Sunday, June 26, 2005

Real life in Japan - Visiting the Nishikubo's

As a wonderful end to our trip, dad's friend Takeshi Nishikubo invited us over to his house in the town of Motokaji, about an hour outside of Tokyo by train, where Nishi-san grew up.

Nishi met us at the train station and drove us over to the local supermarket (where Nishi's wife, Kazue, works part-time) to pick up food for lunch. Japan has changed quite a bit in the last decade - the supermarket was just like a SuperTarget (except it had an entire aisle dedicated to ramen noodles to Jon's delight) and the gas station was self-serve. Nishi picked up tempura shrimp and squid and sushi to go with the soba noodles he was to prepare for lunch.

We returned to his house where his ten year old son Ryo was waiting for us. The Nishikubo's have a lovely home with a comfortable family room, dining area, and kitchen where we spent most of our time. Ryo and Jon hit it off quickly speaking the international language of Nintendo Game Boy DS. Jon transferred a game over to Ryo's game boy and soon the two were sitting on the couch competing quietly with each other. After Nishi finished making lunch, his thirteen year old son, Takumi, arrive home from Sunday tutoring and joined us for lunch also. Takumi has just started learning English in school and was able to greet us and ask and answer several questions directly - he's a quick learner.

After a delicious lunch, Ryo left for his six hours of Sunday tutoring, and Takumi and Jon connected once again in the international language of electronic gaming. Kazue came home from work, and we enjoyed a nice conversation about our visit to Japan and their visits to the U.S. Nishi and Takumi took Jon and I on a walk around his town including visits to a local Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine. We ended the visit with a trip to the Hano train station while Jon and Takumi played rock-paper-scissors, thumbfight, and the hand-slap game in the back seat giggling the whole way.

Thank you Nishikubo's!

Jon and I returned to Shinjuku to pick up our luggage and moved to a hotel in Ginza. We walked around that night and later crashed in our hotel after watching a true "B" movie - "Lethal".

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Us and the Family (Kazue, Nishi, Dad, Takumi and Me!) Posted by Hello

See, we're the same height! Posted by Hello

Hanging out at the Shinto Shrine in Nishi's Town Posted by Hello

Chillin like Villains in front of the Buddhist Temple! Posted by Hello

a favorite pastime of mine, feeding Koi! (now with more Takumi!) Posted by Hello

me and Takumi, speaking the international language Posted by Hello

Ringing the bell at the Shinto Shrine Posted by Hello

Myself, Dad and Takumi in front of the Buddhist Shrine in Takumi's town Posted by Hello

man, i used to look just like him... (and still do!) Posted by Hello

Me with Nishi's younger son, Ryo, speaking the internaional language of Otaku, Gameboy Posted by Hello

We are now in Motokaji, where Takeshi Nishikubo and his family live! Posted by Hello

Hanging out in Hiroshima

We arrive late at the Royal Rhiga Hotel in Hiroshima and talked them into upgrading us to a room with high speed internet so we could keep blogging. By the time we finished blogging for the night, we were famished, but it was nearly midnight so we weren't sure what would be open. While dad finished up, Jon called the hotel front desk and found out where the late night action in Hiroshima was.

People party late (it was Saturday night after all) in Hiroshima, and we ended up at Fumichan Okonomiyaki - a great place for okonomiyaki, a delicious dish that seems like it was invented by desperate college students. We sat on stools at the wooden counter with a five inch lip to put your beer (or Coke) framing a two meter long by one meter frying griddle. Behind the griddle were five young guys in t-shirts with towels wrapped around there head cooking okonomiyaki in an assembly line style. The recipe (if you can call this description a recipe) proceeds rapidly as follows:
  • Pour thin pancake batter on the griddle and spread out to make a 10-inch crepe
  • Sprinkle pepper and some other spice on top
  • Drop two handfuls of raw shredded cabbage on top (like for cole slaw)
  • Drop two handfuls of large, raw bean sprouts on top
  • Sprinkle one handful of green onions on top
  • Add five small shrimp, several pieces of squid, and other seafood
  • Layer four pieces of uncooked bacon on top
  • Top off with a healthy dribbling of pancake batter
  • With two spatulas, flip the crepe with the mound of toppings upside down on the griddle
  • Meanwhile, cook up a pot of fresh ramen noodles in boiling water and transfer to the griddle, douse in cooking oil, and spread into eight inch piles
  • Pat down the crepe mound until about one inch thick with the spatula.
  • With two spatulas, lift the crepe mound (crepe on top, bacon on bottom) on top of the ramen noodles.
  • Separately, crack an egg and spread out to about eight inches in diameter
  • With two spatulas, lift the crepe and ramen noodle mound (crepe on top, noodles on bottom) on top of the frying egg
  • With two spatulas, flip the egg/noodle/crepe mound upside down
  • Sprinkle the pile with pepper and other spices
  • Lather the top with a sweet barbeque sauce
  • ... and shove over to the guys sitting on the edge of the counter to serve. Provide chopsticks, a small spatula to cut the concoction into pieces, and extra barbeque sauce.
  • Optionally cover with green onions and/or add cheddar cheese to the noodles
Absolutely yummy!!!

We spent the day (seen in pictures) visiting the Hiroshima Peace Park and the attached museum. There is so much else to do in Hiroshima, but experiencing the Peace Park is a must for every human - especially those in countries possessing nuclear weapons. (Wonder when our president will visit??). The museum doesn't blame so much as warn against the dangers of war. Very sobering...

Friday, June 24, 2005

a very un-flattering picture of myself in front of the Fukuyama Sign and Castle Posted by Hello

Chestnuts!!!! (Granpa Ed would love this place... they're selling warm chestnuts everywhere, even on the train platforms)Posted by Hello

The very linear Hiroshima Peace Park (the arch, the platform and the A-Bomb Dome line up perfectly) Posted by Hello

Description of Monument Posted by Hello

Me at the Shrine dedicated to Sadako Sakai, the girl who folded 1000 cranes before she died of Radiation Poisioning Posted by Hello

Dad ringing the Peace Bell Posted by Hello

A picture of New Hiroshima behind the past Posted by Hello

A random guy playing the pan flute very serenely Posted by Hello

Me at the A-Bomb Dome Posted by Hello

Me at the Hiroshima Peace Park Posted by Hello

Hiroshima! (Thats like a fortress in the backdrop man!) Posted by Hello

A day spent blogging

We forced ourselves to work on the blog this day before travelling on to Hiroshima. So after sleeping in, eating breakfast, packing, talking to Mom and Lauren at home, there's not much here...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

leaving Kyoto... Posted by Hello

Kyoto Station! Posted by Hello

McDonalds! a small outlet of americanism found all around the world Posted by Hello