An Early Christmas Date

Posted December 24th, 2011 in Japan | No Comments »

Yesterday, D, Hiro and I went to Hikone city area.  Hikone is one of famous old city in Shiga, and it’s just 10 minutes from my house by car.  There is famous Hikone castle near Biwako lake, and many restaurants and shops around the castle.

It was suposed to be snowing yesterday, but it was actually a sunny day (still cold though).  There’re many tourists around the castle.

First,we came to this cafe with D which I went with my friend the other day.  This cafe is a bakery/cake shop with nice dining area.  Because the shop opens at 11am and we arrived there 15 minutes early, we went driving inside the castle first.  You can drive around the castle and moat.  We could easily kill 15 minutes by enjoying the view 🙂

I love the interior of the cafe.  No, I love the building itself.  Looks like someone’s house with lots of tabels and chairs.

They serve lunch menu and nice drinks too.

We ordered sandwich lunch plate to share.  It’s Campagne bread with prosciutto, cream cheese and salad. The plate came with soup (it was carrot soup yesterday), cold chicken salad, salad & hot chips, and a choice of drink.  (¥1050)  I LOVE the Campagne bread.  Inside is moist, soft and chewy, but the crust was very hard and crusty.  All the food on the plate was delicious.

Then we ordered strawberry tart, and Monburan (Mont Blanc).  It took me 10 minute to chose the cake because all the cakes and bread looks so cute and delicious.  I had cheese cake last time, so I chose different one to try.  They’re both DELICIOUS. (>v<)

cheese cake I had last time

(cheese cake I had last time)

Hiro was happy too.

Then, we walked around “castle road”.  It started snowing and so freezing cold…

All the buildings around “Castle Road” were refurbished to look old few years ago in order to attract tourists.  Even a bank looks like this.

We strolled around the street, and bought few souvenirs.  It was windy and the air was spiking our faces, so we decided to head home.  It was a lovely day – we had early Christmas cake together, and had wonderful time 🙂

Hikone Friends

Posted December 20th, 2011 in Japan | No Comments »

We visited one of my friend’s house the other day to meet her baby.  She and I used to go to the same high school in Hikone, Shiga.  She gave birth to this beautiful boy on May (just 2 month later Hiro was born).

They live by themselves in apartment, and the house was filled with toys and baby’s photos 🙂  It’s been awhile since I met her last time, and we have many things in common (including having a baby), so we chatted for quite long time.  D came along, and there was her husband at home as well, so it was fun.

I brought some souvenir to them – just some English baby books and Tim Tam.  I didn’t expect anything from them, but they had bought souvenir to us too.  Hikone city is actually pretty famous tourist destination because of its old history, and also Hikone castle and beautiful castle road.  Castle road has many old & new shops on its side selling souvenirs and foods.  Hiko-Nyan, a name of character of Hikone city, is very popular for its cute & relaxing figure.

They gave us Hiko–Nyan goods…

The dorayaki was from famous wagashi (Japanese sweets) shop in Hikone.  I’m surprised that they have Hiko-Nyan dorayaki.  It was fluffy, and very delicious.

It’s got Hiko-Nyan sticker at the back too.  Sugoi…

Nagahama Kurokabe

Posted December 10th, 2011 in Japan | No Comments »

Yesterday we went to Nagahama city, a neighbouring city of where I live, to walk around the Kurokabe road.

It is a small pedestrian street with old shops and restaurant around.  It’s a very old road.street.  Now, it’s a famous tourist destination and I get to see many tourists coming here almost everyday, so the shops sell more like “souvenir”  things.

The name “Kurokabe” literary means “black wall”.  Most of the buildings on this street are with black wall.  Because of the name, there are shops and restaurants selling “black” things, such as black curry, black rolled cake, and black donburi.

There are very nice museums and atelier/studio on this street including Kurokabe Glass Museum and Kaiyodo Figure Museum.  The glass ware made here is very famous.  You can see the studio through the window inside the glass shop.  When I was there, a glass artist was making square vase.  It was amazing.  First, it was just a round transparent ball of glass, but then, it became yellow-red-green square shaped art.  The studio looked very hot and the artist was working with half sleeve.  It was pretty cold day yesterday and we’re wearing thick jackets and gloves.

There are many action figures and character toys in this building of figure museum.  Famous music box shop is located inside too.

We had a bite at a bakery on this street.  This bakery has been here since long time ago…

I had a bacon epi bread, and D had ham mayonnaise roll.  We shared a melon-pan bread and a little box of banana au leit.

I love the crusty bread!!  It was very hard to chew, but good exercise on jaw 😀

On the way home we stopped at Nagahama castle.  It was freezing, so we just had a small stroll around the park, and head home.

