Tastes of Asahikawa

One unusual thing that I and my colleagues did in our most recent trip to Japan is that we decided to stay in a minimally advertised destination in Hokkaido.  Instead of staying in a more popular Sapporo or Furano, we decided to stay for 2 nights in a remote place called Asahikawa. 

And since there are limited tourist spots to go to (aside from going to a mall and a zoo), I and my colleagues decided to explore Asahikawa through its food.  Our first destination was the ramen house our hotel has recommended, the Ichikura Raman. 

with the asahikawa gang just outside ichikura raman (edwin, malou, gie and dominic) 
surprisingly clear to the palate yet with a distinct flavor of a ramen

 Since Isahikawa seem to be popular with shoyu-based ramen (shoyu: Japanese soy sauce), I settled and ordered the Okhotsk Shoyu Ramen.  This ramen according to the menu is composed with unique Hokkaido ingredients like Namuro dried salmon flakes, Esashi dried herring and Rishiri kelp from Oumu.  I was really happy that Ichikura Raman was the ramen place our hotel has recommended.  And aside from their ramen, one surprising dish in this joint was their Gyoza.  It was one of the best gyozas that I have tasted!

A lot of people say that it would be a sin for a tourist in Hokkaido if he/she failed or refuse to try the Hokkaido ice cream.  This soft frozen dairy is one plain ice cream that is simply made of milk.  It has no fancy flavor, no fancy add-ons and no fancy flairs for an ice cream.  For me, its plainness makes Hokkaido ice cream remarkably exquisite and amazingly elegant. 

happy crew handing me my creamy ice cream 
savoring every moment of yummy-ness!

Then, one of the highlights of our Asahikawa stay was the dinner at Jingisukan Daikokuya.  This restaurant is the top rated local-cuisine restaurant in Asahikawa as per Tripadvisor.  It is so popular people would have to wait and queue outside before they be given a table.  Specialty of the house was Hokkaido’s grill icon called Genghis Khan (also termed Jingisukan).

Like their sophisticated ice cream, Jingisukan is a must try in Hokkaido.  It is a unique style of yakiniku in which mutton and lamb are grilled on a convex skillet shaped like an upside-down bowl.  Since the meat are grilled over charcoal, we were surprised to see and experience the amount of smoke inside the popular restaurant.  We nevertheless did not complain because the smoke actually added up to the character and atmosphere of the establishment. 

outside the resto, waiting for our turn

 

an asahikawa highlight

I personally prefer beef over lamb, but the marinated flavor and the stunning taste of the meat served to us gave me some second thought if I really do prefer beef over lamb. Genghis Khan was strikingly delicious!

Asahikawa may not be of the same level as that of Osaka, Tokyo or Sapporo where there are tons to see and marvel at.  Asahikawa nevertheless has loads of gustatory surprises that tourists can taste and talk about.

Para maiba naman!

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Farm Tomita in Furano

Last week was my second visit to the beautiful Hokkaido, the second largest island in Japan.  I never recognized this place as compared to how it looked when I was here the first time.  The beauty, appeal and character of Hokkaido is totally different during the winter season.  Since it is summer, my second visit felt like it was my first.

I personally prefer Hokkaido during the winter months.  Maybe it is because I have so much summer here in the Philippines.  It is basically like 365 days of summer in my tropical country. 

And since it is summer, I and my companions took the opportunity to visit the Farm Tomita’s lavender fields in Furano.  Try smelling the flowers in these photos…       

Ambango…

Uncle Duties in Kyoto

Single and unattached uncles often times are the cooler and more amiable versions of a father. They are often the type of human beings who initiate messy-yet-fun activities that parents dread or wouldn’t dream of doing with their kids.  They are the ones who permit impish and playful pursuits of youngsters that nervous or impatient parents would not want to do.

Since single and unattached uncles are often times financially stable and obligations and responsibilities are few and are often far between.  Thus, they even become cooler because they have the money to splurge. 

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And since uncles are older and experienced, they would often be the ones that kids would run to in case they could not discuss stuffs to their parents.  They can give worthy and wicked advises that kids need not necessarily follow.  And in case nieces and nephews refuse or won’t listen, nothing changes.  Kids not following advises is not going to be an issue to cool uncles.  Cool uncles remains cool uncles.     

Though my monster pamangkins (translation: nieces and nephews) would totally disagree, I would like to believe that I am that type of an uncle.  And while my family had a short vacation in Japan, I further my being a neat praiseworthy uncle by accompanying 3 of my monster pamangkins around the marvelous sites of Kyoto and the grounds of the massive Osaka Castle.

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miggy
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kate
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luis
kyoto station with pamangkins
i had a blast!

Though I was there slave photographer, I had a blast with these three!

Saludo ako kung ikaw ay isang kul Tito!

Stepping Into the Good Olden Days of Osaka

Only now that I realized that in the past 7 times that I have travelled to Japan, only few times did I went to a public art museum.  Reason maybe is because Japan in itself is one whole country of a public museum.  Everything you see, touch and feel seem worthy of being preserved, collected and exhibited.

When I go to a foreign country, I often set aside a day to visit either an art, cultural or historical museum.  I call it my “cultural day”.  A day when my soul is fed with art, history and culture.  But being in Japan, everyday seem to be a “cultural day”.

