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November 11, 2006


Kushikatsu is a style of food from the Konsi area of Japan (Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Kyoto, Suita). In a few respects it is like going to a sushi bar, the food itself is an art form of flavors and textures. There are also different levels of taste and quality, from sticks you can buy at the local market, stands on the train platform to high quality restaurants.
Kushikatsu is a style of food from the Konsi area of Japan (Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Kyoto, Suita). In a few respects it is like going to a sushi bar, the food itself is an art form of flavors and textures. There are also different levels of taste and quality, from sticks you can buy at the local market, stands on the train platform to high quality restaurants.

The master and his helpers prepare the sticks at the counter at Koten's restaurant in Suita. The owner and master at Koten develops the menu daily based on fresh ingredients, the menu itself is a mystery until it is unveiled as you eat. The full menu is 25 sticks, but at any point in the meal you can call "STOP" and then you only need to take anything that is currently in the fryer. The restaurant bills you in groups of five sticks with the full course being about $35.

This style of eating is also renowned for drinking good Sake (rice wine), Shochu (Japanese vodka) and Chuhi (a mixed drink of Shochu and different juices). When going out it's always good to remember to take the train, bus or taxi, while Japan is very reasonable about drinking and has no rules about drinking in public as it is part of the culture, they do have new laws when it comes to drinking and driving.

On the table is a bowl of fresh veggies to snack on while waiting as each stick is prepared, next to that is our dipping tray ( Tonkotsu, Ponzu, Seasoned Salt, ketchup and hot mustard ).

1 - Shrimp wrapped with shiso (Japanese Basil) leaves. (Picture Above)
2 - DSC07952 <-- 2 - Beef with a slight curry flavor
  3 - DSC07953
3 - Stuffed Shiitaki Mushroom -->
4 - DSC07954 <-- 4 - Kaki (Oyster)
  5 - DSC07955
5 - Asparagus -->
6 - DSC07959 <-- 6 - Broccoli with cheese and bacon
  7 - DSC07960
7 - Tainoko (Red Snapper Row) -->
8 - DSC07961 <-- 8 - Ginnam (Ginko Nut)
  9 - DSC07963
9 - Gyutan (Beef tongue stew with carrot) -->
10 - DSC07964 <-- 10 - Komochikonbu (Cod Row on kelp)
  11 - DSC07965
11 - Tai (Red Snapper with Ponzu sauce) -->
12 - DSC07966 <-- 12 - Mentaiko (Spicy Cod Row wrapped with chicken and Shiso leaves) --> 12 - DSC07968
13 - DSC07969 <-- 13 - Tamatto with Egg Salad
  14 - DSC07970
14 - Tofu with chopped Veggies -->
15 - DSC07972 <-- 15 - Kisu (White fish with green onion and parsley mayo sauce)
16 - DSC07973 <-- 16 - Tamanegi (Onion with Beef and Curry) --> 16 - DSC07974
17 - DSC07975 <-- 17 - Satoimo (Tarro potato)
  18 - DSC07976
18 - Uzura (Quail Eggs) -->
19 - DSC07977 <-- 19 - Maguro (Stewed Tuna)
  20 - DSC07978
20 - Mochi (Sticky Rice Cake) with Tarako (Cod Row) and Seaweed -->
21 - DSC07979 <-- 21 - Renkon with Ebi (Lotus Root with Shrimp in the holes)
  22 - DSC07980
22 - Buta (Pork) -->
23 - DSC07981 <-- 23 - Cheese with Broccoli bits
24 - Satsuma Imo (Japanese Sweet Potato) (No Image)
25 - DSC07984 <-- 25 - Frozen Banana coated with a brown sugar and cinnamon cake then breaded and deep fried and topped with whip cream --> 25 - DSC07989

November 9, 2006

Japanese Lunch

After we unpacked and got the house in order Miki and her Mom made a nice lunch of Sesame bread, hand made sausages, Chinese Shumai dumplings with hot Japanese mustard and a salad made from seaweed, onions, cucumber and tomatoes. Nice strong Japanese style coffee, we are set.... The sausages taste similar to ones that our Uncle Sam and Elva used to get made from pigs they raised, the traveling butcher that serviced their area was something special ( and if you ever have a full sized pig rendered into meat products you will have more then you can store yourself and will end up just like Sam and Elva giving sausages to every family member, neighbor, friend and a few strangers).

Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast - Sakana (Shisyamo) After only getting a few hours of sleep, Okason made a normal Japanese style breakfast for us. It was a bowl of rice, bowl of Miso soup, a bit of Tofu and a plate of little fish to share. Nice typical breakfast in Japan.

Shinchon and Michon, brother and sister ( can you tell? ) - breakfast after driving 6 hours to Osaka

Japanese Breakfast - Along with fish we have Miso soup, Tofu and rice
Japanese Breakfast - Along with fish we have Miso soup, Tofu and rice

The Road to Osaka

Once we survived the flight with only our asses damaged, it was time to take the train from Narita Airport and meet Shimpei for the drive to Osaka (the distance from LA to San Francisco) about a 6 hours. First step was to get our JR Rail Passes so we can ride any train in Japan for the time we are here. Then take the Narita Express train to Shinjuku station and find Shimpei ( he was waiting for as at the platform and solved that whole issue ), Cross from the JR line to the complete other end of the station to the Keio Line, dragging the heavy luggage, to get to Shimpei's house ( and yes we have almost the same square footage in the RV as he has in his apartment ).

Next was to get Shimpei's car, and get some Ramen for dinner. So, we headed to a Ramen stand that we had been to before that had good ramen, this time the taste was completely different ( still good ) but not anything like the one we remembered. After eating Miki and I asked Shimpei if the owner changed, he said nope just the flavor changes often and some times it's good, bad or awesome but worth the risk.

After Ramen we headed back to Shimpei's place and packed the car for the midnight run back to Osaka. We were on the road by 10pm and headed out of Tokyo and for the mountain route south. The we took the Chuoudou Highway that is a toll based road from Tyoko to Osaka, it costs about $109 to drive it, but you do not need to get off the highway at anytime as they have rest stops, restaurants and other attractions along the way. Stopped a few times for rest breaks and to buy Omiyage of pickles and hand made soba noodles. I was able to sleep in the car for almost the whole trip, while Mikiko and Shimpei talked and listened to music. Unfortunately Shimpei was the only person that could drive since Mikiko and I didn't get the international driver licenses this trip. Poor Shimpei......

We pulled into Osaka just after 4am jumped in the ofuro (A Japanese Style bath where you need to take a shower and get clean in order to jump in the tub and soak) and crashed on our futon (A Japanese style bed that is laid on a floor.


Cheap United Flight

A few months ago Miki and I went down to the Torrance area to get the hard top installed on the Geo Tracker, after the install we headed to the Japanese market, while walking about we found JTB was selling round trip to Japan for $299 each. After inquiring at travel desk we confirmed the rate and found there was also about $200 in taxes, fuel surcharges and airport use fees... Still round trip to Japan for $500 was hard to pass up.... We jumped.....

So, we looked over the calender and figured the best time would be the middle two weeks in November and booked it on the spot.

The day finally came and we headed off to the LAX for our cheap flight to Japan on United. The ticket was an E-Ticket, so we bypassed the majorly long check-in line (more then 200 people) and walked directly up to the self check-in followed the prompts and finished in a few minutes. It worked fairly well, it would not accept my mileage number and to the counter at the gate, and the upgrade options were not presented well and it told us to talk to the counter at the gate. It did prompt us to upgrade to something called Economy Plus about five times.

Once to the gate we got some Starbucks coffee and waited for the counter to open....... About 30 minutes from boarding the counter at the gate finally opened and they were able to update the information for us, but only after waiting almost to the boarding time in the very long line to talk to them.....

Once on the plane (an old 747, that should have been scheduled for retirement a few years ago) we found and squeezed into our seats. With two inches of space from my knees to the seat in front of me, and that is with the seat in front of me not reclined. The padding on the seat had been compressed to death and felt like I was sitting on a rock (with textures).... And thus opens the next 11 hours of hell.... No personal entertainment device that we had grown accustomed to on JAL and Thai air... The movie screen was a little 10" monitor about 15 feet away. We did get to watch 4 movies (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, A Prairie Home Companion, and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) and that killed some time.

The staff was really nice and served drinks, water, snacks, and two lunches ( The food was edible and reasonably fresh and hot ).

All and all the fight was ok and we got to Japan, but we found they now have 5 different classes on the plane, and what we had been used to as Economy Class was now a upgrade to Economy Plus.