Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Osaka - Japan Saturday, March 27th 2010

We had a late start today , we decided to sleep in and do some laundry after all the traveling. We had a great Curry lunch in one of the places that was soon to become the kid’s favorite eating spot. This was a tinny restaurant with the husband cooking and the wife serving and cleaning the tables. I had a chicken curry with spinach and corn, my friend Natsumi had her curry with eggplant and everybody else got the curry with the famous Tonkatsu (breaded deep-fried pork).

We spent the afternoon exploring the Osaka Castle, it is beautiful with all the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

The construction of Osaka Castle (Osakajo) started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga thirteen years earlier. Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule. It was the largest castle at the time.
However, a few years after Hideyoshi's death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615. Osaka Castle was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main castle tower was struck by lightening in 1665 and burnt down.

It was not until 1931 that the present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the castle tower was built. During the war it miraculously survived the city wide air raids. Major repair works gave the castle new glamour in 1997. The castle tower is now entirely modern on the inside and even features an elevator for easier accessibility. It houses an informative museum about the castle's history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Late in the afternoon it was time to head out to the Sumo wrestling competition!!!! Oh, boy that was a fun experience such an interesting event we sure learned a lot about the rules and different ranks. My favorite thing was watching the people and all the advertising and fun signs. We also enjoyed all the delicious snacks.

After 2 hours of Sumo it was time to explore the night life of Osaka and also grab dinner at a Ramen noodle stand…….I would fly to Japan just to have those noodles again……..SO, SO GOOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDDD…..
Ramen noodles are very popular noodle dishes in Japan. Chukamen noodles which are made from wheat flour are boiled and put in various flavored soup. Although ramen originated in China, there are many regional sociality ramen available in Japan, and ramen shops are located all over Japan.
Ramen is quite simply Japan's premiere fast food. Ramen is something of an obsession in Japan. Yearly guides to the best ramen-ya are published in all of Japan’s major regions. Famous ramen-ya are promoted in tourist brochures right next to cultural and historic landmarks. Outside these local landmarks, crowds gather at lunch and dinnertime, willing to line up and wait regardless of the weather, sometimes for as long as an hour. Ramen stadiums, featuring five to ten ramen-ya from all over the country, are a common feature on the upper floors of department stores.
Many ramen-ya have a ticket vending machine. To order, buy a ticket, and then hand it to your server once your Ramen is ready he will hand it to you. The buttons are always in Japanese. This particular ramen place people just stand up and eat next to the counter. I tell you the food was so good who needs a chair?????

After our delicious meal we walked around town went to a bakery and got some amazing cream puffs…….Good thing we did a lot of walking we definitely ate way more than we should. But the food was so good it was hard to say no =;)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Japan March 25th and 26th

On Thursday After grabbing some delicious pastries at Nagasaki train Station we took off to Hiroshima. As always the trains were on time and we had a nice ride enjoying our bento boxes.

Oh my, what an amazing experience to read and hear all about what took place here in Hiroshima and to be standing at peace park… A very humbling experience indeed, so sad…..
Hiroshima is the principal city of the Chugoku Region and home to over a million inhabitants.
When the first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the city became known worldwide for this unenviable distinction. The destructive power of the bomb was tremendous and obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometer radius.
After the war, great efforts were taken to rebuild the city. Predictions that the city would be uninhabitable proved false. Destroyed monuments of Hiroshima's historical heritage, like Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien Garden, were reconstructed. In the center of the city a large park was built and given a name that would reflect the aspirations of the re-born city: Peace Memorial Park.
Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park is one of the most prominent features of the city. Even visitors not looking for the Peace Park will likely stumble upon the large park of over 120,000 square meters. Its trees, lawns, and walking paths are in stark contrast to the surrounding downtown area.

