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Sushi July 12, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Sushi” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-sushi

When people talk about Japanese food, they almost always talk about sushi.  Sushi is the most recognized food from Japan, but it isn’t the most popular food.  It is traditionally eaten only on special occasions.  To think that people in Japan would eat it every day, or even every week is a very strange concept to Japanese people.  They might eat it when people visit, or to celebrate a special occasion.  That’s not to say that you can’t find sushi and sashimi everywhere.  They key to making sushi isn’t within the fish itself.  The rice is the most important ingredient, in my opinion.  When you visit North American sushi restaurants, you can find a few good ones with good rice, but the majority have terrible rice.  It either has a strong taste of vinegar, or there is no taste at all.  It can be too wet, or too dry.  In the worst case, they use the wrong type of rice!  Sushi must be made with the proper Japanese rice.  Without it, the sushi won’t hold together, or it will be too wet.  Then, you have to mix the proper ingredients to make it taste better.  Once that is done, you can start to make sushi.  Getting this done right is extremely difficult, and even for the typical Japanese person, it’s nearly impossible to get right all the time.  It can be so difficult, that it’s definitely more common to see Japanese people head to the shops to get their sushi.

The second major misconception about sushi is that there are rolls.  If you visit a typical sushi restaurant, you will rarely see any rolls of any type.  The typical kappa (cucumber) and possibly negitoro (ground up tuna) rolls are possible, but not very common.  The key, when eating sushi, is to look more for the varieties of fish.  Tuna itself has three cuts that provide a very different and distinct flavour.  There is Hon-maguro, Chu-toro, and O-toro.  O-toro is the fattiest part of the tuna, where hon-maguro is the meatiest.  Which you prefer will depend on your own personal tastes.  I prefer Hon-maguro, but O-toro is the most expensive as it has the texture of butter.  You will be able to see various specials where the fish may or may not be cooked, and you can also see meat on sushi.  Unfortunately, if you cannot speak Japanese, or if you can’t read Japanese, you will have a tough time finding the specials.  If you visit one of the major restaurants, they may have English menus, but if they don’t, just point and ask, or just order something and hope it tastes good.  It’s the only way to see if you’ll like it or not.

When going out to eat sushi, you can eat in three major styles.  There is the typical restaurant that sells sushi.  These can usually be found on the top floors of the department stores.  They tend to be a little expensive, but they do have all you can eat.  The quality is pretty good and it will be fairly tourist friendly.  There are small shops located around many other cities, but these shops can be a little intimidating to enter.  The second most popular way to eat, and the best for tourists, is the kaiten sushi.  This is the conveyor belt sushi.  Basically, the sushi chefs will make a bunch of sushi, put it on the belt, and you can pick and choose to your delight until you are full.  Do note that if you do visit one of these shops, you will more than likely miss out on a lot if you don’t order from the chefs themselves.  It’s very simple to ask for something, but since there are no menus in English, it can be very difficult.  You can always point to something and ask for it that way.  Do beware that the quality of the sushi at these shops can vary wildly.  One shop can be delicious, while another isn’t.  If they advertise for 105 Yen per dish, it’s probably not very good.  If they have various trays that are colour coded to the price, then you will get decent to good sushi.  The final way to get sushi is to go to a standing sushi bar.  These shops are not foreigner friendly as they people who usually visit these shops are businessmen and business women looking for a quick light meal before they go home.  It’s almost always order from the menu, which is rarely in English, if at all.  It’s isn’t comfortable either as there are no seats.

Finally, you can have a sushi donburi.  This is a type of cross between sushi and non-sushi.  Basically, you will get your raw fish on a bowl of rice.  I personally find this to be another dish that should be tried.  You can either get a simple donburi, or you can get one that is very complex.  The simplest ones have nothing but one type of fish, but the better ones have three to 8 types of seafood on rice.  Typical toppings include tuna, ground tuna, squid, and fish eggs.  While this can change depending on the shop, it is still a delicious meal and recommended to anyone and everyone.  This is also very cheap.  A typical donburi will start around 500 Yen and increase up to 2000 Yen.  Do be aware that the quality will depend on which shop you go to, and where it is located.  The best place for this type of sushi is to head to the stalls outside Tsukiji.  They tend to be the best overall, and they aren’t very intimidating.  Just point to what you want and you’ll get a great meal.

