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Shikoku, Japan- 2019

Shikoku, Japan- 2019
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  • Shikoku, Japan- 2019

    Post #1 - December 18th, 2020, 10:56 am
    Post #1 - December 18th, 2020, 10:56 am Post #1 - December 18th, 2020, 10:56 am
    I have been a long time lurker (and very infrequent poster) but with some time on my hands thought I’d do a trip report for our (me & my husband) 2019 trip to Shikoku, Japan.

    Some background. This was our 4th trip to Japan. We’ve gone every year since our first trip in 2016 when we fell in love with the country (well, except this year when our road trip around Kyushu in the spring was cancelled). Previous trips were Tokyo-Matsumoto-Takayama-Kanazawa-Kyoto-Osaka (with day trips) in 2016, Fukuoka-Nagasaki-Hiroshima-Onomichi-Kurashiki-Matsue-Sendai for Yamadera Temple- Tokyo in 2017 (with day trips) and then in 2018 we went specifically for cherry blossoms so we slept in Tokyo & send the days taking day trips to places that had full bloom like Matsumoto & Fukushima.

    In terms of planning we work on the overall itinerary together and then my husband handles all the daily planning (what we do each day, opening times etc) while I handle all of the food planning. I do a google map of all of the possible restaurants (lunch & dinner) and then send him a short list of dinner options along with links to Tabelog (like the yelp of Japan but much more trustworthy), blogs, Instagram and the like. Then I have him pick his top picks and I get the reservations made (shout out to my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for their concierge service). We always have dinner reservations for each night in Japan (unless the place doesn’t accept them) as places can be very small so you’ll get shut out and it can be seen as rude to just show up without a reservation. And having traveled together before we know that not having reservations leads to indecision and fighting (for us). The google map includes pics of the outside of each restaurant (since names are not in english & it makes it easier to find places). I search online to see if any places have menus posted (on their site or a couple of Japanese sites like hitosara & retty) and if they do I translate them in advance & bring them with me. We also rent a mobile wi-fi unit so we have the internet everywhere we go (so we can always access our google maps).

    My husband is also the language guy no matter where we are visiting (he has a skill for them). So he learned a bunch of useful phrases and he taught himself hiragana & katakana, two of the 3 written alphabets that are used in Japan as well as a few food kanji (which is the hardest- essentially like Chinese hanzi). So in some spots we were actually able to order off of the Japanese menu.

    Our trip last year was a road trip around Shikoku. Shikoku is the least visited of Japan’s islands especially by westerners. The city of Matsuyama will get some day trippers from Hiroshima because it’s a short boat ride away (we visited that way in 2017) but much of the rest of the island does not get many western tourists. Shikoku is famous for the 88 temple pilgrimage where pilgrims (called henro or ohenro) travel to all 88 temples on the island. This is traditionally done on foot but nowadays people drive or even take tours to visit them (especially the elderly in Japan). You’ll see henro in their traditional white vests & cone hats all over the island.

    Our itinerary was Tokyo (one night)- Kochi (3 nights)-Uwajima (2 nights)-Matsuyama (2nights)-Tokushima (3 Nights)-Takamatsu (3 nights)-Tokyo (3 nights) with day trips to various spots. We had a car from the 2nd Kochi day to the last day in Takamatsu. My husband did all the driving and once he got used to driving on the other side of the road it was very easy. Japanese drivers follow the speed limits & traffic laws (unlike some other countries-cough, Italy). We had a car with an English navigation system so getting around was easy. The only time we had any issues were on the smaller rural roads that were essentially one lane but allowed traffic from both ways. Those were a bit scary, especially some of more mountain roads that had blind turns. A car is definitely a must in Shikoku. We went to lots of rural areas and as such sometimes lunches were from the conbini (convenience store) like Lawsons and Family Mart. Thankfully convenience stores in Japan are great so we had a lot of karaage, egg salad & tonkatsu sandwiches on this trip.

    Since this is a food site I’ll focus on the food so note there are lots of non-food sites to see in all of these places. A link to all of our pictures is here https://www.flickr.com/photos/andychup/albums and I’d be happy to answer any questions.
  • Post #2 - December 18th, 2020, 11:19 am
    Post #2 - December 18th, 2020, 11:19 am Post #2 - December 18th, 2020, 11:19 am
    Our first stop was Kochi. Kochi was our favorite spot on the trip and I would recommend it to anyone that loves food and a city with a great vibe. Kochi is also known for drinking (it’s said its people are the biggest drinkers in Japan). Local food specialties include katsuo no tataki, a slightly seared bonito (seared over burning straw) which comes garnished with yuzu ponzu sauce (or salt), raw garlic & onions, utsubo karaage (deep fried moray eel), fruit tomatoes (literally the best tomatoes I’ve ever had) and deep fried laver (like seaweed but from a river). We tried all of these and more at local restaurants. All are great.