Before the bomb, the area of what is now the Peace Park was the political and commercial heart of the city. For this reason, it was chosen as the pilot's target. Four years to the day after the bomb was dropped, it was decided that the area would not be redeveloped but instead devoted to peace memorial facilities.
The park's main facility is the Peace Memorial Museum. Consisting of two building, the museum surveys the history of Hiroshima and the advent of the nuclear bomb. Its main focus though is on the events of August 6; the dropping of the bomb and its outcome in human suffering. The personal details displayed are quite upsetting. The museum is geared to accommodate its international visitors.
The A-Bomb Dome, also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, is what remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The building served as a location to promote Hiroshima's industries. When the bomb exploded, it was one of the few buildings to remain standings, and remains so today. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the A-Bomb Dome is a tangible link to Hiroshima's unique past.
Between the Museum and the A-Bomb Dome is the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims. The Cenotaph is an arched tomb for those who died because of the bomb, either because of the initial blast or exposure to radiation. Below the arch is a stone chest holding a register of these names, of which there are over 220,000.

Hiroshima Castle, sometimes called Carp Castle, is five stories tall and its grounds are surrounded by a moat. There is a shrine on the grounds, as well as one main gate. Hiroshima developed as a castle town, whereby the castle was both the physical center of the city and the source of its prosperity.
Built in 1589 by the powerful feudal lord Mori Terumoto, Hiroshima Castle was an important seat of power in Western Japan. It was spared the destruction that many other castles met during the Meiji Restoration, and survived into the modern era. Unfortunately, like the rest of the city, Hiroshima Castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945.
Rebuilt after the war, Hiroshima Castle's wooden exterior makes it a reconstruction with a considerable semblance of authenticity. Inside the castle is a small but informative museum on Hiroshima's history, Hiroshima Castle, and Japanese castles in general.

Just before heading back to Osaka we had some amazing Udon noodles for dinner soooo goood!
Udon is usually served hot as noodle soup in a mildly flavoured broth, in its simplest form as kake udon, served in kakejiru made of dashi, soy sauce (shōyu), and mirin. It is usually topped with thinly chopped scallions. Other common toppings include tempura, often prawn or kakiage (a type of mixed tempura fritter), or abura age, a type of deep-fried tofu pockets seasoned with sugar, mirin, and soy sauce. A thin slice of kamaboko, a halfmoon-shaped fish cake, is often added. Shichimi can be added to taste.
The flavor of broth and topping vary from region to region. Usually, dark brown broth, made from dark soy sauce (koikuchi shōyu) is used in eastern Japan, and light brown broth, made from light soy sauce (usukuchi shōyu) is used in western Japan. This is even noticeable in packaged instant noodles, which are often sold in two different versions for east and west.

Japan March 24th Nagasaki

We had a great time Exploring Nagasaki for a day.
As one of Japan's closest port cities to the Asian mainland, Nagasaki has played a prominent role in foreign trade relations for many centuries and was the most important of only a very few ports open to restricted numbers of foreign traders during Japan's period of isolation.
Glover Garden is an open air museum, exhibiting mansions of former Western residents of Nagasaki. It is located on the hill where Western merchants settled down after the end of Japan's era of seclusion in the second half of the 19th century.
The exhibited buildings include the mansions of British merchants Frederick Ringer and William Alt and the former residence of Thomas Glover, a Scottish merchant. A nice panorama of the city can be enjoyed from the garden.

In the evening we were ready to get some delicious noodles this is the only place in Japan were you can eat this traditional dish called Chanpon!!!! So, So Tasty…..
Chanpon - Hearty chanpon noodles that embody the culture of Nagasaki

Nagasaki chanpon was created when Chin Heijun, a Chinese restaurant owner in Shikairo, suggested a cheap and nutritious dish for visiting Chinese students who lived frugally at the time. The first version was just a simple combination of pork and bamboo shoots, but eventually it came to include locally abundant ingredients and seafood such as squid, oysters, and shrimp harvested from Nagasaki's coastal waters. Also characteristic is the unique flavor achieved by adding Chinese lye to the noodles, which is normally included in the skins of Chinese dumplings. The origin of the word "chanpon" is the Fujian word shapon, which means "to eat a meal." Some believe it combines the sound of the Chinese bell, chan, and the pon sound of Japanese drums. One can say that Nagasaki's chanpon is a specialty born in Nagasaki yet matured under the influence of its creators, ingredients, and environment.