Friday, February 16, 2018


IMG_3777 We woke up the next morning and the snow was slightly falling.

I didn't eat much breakfast (good thing it was buffet style) because I was actually still feeling a little full from the night before.

Of course, guess who ate like he hadn't eaten in days....sigh!

I was super impressed though that they had a guy hand pouring coffee!

After breakfast, we checked out and went to stand at the bus stop in front of the hotel.

Look at how much snow had accumulated over the last couple of weeks!

IMG_3786 At least it was "sunny" and was forecast to be "warm" 4C (39F)...

We caught the bus from Nyuto Onsen to the Towadako Station where we rode the bullet train to Morioka in Iwate Prefecture.

IMG_3787 The weird thing about this bullet train was that there were only 3 cars.

2 of which were reserved seats and 1 was the green car (which is super expensive seating).

Our tickets were non-reserved so we were supposed to stand (in the connecting areas between cars)...though if there was no one reserved for that leg of the trip, you could sit in the seat.

The guy that was checking all the tickets, knew which seats would be empty for each part of the trip, BUT didn't bother to tell many of us were standing for most of the trip...grr.

The reason we stopped in Morioka was to try reimen (cold noodles).

Not the best choice during winter...I think reimen is similar to Korean Naengmyeon.

Since the wind had picked up and it was snowing a little, we wanted to find a place close to the station, so we checked out Pyonpyonsha. (love saying the name!)

IMG_3793 Luckily they had half sized reimen.

Choose your spiciness (they have 4 levels)...I chose the most mild (1), while Satoshi chose "a little spicy"(2).

With my bowl, the kim chee came separately, so that I could adjust the heat with the amount that I put into the soup.

While Satoshi's bowl, the kim chee was put into the soup already...I can only imagine how spicy (and red) 3 and 4 were...

I loved the chewiness of the noodles.

The piece of meat was on the hard side!

This version was served with asian pear but I have also seen photos of versions with watermelon in it.

Definitely a summery food but I'm glad we tried it and would love to try other places the next time we visit.

From Morioka, we caught the local train to Hiraizumi.

IMG_3802 Satoshi wanted to check out Chusonji, an area with many temples.

We had actually visited this area in 2001 (pre-blog), but we were on a tour at the time.

The most impressive thing to see here is Konjikido, a golden structure that also holds the remains of 4 generations from the Fujiwara family.

It was a very tranquil place.

IMG_3811 Another tranquil place is Motsuji (about a 10 minute walk from Hiraizumi station).

A temple and a huge garden area gives one a feel of the elaborate garden parties and lifestyle of the Heian period.

I could just imagine how beautiful this place must be during the other seasons.

About 15 minutes away and off the beaten path is Shizuka-tei, the tiny inn we would be staying at.

They only have 10 rooms and luckily, they have a pick-up service.

Our room had a massage chair which Satoshi and I took turns using.

Dinner was again huge and everything was delicious especially the steak that was served, so melt in the mouth tender.

Another busy day, but I'm glad we got to see the areas that Satoshi wanted to check out.

Morioka Station
9-3 Morioka eki-mae-dori
Morioka, Iwate
Phone: 019.606.1067

10-5 Hiraizumi Nagakura
Nishiiwaigun Hirazumi-cho, Iwate

p.s. if you missed our dinner posts from this trip on Instagram, please check out our pictures on Flickr.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


katsuoji11 Thank you all for entering.

I loved reading all of your comments.

The winners for the giveaway are Kalin's Mommy, "N" & De-Aloha.

Please email me your snail mail address: kat(dot)nsatoshi(at)gmail(dot)com so I can mail out your care package.

I'll send you an email when I send it out and if possible, please send me an email when you receive it.

Thank you again for entering and helping me celebrate.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


IMG_3694 From Osaka, it is about an hour and fifteen minutes to Akita Prefecture.

The airport has bus service into Akita city, but since we were going to Kakunodate, we booked a taxi.

The type of taxi was a "share" type...50 minutes later we were in a village that has many samurai residences.

The Ishiguro residence is the only one with actual family descendants still living in it.

