Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Self-service booze in the Far East!

It's  no secret that I enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage, as does most of Japan, a country not being burdened by the cultural/religious baggage hauled to north america by Puritan fundamentalists. That being said, I enjoy exploring our new area in quest of old favorites and new experiences in the bacchanalian millieu.
Yesterday when we were out I spotted a rather large liquor shop near the Bullet Train Station in Shimonoseki. I entered with doubts since the last 2 weeks had turned up nothing of consequence. My fears were rapidly quelled by a view that reminded me of a "Liquor Barn" I used to frequent in Pacific Grove, California, on a much smaller scale of course.
I was quite pleased to find that they not only carried my favorite solera rum "Zacapa", but a wide variety of other imports. in fact the best selection I've seen in Japan to date.
Heading to the cash register with the last bottle of "Santa Teresa 1796" solera rum, I notice two very large earthenware casks against the wall. As you can see from the picture they provide the customer with a choice of either sweet potato(left) or wheat(right) spirits called shochu in Japanese. They provide the customer with self-service "hooch" in varying sized plastic bottles. I'm not clear on re-cycling the bottles, but they supply bottles in four different sizes.
Purist claim that the shochu from these casks tastes better as it continues the aging process until the time of purchase, thus making it better than the already bottled booze.
I contented myself with the previously mentioned rum and took some pictures while my mother-in-law commented that I took photos of everything, needless to say, but I will anyway, I'll be heading back there once my bicycle situation gets settled for a small bottle of each; just to see if the purists are right and to spin the Puritans in their graves.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's been 2 weeks since we moved here from the mouth of Tokyo Bay and we've seen almost nothing but rain. Not having a car really cramped our style there because of the lack of public transportation and crap taxi service. Here we have bus, train, and convenient taxis which don't charge you just to come pick you up. 
If and when the rainy season ends, I'm looking forward to getting a bus pass that allows me to ride all that I please for 3 months; plus I can ride the highway bus to Fukuoka for 1/2 price.
Last night we ordered in very reasonable sushi, which we never did in the previous place because it was "nutso" expensive. The same delivery service also brings a variety of pizzas and other "tsumami", drinking snacks.
The picture here shows how rainy it gets, but what it doesn't show is that this picture was impossible from our other house in minami boso area because, for some strange reason, they seem to insist on frosted windows that you can't see out of without opening to the elements. It's representative of how closed off they are there, personally and geographically.

Friday, April 27, 2012


HacciMargarita by osiodhachan
HacciMargarita, a photo by osiodhachan on Flickr.

If you happen to be driving down to Tateyama over the Golden Week Holiday (hope you enjoy traffic), make the trip worth the effort and stop by Hacci Brick Oven Pizza near Yawata Shrine. Not just pizza either, they have great salads, ribs and sausage as well. Cold draft beer and wine are also available.
If you want company all you have to do is Tweet. (Sounds like Bogart!)

Via Flickr:
Margarita Pizza at "Hacci" in Tateyama March 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Indoor grilling. Not always a good idea.

Warmer weather is finally here and it's almost time to do our cooking outdoors. Throwing caution to the wind and opening the windows we broke out our mini "yaki tori" grill. 
The instructions state plainly that it shouldn't be used indoors, but we are sure this is for those urban types who live in high rise hell. The smell would drive neighbors crazy and it lingers for a good 24 hours.

Iwatani tabletop gas grill.

Chicken balls and pork with Japanese basil.

Got to keep them moving or call the fire warden.

Put veggies along the side or they'll burn..

Genmai mochi rice cakes just starting to grill.

The mochi cakes will gradually puff up.

Much better than white rice mochi in my opinion.

This was really a great way to start outdoor cooking season even though it was indoors. We hope to share more pictures of BBQ and other delights this summer.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Inspire, motivate each other! A cycle that pays forward and back!

