Sunday, February 07, 2016

Amazing Sushi...

I'm forever ruined for conveyer belt sushi.  Forever.

One of my coworkers invited a few of us out to this new sushi restaurant he had recently found.  There was no English spoken, so it was pretty essential that we went with someone who spoke Japanese.  Luckily, we have a co-worker who is originally from Okinanwa and spent 19 years at Sasebo.  Sweet!

Time for a night out without the boys!  Hooray!  I was desperately needing a night of adult conversation...

We went to Maborikaigan and a quick walk from the station, found ourselves at the counter of a very small restaurant.  Total number of people who could be dining at one time?  14.  This is so typical in Japan and it's wonderful.  

I didn't start taking pictures until the second course...the amazing tuna (one gunkanmaki roll, and two pieces of nigiri sushi with tuna slices that were easily 5 inches long) was divine and flew into our mouths.

It gets a little bit complicated what types of fish came out next, but one thing was very clear..the chef said "no sauce" when he wanted to make sure we didn't put soy sauce on the pieces, since they were already seasoned.  

The topping on the below nigiri piece is a grated mountain yam that tastes a little like horseradish hand had an interesting consistency.  It's hard to describe, but it was great.

Mackerel, I think, with seasoned seaweed.  There was also an insanely huge piece of tamago on top of rice.  The most delicate, sweet tamago I have ever tasted.  Wow.  

About this time, we were served a shrimp soup with shrimp heads, shells and roe.  Wow.....

Ok, three delish sweet shrimp and a scallop.  Fresh, not fishy..tender, amazing.

Next up, seasoned octopus, seaweed from Okinawa and rice.  We stirred it up and down it went.  The octopus was absolutely the most tender octopus I've had.  No chewiness that people usually associate with it.

The final pieces...two gunkanmaki rolls.  One with seasoned roe....

And the other was top grade uni from Hokkaido "Number 1" as the chef said.  

This was my first time having uni (sea urchin roe) and I remember some of my friends had said it was strong, bad, etc.

This was like butter.  Delicate, rich.

Oh my.

So, for all this....we paid ¥3200 yen each.  Insanely cheap for the quality and I absolutely need to go back.  Our friend from Okinawa said this was basically the best he's had.  Ever.  

How many more of these small mom and pop places with insane food are out there???  That's what I want to know...

Strawberry Picking and the longest walk ever....

In hindsight, it was probably good that our day was simply strawberry picking and over a 6 mile walk instead of hiking up a couple of small mountains.  But, holy smokes, we we beat.

It all started innocently enough. The McGrath clan met up with a few other TDY folks and some awesome Japanese friends (not ours...but the old neighbor of one of our TDY guys when he lived here for 4years) and off we went for our strawberry adventure.

We took the Keikyu line to Tsukuihama and then went to the Tsukuihama Tourist Farms. We hopped on the bus and away we went!  

The main office to purchase tickets.  The cost for all you can eat and pick berries is ¥1700 for January and February and then declines a couple hundred yen a month through May, the end of the Strawberry season.  You would normally get your ticket, be assigned a greenhouse and then off you go.  We had a specific greenhouse we were going to, since thenJapanese ladies knew the owner of greenhouse 19.

When I was in Japan in December, it was pretty amazing how the strawberries were everywhere.  I know they are grown in greenhouses at home, but didn't realize what a big deal they are here.  All the fancy patisseries have some sort of strawberry chiffon cake or strawberry tart.  

The whole tourist farm industry is huge here.  There are a slew of MWR tours and many of them include a stop at a strawberry farm for the 30 minute all you can eat bonanza.

We took off all our jackets, got ready to pay our money (sadly, the kiddo was full price...sigh) and eyed up the greenhouse.  Each of the rows had different signs above it, noting the varieties of berries.  Some of the aisles were roped off (one was opened up just as we got there...score to knowing the owner!).  The directions are pretty precise.  Pull and twist from the stem, not on the fruit.  Eat everything except the leaves (and you are critiqued at the end).  Once you leave the greenhouse, no re-entry, Watch where you are walking, etc, etc.  

Gorgeous berries...we had to stare at these buties for a good 10 minutes while we got settled.

And, here we go!  Some of these are just enormous.  I'm pretty sure that all the fruit in these greenhouses is just for the u-pick variety and limited to-go.  There aren't any to go boxes (you would buy prepackaged berries at the front office if you wanted some to go), so what you pick and eat is what you get.  

