a third of what I ordered consisted of plates of this — so I was a bit surprised that I was the only one chowing down on this.

With sushi (albeit 100-yen sushi) crossed off my Japanese food list, I’ve got plans to hit up a yakiniku place with some friends next week. Do look forward to the ensuing post and complaints about my food coma! ◆

Hamakko Doushi: The Water: The Musing: The Blog Post

Out of all the “Yokohama goods” that seemingly exist, I’ve only come across one consumable — a brand of water labelled “Hamakko Doushi The Water“. Hamakko refers to Yokohama natives; doushi refers to Doushi Forest (道志の森) — a forest in neighboring Yamanashi prefecture from which the water’s supposedly sourced — but also can be a reference to the word doushi (同士) meaning fellow. Not quite sure how to compare the taste of this water with everything else I’ve had (I mean, come on, it’s water), but I thought it sort of interesting.

Also interesting is the fact that on the way to the station, nearly every vending machine carries this as their sole water option at 120 yen (~$1.50) a bottle, save for one that mysteriously sells it for 130 yen. Well, since a part of the proceeds go to “support volunteer forest preservation activities as well as African nations”, I guess there’s an option to donate just a bit more. ◆

The Japanese Food Top

While I was having breakfast today, I noticed that the pack of bread I’d bought* had a food balance guide panel — the first of its kind I’ve seen during my time here, and the first non-American one I’ve seen. The USDA food pyramid was an oft-ignored staple of my childhood, and is the one a handful of my friends and I recognize the most (newer ratio-based “portion plate” be damned). So, when I saw this, I was actually rather intrigued what Japan had to say about balance in food intake. Here’s a quick and dirty translation of this daily food intake “top” and its descriptions (notes, commentary, and reference to the rough equivalents on the old US food pyramid are in italics):

  • Top “Handle”: Water/Tea ~ Top Momentum: Exercise
  • 5-7 servings of Staple Foods (US: 2-3): one slice of loaf bread, 2~3 bread rolls, etc. (Pictured: sliced bread, rice, noodles, rice ball.)
  • 5-6 servings of Vegetable Sides (US: 3-5): a big plate of vegetable salad, a small dish of sautéed spinach, etc.
  • 3-5 servings of Main Dishes (US: 2-3): A sunny-side-up egg, a small plate of sautéed weiners, etc. (Also pictured: stuff like fish and hamburger steak.)
  • 2 servings of Dairy and Dairy Products (US: 2-3): Half a cup of milk, a slice of cheese, etc.
  • 2 servings of Fruits (US: 2-4): an apple, an orange, etc.

The rest of the display naturally talks about the importance of breakfast (“Breakfast begins your day”), and encourages people to follow the top. It also gives a link to balanceguide.com, which, in an odd twist, redirects to an English booking site for Balearic hotels. I guess if you’re dancing in Ibiza all night you’re definitely fulfilling the whole exercise and momentum thing, right? ◆

* Now that I’ve determined that 4-slice loaves are awesome I’m now fine-tuning my preference in Japanese bread. This particular pack is a bit more dense than the last, which I quite enjoy.

Hot Hiroshima-Style Yaki-on-Yaki Action

On an impulse, today for lunch I swung by Ganbaru-tei, the local Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki shop. Okonomiyaki, for those who don’t know, is a mishmash of things fried together and shaped into a sort of a pancake/pizza-ish shape (you might have heard it referred to as “Japanese pizza”). Hiroshima-style refers to the kind of okonomiyaki that, among other things, adds a layer of yakisoba underneath. Now, although I’ve had okonomiyaki twice since coming here, they were of the traditional potato/yam kind — wonderful, yes, but as a sucker for the Hiroshima style (and for noodles in general), I’d been meaning to go here for a while.

Above is their negi/soba okonomiyaki (~800 yen), listed on their specialty menu, which forgoes the common filling of cabbage with several healthy handfuls of bannou negi (“all-purpose leek/onion/chive”). Despite that, the flavor of the dish wasn’t terribly unbalanced (even if it did skew toward the onion flavor). ◆