Saturday, March 31
The rooster crowed particularly early today... the rooster being my hyperactive nephew.
Today we're making the trip to the Sakata's condo in Mojiko - about a day's trip by car. We will arrive mid-afternoon thanks to a three hour trip on the Rail Star line of bullet trains.
Blasting through cities and mile-long mountains tunnels at speeds approaching 300 km/h, I felt a little like Captain Kirk back in the 60's when Warp 14 was a reality. And although there is still radiation shadows and other scarring from "The Bomb", Hiroshima looked much like every other city we blasted through. There are a lot of interesting things to see in Hiroshima relating to WWII and I hope to tour it the next time I go to Japan.
The sunlight disappeared periodically as we burrowed through mountains, but one particular darkness was due to a long dive under the canal that borders Honshu (the main island) to the North and Mojiko (the southern-most large island) to the South. The Sakata's condo was on the water facing the canal and the many boats traveling through. We were on the main highway for boats, frigates et. al. to go from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean and vice versa.
Unfortunately we arrived and settled in just after all the stores had closed so we didn't get to do that. A lot of tourists are in this neighbourhood and are fed by dozens of "little trinket" stores -- or "Fancy Crap 'N Stuff" shops as I call them. I'll have ample opportunity to buy things tomorrow that I would never buy if not on vacation. I don't feel a loss.
We went to a "Beer Restaurant". Basically, it's what we would call a "Microbrewery" with a restaurant attached. In this case it was a really, really nice restaurant. You know the kind. You walk in the door and the Maitre D' asks to quietly leave because your jeans and Eddie Bauer sweater just don't cut it.
We weren't asked to leave but were simply helped to our reserved table. A common order in a Japanese restaurant consists of several dishes that are delivered and partitioned out at the table - sort of like East Side Mario's salad but with all courses. Seiko ordered because her parents were busy settling my Nephew and the menus were "Japanese Only". With a sea-side restaurant you have to know what it is you're ordering.
Since arriving in Japan, I've eaten a lot of animals that I swore I never would. Before coming here I warmed up on Calamari and decided that it wasn't the concept of eating octopus that disgusted me, but the taste. After a week of eating raw fish and other ocean-life I was ready to try the one seafood I've been waiting for since the first season of The Simpsons... Fugu.
Fugu is a type of pufferfish used for food whose skin and organs are deathly poisonous. While fatal if prepared incorrectly, it makes for an entertaining twenty-two minutes when Homer thinks his heart will explode from the poison. So I finally had the opportunity to demand, "com'on.... FUGU ME!" a la Homer Simpson. Only my brother and I giggled at the table, but it still fulfilled one of the few items left on my "Things To Do Before I Die" list. I may have to finish off the list quickly if the Chef is having on off night. I didn't sign a disclaimer for the opportunity to risk eating Fugu so I will assume that they are good at preparation here.
Quite tasty, but I got a bone stuck in my throat.. wouldn't it be ironic to die from that? From Alanis Morisette's 'Ironic' an alternative line - "It's like choking on a fugu bone; When you're on vacation far away from home."
Two boys wandered up to our table to get a closer look at the Gaijin. I waved 'konbonwa' and they rushed back to their parent's table. One was probably about 10 and the other was more like 7 years old. We invited them back and I gave each a small Canada flag pin. Both kids were appreciative of my gift. However, I brought two dozen of these pins with me on the hope that they would mostly be going to people 20 years older and female.
Beer washed the fugu down well. The beers here, as I mentioned before, were brewed on-site. The options were Lager, Special, Pale Ale and Weitznezilebber or something (a very German name is all I remember). I asked for the pale ale and was surprised by the darkest beer I have yet seen in Japan. About the same colour as Rickards Red. I tried that and the Special and both beers demonstrated a notable absence of American brewing - they were Damn Good!
Played with my camera's "night" feature which leaves the shutter open for a full second. I got some incredible shots this way. Most of them look like postcards but it's a cool feature to have nonetheless.
Stayed up and watched one of those outrageous Japanese gameshows you hear about. A few dozen Japanese television stars who were periodically disqualified through means that confused me far beyond not understanding the language.
My mind stirring from the elite beers, the bizarre antics on the television and the possible introduction of pufferfish-poison to my bloodstream I fell asleep on my rolled out futon in livingroom.