Inspiration sometimes comes from the ether and sometimes from a more tangible source. This morning, after an early morning call of nature, I thought I'd check my Twitter timeline briefly before returning to sleep. There Mr. Ken Mogi, a noted scholar/author here in Japan was extolling the virtues of walking for health and fitness, specifically in Tokyo. He remarked how one could see the city as a pedestrian in a much different perspective. His series of tweets inspired me to add my own experiences in the hope that they will inspire someone else to embark upon the journey to health, fitness and esthetic enjoyment of their surroundings.
Generally I am not much on self promotion, nor am I one to boast of accomplishments unless under the influence of strong drink. But for the sake of providing inspiration to others let me regale you with my personal achievements over the last year and a half.
I it was around my birthday and I was teaching a group of students before they went to a job that required them to be toughened up before they got there. My son was jogging with them in the early morning and I would cycle along to supervise and motivate the stragglers. After they graduated my birthday arrived and I took stock of my physical situation and decided, I couldn't stop aging and all the ills that attend it, but I could stop being a fat slob. I hate not being able to buy clothes without going to "big boy" shops and such. Having experienced "diets" before and the inevitable rebound that results when you go off the same, I felt the lifestyle modification was the only solution. 
I'm a big fan of the baseball player Ichiro Suzuki. One of the 3 best all-round players I have ever seen. I noticed that he is constantly stretching. In the field, before batting, he's always limbering up, keeping his muscles warm. So stretching became part of my routine. Upon waking, before getting out of bed I stretched; before walking I stretched; you name it, I stretched! It became a habit. Inspiration Ichiro!
Basic physics tells us that to generate heat you need fuel. Fat is stored up fuel and you need to use it to generate heat; the trick is to burn the food you intake everyday plus some of the stored fat. To accomplish this you have to move weight over distance to generate sweat. In fact any movement of the body results in thermogenesis, the production of heat. So to stimulate thermogenesis I began a 30 minute a day, weather reasonable, walking program. My goal was to lose 18 kilograms, or just under 40 pounds. Thankfully a mild winter permitted me to walk on a regular basis, averaging 20 days a month. I ate mainly traditional Japanese food and cut out sweets and alcohol completely for many months. The weight came off rather rapidly and I was happy until I got a new Tanita bathroom scale that told the sad tale; I had not only lost fat, but I also lost lots of muscle.
I did research on the web and discovered that muscle loss is insidious after age 30. You don't notice you are losing it because you are gaining fat that hides the muscle loss. Well, the line in the sand had to be redrawn. To rebuild muscle mass I started using one of my son's kettlebells and 2 kilo hand-weights. So in addition to stretching in bed before getting up I added a hand-weight routine. Getting off the computer 3 or 4 times a day and doing weight resistant exercises became a new part of my routine. 
After a while the weather improved and I added early morning, first light of day, cycling to my schedule, when the crazy wind of this peninsula allowed. Cycling was what really helped me persevere. Just as walking the same route everyday got boring I started on my bicycle and discovered absolutely beautiful scenery in the area. The solitude and coolness of the morning rides really gave me more energy throughout the whole day.
This all leads us back to thermogenesis. Not everyone has the kind of freedom of schedule that I have. Not everyone wants to or can go to bed a 9 PM in order to go train at 5 AM. If you do a web search for NEAT among the results you will find a reference to "non-exercise activity thermogenesis". This is good news for those who have busy schedules. NEAT is what keeps young people thin. They aren't exercising, but they are always moving, fidgeting, in motion. They have their metabolisms cranked up to full tilt boogie band speed every waking minute. Even while they sleep their metabolism is burning calories for growth. 
My post is well too long already and if you are still with me I thank you. Read up on NEAT and figure out how it can work for you. Also use the web to help you modify your lifestyle. "If nothing changes you'll get the same result", to quote Ichiro Suzuki.
By the way I did lose the 40 pounds and in the interest of full disclosure some of it has returned. I'll not bore you with excuses, but the determination is still there and the weather is better. All you need is someone or something to inspire you. Thank you Mr. Ken Mogi for today's inspiration

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy discovery on our 20th anniversary!

For those who do not know "yaki tori" is one of my passions. It's basically mini kebabs of various meats, chicken, vegetables. I first experienced it within four hours of arriving in Japan 25 years ago. I was told then to look for the little red lanterns outside of shops to find good, cheap, food and drink.
As fate would have it my first apartment was right next to a yaki tori shop. It became my "kitchen" and hangout for several years; the owners becoming great friends.
In this area, southern Chiba, yaki tori shops are few and far between. Fortunately we discovered a new shop the other day and decided to pay it a visit to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We were very happy with our decision.
"Ippo" or "One Step" has been in business for about 4 years now and is run by a former Ground Self Defense Force soldier, coincidentally my former hangout was also run by a former GSDF soldier and his wife. (Ironic that I always wind up around former soldiers.) The picture above shows the shop's logo on a coaster and some very delicious beef "kushi". The shop's layout is very similar to my old hangout in Kyushu. The draft beer comes from a freshly cleaned server lines, this generally not the case in Chiba prefecture. I would say that 8 out of 10 draft beer servers do not have their lines cleaned on a regular basis.
"Fuku Shogun" Nihon shu
Freshly caught "katsuo".

After a draft beer I moved on to the sake (Nihon Shu) pictured here to the right. A very mellow "Fuku Shogun" which means roughly "vice general". I had it at room temperature and it really complimented the fresh young tuna sashimi you see pictured above (the master gutted and cut it right in front of us).
Needless to say we were just beginning to have a good time when other like minded revelers stumbled in and the basic litany of questions ensued as to age, nationality and length of stay in Japan. I'm sure they will get to blood type the next trip. By the way, sports and politics are banned subjects at "Ippo" so we have to leave our soap boxes and logo ball caps at home.
Back to the subject at hand, food! a special item for my Google+ buddy Steve in San Diego who mentioned "mentaiko" just hours before my wife and I left the house. Below you can see beautiful golden brown chicken wings which are stuffed with the above mentioned spiced fish roe, "mentaiko".
Grilled wings stuffed with spiced fish roe!

I think it goes without saying that we will be a frequent patron at "Ippo" in the coming year. It's located in Tateyama not far from Number 3 Junior High School, across the street from Kiyota cake shop.

Below you can see the generous pour of Jack Daniels on the rocks, which led to more silliness and self portraits of happy campers.
Looks like a triple on the rocks!
3 sheets in the wind

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cafe Del Mar, a video visit.

Recently, we got a new action camera and since the only action we see is going out for a cycle or eating in a nice cafe, we decided to see how it works for food reviews and restaurant recommendations. My previous posts featured the wonderful curry and omelette with rice at Cafe Del Mar in Tateyama. Our charming host, Chika san, prepared the Indonesian fried rice you see in the video. Very delicious and mildly spicy. You really should watch the video in full screen. It's only 11 seconds.
As time goes by we hope to show you more video reports from the field. Is this how Anderson Cooper got his start?