First bites!  So sweet and juicy.  A white shirt was not a wise choice on my part.

My berries and condensed milk.  In the stores, tubes of condensed milk are sold alongside strawberries.  It all makes sense now.

We all did well for about 15-20 minutes.  Logan was the first one to tap out...and then Joe and I around the same time..sigh.  So good, but there are only so many delicious berries you can eat.

Our one takeaway from the cabbages!  So, I of course grabbed one and started planning to make Hungarian fried cabbage...

If you decide to walk to the farm. You can follow the strawberry flags...but it's a pretty busy road.  

The map of all the farms in the area.  There was so much farmland, it was a little hard to believe we were a short train or bus ride away.  You can see all the different seasons...oranges, sweet potatoes and....something else.  

And then...our insanely long walk started.  We were making our way...somewhere...through all the farmlands in the area.  

It looked like all the crops were harvested by hand.  We saw tons of cabbages being picked and staged in boxes throughout our walk.

Random tori gates...

Daikon radish.  I do have to say that the Japanese ladies had wonderful English.  Much better than our limited Japanese.  And we all had a nice time chit chatting the walk away.  They were explaining the area we were walking through, talking about our families...

The first of the Sakura blooms!

There was a delicious stop at a bakery, Bread Farm, for a mid point refresh and the. We kept on walking...We finally made our way back into..Takeyama, we think.  I loved this little egg stand along the road.  Just all fresh eggs and a few random produce items.  I grabbed a dozen, some carrots...and off we went.

A new vending machine for us...batteries.  These all seemed to be extremely rusty, so I'm not sure if it was still in use.  The Jaoanese ladies seemed surprised we hadn't seen a battery vending machine yet...

We finally (!!) ended up at a Chinese restaurant (no English, so we were at the mercy of the Jaoanese ladies) and had ourselves stuffed silly.  The original order was for three plates of gyoza (two different kinds).  They added pickles, spicy eggplant, Shanghai noodles, fried rice, and some kind of chicken.  Ridiculous. The kiddo slayed (!!!) the gyoza.  That little boy can pack those away like there's no tomorrow.  By the time we rolled ourselves out of there, we hoped there was no more walking.  Luckily, the bus stop was a few minutes away and it took us straight to the JR station in Yokosuka. 

Logan did very well with all the walking.  There was definitely some carrying, but he was a trooper.  We had picked up some sando and onigiri from the 7-11 before we left Yokosuka and barely needed it.  Especially since I seem to be picking spicy sandwiches.  Oh well.

It was an exhausting, long day.  By the time we made it home around 1630, it was a little bit stunning that it all started at 0930 from Liberty Cove.  But, what an experience and adventure.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Kannonzaki Roller Park

On my list of places to go, Kannonzaki Park was near the top.  It's at the south east end of the Muira peninsula...the same peninsula we are on and it's known for the lighthouse and roller slides. Joe was feeling sick, but Logan and I still ventured out to see if we could find the roller slides.  Maps aren't the greatest, if you can't read kanji, but I had a general sense of where they were...

We hopped on bus 24 right outside our door and rode it all the way to the end.  This was a great way to see the city around Yokosuka and I'm gaining confidence in our ability to take the bus.  We got off, went in the general direction of the park and started walking.  Logan opted to take the path less traveled and we found ourselves scrambling up a hill, with very steep stair cases, rough rocks and long steel hill sides.  It was definitely an adventure, but we hooked up with the main trail quickly.  We were walking along and ran across a walking group...many of them said hello and good morning to us with huge smiles..very cool.

After a little bit, I saw the jungle gym that I had remembered from another blog post.  I suspected a roller slide was at the end of this structure.

Can I just say that Japanese park definitely are not engineered for safety the way that American parks are...this is both good for the kids and terrifying for me, especially since my kid is a huge adventurer...

Off we climbed....

The end of the climbing ends up at this structure with the shorter roller slide to the right of the picture and the larger one to the left.  I had purchased butt scoots at the ¥100 for us and they came in handy. Logan did the shorter one by himself, but we ended up doing the longer one together. 

After a short snack stop, we started walking and found a large garden /park area.  In another month or two, I'm sure it will be gorgeous.  It was plenty pretty, though, with large open spaces, nicely placed trees and some smaller flowers in bloom. 

