okayama

I Hate Japanese Valentines Days

This isn’t another bitter single-gal post, I promise. Japanese Valentines Days actually sck and in a big way. I’m serious. Well, it sucks for the girls because on V day, it’s the girls and only the girls who are to gift chocolates to the MEN. Yep, the tables turn and in a big way. So all this chocolate, all these fancy boxes with even fancier wrappings, are all for HIM! Lame.

But, in their defence, one month later, on March 14th, the Japanese celebrate/participate in a Japanese only (I think) celebratory day called White Day, which is when men are supposed to give return gifts to the women who had gifted them a month prior. Which, is kind of unfair seeing as you HAVE to give to take…Hehe.

Below are pictures from the chocolate expose of the Tenmaya Department Store in Okayama (floor 6) where there are 100 different varieties of fancy chocolate, including TESTERS. Yes, testers! Go, go, go!

Click HERE for more information.
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Lunch with a view (review I’ve lost count)

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Turns out Mimasaka ain’t as shit as what I initially thought. Apparently, good old Confucius was right: everything has beauty, but not everyone can see it or something like that. For up in the mountains in Yunogo, there is a little gem of a restaurant called Yukuru Terrace and it’s B.E.A.utiful.

Yukuru terrace is where I’d take my mama (if my mama were in Japan) for lunch. You know what I mean? It’s one of those places. Lunch with a view, free-wifi (if she starts giving you a lecture), an abundance of artsy magazines (probably for the same reason), hot sun shining through the large glass windows and slow slow relaxing (yukkuru) ambiance.

But before you start punching the address in your GPS, there’s a few things left to mention. According to my Japanese friend, they only serve 15 meals per day. After that, it’s only coffee and cake. So, if you want to have one of the two lunch options on offer, you should probably go as early as you can – they open at 11.

Both choices are 1400 yen with an option of adding a tea/coffee and cake for an extra 300.

Of course, we did that because it takes insane self-control to turn down cake and overall, everything was great.

For 1700 we were given a garden salad, sweet potato soup, octopus spaghetti, bread roll, coffee and a slice of apple ricotta cake fit for an anorexic caterpillar – you know, the usual Japanese standard.

A cheap organic cafe in Okayama

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Yes, such a combination DOES exist! And even more surprisingly so, in JAPAN, where health-foods are as expensive as diamonds. Seriously, $20 for a jar of coconut oil? $25 for a pinch of Acai powder? Are these peeps for realz?

Anyways, close to Okayama city is an adorable cozy cafe run by an elderly hippie couple  called “Nono Cafe“. It’s cheap, it’s organic and it’s absolutely, seriously, Iswearmylifeonit delicious.

They’re only open three days a week (Sat Sun and Mon) as it takes time creating everything by hand (homemade tofu, pickles, miso, konjac etc… even the fruit and vegetables they grow themselves).

Each day the meal on offer is different. It is traditional Japanese cuisine with a twist. You get one starter, one big plate filled with a variety of delicious things and a small “dessert”. I use quotation marks because everything is healthy but, everything is also delicious – wait, did I say that already? Ah well, it’s worth saying again.

You have to go there. It’s my favourite eatery in Japan, yet.

 

Bengali in Okayama

If you’re the type that gets offended easily, then I recommend you walk away now.

I’m about to offend some people (If you didn’t get that already).

Here goes…

The only two “spices” used in Japanese food are SUGAR and SALT.

Let the hate-mail start!

But seriously. Japanese food seriously lacks spice and my middle-eastern tongue NEEDS cardamom, cumin, turmeric, coriander and most of all it yearns YEARNS for hot-hot-heat (the band and the chilli). This is where Milenga (Bengali cuisine) comes to the rescue, wearing a cute apron and carrying a colourful and flavor-packed thali. To which I say, Hallelujah, the spice Gods have come! (To Okayama).
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And then I was bitten by a centipede

My ankle is the size of Russia. As in, swollen as f$%^. From a centipede bite. Yes, centipede. Thank you, inaka (countryside). To make matters worse, I happen to be staying at a nice hotel, in a busy spot in Okayama city with plenty of foodie places to explore (for a three day teacher’s conference) and, since I can’t WALK I can’t go outside. Alas, things could be worse. My hotel could be one of those 1 in a trillion hotels where there’s no room-service available.. oh wait, it is one of those… !!!