LIFE doesn’t come with an instruction manual, it comes with a MOTHER!

 

Though it is my 8th journey to Japan, this visit is still something different.  It is because I got to go and check on an actual museum.  And what is so unique about it is that I myself seem to be part of the museum’s exhibit.

While my nieces and nephews settled to go to Osaka’s Universal Studios, accompanied by one of my nieces, I, my sisters and Nengkoy went to Osaka Museum of Housing & Living.

super fun dressing up!
i love this shot!
what’s cooking?
gabi na! hahaha!

 

i call this the “rabbies shot”! hahaha!

The whole museum is a replica of an old Japanese town, specifically during Japan’s Edo period.  The cool thing about this museum is you got to rent and wear clothes of people during that era.  Thus, visitors donned in kimonos and yukatas can interactively feel how it really was 200 years ago in Osaka.

Adding up the modern Japanese technology, the lighting and sound simulations of the whole museum would shift, in which visitors would get to witness how it is to be during early morning dawn, daytime and nighttime period of the Edo era.   The awesome feeling was like stepping into  the good olden days of Osaka!

super fun peeping back into some japanese history…

Ang galing!

Experiencing the Way of Tea

The ultimate measure for the most favorite travel destination to a foreign country of a traveler is the number of times that traveler has returned.  Intentions for such returns must be for leisure and never to count the reasons due to work, study, business or religion.

Me and Nengkoy’s most recent visit to Japan was our eight time.  And Japan, Osaka in particular never ceases to amaze us.  Both of us thought that we have basically done everything a tourist must do in Osaka and its nearby cities like Kyoto, Nara and Kobe.

We then decided to further plunged ourselves to the Japanese culture by attending and learning the Way of Tea, otherwise known as the Japanese tea ceremony. My niece booked us at Maikoya Osaka, a Japanese cultural experience center who fortunately holds some of their cultural classes in English.

tranquil, graceful, serene

hot!

serving nengkoy (who had a different set-up for she no longer can do the Japanese way of seating on a square pillow)

delicious japanese sweets prior to sipping the macha tea

mix!

doing my little ceremony at a corner

We got to witness how the tranquil purification process was done along with the very elaborate and refined steps of the ceremony.  The Way of Tea for me is like a transcendent ritual that truly demonstrate respect through grace, charm and poise along with the showmanship of how a high level of good etiquette should be carried out.

The Way of Tea ceremony is a total opposite from my being brusque, coarse and unmannered.  The beautiful rite was so calm, serene and peaceful.  It was so dreamlike, I wanted to lie down, sleep and snore right there at the tatami mat!

inside Maikoya Osaka, contemplating on having this as my halloween costume next year hahaha!

I thought my 8th visit in Osaka prefecture would be a bore but our first Way of Tea experience was such a refreshing encounter.  It provided me reasons to come back and further explore beautiful Osaka and its nearby cities in the future.

Malayo sa paghigop ng Tsaang Gubat!

China Blue Makes My Blog Look Expensive

Let me add some class, sophistication and culinary elegance to this blog by posting photos of the interiors, table set-up and a couple of tasty food dishes of China Blue.

China Blue Manila
China Blue Manila
the set-up (especially the beautiful plate chargers) speaks a lot about elegance
the set-up (especially the beautiful plate chargers) speaks a lot about elegance
Thin Crispy Beef... my personal favorite
Thin Crispy Beef… my personal favorite
elegant interiors... round chandelier in manila, square chandelier in tokyo...
elegant interiors… round chandelier in manila, square chandelier in tokyo…
Steamed Truffle Mushroom Bun... the most "sosyal" and ostentatious "siopao"
Steamed Truffle Mushroom Bun… the most “sosyal” and ostentatious “siopao”
inside Conrad Hotel Manila
inside Conrad Hotel Manila

China Blue Manila inside Conrad Hotel (the newest five star luxury hotel in Manila) is not the first on the planet.  The first China Blue, a classy modern Chinese cuisine restaurant is in Conrad Hotel in Tokyo.

O ‘di ba? Ang sosyal sosyal ko!

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

translated by jay rubin
translated by jay rubin

Norwegian Wood is the first Murakami novel I’ve read.  And this will certainly not be the last.

Each of the character in Norwegian Book were so distinct, so life-like and were so richly depicted.  The author has a unique way in making you feel how each character truly felt.  It has a very nostalgic feel to it yet the interactions in the book seem so real.  Murakami’s words create perfect pictures without becoming too descriptive.  And the thoughts he pulls out of the reader tend to suck the energy out for a little while.

And though the story is simple, the range of emotions the characters experience seem so complex making this book so elegant and sophisticated.  At first it seemed like a normal beautiful love story, until you reach the story’s dark spin to it.  The ending actually left me feeling like my intelligence was raped or I was mind-fucked by Murakami.

Because of Murakami’s beautiful way with imagery perhaps the best thing about Norwegian Wood is that it is open to the reader’s interpretation.  I doubt if two people after reading Norwegian Wood will settle with the same interpretation of the events that transpired and the characters’ respective motivations.

Payb stars… ay layk it…