Friday, May 01, 2009

JAPAN SAKURA TRIP April 2009: Last 2 days

Day 8 13th/April Monday: Suizen-ji temple, Fukuoka, Hakatta ramen, Canal city, Hakatta Ningyo, sukiyaki dinner

Suizen-ji is reputed to be one of the 3 most beautiful gardens in Japan. Inside here, there are many replicas of other famous landmarks in Japan, like Mt. Fuji and others.

We arrived at Suizen-ji early morning, and there were not many tourists yet.

This big Japanese garden welcomed us as we strolled into the park.

Drinking this water cleanses your body and you will stay young forever ;)

There are many scenic spots, like this...

and I love this gorgeous pine tree.

Notice Mt. Fuji at the background?

From here, we headed towards Fukuoka, and it took us almost 2 hours. Lunch was the first thing in mind, and the Ramen stadium in Canal city was our target.
Canal city is huge. It has many high end shops, including 13 cinemas, and 2 hotels

Did we cycle there? I forgot.

This robot walked towards us and said in English," Welcome to Canal City" How nice.....

Entrance to Ramen stadium through this big plate. There are many Ramen cum gyoza shops inside. You are supposed to share with your partners and try as many shops as you can. #9 set the record of eating 3 shops continuously in one go!
#6 and I managed only 2 :(

Hakatta Ramen claimed to use mainly pork in their soup preparation. However, we felt that it was too porky for us, though the noodle itself tasted very springy and delicious.

The second shop we tried used chicken stock, and we liked it better. Kyushu people would murder us if they read this.

After lunch we had some free time shopping.
Well you know who was the shopping queen with the mobile bank?

Some strayed, hunting for big toys....

Some roamed till the top floor and were almost lost. Click play button to watch.

Interestingly, everyone met back at this " Cold stone" creamery and had a gala time with those delicious ice cream. These girls worked with high morale, singing as they go along, reminding me of 'Cold stone' in California.
Click play to check:

As the majority preferred to shop at more typical, smaller Japanese shops, we went underground and started to search for Hakatta Ningyo ( Clay dolls ) and other souvenirs.

We were lucky to locate 3 shops, including 2 supermarkets, which stocked these pretty clay dolls. A couple of these eventually landed in Malaysia :)

There was a last minute change in our dinner plan. Originally, we were supposed to try Korean style BBQ beef, called yakiniku. However, #8 was so fascinated with the 'Sukiyaki' meal we had earlier that he requested for a change. So we landed up in this nice restaurant, for the last dinner in Japan for this trip.
Following the Japanese tradition, men sit first, then the ladies may enter ;p hehe.


This was just the beginning

As usual, sashimi followed. Good!

Then a small plate of tempura chipped in.

Eventually, the main meal, marble Nagasaki beef sukiyaki, was the killer.

This is how it looked during cooking...

If you like to learn the secret of Sukiyaki preparation, click here:
The sukiyai was good, but we felt the beef was too thin. Such thickness we had before was for shabu shabu. Those beef for Sukiyaki were thicker, while those for yakiniku was the thickest.

The last dish was kishimen, a Nagoya famous noodle, in sukiyaki beef sauce.
It's white, like our Koay-Teow.
However, it was thicker, and made of wheat.
Taste was good, but everyone was too full.
Let's call it a day.

Day 9 14th/April Tuesday: Japan, we will be back!
This is our last day in Japan:(.
It had been a wonderful trip, excellent timing for sakura, beautiful weather, good company, delicious food, and tons of laughter........

However, every event must come to an end.

While we bid Japan farewell today, we will be back. Thus we said" Matta Ai-i mashyo" Which means, 'see you again'
Perhaps in Nagoya, or Sendai ;)

In the airport, Choon Howe caught this loving picture of a father and daughter :)

The rest of the group still looked fresh, despite 9 days away from home. Really?
Suddenly, I missed my Char Koay Toew and Hokkian mee.
I also missed Cindy, my dog;).
There is no place like home, right?
.................Cheers :)

JAPAN SAKURA TRIP April 2009: 7/9

Day 7 12th/April Sunday: Volcanic mud pools, Mt. Aso, Kusasenrigahama, Kumamoto handy craft center, raw horse meet, puffer fish sashimi. We are alive!

Today, the first place we visited was "The Blood Pool"
It was red probably because of the plentiful iron oxide.

Japanese call it "Blood Hell".

That explained why the devil was around.

