No…not Nathan Fillion

A single word can conjure up a world of images inside a person’s mind. I have a C word on my mind. What images are coming up for you? What do you see? Donde esta la biblioteca? I guess it would be a good idea for me to finish the word I have in mind. It’s Castle. These magnificent pieces of architectural design are known for their opulence and long history. America, unfortunately has neither. The only person to have a castle in my country was a newspaper mogul who liked pools. I’ve been to his castle too, and then I went and ate Italian food somewhere. Here are some pictures of Castles in Japan.

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Nakatsu castle 2

Kokura Castle

It may be hard to believe, but these are three different castles in three different prefectures of Japan. Hyogo, Oita and Fukuoka respectively, or disrespectively…I’m never sure which one. They all look strikingly familiar except for some variance in color and height. And surprisingly, they all still have the same coca cola vending machines they did back when they were first built too.

 

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Spooky Tiramisu and Other Great Band Names

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It was the night before Halloween and all through the house, not a monster was stirring, not even a creepy tiramisu dorayaki! Well, maybe things were stirred during the process of making it, but this isn’t a cooking blog, so I’m not gonna get into it. Speaking of creepy things…riddle me this, Robert Lowery as Batman: What has two chocolate truffles, two chocolate pancakes and cheese whip? Well, I said it already. It’s tiramisu dorayaki. And it is delectably devilish. Actually, those eye ball truffles are amazing. I would buy twenty of these just to eat the eyes as I sit and ponder about what creature its supposed to look like. I’m not sure to be honest, but I am sure it’s delicious. Do you like my eerie, flashlight as a backlight noir picture I took of it? I may like that picture more than most of my own family portraits. Just kidding, of course.

dorayaki reference

Dorayaki, if you didn’t know, is usually fried, or I guess griddled. Like a McGriddle, or something else that…well you know what I’m talking about. It’s two pancakes with a sweet, red bean paste in the middle and it’s  generally served and mostly enjoyed hot. It’s also Doraemon’s favorite food. If you don’t know who Doraemon is, look him up, I’m not running a Doraemon fan page here. Although I have drawn him like one of my French girls before. Many times. This, however, was not hot because its a tiramisu version of Dorayaki. Understand? Good, because I don’t. I’m also not sure what cheese whip is, but that’s what it says on the package. I am sure what spooky is, however, and this tasty treat was extremely that. So, hop on a plane, get off that plane, go to your nearest Japanese 7/11 and pick some up now! Because after Halloween, they will be gone! Or at least marginally discounted.

 

El Borracho Mexican Restaurant!

Mexican food is very difficult to find in rural Japan, so you often have to go to a large city to find some. I ate at El Borracho in Fukuoka City a couple years ago and it was quite delightful. There are two in the city that I know of, and they are both hidden deep within a maze of shopping centers and escalators.

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I want to touch on three things here. If you look at the photograph, I’m wearing a Japanese Star Wars shirt. It’s just awesome. Secondly, most people in Japan that I’ve talked to have no idea what Nachos are, and that bums me out quite intensely. It’s an intense bumming. I got a text from a friend after telling her about Nachos, she was in Tokyo eating Nachos for the first time with about eight of her colleagues and was texting me about how much she was enjoying them. It was the proudest moment of my life.

And lastly, I did not ask for an entire six pack of beer in one glass. I asked for a beer while at El Borracho in Fukuoka city (Tenjin area), and they asked me if I wanted a “large”. Generally, where I’m from, “large” doesn’t mean “bigger than my head”, but that’s exactly what I got. I think I drank two that night.

All Along the Purple River, Riverwalk the Line, River by Riverwalk, and Other Dumb Titles

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Where can you find a shopping mall, a castle and a purple river all in the same place? I’m not going to wait for you to answer. I’m sorry. I don’t have time for that malarkey. It’s the Riverwalk KITAKYUSHU!!!!! Right in the [insert internal organ] of Kokura City, there is a six-story shopping mall right across the street from a Castle. You heard that right….a real-life Castle! Kokura Castle, to be more specific. And sometimes, if you go there on the weekends, you can see people playing guitar or (as I saw recently) singing karaoke, right along the Purple (Murasaki) River. And sometimes, its entertaining.

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The building itself is cool because its three different architectural designs in one. It even has a temple nestled in one of its crevices. Or maybe, the Riverwalk is just an abscess on the back side of the Temple… That’s a pleasant visual. These are also pleasant visuals!

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riverwalk view

Riverwalk sign

On the bottom floor is a Starbucks, which is always busy, and on the third floor is a music store. Those are the only two stores in the entire mall. Not really. There is also a cinema, an art museum, an arcade, a Baskin Robbins, and many other places where one can make merry in the enjoyment of purchasing food, drink and assorted material goods. I think I even saw a 100 YEN shop, too.

River at the walk

And also, in the lobby you can often find free live performances of various kinds. Last weekend, there were kids dressed up as Mario and Luigi rehearsing for something backstage as a band with dancers were performing the Japanese version of “Under the Sea” from Little Mermaid. If you can dream it, they probably have it. Or not, I don’t know what you dream about.

Happiness is a Fluffy Apricot

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I’m not sure what this is, but I am sure that I eat it quite a bit. It’s a tiny, palm sized gelatin pudding called “Mango Jure and Fluffy Apricot”. I spent hours on the internet trying to figure out what the kanji on it says. I should take classes on how to find things on the internet more quickly.

