Wednesday, July 15, 2009

M C Escher

We never really understand why mum like to strain her eyes just to put back scattered pieces of cardboard. And the one above has taken even longer than usual.

That's even longer than the one on the left-hand side which is the world's smallest jigsaw in regular production.

We reckon time is better spent taking a nap!!

Selected photos from Enoshima 江ノ島

Enoshima is a great place to spend a quiet half-day. Hopefully these pictures tell a better story than just words. Definitely worth the extra train journey from Kamakura.

Cat Lovers 愛猫家

No matter where you are in Enoshima, there bound to be cats sitting or lying down around. They are all out in the open and look well nourished (some even over-nourished.) We're never sure if they are pets or semi-wild cats, but they don't seem to run away from people or flash lights for that matter.

Beware!! If you come to Hong Kong, the resident cats are never as friendly. Many a time when we go near them, they will express their displeasure by showing their paws.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seafood in Enoshima 江ノ島

Dinner time - so after a long day's walk and not had a proper lunch, how would you find dinner destination? You walk some more until you find the restaurant with the biggest buzz and the longest queue. It's lucky that Enoshima is a tiny island with 4km in circumference and a small stretch of waterfront restaurants. Tobiccho is a small seafood restaurant with a small street stall at the front and there seems to be no lack of people queuing up for all its different concoctions of シラス(small sardines) and other local shellfishes like サザエ turban shell and はまぐりclam.

If you like seafood from Hakodate in Sapporo and you are not fussy about variety, you won't be disappointed here!!

Kamakura Big Buddha 鎌倉大仏

The symbol of Kamakura, or rather in this case the sandal 草履 worn by the symbol of Kamakura. This was knitted based on the imagining the size of Mr Buddha's feet. It's as tall as a human being.

nb While this buddha is not the most impressive in terms of size and weight, its importance needs to be seen in historical context. That it was built in 1252 and survived a Tsunami in 1498 (the temple which housed it didn't.) The much bigger bronze buddha in Hong Kong is more than 2.5 times taller and heavier, but completed in 1993.

Pork Bun Speciality Store - Kamakura Tenshin 鎌倉点心

Right across the street from Arukamak, you will see this speciality shop. Great snack if you're hungry. The chili pork buns are juicy but the chili is the standard Japanese affair of mild to the extent that you can hardly feel it. Check out its own website to see what else on offer. Plenty of Japanese old ladies go there and buy bagful to take-away.

Home-made sausage - Live demo in Kamakura 鎌倉

As we all know, almost everything was invented into China (and then subject to multi-levels of corruptions through some get-rich-quick con scheme) and perfected in Japan. You might be surprised that sausages have gone through the same process. Chinese sausage 臘腸 was first mentioned some 2600 years ago but nowadays you don't know what additives you are really eating if you buy them from China, while mum and dad prefer those made in Canada. For a broader perspective, check out the wikipedia entry here.

nb There are a surprising number of things you normally associate with the western world, which are claimed to be invented in China. Golf, sphagetti, pizza....... Not going to hurt you to believe they were invented there, as long as you don't presume the inventing country produces the best product. Otherwise you might end up buying golf clubs where the club head will sever if you hit the ball too hard!!

Back to the pictures. In Kamakura along the main shopping district, which is basically small street connecting the train station and Hachimangau temple, there stands a small shop selling imported ham and sausages. When mum and dad took their first bite at the sausage, it tasted remarkably like the sausages that they have made at home. It's only when they walk pass the shop again, they saw a bunch of raw sausages lying there with a saucepan of sausage casings. Shortly afterwards a guy from the shop decided to stuff a new batch of sausages there and then. The whole action sequence was captured in video. Perhaps it will get posted when dad gets round to editing it.

nbb - The shop's name, Arukamak is just Kamakura in reverse.

Coffee cream - taste great!! More please!!

We have tried the small packet coffee cream before, so we know why the 3 corgis were all waiting their turn for a sip. Apparently the iced coffee from Mikado has a very smooth taste and quite a bit of aroma.

Be careful!! 注意!!

You see signs featured here everywhere in Japan. The bear warning sign being the most well known. And no this wasn't a sign seen anywhere around Tokyo. But the other 2 are.

カラス注意 karasu chuii (beware of crow)
This is found near Tokyo high rise commercial area of Marunouchi (丸の内)warning that crow will attack for food and you should be very careful while you are enjoying your bento (弁と)or MacDonald. 
But if you work around that area, you might need to be more aware of glass garasu chuii (ガラス注意garasu chuii)2 days ago a piece of window glass fell from 21st from of Marunouchi building and a woman was hurt by the broken glass pieces. This sign sits 2-minute walk away from where this happen. See news item here. Sorry can't find an English version.

危険 スッポン・亀 注意 (beware of Chinese soft-shell turtle)
This is found around a pond in the largest temple in Kamakura(鎌倉) near Tokyo. Mum and dad saw plenty of kois there but no turtle.
The sign is perhaps more appropriate for the soft-shell turtles since they are considered as a cuisine in some exotic Japanese restaurants (and of course Chinese as well!!)
水魚, the common name for this species, is also a derogatory term in Cantonese for a gullible person. On a mahjong table if you keep losing to the more skillful players, you are known as 水魚.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quiet!! Enjoy your ramen 一蘭 (Ichiran)

If you think cuisine should be enjoyed by sharing your experience at the point of consumption, Ichiran is not for you. Ichiran provides an environment where you do the minimal amount of talking and focus your energy solely on a great bowl of tonkotsu (pork bone soup) ramen (noodle). After you bought your meal tickets from the auto-vending machine outside, you go into the main restaurant which is basically rows of seats separated like library booths. Once inside, all you need to do is to decide on exactly how your bowl of ramen should come out. Unlike other ramen shops, you don't get a selection of soup base or toppings, instead you choose the texture of your noodles, how thick you want you soup and how spicy etc. For details check out their own website here.