After another 20-ish minute walk...we found it.  The big slide.  I could tell it was going to be steep, so I figured we would go down together.  I got us positioned on the scoot, camera in hand...and we were flying.  Holy smokes this thing was fast!  Seriously, it's a good thing the sides of the slide were there.  We got to the bottom of the slide and the "landing area" had a big puddle in the middle of it.  Rush-roh.  We were going fast....and, I mistimed the bottom, so we ended up falling into the water and soaking the bottoms of our pants.  Soaking.  Figures, the one time I didn't bring spare pants for the kiddo.  

We laughed it off and the older Japanese man who was working at the bottom made sure we were ok...Logan was a little stunned and just needed us to help convince him that it was fun (and funny!) we got there eventually.  But it was a little iffy for a minute or two.  I reminded Logan that he wanted water, he got water slides.  He didn't find that too funny...

At the bottom of the slide, there was another obstacle course. Off we went!  The ideal age was 6-12 years old, so a few of the things didn't work too well, but for the most part, he did a great job.

We went down the roller slide one more time.  I thought again about taking some video and had a couple of 1 second clips.  But between holding onto the kiddo, the butt scoot and the camera, I figured focusing on two of those things were better than the camera.  

We took a different way down the hill to see if we could avoid having all the way to the end of the bus was an excellent map.  The big slide is in yellow next to Logan's hand. We successfully got from the red dot to the second or third bus stop from the end and we even had time to grab a sandwich and onigiri (stuffed rice ball) at the Family Mart.

We had a blast.  Joe was jealous of our adventures and wants to head back there so he can experience the huge slide.  It'll be hard to do a repeat, when our adventures keep us going, but since it's so close...I'm sure we will make time.  

Until another adventure!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Exploring Yokosuka

After working each Saturday since we've been here, I told my boss I was taking the day off.  No plans, no traveling...just relaxing around town.  Joe wanted to go to the Yokohama craft brewers festival, so off he went and Logan and I had our fun.  

We had a play date with a friend in the building for a while in the was still a little rainy and windy out, which made for good timing.  After nap, we were ready to hit the town and see how far we could go!

Our first order of business was Starbucks for hot cocoa and a cookie. They have a nice little toy area too, so Logan could mix it up and get some playing in while he was enjoying his treat.  These are pics from our last hot cocoa date while Joe was working....

And, off we went.  I had a couple places in particular to go...a convenience store that supposedly has funky candy, a food basement to look for evaporated milk...and the ¥100 for plastic sleds for the park.  

The Picasso convenience store in Yokosuka was a bust....we could a few small pieces of candy, but nothing crazy (no banana m&ms). I did find this beauty, but resisted....

Darn...the food basement was also a bust, but we had an awesome time looking at all the food.  Logan has watched Masterchef Junior a little bit and one of the episodes had the kids opening and cleaning scallops from their shells, then cooking with them.  Scallops are relatively to open and clean for little hands, since you can use a butter knife and spoon. And in the food basement, they had scallops in their shells, so we probably spent 10 minutes talking about them and looking at the packaging.  

We kept wandering and found ourselves at Mikasa Park, at the far end of the main downtown from where we are.  There were all kinds things to jump over and around...a big old Japanese warship...fountains, a playground, water...tons of fun.  It'll be much nicer when it's a title warmer..

By this point, we were over by the Yokosuka Port Market, a place I've been wanting to visit for some time.  Logan and I wandered over there and I picked up some bean sprouts, mizuna greens and filled with chocolate and one with...??? Still waiting to find out.  Prices were fair.. ¥46 for bean sprouts feel like a great steal.  

Now it was time to head back home.  I asked Logan if he wanted ramen with potstickers or conveyer belt sushi....

Yes, this is meatball sushi.  I could try to force the issue more and have him try salmon, shrimp, etc.  his big adventure this time were the tiny little roe that they put on top of some of the sushi pieces.  And he loved them.  Little by little, I don't mind getting him to try more. Plus, this was a double win as he actually ate the rice and seaweed that the meatballs came with.  

In all, we walked something like 3+ miles this afternoon.  With no complaining, request for picking up, etc.  it was awesome.  We just took our time, ran when we needed to (lights changing color) and this the solution?  Time will tell...

Big plans for Sunday...Kannonzaki Roller Slides....woohoo....