On a good note, today’s lunch at The Market, an organic bakery was Divine (with a capital D). I had a vegetarian sandwich and a soy latte. From across the street at Cotan (the organic food-store sister of Market) I purchased a RAW cacao bar, organic banana and a cold camomile tea drink which I am slowly savouring for dinner now. WHAT HOTEL DOESNT HAVE ROOM SERVICE? Good thing Cotan saved my behind. Anyways, I loved both Market and Cotan. I am so lucky that they’re only 2 min walking distance from my conference hall. In fact, I will be hopping there come lunch-break tomorrow and the next day, if I make it out alive. Please keep my foot in mind! I’m serious, my ankle’s HUGE.
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Tempura cream cheese and avocado

There are MANY impressive sushi-trains in Japan. Big in rural Shoo Town is not one of them. Except for the fact that they serve TEMPURA CREAM CHEESE AND AVOCADO. Yes, your two most favourite foods, married then deep fried for eternal joy. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with the rest of their menu, but the avocado, oh the avocado. So, if you’re ever in Shoo, which is probably never, unless you’re lost driving in rural japan, which is still unlikely as errybody trains, stop by BIG sushi for BIG flavour or something like that.
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This is not what I was expecting when I thought about moving to Japan..

And boy was I blown away. There is so much beauty to be found in Japanese countryside alongside cans of HOT coffee around every corner like literally, every corner. Fun fact: there are fewer people in NZ than there are vending machines in Japan #thirst.

Some other things:
1.If you’ve ever wondered why soy milk is white but edamame are green, it is because fresh edamame are white too (under the green shell)
And,
2.The Japanese dry persimmons (in the most interesting fashion by hanging bag fulls like wind chimes outside their homes) and these wrinkly beauties taste like no other. Dry on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside; it’s time everyone started doing this. SO yum! You HAVE to try them.

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the best fruit parfait in okayama

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Okayama AKA the ‘Sunny Land’ is known for its delicious fruit and in particular, its white peaches. The folk tale of Momotaro, a boy born from a peach who became a warrior, originated in this region. Here, as well as actual whole fruits, an extensive variety of fruit (in particular peach and grape) products are on offer. These include, fruit jams, fruit chocolate, fruit jello-like desserts, fruit tea and even fruit curry! Not sure how I feel about the latter but hey! We ought to give everything a go, right? Perhaps most popular of all fruity products though, are Okayama’s fruit parfaits. These as you can imagine, can be seriously good and are often served with a combination of cream/ice-cream/sponge cake and oddly, corn-flakes – go figure? And range anywhere from 600YEN to a whopping 2200YEN.

So, where is the BEST fruit parfait in Okayama you say? Kurashiki Momoko is my answer (In Kurashiki – well, duh). Kurashiki Momoko is a farm direct outlet located in the Historical Quarter of Kurashiki, run by the Okayama Prefecture Vegetables and Fruits Sales Group. The two-story building is a retail space on the ground floor and an adorable wooden furniture fitted café, on the second. You know a place knows their shizzle when there’s a line out the door!

One of the most popular items on their menu is the fruit parfait, which is available only during the peach season. Fruit options include: peach (well, of course), grape, fig, pear and mixed fruit. They are generously proportioned (especially the 22000Yen one) and seriously GOOD – I mean look at that picture! The café also serves smoothies, gelatos and other cakes/sweets as well as a range of edible souvenirs, all made with locally grown Okayama fruit.

We ordered the fig and pear parfaits and ohhh boy.

However; I do have one tiny complaint though. When we finally reached the counter, after having waited our turn like civil folk, we were escorted all the way to the back of the line again! What had happened is that the shop assistant had assumed (as unfortunately often happens here – sorrynotsorry) that the foreigners had pushed in line. Thanks to a lovely Japanese woman (who with her family had been waiting behind us all along) speaking up, we were apologised to and escorted to the front again. Here’s hoping you won’t have the same experience – A minor glinch compared to the epic sequel, though!

kurashiki diary

Although Christchurch and Kurashiki are some 5800 miles apart, riding down the Kurashiki river feels almost identical to punting on the Avon. In fact, some may say the two are related (wink wink). According to my Japanese friends, Kurashiki, Christchurch’s sister city is most famous for its incredible art (glass in particular), delicious food and great shopping (jeans in particular). In other words: its Christchurch. Except with a snack shop entirely dedicated to soy snacks (peach, shrimp, matcha, white grape, grape grape and so on), an extensive chopstick store and a denim district equipped with a denim cafe selling everything blue – and when I say everything I mean everything:  denim sweet bread,  denim burger and denim soft serve. Ewww!image[8]
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