It was awesome to be able to see a couple of the rooms of their home.

IMG_3703 We were also lucky as it is close to Hinamatsuri, so they had their doll display out. (these are the top rows, and these are the bottom ones.

IMG_3714 Next door was the Aoyagi residence.

This property was huge!

6 different buildings to wander through with all sorts of samurai swords and armor.

Akita has a sweet called "butter mochi", I thought it might be similar to the type we have in Hawaii, but since it had artificial sweeteners in it, we didn't try any.

IMG_3749 Instead, I purchased kurumimochi (walnut mochi), which the area is also known for.

This was slightly sweet though I wish it had more nuts in/on it.

IMG_3725 How is this grandpa?! shoveling snow off his many deaths during this time of year from people falling off their rooftops...though if they don't take the snow off their roof will cave in from the heavy snow.

IMG_3750 We also checked out Ando Shoyu where I purchased this mountain greens to cook with rice.

I'm gonna use it in the coming weeks.

IMG_3728 I also stumbled upon their kasanemochi (the stacked decorative mochi for New Years) which they hang to dry then fry up as "kakimochi".

Apparently this had been drying since the year before!

Another taxi picked us up and 50 minutes later we were at Nyuto Onsen, an area with several hot spring facilities.

IMG_3732 After lunch of Hinaidori (the brand chicken of Akita) oyakodon for me and Nabeyaki udon for Satoshi, we were off to the hot springs.

IMG_3736 Satoshi went to 3 different ones while I just went to the one that was next door to where we were staying.

If you are following us on Instagram, you know dinner was huge.

There was all sorts of foods, nabe (hot pot) with hinaidori, sashimi (swordfish, sweet shrimp and cod cured in kelp), simmered rockfish, snow crab tempura, rice with ikura (salmon roe), just to name some of the dishes.

IMG_3772 I loved the handwoven baskets that we could use to put our towel and clothes in when we went to bathe in the hot springs.

IMG_3773 And most of the doors had different sayings in Akita dialect.

Ours was "garitto" (gah-ree-toe) which means "isshokenmei" (ee-show-ken-may) in standard Japanese and in English means to do something with all one's effort.

IMG_3739 It was a long day, lots of snow and lots of eating.

Ishiguro Samurai Residence
1-banchi Kakunodate-machiomote-machishimocho
Senboku, Akita
Phone: 0187.55.1496

Aoyagi Samurai Residence
3 Kakunodate-machiomote-machishimocho
Senboku, Akita
Phone: 0187.54.3257

Kyukamura Nyuto Onsen
2-1 Komagatake, Lake Tazawa
Senboku, Akita
Phone: 0187.46.2244

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

birthday giveaway

Untitled Since it was a milestone birthday for me this year.

I thought it would be nice to do a giveaway to celebrate.

3 lucky winners will be picked at random.

Just do the following to enter:
1) enter only ONCE to be fair to others
2) in the comments please write what you'd like to eat in Japan and where you'd like to visit in Japan
3) if you do comment anonymously, please do write a "nickname" with your comment so I can tell the anonymous entries apart
4) you may enter even if you have won in the past.

Comments will be closed at noon on Thursday, February 15, 2018 (Japan time)

I hope what I put in the box will meet customs requirements where you are, and not be anything you may be allergic to, if not, I'm sorry in advance!

Good Luck!

p.s. we're back from Tohoku, will try to get some posts up this week.

Thanks for entering, comments now closed

Thursday, February 08, 2018

another year & ristorante raffinato

Untitled If you were paying attention to some of the comments on yesterday's post, you might have figured out it was my birthday.

Very low key day.

For dinner, I bought some herbed chicken avocado salad and fried shrimp from the department store food floor.

We also had some wine and cheese.

Untitled Berry cheesecake from Antenor.

Didn't like the way the guy packed these cakes into the box...they were kinda squooshed!

(I actually wanted to buy some cake from Rocket or Patisserie a Terre, but they were closed yesterday, will try to get something from them next week...)

IMG_3678 Flowers from Satoshi.

