Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Itsuku-shima Jinja Shrine

During our trip to Hiroshima we also visited a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered a national treasure. Other than that, I don't know much else about the history of the place. I've seen many pictures of this beautiful shrine and had always wanted to visit. The day we visited it was raining pretty hard. We took a boat from our hotel to the little island as a day trip. The red tori (gate) in the water with the rain added to the dramatic effect and it was absolutely beautiful.We even got to see a part of a traditional Japanese wedding going on at the temple that day.
Miyajima is also known for it's deer population. The deers are pretty domesticated and friendly towards tourists. They are wandering all over the island.One deer even tried to eat my sis-in-law's shirt!

Monday, September 28, 2009

A-Bomb Memorial

No, we didn't go to Hiroshima just to eat. We took a trip to Hiroshima with the family to get a little history lesson on the events of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.On August 6, 1945 the first nuclear bomb to be used against mankind detonated directly above this dome building in Hiroshima, Japan. When the bomb exploded, thousands of badly burned victims jumped into the rivers but most didn't survive. Stories say that the river was red with blood and thousands of corpses were floating in the water. My visit to Hiroshima was frightening and depressing. To see and read about the after effects of the bombing at the Hiroshima Peace memorial Museum made me seriously think about war and humanity.
The museum was quite graphic; displaying gory photos and objects of people injured or killed in the bombing. Grandma and otousan didn't come inside the museum because they said they had been there before. I totally understand, because it is a place I never want to visit again. Once is enough. It's hard to think that America did such a horrible thing to Japan, especially since my father is American and my mother is Japanese.The high radiation levels of the atomic bomb continue to affect people today. Children were born with disabilities and diseases. There is a famous story about a little girl named Sadako Sasaki who was two years old and living in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb dropped. Ten years later, because of radiation, she died of Leukemia in 1955. Now, there is a Children's memorial dedicated to her and all children who suffer from war. Hundreds of thousands of paper origami cranes made by children adorn the memorial.
A Nuclear Abolition Flame is lit near the A-Bomb dome. It is a flame that will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. I hope that in my lifetime the flame will no longer burn.

Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki

After Osaka, we got on the bullet train and headed to Hiroshima. It was my first time there, and when in Hiroshima you must try the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. I've only had (and cooked) the typical Osaka-style okonomiyaki before so I was very excited to try this different version.
Once we got off the train, my eyes were bombarded with rows and rows of okonomiyaki restaurants. It was hard to choose one, but in the end we decided on "Yocchan".
A small restaurant with a counter and only a few tables, you can watch the chefs whip up the massive okonomiyakis. I wonder how many of these okonomiyakis the chefs make daily, because they got it down to a skill!
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is quite different from the Osaka okonomiyaki. It is like a thin, crepe-like batter topped with lots and lots of cabbage and yakisoba noodles. It's actually a lighter meal than the Osaka okonomiyaki that uses lots of heavy flour. I think I even prefer the Hiroshima okonomiyaki.
If you wish, you can add thin slices of meat or seafood. Drench your okonomiyaki in special sauce and you're good to go. Okonomiyaki's are something you definitely have to experience when you go to Hiroshima.
YOCHHAN OKONOMIYAKI
お好み焼き よっちゃん
広島県広島市中区基町11-10 プライム紙屋町 B1F
Tel: 082-221-8267

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Minoh Waterfall

The Minoh Waterfall is located in the Meiji Memorial Forest Minoh Quasi-National Park and was near the ryokan that we were staying at. It wasn't quite Iguazu falls, but it was a beautiful waterfall nonetheless. The quaint little red bridge with a waterfall backdrop really made me feel like I was in Japan. We originally made the hike to the waterfalls hoping to spot some monkeys but unfortunately didn't see any. The area was surrounded by lush forest mountains and the trees were slightly beginning to change color. So far in my life, I've always been a student or teacher (and the school year begins in September) so even though I've been to Japan over 2 dozen times I have never experienced Japan in autumn. I hear that in October & November the mountains turn color to vivid reds and oranges. In Southern California I've never really experienced the four seasons, so I hope I get to see that one day.