Kaiten Sushi Video:


Sushi Information:

Sushi (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sushi
Sushi FAQ (There is a lot of good information on all things Sushi).  Probably the only place to visit:  http://www.sushifaq.com/

Sushi Restaurants [Note that all sites are in Japanese]:

Foo Moo by Hot Pepper:  http://www.hotpepper.jp/CSP/psh020/doFree?SA=SA11&GR=G004&SK=4&FSF=1&FWT=寿司
Gournavi:  http://sp.gnavi.co.jp/search/theme/z-AREA110/t-SPG110100/p-1/s-new/c-1/


Mutsu and Oma January 20, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tohoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Mutsu and Oma” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-6A

This is Part II of a multi-part series chronicling my motorcycle adventure from Tokyo to Sapporo and back again.

Background:  In 2007, I had finally gotten my Japanese driver’s license and a motorcycle.  I had been an avid motorcycle rider in Canada before I came to Japan, so after 2 years of no riding, I finally bought a motorcycle and decided to go on a big adventure.  I went from Tokyo to Sapporo by motorcycle and ferry.  It was an adventure to say the least.

Leg 2 (Mutsu to Hakodate)

On day two, I woke up early and left for Hokkaido.  Mutsu was everything I expected, a simple pit stop.  There are several routes I could have taken to reach a small fishing village called Oma.  I decided to take the main road to be safe as I had to catch my ferry.  I stopped at many places along the way and enjoyed this part of my trip a lot.  It is the best memories I had.  I found a small shrine just outside the city centre.  It was built on the side of a hill and very close to the sea.  I then took brief stops at various villages along the way for pictures.  There was so many things to see and so many interesting and natural things that I took a long time to reach my destination.  The villages were technically part of the “city” but they looked independent of each other.  There was a nice park and lookout along the way as well.  The park looked well maintained, but I was curious as to why it was even there.  The lookout allowed me to see some interesting mini islands.  They look like rocks sticking out of the sea.  If you travel to Matsushima, it’s very similar.  The only difference is that there were no holes under the island, but there were lots of tetrapods around.

Once I got into Oma, I got lost looking for the peninsula.  Trying to understand road signs in Japan is a nightmare.  If you ever drive in Japan, you’ll hate them; even Japanese people hate the signs.  The peninsula was nice, but very out of the way.  It is the northern most point on Japan’s main island, and a mini tourist attraction.  The people seemed friendly, but the wind made it cold.  There is a very interesting statue of fists fighting tuna.  It’s a symbol of the town, which makes it’s living by catching bluefin tuna.  There were a few shops there, but I decided that after taking a few pictures I wanted to head straight to the ferry wharf. Only one question… where was it?  The story of this adventure has to be me being lost almost every day that I rode my motorcycle.  Once I found it, I relaxed for about an hour and talked to another rider.  At the time, I got to practice my really bad Japanese.  He was an older guy from the Kansai (Osaka) area and riding an old BMW.  Even his bike was older than me.  I had a few pictures taken at the wharf and then boarded the ferry.

The ferry was a strange design for me.  In Vancouver, the ferry is relatively simple to understand.  Follow the lanes to your parking space.  This ferry was different.  It was a medium sized ferry with a special area for motorcycles.  Unlike Vancouver, they actually had tie downs for my bike.  Once secured, I rushed up to the passenger area.  If you have ever taken a ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, I’d consider that luxurious.  This ferry wasn’t good at all.  There were vending machines selling old looking things and a small kiosk selling your average ferry souvenirs.  There is only one place to rest, and that’s the tatami room.  It’s a large open room where you can put your things and lie down.  While it sounds nice, it’s far from it.  The room isn’t that warm and you are given a terrible pillow.  It’s basically a black foam block.  You do have the ability to watch TV, but unfortunately, reception is horrible.  All you can really do is relax and hope the seas are calm.  The ferry ride was short, but I got a little sick on the way.  My destination for this ferry ride was Hakodate.


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