Turning back, I saw Suan See talking to the fishes.

Then we left for for another famous mud pool. As we walked in, these flowers welcomed us.
Spring has arrived!

This place is called "Sea Hell".
As you can easily imagine, the pool here is blue in colour.

The steam was abundant at times.

I found some new movie talents.
Watch your hands, boy!

Do you know some one was keeping a close watch?
Watching? No! she was waiting for.....

her hard boiled eggs :)

Then we found this lotus pond, with lot's of beautiful tropical flowers, including orchids.

We witnessed another movie was being shot. The actor walked through a shower of fallen sakura petals, how romantic....

floating towards him was this young promising actress.....
This film will be nominated for Oscar award soon.

On our way down, we stopped for lunch in this nice little Japanese style restaurant.

The window commands a good view of a very pretty garden. However, as we were hungry, many did not realise it's existence.

Well, it was a light, healthy Japanese lunch.

Not much meat...... :( Not to the likings of my brothers.

After lunch, we headed towards Mt. Aso, the biggest live Volcano in Japan. At a height of 1592 meters, it has the world biggest caldera.
This was where we boarded the cable car.

Surrounding slopes of Mt. Aso had hardly any vegetation.

Furious wind blew....

#8 and my family took a long walk up this place, where the wind was indeed, very strong.

and was hence cold after a while.....

You can see the huge caldera here.

As we descended from Mt. Aso, we passed by this place called 草千里ヶ浜, which means "field where you will find grass growing for a thousand miles, without any trees".

A professional photographer was seen snapping away with a model posing with various postures.

This photo was voted " Best picture" of the year.
Nice angle, pretty model, and you know who was the photographer lah!

We then visited "Kumamoto Handy Craft Center", where some bought interesting local souvenirs.
It sits next to the black Kumamoto Castle, in contrast to the white 'Himeji Castle' we visited earlier.

Dinner was a real adventure in this nice Aoyagi restaurant.

Kumamoto is famous for horse meat and sea food, as it's near to the sea. That explained our nightmare ;(
This was the appetizer.
Many did not like the lotus roots as they were filled with too much wasabi.
But I love them.

This was raw horse meat salad.
Many, well, almost all tried....

Then basashi ( raw horse meat sashimi ) came, and some took the challenge, especially the younger ones, and a few others:)
It was crunchy, and did not carried any smell we feared.
Texture was like taking "rare" steak.

We could easily identify the tenderloin, fillet, and liver on the plate.
When asked, we were told that the white slices were from the neck of horses.
So we tried.

#6 took almost a piece, I took 2, uncle took 1 Cheurn Howe swallowed 3, while Tsih Ern enjoyed all the 5 pieces, including those meant for the parents. Many others tried too.
Ask Tsi Ern how it taste?

It was not until towards the end of the dinner that we found out that they were " raw horse fat" OMG!

We also ordered the potentially fatal puffer fish, Fugu! About a hundred die every year after consuming puffer fish :(
Some internal organs must be removed or else.......that will the end of our trip!

I assured my brothers that if there were one place on earth we could try puffer fish, it's Japan!
Yet when the 'fugu sashimi' came, my brothers insisted that I should eat first, and should I still breathe after 5 minutes, then only they will eat.
They didn't know, the effect will pour in only after 10 minutes :)

This is my third attempt, and it was still very exciting.
It was sooooo good, soft yet crunchy, produced great satisfaction in the mouth
5 minutes later, someone started eating and both plates were swept empty in no time :)

Everyone claimed that it was excellent!
Nothing was spared for this puffer fish. Some of the meat and skin were fried and cooked.
Yum yum.

Even the bones were fried, crispy like crackers.
Choon Howe snatched this last piece, even though his mouth was still filled with earlier pieces.

We also had others kinds of live raw fish. We were told to put the white soft staffs in the bowl in the soya sauce, and then use it for dipping. It is called 'Shirako'.
All faithfully followed :)
I kept quite and everyone ate with a little frown.
Folks, Shirako is actually the 'sperm sac' of fish. It's filled with sperms!!!
Taste good? Hehe....

and this fish too, but nothing tricky this case.

But nothing beats puffer fish!
I love you! FUGU.
Technically speaking, mass continuous laughter is a symptom of pre-'Puffer Fish Poisoning'.
However, those who laugh till they wet their pants will survive, and emerge stronger than before.
Finally, these are the surviving wives....

And these are the brothers who live to tell this long stories.....