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Fushimi Inari Taisha

May 24th, 2009

My favorite place in Japan from a tourist’s point of view is probably Fushimi Inari Taisha, the large shrine to Inari, diety of cereal grains and business. It’s a really quick train ride away from central Kyoto. If you read Japanese, you might be interested in the official site.

Even if you’ve never been, you’re probably already familiar with the site. It was featured in Memoirs of a Geisha. It was also the inspiration for the art installation “The Gates” by Christo and Jean-Claude. The epic arrangement of Shinto gates (鳥居 / torii) packed so tightly together creates an amazing, surreal illusion – you feel as though you’re walking through an otherworldly hallway.

I’ve been to Fushimi Inari Taisha 4 or 5 times now, and it sure doesn’t get old. It’s sort of like Miyajima in that it stands apart from other shrines and temples. If that sort of thing isn’t up your alley, you may find yourself thinking “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” You won’t get that feeling here. Visiting at different times of day, in different seasons, etc. all change the scenery drastically.

I included Fushimi Inari in my old student travelogue from my study abroad days. You can see a video clip that I put together by clicking here (it will open in an overlay) or by visiting the original. I also wrote about it a few years ago when I spent Christmas vacation in Kyoto at the J-Hoppers hostel with friends, including J-Web vlogger/blogger Claytonian.

If you do go, I recommend taking the extra time to wander up to the upper loop past the lakes. I love the view at the top – you can even see Kyoto Tower. Most people tend to go a little bit into it and turn back, imagining that things look the same all the way up. The truth is, the scenery changes. Fox statues, mini-torii and all sorts of devotionals, incense burners, and the like are scattered throughout the area. Perhaps you’ll meet and befriend a shrine cat there like I’ve done on more than one occasion.

The theme for this Japan Blog Matsuri was “your favorite place in Japan.” It’s being hosted by Shane at the Nihon Sun.

Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, Media, Photos, RIH Entries, Trips, Unsolicited Commentary

Imabari City Foreign Tourism Project

April 21st, 2009

This month, the Japan Blog Matsuri is being held at What Japan Thinks, and the theme is “Slow Times in Japan.” Now, while I live on a tiny fishing island in rural Japan, I’m a pretty busy guy. I’m frequently scooting from one school to the next, blogging, networking both on and offline, planning classes, planning trips, starting upcoming podcasts (the rumors are true…), and more. Then it occurred to me – this is the perfect opportunity to announce the special project that I’ve been asked to help with. You could say that my city, Imabari, is having a bit of a slow time with tourism lately. It’s my job to help – and I want your input! Read more…

Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, RIH Entries, Trips, Unsolicited Commentary

Foreign Food Matsuri

February 24th, 2009

Welcome to the February 2009 Japan Blog Matsuri! This month’s theme was Foreign Food, and we’ve got quite the blog smorgasbord from which to sup. We had a record-breaking total of 26 direct entries for this matsuri. If you add in the recommendations, it comes to a whopping total of 34 entries in all. Because some participants are inside Japan looking out at foreign food, whereas others are elsewhere looking at Japanese food as foreign, I’ve split the entries accordingly. Please make sure you don’t miss any of the entries! I’ve selected my own personal top 3 at the bottom of the post. When you’re done looking through the entire spread, head back here and vote for your own favorites in the poll. Read more…

Announcements, Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, Photos

Peanut Butter in Japan

February 16th, 2009

Ah, peanut butter. That amazing American condiment / food. One of few peanut related things not invented by George Washington Carver, it has given delectable sustenance to countless people. According to some fans, it’s even a staple in 75% of American homes. And it does indeed exist in Japan – it just might not look the same. Or spread the same. Or taste the same. Or even be called by the same name. But it’s here. And I’ll introduce you to its more common varieties.

I went to my local grocery store and picked up the common Japanese peanut butter-ish products. You can see them in the photo above. Clockwise around the plate from bottom left: ピーナッツホイップ (Peanuts Whip), ピーナッツソフト (Peanuts Soft), Skippy (American-style Peanut Butter*), ピーナッツクリーム (Peanuts Cream), and ピーナッツランチパック (Peanuts Lunch Pack). I’ve done a video review of these products available both on this page and on YouTube. (First video! Go me!) * – American-style IS available in Japanese brands, too! Have no fear!

You can see a closeup of the 4 spreads below. The color differences are interesting, and they actually do reflect the depth of taste in each product, in my opinion. If you’ve ever tried these peanutty wonders, feel free to comment below. Do you agree with my review? Vehemently disagree? Let me know!

