August 29, 2010

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Monjayaki vs Okonomiyaki It’s always interesting to learn just what kind of google searches bring people to our blog. Sometimes it’s the bizarre stuff, like “monkeys use onsen in winter what do they do when they get out” or “tengu fetish”. Sorry, I don’t know what they do when they get out, presumably use a towel to dry themselves and then retire under the blankets with a heating pad. That’s what I would do, and I’m of comparable intelligence to a Japanese monkey. And "Tengu fetish"? Please, if that’s you who googled that, stop reading now and try to channel your sexual urges into something more socially acceptable, like good old-fashioned bondage. Though on the other hand, that unnaturally long nose does create some interesting possibilities… hmmm. Yet for the most part what brings lost web surfers here is the usual and the mundane. “Japanese schoolgirls”. “Fundoshi”. “Japanese food.” Sorry, can’t do much about the first two today, but what about Japanese food? As it happens, you're in luck - that can be arranged. Hinokuruma is listed in the Lonely Planet guides, how about that? While running some errands in Nikko last Thursday, we stopped by at Hinokuruma (a restaurant run by our friend Shinako) and had okonomiyaki for lunch. Mine was pork kimchee, Dr Trouble’s – just pork. His porky okonomi before cooking. And here they are on a hot plate. Yum! Dr Trouble tried to talk me into ordering monjayaki, but I’m not that dumb. Fortunately, a lovely couple from Tochigi city (hi guys!!!) came to my rescue. They were kind enough to let me film them, too. Thanks! Yes, it looks vile. Now, I’m known to consume things that look disgusting but even I have my standards. Or as my friend, who served me my very first monja years ago in Tokyo said – “everything can be made palatable with a proper application of bacon or beer.” How true! And since I don’t like beer, I normally stick to bacon. So would I eat a pork-free monja, like this one here? Not a chance in hell. “What if it was made by a handsome guy wearing nothing but a fundoshi?” I hear you say. Oh, shut up! Or watch these two videos and tell me - which one would YOU rather have for lunch? Making monjayaki: And making okonomiyaki:
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Walk in the woods - behind the shrine complex in Nikko Last Thursday we had some errands to run, and as much as I hate errands, I can’t complain too much in this case. One of those errands brought us to Futaara shrine in Nikko. See what I mean? There are plenty of a lot worse places you could be forced to visit on official business. Like the Immigration Office in Utsunomiya, or the drivers license testing center in Kanuma. I’ll take the Shrine and Temple complex anytime. Since we are chronic cheapskates and hate paying for parking (which, as you can imagine, is rather expensive in touristy areas, and you don’t get any more touristy than Sannai in Nikko), we did what we always do. Instead of stopping at one of the big parking lots nearby Rinnoji, we continued up the mountain, past the grave of monk Shodo, towards Takinoo shrine. Yep, along this road. Be careful, it's narrow. You want to park for free when visiting Nikko? Then you gotta do the same. Follow the narrow, twisty road along the river and soon you will see plenty of spaces where you can park your car, 100% legally, for free. The downside of this arrangement is that you still need to walk to the shrines. But you walk alone, or almost alone, through the woods. There are no loud tourist crowds, no information booths, no commotion. Just you and a stone path through the forest. But don’t worry, the path is well maintained. It’s the same path that the shinto priests use during Yayoi festival when they carry mikoshi back from Takinoo shrine to Futaara. Not a soul in sight. The path will take you by the entrance to Mt. Nyoho. Seeing the sign there, I realized that it might be a good idea to climb this mountain as a practice run for next year’s Mt. Nantai midnight extravaganza. Yes, we’ll be climbing that mountain again. And again - at night. Sad, this is the shrine by the entrance to Mt. Nyoho. People, who do that, should be tarred and feathered and made to wear a sign around the neck proclaiming "I have an IQ of a stool sample." And Marielle (because I'm pretty sure that's who wrote it - judging from the crossed out "Andrea" above) - yes, you're stupid. Anyone who disrespects any place of worship like that is a moron. Case closed. But Nyoho is relatively easy to climb, or at least those familiar with it say so, and I’d like to believe them. So maybe in September when the weather’s nice and not too hot, we'd give it a try. Are you up for some Nikko mountain climbing this fall? You're welcome to join us. This time we’ll do it, like normal people, during daytime. Statue at the entrance to Mt. Nyoho. Following this stone path to Futaara, you’ll exit the woods at the back of the shrine. You’ll also get to see a lovely view of Taiyuin along the way (it will be on the...

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