Thursday, March 25, 2010

Greetings from Osaka

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I’m hanging out at a Doutor cafe with a ice coffee, while stealing someone’s internet signal from somewhere.  Since my friends are late arriving from Tokyo, I thought I’d do a little due diligence and offer everyone an update.

I finished my leg of Sapporo this morning and took a 8:30AM plane to Osaka.  While stumbling in the city, I quickly found my way to the Shinbaishi shopping district where there is literally no end to the stores and malls that surround this crazy street.  It is made up of store after store after store – stretching miles.  Personally, I’m rather sick of shopping for nothing, though I did stumble into the textile district and found a lacquer/wood worker store.  I scooped up a few gorgeous red and black lacquered tasting/cooking spoons –not very exciting.

In Sapporo, I had 4 mind numbing bowls of ramen in less than 24 hours, but since getting here to Osaka, I decided to give a little place called Iga Bungadou Ramen a try, but it was disappointing.  I’m glad I didn’t actually bring the nice camera to the place considering the ramen wasn’t particularly special – still good, but considering how the game has been raised in Sapporo – my expectations are well beyond that (at least in Japan).  I’m really hoping the ramen part of the trip didn’t peak at night one.

Speaking of peaking, the hotel I stayed at in the Susukino district of Sapporo happened to be located right at the part where the Soapland shops were prominent – namely the red light district.  Lucky for me, I judge international Asian trips by three very basic factors, 1). how good the food was 2). did I get food poisoned and 3). did I contract a STD.  Two out of three makes for a successful trip on a basic level, but I aim for the perfect score most of the time.

I also ate a breaded shrimp burger and some chicken nuggets from Lotteria.  They seriously know how to fry their shit in Japan.  Those nuggets were mighty tasty – fast food or not.  Nobody thinks for a second that I am not Japanese until I start busting out the “say it slower” or “no Japanese.”  But the magic words are still basically, “hai”, “domo”, “arigatou” and “mushi mushi”.  Gets it done almost every time. 

I have a habit of burrowing into random izakayas and shops in alleyways.  As long as it smells like charcoal and has barstool customers, I’m there.  I found some badass charred mutton last night.  It was so good with some charred savoy cabbage on the side.  The chef cooked it over a towering 6 ft. blaze of fire on top of his net grill.  Medium in the middle, lightly smoky on the outside.  Perfect.

I’ll have some amazing food pics soon, but here is a itty bitty recap of Osaka in Palm Pre pictures and my video of the live Fugu I found in Osaka while wandering:

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Hot Food Porn Meets Godzilla – A Precursor

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As I promised on twitter, I will write often when I have downtime.  It just so happens that I ended up in San Jose Airport 4 hours too early for my flight which means I get to sit in a desolate corner – roughly 100 yards from any visible human being.  My $4.10 Illy ice latte helps, but barely.  I could play hide and seek here – with myself.

For those that do not know, I chose vacationing in Japan over France.  This marks the first trip I’ve had without any singular purpose other than exploration and vacation.  There is no family reunion, no wedding, no event, no work and more importantly no timed schedule.  The last time I had a trip like this, it was about 4-5 years ago when I went to San Francisco – a trip that sealed one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself.

For my trip in Japan, I will be visiting Sapporo, Osaka, Kyoto, a Bed Breakfast farm outside of northern Tokyo and finally Tokyo.  I plan on discovering and documenting lots great ramen, inhaling all types of meat on a stick, and simply soaking in Japan’s culinary philosophy.  Really, the best part about seeing a different country is learning the cultural and culinary rhythm of its people.  The process and method in which a society approaches food is really a keystone to their lifestyle. 

If you understand how, when and why people eat the way they do, you now have a window into all of their patterns and routines.  And, by doing so, it will only help us reexamine and redefine our own approaches; it’s a good way to learn about streamlining your own lifestyle via options you never knew could exist (e.g. like the discovery of the dining schedule of the French).

One of the most interesting and symbiotic aspects of Japanese cuisine is the ability to fuse meticulous and efficiently processed/packaged food culture alongside a fundamentally spiritual approach for ingredients.  I’m always curious about how conflicting it is to have such an accepting and open approach to processed items when there is an overarching philosophy to treat ingredients/animals with complete respect and intention of achieving peak flavor.

Is there a clear cut separation between those cognizant of a “buyer beware” regarding processed foods and those that do not?  Or is this a matter of rural tradition preservation versus the “necessary” conveniences of modern metropolis? 

Anyhoot, enough with the in-depth discussion, in a day or so, I will be happily snapping pictures and enjoying street food on the other side of the world.   Oh, and for some reason, the ladies love Green Tea KitKats.  They tell me that they like me a bunch, but they’d like me a whole lot more with Green Tea KitKats.  There’s a lesson to the men of San Francisco, beer goggles not necessary when you’re rocking green tea and chocolate crispiness. 

Catch you on the flip side.