Osaka's Rising Sun

The upside of jet lag is waking up early enough to watch the sunrise. On our second day in Japan, we took the bullet train to visit grandma who lives in Osaka. Normally we stay in a hotel, but on this trip we stayed in a fabulous ryokan (a Japanese style inn) called Kaze no Mori. I woke up before 5am and I went to take a dip in the Onsen before anyone else woke up. It was so relaxing to take a warm bath outside with the cool air on my face, just watching the day begin.
Since I was the only one in the baths, I took a photo before anyone showed up. Ahhhhh I absolutely love onsens. On this short trip to Japan we went to onsen 3 times and in those 3 days I took at least 10 baths. That's how much I love onsens.
The other great thing about staying at a ryokan is the meals. Most places serve up a traditional Japanese style breakfast and dinner. At this particular ryokan in Osaka, we enjoyed a full spread of a Japanese breakfast.
I was so content to eat such wonderful food for breakfast!
They even gave us natto (my favorite).
The meal had fish, eggs, various pickles, rice, miso soup and yudofu (which is a very simple dish of tofu simmered in a kombu dashi).
So delicious, so relaxing. It felt like a true vacation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tsukiji Fail Blog

Even before boarding our flight to Tokyo, we knew that we would visit Tsukiji the next morning. The upside of jet lag is that we would wake up extra early the first few days... early enough to be the first ones at the famous Tsukiji fish market when they open at around 4-5am.

I was so excited to eat a fresh sushi breakfast and when we arrived at Tsukiji around 4:30am we thought we beat the crowds. "Yes! We're going to be first in line!" I thought... and then we started walking around the markets to see nobody. Just emptiness.
Then we saw this sign. (The Market is Closed Today). NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Say it ain't so. I thought Tsukiji was never closed except for national holidays and Sundays!?
The only thing open was this 24 hour sushi restaurant we stumbled upon a few blocks outside of the Tsukiji market. This place had to do since there was nothing else open at 5am, and our stomachs were hurting for some sushi.
We were the only customers in the restaurant and the sushi chef seemed happy to have some company and people to talk to. He informed us that the Tsukiji Fish market closes on some random Wednesdays. According to him, most people don't even know when they close. Great.The sushi was better than most places in Los Angeles, but wasn't nearly as good as our past Tsukiji sushi experience.
The seafood was fresh, and it did quiet our cravings but left a little more to be desired.
At least I got to eat my favorite! Akagai (Pepitona clam or ark shell?) love the texture, crunchy and chewy.

Oh, well maybe next time. On our next visit I want to try Daiwa Sushi inside of Tsukiji.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Did It!

I ran my very first (1/2) marathon yesterday! I ran the "Happiest Race on Earth!"
I didn't train for it as much as I hoped to, but at least I made it to the finish line! My time for 13.1 miles was 3hours and 15 minutes. I wasn't the fastest runner but at least I got the blinging medal for completing the race! I am so proud of myself.The marathon was so much fun. We ran through Disneyland, California Adventureland, and even inside the Anaheim stadium. I'm so sore, I can barely walk right now... but I can't wait till next year's marathon. My goal is to be under 3 hours next time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Coconut and Walnut Baklava

Baklava is so yummy. I'm into anything with a good crispy crunch. I've had my share of Baklava in Greece and Turkey, and they were all delicious. The delicate layers of Baklava and combination of sweet honey is really a dream. Baklava is also one of hubby's favorite desserts, so I had to try my hand at making it myself.
I thought that phyllo dough might be hard to come by, but all of the ingredients were easy to find at my local grocery store. Once I got the hang of handling the delicate dough, layering the walnut mixture and dough was quite fun. Hubby is also a big fan of coconut so I added some for a chewier texture. The baklava came out perfect! My friends and I ate them all up.

COCONUT BAKLAVA RECIPE

Ingredients:
1 cups walnuts (chopped)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup sweet cream butter, melted
1 package phyllo pastry, thawed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey
chopped pistachios for topping

Directions:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 35o degrees.
2. Mix the walnuts, coconut, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
3. Brush the bottom of a square baking pan with butter.
4. Butter each later of the phyllo dough and layer 4 sheets at a time then add walnut mixture and repeat the layers until you use up all of the nut mixture and dough.
5. Slice the baklava into small squares with a sharp knife.
6. Bake in for 25-35 min until golden brown on top, make sure you check on it often because phyllo dough burns easily.
7. For the syrup: bring the water, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
8. Add the honey and simmer for another 2 minutes.
9. Pour the syrup over the baklava when it comes out of the oven and decorate with crushed pistachios.
10. Let the baklava cool for a few hours and let they syrup seep in before eating.

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