Trip to Shigaraki and Koga -Part2-

Posted December 6th, 2011 in Eat out in Japan, Japan | 2 Comments »

The restaurant was located just in front of Shiragaki train station.  We couldn’t miss the place because there’re lots of big red flags around the restaurant saying “MATSUTAKE”.  And there was loud music coming out from the restaurant.

Apparently, this place is very famous for ALL YOU CAN EAT matsutake course menu.  Matsutake is only available during Autumn, so they serve crabs and fugu dishes in winter. All-you-can-eat as well.

There’re many photos of famous actors/comedians/sumo restler taken with the owner of this restaurant at the entrance.  They came here to eat matsutake dishes!  The place was all tatami-floored, and you sit on zabuton (cushion) and eat the food.  Lucky we made booking – there’re so many people inside.  Our table was upstairs.

Our couse menu was Matsutake and Ohmi Wa-gyu Beef Sukiyaki with Matsutake Gohan (seasoned rice with matsutake), Matsutake Dobin-mushi (seasoned steamed matsutake), and dessert.  Meat, matsutake, vegetables for sukiyaki, eggs, rice were can be ordered as much as we wanted.

We were expecting them to bring warishita (sukiyaki sauce) to pour into the pan, but at this restaurant we actually cook by yourself at the table.  There were sugar, cooking sake, soy sauce and their home-made sukiyaki sauce next to the pan.

First, sprinkle sugar on the bottom of the pan, then place wa-gyu beef.  Pour soy sauce and sukiyaki sauce over the meat, and eat the meat first – by dipping into raw egg.

OH MY GOSH….  The meat was so tender, and delicious!!!  I hadn’t eaten such delicious beef for a long time!!!

Then add other ingredients such as matsutake, tofu, other mushrooms and Chinese cabbage.

We ordered lots of wa-gyu beef and matsutake to top up. Many times.

And lots of rice too.

Wa-gyu was great, and Matsutake was also great!  Great fragrance, and very thick, dense body.  The texture was amazing.

I loved the chopstick stand (racoon shaped Shigaraki ware), and they were selling many kinds of souvenirs downstairs, so we bought few things for ourselves.  My dad bought matsutake to take home, and my brother bought some sweets.  I bought the Shigaraki ware chopstick stand. 😀

They gave us a bag of gift when we left.  It was part of the course menu deal.  And, because we bought some souvenir, we could do the garapon lottery (You could win a prize in a lottery by turning a small round machine. The prize depends on a colour of the ball dropped from the hole of the machine).  We did 4 times, but didn’t get big prize.  They gave us packs of sweet chestnuts and bananas for thank-you.

The food was very very nice!  And the service was great too.  My dad loved the place, and he said we’ll come back here again on Christmas.  Around Christmas they do all-you-can-eat crabs and fugu course meal.  Despite the amount and quality of the food, the price was not that expensive.  That’s amazing too.

Trip to Shigaraki and Koga -Part1-

Posted December 5th, 2011 in Japan | No Comments »

As it was D’s birthday, my dad and brother took us to one of the most historical cities in Shiga –  Shigaraki and Koga.  Shigaraki is famous for its pottery and stoneware (wiki), and Koga is an area where ninja used to live in old era (wiki).  The purpose of going there was to have matsutake (the most expensive, the most delicious, the most rare mushroom in Japan) dishes in Shigaraki, and visit ninja house in Koga.

First, we stopped at one of Shigaraki-ware store in Shigaraki.  There’re so many shops selling stonewares in this area.  The most common Shigaraki-yaki is tanuki (racoon dog), but there are many more…  including koalas and frogs.

The small ones are around ¥3000, and the big ones are around ¥400,000.  I’m not sure how much the biggest one (around 3M) is…  I don’t think anyone can bring it home!

The souvenir shop sells very cute souvenirs…  tanuki-shaped sweets and chocolates.

After having browse around this shop, we still had time until our Matsutake lunch reservation at a restaurant, so we headed to Koga (Kouka).  It was just 10 minutes drive from Shigaraki.

I remember coming here when I was little.  My dad took us here.  And, I remembered it was a big area which has lots of trick inside the houses which ninja used to use when enemies attacked them.  But, actually, this ninja palace is just someone’s house.  It’s bit hard to find….

There’re some other tourists visiting here when we arrived.  We paid the entrance fee, and had browse inside.

You can hire ninja costume (¥500 for 10 minutes).

You can relax here and have hot green tea.

You can practice throwing shuriken) here 🙂

Many ninja dolls inside the house….  They freaked me out.

The tools and sword ninja used to use were on display.

The owner of this house started talking about ninja, and showing the tricks inside the house.  I couldn’t take photos, but they’re pretty cool.  Many pitfalls and hidden panic rooms.  And, after hearing the story of ninja, I found that ninjas were not like what I imagined at all.  They didn’t kill people for no reasons –  what they did was mostly just escape from enemies.   It was so interesting to see inside the pitfall and underground tunnel.  (website)

After this, we headed to Shigaraki again to have Matsutake….