Needless to say, the American-style Skippy is my favorite. (But don’t think I’m just a shill for Skippy. I’d take JIF, Peter Pan, or generic American-style PB. Just not Reese’s – the stuff is meant to be in candy, not sandwiches.) Yum! In a pinch, I’d go with the Peanut Soft. This might be because my first experience with Japanese peanut spreads was with Peanut Soft. My poor host mom watched me as I tried to gleefully consume a peanut butter sandwich after discovering that the peanut butter…wasn’t. Ha ha. Once I got used to it I just kept on going with it. It’s not that bad, really.

If you’re one of those folks who really likes to get into the spirit of foods you love, you might enjoy making your own peanut butter. And to that end, I’ve embedded another video here. That’s right, it’s a peanut butter bonus round! :-D


(Bigger version!)

The clip above is from Season 11, Episode 9 of Good Eats, titled “Peanut Gallery.” It features host Alton Brown, one of my TV heroes, making his super-simple recipe for homemade peanut butter.

This post is my entry for the February 2009 Japan Blog Matsuri. The theme is Foreign Food. Thanks for reading! Subscribe to my RSS feed if you liked it, and consider hitting one of the social buttons, too! :-)

Culinary, Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, Media, Photos, RIH Entries, Unsolicited Commentary, Video

Japan Blog Matsuri: Foreign Food!

February 2nd, 2009

Theme: FOREIGN FOOD
Deadline: Sunday, 22 February 2009, 11:59 PM JST
***

Well, folks, it’s February – time for another Japan Blog Matsuri. If you missed it, go check out January’s edition of the Matsuri, hosted by Bill Belew at the Rising Sun of Nihon, where 11 bloggers chimed in to answer the prompt “How will you resolve to make the most of your stay in Japan?” Hats off to Bill for doing a great job.

This month I am hosting the Japan Blog Matsuri. I announced the topic yesterday at the first online J-Bloggers Conference. (If you’re interested in joining the next conference, watch this space for details.) So, let it be known, the topic for the February Matsuri is: FOREIGN FOOD!

Anything related to FOREIGN FOOD is acceptable. We obviously prefer fresh entries over stale entries, but even old entries are ok. The theme is open to a bit of interpretation – and remember that you don’t have to be in Japan to participate! Anyone can participate. In fact, I want us to expand this time. I am hoping to have collected 20 or more entries for this edition. To encourage this, I am making an offer. Encourage your friends to participate, or submit entries from their blogs yourself, and I will leave a hat tip link to your own blog alongside that entry. If you submit your own entry and one other person’s entry (or persuade them to participate), you’ll have (up to) 2 links on the matsuri. It’s not much, but it’s something!

If you write a post and submit it to me by midnight of Sunday, February 22nd, I will include your entry in the compilation that will go up on the 24th. You can either email me directly (deas-at-rocking-in-hakata-dot-com) or submit your entry using the widget after the break.

Ok, go get writing! Go get your friends involved! Let’s build this thing!

The Japan Blog Matsuri was originated by Ken Y-N at What Japan Thinks, and has been revived by Nick Ramsay at the JapanSoc Blog. Read more…

Announcements, Culinary, Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri

Location, Location, Location

January 19th, 2009

So…Bill has posed the question – how will I make the most of my time in Japan? Well, the answer may not be the standard, but it’s true for a lot of people here – I’ll make the most of my time in Japan by getting out of Japan as often as possible. That’s right, folks, I’m all about international travel.

Being an ALT on the JET program is a unique opportunity. I’m young, much of my cost of living is subsidized – so I have some expendable income, and I have the ability to take chunks of vacation whenever the schedule has an opening. Also, I’m geographically much closer to a lot of places of interest than I was when living on the east coast of the United States. Most of Asia is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. I will likely never be in this situation again. I’d better make the most of it, no?

Some folks are far more serious than I am about travel, but I’ve still done my fair share. In my time here, I’ve been to South Korea, North Korea (technically…if you count 5 minutes over the line in the DMZ), Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, and the Philippines. (Posts containing photos and video clips from each trip are available by searching around. Too many posts to link to here.) And I’m currently looking at a trip to Taiwan in March. Of course, I’ve done loads of travel inside Japan as well – again, far too much to even list.

I still want to go to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia*, India*, Russia, mainland China, Australia, New Zealand, and some other spots. But we’ll see. I might be able to knock out 1/3 to 1/2 of that list by the end of my stay here. If not, I’ll at least give it my best shot. That’s how I plan on making the best of my time in Japan. Other than financially saving as much as I can – yes, it’s doable even with travel expenditures – and improving my Japanese, that is.

*Providing they are safe enough for me to go.
** Yes, I borrowed the map from GraphicMaps.com, so sue me. Figured I shouldn’t erase their watermark if I was gonna use their image. Ha ha.

Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, RIH Entries, Trips, Unsolicited Commentary