Try it next time you're in Japan!!

Imperial Palace

Have you ever wonder why the Japanese gardens are so immaculate? Especially the garden around the Imperial Palace. A picture tells a thousand words, just imagine going through the garden performing such back-breaking routine clearing weeds 1-by-1!! And with Japan's aging problem, one should wonder how long before they need to import foreign workers just to maintain such magnificent gardens.

How often do you see a pair of swans swimming right below the bridge to Imperial Palace? Perhaps, a few times a day.

Tanabata Matsuri 七夕

Tanabata special edition cake from Sadaharu Aoki
So if you read the previous entry about the link between the Narco dog and the Don Quijote shop, you probably thinking we are stretching things a bit. And now you see another entry with yet another mix bag of photos, and you are right!! We're going to show you how a dog dressed in Yukata(浴衣)can be linked to a piece of cake, albeit in beautiful wrapping, and a street carnival celebration in Tokyo.

Tanabatta 七夕, is a Japanese festival celebrating one of the greatest fairy tale love story across East Asia. Check out the linked wikipedia entry for more details. Though also well known in Chinese folk tales, it's not celebrated in China to any extent. (In fact, not sure what else is celebrated in China other than money$$$.) In Japan, people wear traditional garment, yukata to attend events like fireworks and street festivals. And as you can see, some of the beloved doggies (aka わんちゃん, wan chan, humanize them as kids) also wear yukata out.

But then what about the piece of cake, which looked more like a French dessert than Japanese. This is a Tanabata special edition cake from Sadaharu Aoki, an upscale French patisserie in Tokyo. See this link to see more about this special. The exquisitely presented cake has this transparent sugar decoration on top which is meant to be the Milky Way which separates Orihime (織り姫)and Kengyuu(牽牛)but in this case it's what separates our mouths from the delicious macaron at the end. There is one more link between Yukata and this cake. If you wear Yukata to go and buy desserts for takeaway from one of its shops spending over 2,000 yen during the speical period from 1 Jul to 7 Jul, you will get a free baked dessert.

Don't be surprised びっくりしないでね。

Hi all, there's been no posts from us for 1½ months through a combo of laziness and lack of inspirations. It's not as if the the last 6 weeks has not been eventful:
Susan Boyle lost in Britain got Talent and got checked into a mental hospital.
On the eve of 20th anniversary of June 4th Tiananmen incident, our government managed to build the longest and biggest firewall in history against foreign evil influence, including blogspots like us.
MJ died at home probably from drug overdose which then bring us the biggest media event ever.
But this blog is about happier things and so none of the above qualifies.

Finally, we can bring you something different. Mum and dad went to Tokyo last weekend and came back with some photos and memories to share with us. But you might ask why is the first post headed by a poster of Labrador and a picture of the Don Quijote shop in Roppongi, Tokyo. What's the connection?

The star in the poster, Rocky, is a retired Narco dog owned by Japanese Customs. This is placed prominently near the luggage conveyor belt in Narita airport. After coming through the shortest immigration queue ever, this poster is the first thing which greeted mum and dad. Basically, it says,
"Even though though I am already retired, my many apprentices will search for the smell of drugs in the premise. So don't be surprised!!"
While dad didn't see any sniffer dogs walking around the luggage area, he wasn't sure if this poster was meant to be a deterrent for drug traffickers going through Japanese airport. As most of these bad characters are deemed to be gaijin (foreigners), they will only look at the poster and think cute dog!! Or did all the younglings were taken back to training after they failed to find the 142 grams to cannabis that Japan Customs planted on some Narita passenger's luggage in May last year.
Everything soon becomes clearer when mum and dad walked through customs.

"Where do you come from?", so started the normal sequence of Custom's questions.
"Hong Kong."......

It was wrong to expect going through after the standard sequence of questions. Every single piece of luggage was searched thoroughly and then just when they thought they are walking through, mum and dad were asked to be body-searched. The whole process was done with the usual Japanese politeness. While waiting for mum to be searched, dad said to the officer who did his search in his broken Japanese, "I don't carry drugs!!" (麻薬をもってない!!)Then the officer said, "High alert from Hong Kong!!" Only then did dad realise what was going on and so he said in frustration, "we are not younglings!!" (若い者がじゃない!!)The officer just shrugged his shoulder and walked away. Mum even got asked to take off her shoes behind the partitions where they had their searches done.

So that's how the picture of Don Quijote got linked to the first picture of Rocky. This was the exact shop where Kelvin Kwan and Jill Vidal (關楚耀 and 衛詩) were found carrying cannabis as a result of a suspected theft. This was briefly mentioned in another entry here. Police subsequently found heroin in the hotel where Jill was staying. Of course all these drug trafficking went on under the nose of Rocky's apprentices and Japan Customs, who probably had the impression that young tourists from Hong Kong were a bunch of mad fashion followers going to Harajuku before this incident. But now, they are no different to Colombian drug lords.

Dad told mum that she should take it as a compliment that the female officer searched her so thoroughly!!