Month: May 2012

Overnighting at Kuruson Yama

One of my teachers here taught me that if you rub a frog’s head, while saying ‘iko iko’, it will sit still in your hand. It works! A miracle I never knew about this before. This little guy was so small. It was like rubbing a tiny rubber toy.

Community members take a moment to clean the weeds off and pray at a recently discovered ancestral burial ground located a short hike up a mountain. Near Kuruson-zan, Shimonoseki, Japan.

The Beautiful, Koi-Filled Rivers of Japan

Fish Kiss

This was a great bit of luck. These koi are from this river in front of Yamaguchi’s Prefectural Office. It’s a pretty nice place; there’s a wrought-iron fence that reminds me of old England, and the garden area is something of an east-meets-west cross. Koi fish are numerous in Japan. You find them swimming randomly in little rivers throughout the city. Interesting fact: all the koi fish in natural habits in Japan are officially property of the Japanese government. That means, tempting as it would be to spirit one of the huge, majestic creatures away in the night, to relocate to your backyard, it would also be against the law. It’s also illegal to hunt or kill them. 

They’re great goofs. I had some stale bread and a raisin bun that I was breaking up for them. They go wild for being fed by humans. Albeit, it’s a really clumsy sort of wild. Because there are so many of them, they sort of bellyflop over each other in the water to try and get the bread crumbs before the other ones can. It’s really cute to watch. They can  also be quite coy (you see what I did there?) and will only come up to show off their colours if they think you have food. One of the swans that shares the pond with them got interested and came over when it saw I had food. The swan was picking on a couple of the koi, and when it swam away, this one fish followed and started drafting behind the swan. Now, you could tell the swan knew something was there, because it started turning around in circles, looking behind himself, trying to find out what was hiding behind its tail. The koi was too clever though, and eventually swam away without the swan noticing.

Also, this trip to the pond cost me my house keys. I was bending over the rail (the river bank is set about 3 feet up from the water) to get a shot, when all of a sudden I heard this fateful ‘plop’. Of course, I was the idiot bending over the river with my keys in my loose shirt breast pocket. The river’s about a metre deep in that area, and has a little bit of a current. Juuuuust enough to make me consider them a lost cause. Oh well, when I come back from my buddhist temple adventure this weekend I’ll have to get a new one made at Daiki (Japan’s version of RONA).

The Best Bamboo-Skewered Chicken in All of Japan

This is Sanzoku chicken. It is the best chicken.

Sanzoku, aka “The Chicken Shack” as it’s been dubbed by its many American military visitors, is a delicious traditional Japanese restaurant situated on the top of a small mountain near Iwakuni, Japan. The American Iwakuni military base is about a 30 minute drive away.

Three-tiered landscaping and many lanterns strung through the trees, as well as primarily outdoor seating amongst the bamboo forest and outdoor tea hut give the area its beautiful ambiance. The restaurant serves an array of traditional food like gyoza, udon, and oniigiri. But, they are most famous for their bamboo-skewered coal-pit roasted chicken, basted in a soy sauce mixture. It was the most delicious thing I’ve eaten since coming to Japan.

Another nice thing about the restaurant was that on the way out (and in, for that matter) you can walk through the kitchen to get to the outdoor seating area. It sort of feels like the kitchen of a hard-working Japanese grandmother you never knew you had. It’s also a very old-style kitchen, with lots of stone work and ovens. The rustic feel of the place is absolutely amazing, and I think it probably makes the food taste that much better.

Retro Town in Port Mojiko

Rusted doors from the Port Mojiko Retro Town in Kyuushuu, Japan.

This place was so cool! Most of the shops and general aesthetic of the area contributed to make the place feel like 30s-40s era Japan. Some of the shops we visited sold candy and comics from post-war Japan. Lots of great classic-looking stuff, like work by Hisashi Sekiya, and a lot of stuff that resembled Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy style.

Like being in Fukuoka, it was nice being in Port Moji because as a seaside place it reminded me of Halifax. Nothing causes rust like salty weather and chilly winters. (Although, I doubt the winters here would compare to Halifax’s) While searching for a retro shopping district we got lost for awhile and found this area just full of loading bay doors. I loved it, because I really like huge, old doors, which I think amused the host family that was kindly showing me around for the weekend.

Arashiyama: Monkey Mountain North of Kyoto

Japanese Macaque monkey at Arashiyama, near Kyoto, Japan

These guys were so cool. After a 20 minute hike to the top of this small mountain which overlooks Arashiyama and Kyoto (and is higher than the Kyoto tower, so it offers quite a view), you reach this plateau which is just COVERED in monkeys; like pigeons in a city park. Even though the monkeys seem pretty chill for the most part, the occasional scuffle in the sand and their howling screeches, really remind you that they are very wild animals, with sharp teeth. I was getting pretty close to them for some shots, so I comforted myself by reasoning that if one did charge me, I felt reasonably confident that I could give it a good kick. Also, although the official species name is Macaque, Japanese for a long time simply referred to it as ‘saru’ (さる). Literally: monkey, since it is the dominant species in the archipelago. Although, many now use ‘nihonzaru’ (日本ざる)or ‘Japanese monkey’ to refer to it for the sake of specificity.

Also, Japanese language fun fact: many ‘s’ words in japanese (ex: sushi, saru) adopt a ‘z’ sound, when a modifying adjective is placed in front of them (ex: makizushi, nihonzaru)

Newfies should note, with some humour, that its name is pronounced (ma-cack).

 

Bamboo grove

Arashi-san?