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The top half is like a sweet mango gelatin with two pieces of, what I can only assume is, mango resting inside. And the bottom half is the mystery that took quite awhile for me to solve. It’s a white, milky substance that tastes a lot like powdered sugar and milk blended together. I spent some time trying to decipher the kanji on the front of the package myself because I have an odd aversion to asking people questions about things.

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Apparently, this substance is fluffy apricot. Who knew? Whatever it is, its very sugary and very amazing. I visited the Annin Café promotion page for this product and there might have been a flavor competition earlier this year. There are two other flavors that I know of: Grapefruit and Grape. The grapefruit one is pink and a little too sour for me, and the grape one just smells too much like the grape flavored “Strong” alcoholic drink and I just can’t bring myself to enjoy it very much.

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The sweet mango flavor is amazing though and you can find it at 7/11. I highly recommend it!

The Epic of Archimedes and the Trials at Douwasai

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A long time ago, around May 2018, a great trial befell our hero. Who is Archimedes, you ask? No, he’s not a Greek mathematician from Syracuse. He’s not even a bartender from Temecula. Archimedes is my guitar. Purchased from a living room sized music shop in rural Japan, this guitar has vanquished monsters and beasts along streets and inside coffee shops…and when I say monsters and beasts, obviously I mean songs, and by vanquished I mean played, but its still epic.

My first guitar

I remember sitting at work the day I bought it. I turned to a co-worker with a gleam in my eye, it frightened him at first but I assured him my intentions were not malicious. I said, “I have a question”, he with responded with, “…” well, he responded with whatever he used to say in Japanese that was roughly slang for ‘what is it?’ but I can’t remember what that is right now. I asked him, “How do I say ‘I want to buy a guitar’ in Japanese?” He looked deep in thought for a moment, then grabbed a piece of paper off my desk and wrote ‘Kaitai’. I looked down at the paper, then back up at him. I eyed him suspiciously for what seemed like an hour. We were like two cowboys against the setting sun, hands hovering tickling the air above our hips. I’m kidding. I said, “What does that mean” and he said, “It means ‘I want to buy’.” That was a really long story for about 30 seconds of interaction, but whatever, I’m over it.

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Apart from coffee shops and along the street, last May I got the amazing opportunity to play my music at the Children’s Fairytale Festival at a huge park in my old town of Kusu. It’s called Douwasai in Japanese and I not only got to play on a huge stage, but I was also in front of a giant koi fish! A giant koi fish you can walk through! Every time people walked through that fish, they would exit right in front of my stage. They would be forced to look at me! My plan was perfect! I got to play for 45 minutes, twice, that day. Honestly, I would have been ok with about 20 minutes because my songs aren’t that long, what with growing up listening to Bay Area skater punk.

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According to an old facebook post of mine, apparently the guitar only cost me $160.00 USD and I received a free strap, free bag, free stand and free allen wrenches…for you know, allen wrenching. The guy I bought it from was super nice and he even has a recording studio in his music store that some of my friends record music at. His shop is called Okawa Music, so if you are ever in Kusu, Oita, you should check it out! Oh yeah, and while I was playing at this Festival there was a group of children making wooden stools over to my left. Every so often when they would all be hammering their stools at the same time, it would interfere with my mic and make a loud buzzing sound. It was funny. I guffawed valiantly as I slayed the beasts at Douwasai!

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Miso with a Chance of Omelet Squares

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I stayed the night at a friends house a couple months ago and was delightfully greeted after waking up the next morning with a home cooked Japanese breakfast. The picture above this paragraph is neither my friends cooking, nor home-cooked (probably). It’s just a stock photo with a public domain license and my stupid face edited in. The truth about Japanese breakfasts does lie within this…lie… of a photo however, and this is exactly what I ate at my friends house. I had rice, miso soup and grilled fish. Before I move on, I do want to mention that the rice I ate was his own home-grown rice. He grew that rice, then harvested it, then cooked it and fed it to me…I mean not all in the same day, but still, that’s amazing.

A typical Japanese breakfast consists of those aforementioned things that are rice, miso soup and grilled fish. Rice is generally enjoyed with most meals and fish is just really easy to find because Japan is a group of islands closely surrounded by water, mountains, cities and forests at every turn like an overworld in a Legend of Zelda game. Eggs do enter the equation every once in awhile, either by way of small bite-sized hard boiled eggs that go great in soups and salads, sugary omelet squares called Tamagoyaki, and very runny scrambled eggs. I’m not complaining about the runny eggs because they taste good, but its like eating egg pudding.

hotel breakfast

I ate at the Richmond Hotel in Nagasaki with my family back in April and we got to enjoy a classic hotel breakfast buffet! Here’s a picture of one of our trays. They had meatballs, scrambled eggs, egg salad, rice, soup, other things I can’t remember, and a whole lot of other things that I didn’t even look at because stuff is confusing in Japan sometimes. They also had this fish that was labeled as “horse mackerel”. I’m still not sure what it was because I’m a scaredy-cat who hates trying new things, but my dad tried it.

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Honestly, when it comes to breakfast I generally stick with convenience store pre-packaged goodness.

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Donut

Yes, I said goodness and I’m not taking it back. My very first breakfast in Japan was not only from a convenience store, but it was my very first (seen and eaten) pre-packaged SINGLE donut. A single pre-packaged donut. These are all the rage here (according to me). They even have some glazed donuts where only a quarter of the donut is chocolate glazed and the rest is regular glazed. It’s so innovative. I also really enjoy the pizza breads, because when pizzas on a bread, you can eat pizza anytime! Although I still stay away from the pizza breads with corn on it. That’s just nonsensical and churlish.