Saturday, September 22, 2007

Japan 11: Of Yamaguchi and Fukuoka experience

A day trip to visit some places around 山口県, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It was filled with factories and industries along the way on the Shinkansen, bullet train. Definitely not the prettiest of sights.

After about slightly more than an hour's ride, the bullet arrived at 厚狭, Asa, where it was initially planned to visit 長門市, Nagatoshi, at the coast of Sea of Japan. However, the train schedule indicate that the next train will arrive in more than an hour's time. And yes, all train and bus timings and schedules are on public display, even in most crowded cities like Osaka or Tokyo, timings of trains of intervals of 3 or 4 minutes are indicated. Next stop will be 下関, Shimonoseki instead, then followed by Nagatoshi.

Probably, a very interesting place to visit.

The streets of Shimonoseki.

Shimonoseki, the city that harvest the greatest amount of fugu or pufferfish or porcupinefish, is a paradise for pufferfish lovers. There are many restaurants in town that specialise in pufferfish cuisine, and many snacks and dried products and goods using pufferfish as the main ingredient.

Even the train entrance are dedicated to this deadly creature, but is turned into an amiable character here.

Tracking through the mountains in rural Japan.

Passing through valleys, into a totally different realm of Japan.

And through villages and rice fields.

At one station, all passengers have to alight to wait for another train to transfer. Most passengers were mostly above their sixties, probably an evidence of the exodus of the young from the rural areas to the cities.

During this waiting period, there was a chat with one of the locals, a man probably in his seventies in Japanese, with much difficulty over the language barrier. Still, it was interesting, a personal touch to experience life with the locals, something which is never ever found in those tour packages.

It might be quite a long wait, but it was the time where the mind was able to seek some peace and spend sometime to do nothing but stared at the train tracks.

But unfortunately, the next train took a long time and still never arrived. Then the station captain informed the passengers that the next train had encountered some problems and will not be arriving. It was about 1 hour of wait or so, the station captain called all passengers together and discussed plans about ferrying the passengers to their intended destinations on bus or taxi. One kind old lady told the station captain of the inability to comprehend Japanese. With sometime to spare, some touring of the area was done.

The beautiful Sea of Japan.

However, the trip to Nagatoshi was abandoned. Making full use of the JR rail pass, plans was made to get back to Shin-Shimonoseki to take the Shinkansen to the southernmost part of the Shinkansen line, at Hakata. But however, ended taking a local train instead although the direction seemed to be correct; into Kyushu.

Upon arriving at the first stop on Kyushu, transfered was made to the Shinkansen for the most southern point on the Shinkansen line, Hakata in Fukuoka.

After dinner, and some touring of the city, the day ended quickly. It took about 1 hour from Hakata to arrive at Hiroshima. This trip might seem to end up with no visit to any popular destination on the tourist map, but it was exciting, a great chance to see another part of Japan, and the experience of how much trouble together with fun, unexpected events while descending into the whealm of unknown territory. It is a wonderful experience that no amount of those packaged tours can ever bring.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Japan 10: Fugu at Shimonoseki

下関, Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Shimonoseki is famous for its great production of the famous but deadly fugu or puffer fish. There are numerous restaurants, small establishments, specialising in this unique creature in downtown Shimonoseki. For real quality restaurants, one meal involving the puffer fish can cost easily into 10 000円. For cheaper alternatives, this restaurant which located in a shopping mall and just a few minutes walk away from the train station is an option.

This is a set of fried puffer fish with breadcrumbs set. It tasted more of plain breadcrumbs than anything else.

Fried puffer fish set. It was a bit too oily and hardly any taste nor texture to it. The batter to it was too dry and made it hard to swallow let alone finish it. The frying technique was probably amateurish.

Puffer fish set, with raw puffer fish served in sashimi style.

Pure puffer fish flesh. It had a chewy texture, with just a hint of sweetness. It tasted like rubber with very little significant taste to it. The sauce that accompanies just gives it a salty effect to it, and that was basically what it was. There was not a numbing sensation on the tongue or any reason to risk one's life for the taste of it. But perhaps the choice of this economical restaurant very much explains why.

The set meal comes with decorative puffer fish dish.

In spite of the quality of the meal, it just cost less than 1000円 per person, way way below what one might expect for a quality puffer fish meal.
However, this restaurant's stuff probably provided one of the best service for their customer. As usual, there would be some language barriers in communicating, but the waitress would be quite patient and try her best to understand and be understood. In this case, it is likely that she knows no English at all. Probably because the location is Yamaguchi, a more rural area.

When the waitress comes over to the table to clear the table, or to fill up the tea, she would say '失礼します', meaning excuse me for bothering. Upon leaving, she would say that polite phrase again, while facing us with a slight bow. This type of service and politeness is probably quite rare even in Japan, and so far the only restaurant experienced that provided this experience.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Japan 9: Iwakuni

岩国 or Iwakuni is a town situated in 山口県, Yamaguchi Prefecture, some 30 kilometres away from Hiroshima City. It is relatively a much less crowded place.

らいらい is a small eatery house just a few steps away from the train station. There was not any customer in the eatery and during the period there, only 2 other men patronised the eatery.

Beef with rice and some wonderful pumpkin for appetiser.

Pork cutlet set.


All these cost around 700円 per set. Overall, the food was considered to be of above average standards, but what make this place impressionable is the homely feel of this eatery, something which probably represents what the normal Japanese have for their dinner at home.

Some night scenes in Iwakuni.


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