Untitled Lunch today with my host mom and host brother's wife at Ristorante Raffinato.

Carrot mousse with uni(sea urchin) good!

Untitled Kanburi (a type of amberjack) salad....loved all the different veggies in there!

Untitled Crepe filled with spinach, cheese sitting on top of housemade tomato sauce...simple and delicious!

Untitled Hokkigai (type of mollusk) and broccoli risotto sprinkled with bottarga...scorching hot! but super delicious!

Untitled Kinoko (mushroom) pasta...earthy!

Untitled Wagyu so tender that it melted in my mouth!

Untitled Gorgonzola pannecotta and raspberry gelato.

Untitled Espresso to end.

There was also a sudachi (type of citrus) palate cleanser between the main dish and dessert.

Everything was delicious and nicely portioned, still, I was so full afterwards!

Appreciate my host-family always treating me like part of their family.

Also thankful for being able to celebrate another year....hope your week is going well!

Ristorante Raffinato
13-15 Shinozuka-cho
Ashiya, Hyogo
Phone: 0797.35.3444
Closed Tuesdays
Lunch: 11:00-13:00, Dinner: 18:00-20:30

Wednesday, February 07, 2018


Untitled In our kitchen and bathroom, we have fluorescent lighting.

One of the first things that the building manager taught me is that 9 out of 10 times when the light flickers, it is the glow lamp or tentokan in Japanese.

The glow lamp or tentokan is a teeny bulb that "starts" up the larger fluorescent bulb.

Unfortunately the other night, when the light started to flicker (like a neon sign) in the kitchen, it was the larger bulb.

Which of course I don't really keep spares around because 9 out of 10 times it's that teeny one that needs changing.

I could've ran to the convenience store, but who wants to go out in -3C (26F) weather, especially at night...

So, I went to the DIY store the next day and was surprised that the Japanese made bulb was 3 times the price of the one made in China.

I guess I could've bought the cheaper of the two but thought if I did, I would only need to purchase another one in a couple of months.

Anyway, at least we have light now (that is not blinking like a neon sign).

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

taiwan style soy milk soup

taiwan style soy milk soup❤︎ ・ ・ ・ #台湾風豆乳スープ #スープストックトーキョー #大阪 #日々の食卓 #スープ #taiwanstyle #soymilk #soup #soupstocktokyo #osaka #dailystuff #dailytable #japan Made this Taiwan-style Soy Milk Soup last night.

The cookbook that I found the recipe in says to make this soup when you are tired of eating out.

Taiwan-style Soy Milk Soup adapted from "Soup Stock Tokyo 2" : makes 4 servings
120 grams minced chicken (or pork)
50 cc water (1/4 cup)
5 grams takuan (minced), optional
nub of ginger, grated
1 tablespoon shoyu
1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons jakko (dried young sardines)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon fried onion
1 teaspoon white sesame seed
2 tablespoons cashew (or peanuts), finely chopped

2 dried shiitake, reconstituted
200 cc water (1 cup)
600 cc soymilk (3 cups)
salt to taste

1 teaspoon black vinegar (per serving)
chili oil

Untitled Make the soboro. Soboro literally means "minced".
In a pan, put the water, meat, takuan, shoyu, sugar and ginger
On medium heat, break up the meat while cooking
Cook until all the liquid has evaporated

Untitled Make the furikake.
In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the jakko.
When it is coated with the oil, add the fried onion, sesame seeds and nuts
Saute until fragrant and crispy

Make the soup.
Reconstitute the shiitake then slice thinly.
Strain the reconstituted shiitake water and put in the soup.
Add the soymilk and salt to taste.
Heat but do not boil.

To serve: add 1 tablespoon of soboro, 1 tablespoon of furikake, ladle in soup.
Top with some cilantro, croutons, chili oil and 1 teaspoon black vinegar.
*if you do add the vinegar, the soup will curdle/thicken slightly.

NOTES: a bit tedious but super comforting soup.

I forgot to put the vinegar when we had this last night, but will try it tonight with the leftovers.

This winter has been quite harsh, and soup has been a nice way to warm up.