It’s alive!

During our recent trip to Hokkaido, we enjoyed a host of new culinary experiences. The most spectacular one was without a doubt the sashimi dish that came with the fish’s still moving head in the middle.

I’m not squeamish about food, but this did make me think twice before digging in. But then again, it’s an experience and how can I justify eating regular sashimi or even canned tuna, which also had a head at some point, if I don’t eat this?

By the way, I try to avoid (canned) tuna altogether because tuna is becoming an endangered species. Click here to read a BBC article about it.

In case you’re wondering, the head is purely ornamental. You’re not supposed to eat it.

I tried looking for a scientific explanation of why the head was still moving despite the fish clearly being dead, what with its head being severed from its body and all. But I was unable to find it by just googling. I’m sure that it has something to do with electric signals being automatically generated in the brain or something, but that’s far from accurate. Anyone care to have a go at the science part of it?

We ate this dish at Marukibune restaurant (next to the Ainu Museum) by the side of lake Kussharo. They serve all sorts of typical Hokkaido dishes like milk ramen and ‘jingisukan’ (see previous blog post for a picture of that dish).

Marukibune restaurant, Kussharo Kotan, Hokkaido

'Howaito-ramen', noodles with milk soup

This post was submitted to the November 2011 Blogging Festval J-Festa: Dining in Japan.

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Lost in Japan

A collegue of Dennis recommended a nice ramen restaurant to us. Thursday evening we decided to check it out. We consulted the restaurant’s website and concluded that it should be about 30 min. by car. The only thing we needed was the restaurant’s telephone number, to input into the gps. Japanese navigation systems can recognize telephone numbers and connect them to locations. Very convenient in a country where every address is made up out of a dozen of illegible characters. The restaurant is called Tsurukamedo and this is the address: 名古屋市緑区神の倉4丁目194番地  (to give you an idea of what we’re faced with on a daily basis).

Japanese gps

It was the first time we used the gps. We input the phone number and start driving. After 40 min. we arrive at the location where our gps says the restaurant should be. It’s a residential area. Clearly something went wrong. Dennis tries to remember the location from when he checked Google maps before leaving. We drive around for another 20 min., to no avail. The whole time it is raining non stop and the darkness outside gives a gloomy feel to our quest.

The rain and darkness give an ominous and at the same time romantic feel to our quest

Refusing to give up (we’re both quite stubborn), we stop at a convenience store to ask for directions.

conviencience store where Dennis is asking for directions

The personnel is prepared for this kind of situation. They have a map under the counter and even call the restaurant to ask for directions. Japanese people are very helpful. We are set in the right direction: 5 km closer to Toyota city than what the gps first  indicated. After stopping for directions a second time, we finally arrive at the restaurant – roughly 2hours after leaving in Toyota city.

Fortunately the ramen was worth the ordeal. We ate delicious ‘hakata ramen’.

hakata ramen

Interesting detail: you pay your dinner before entering the restaurant, by inserting money in a machine and indicating the desired dish. The machine then spits out a ticket, which you take inside and give to the waiter.

meal ticket machine

Food and drinks

Today was ‘eat at tiny restaurants day’. We found a dodgy looking little ramen shop near the train station. It seemed like a family business. Food is served within 5 minutes and costs only 1100 yen (9,5 euro) for two people, drinks included .

sitting at the bar

seems like a family business

if a lot of senior citizens are there, the food must be good (this principle applies to cultures all over the world)

miso ramen

In Japan, you can find a soda vending machine about every 15 metres. This was a particularly impressive one at an electronics store. They carry not only sweet soda’s but also iced coffee and green tea based drinks.

so many drinks, so little time...

Dinner in another tiny place: okonimiyaki restaurant (okonomiyaki is a kind of food). Again sitting at the bar, which is very common in Japan. Food is prepared in front of you on the hot plate and you also eat it off the hot plate. Beer always seems to come in 50cl pitchers.

okonomiyaki shop

yakisoba

half eaten okonimiyaki (sorry, it looked so good that I couldn't refrain from eating it until after the picture was taken)