    Our first food stop was Hirome market. It’s essentially a food hall with various restaurant stalls as well as butchers, fish shops & a sake shop. There are large tables of communal seating spread throughout. The first day we stopped for lunch but we were there every day we were in Kochi for at least a snack. It is truly great and a must visit. You’ll likely end up sharing a table with other people- don’t be surprised if they start up a conversation (which happened to us). People are very friendly in Japan especially in places where they don’t get a lot of western tourists. If you are there be sure to try the gyoza from Yasubee. The most well known shop at the market is probably Myojinmaru which sells the katsuo no tataki (they also have a couple of other locations). You can watch it being made as you wait in line (huge flames). We had this as well but it was the worst katsuo of the trip.
    ImageDSC_0598 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    ImageDSC_0615 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    One thing you’ll definitely want to visit in Kochi is the castle. It’s one of the 12 original castles left in Japan and it’s just a short walk from Hirome market. Once on the grounds keep your eye open for the ice crin vendor. Ice crin is another local specialty of Kochi. It’s like a cross between ice milk and kakigori. It’s more icy and has less milk fat than ice cream. It’s very refreshing. The stall there had various flavors like vanilla, matcha, and chocolate.

    ImageDSC_0857 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    ImageDSC_0867 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    The other big must visit in Kochi is the Sunday market. The market is great. It runs almost a mile down the middle of one of the main streets every Sunday. Tons of beautiful produce (including those fruit tomatoes- we bought some & ate them as snacks) as well as fish, pickles, some antiques and even a few hipster type stalls selling crafts. There are yakitori stands as well as our favorite the imo-ten stall selling freshly made tempura sweet potatoes. These were great. Yuzu is locally grown & will show up everywhere in Kochi and you can get freshly squeezed Yuzu juice at the market. There is a good souvenir shop called Tosa Select Shop Tencosu that has a lot of locally food souvenirs like yuzu juice, furikake with yuzu and other local specialties.
    ImageDSC_1088 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    Image20190331_095552 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    We had three dinners in Kochi. All at izakayas and all three great though we liked the last two the most). At all the service was friendly and all were very local (we were the only non-Japanese there).

    The first night we ate a Fujinoya (藤のや). The menu here is in English, Japanese & has pictures so no worries in trying to order. Like the other restaurants we went to in Kochi they specialize in the local specialties. We had katsuo no tataki (we were at the counter so this was made right in front of us), utsubo karaage (deep fried moray eel), fruit tomatoes, deep fried laver as well as other dishes like grilled squid legs and salmon chazuke (tea poured over rice with salmon). Every spot we went to had local sake as well so assume we’re drinking our fill of that!
    Image20190330_203226 by A-S-C, on Flickr

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    The next night we ate at Kamontei (かもん亭). When my credit card reserved this for us the restaurant said they would put together a menu for us since they didn’t have an English menu & spoke limited English (essentially omakase). This works great for us as we’ll eat anything we are given and we’ve done this in the past. Kamontei was great. We sat at the counter which here meant you sat on the ground with your feet in a well while the area behind the counter was sunken. The menu still had the specialties (the katsuo no tataki was probably our favorite) but the dishes seemed a little more creative. We had a crab soup, fantastic grilled beef (Tosa beef is a specialty of Kochi as well) , pressed sushi with shiso leaves, a tempura platter that included laver, sweet potato & moray eel and beef, tofu & konjac stew. Two of the dishes we added at the end when they asked if we were full. A fantastic dinner.
    Image20190331_202406 by A-S-C, on Flickr

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    The last night was at Donko (どんこ). I made sure to have good pics for this one as it’s down a small alley and looks like it’s in an old house so a bit hard to fine. I also had the credit card reserve their mackerel pressed sushi as it’s their specialty and always sells out. I don’t actually care for mackerel so this was all my husbands. Donko has the feel of someone’s old house though it’s obviously a restaurant. Lots of wood and some random stuff sitting around (including an old rotary dial phone that was still being used). There was no English menu but the owner (I assume her was at least) spoke a bit of English and we established we would eat anything he provided so he chose the menu. We had the usual specialties of katsuo no tatki, utsubo karaage, laver tempura that also included little whole fish, bamboo shoots, grilled belly of the katsuo (bonito) and the fruit tomatoes wrapped in bacon and grilled. Another great meal.
    Image20190401_212934 by A-S-C, on Flickr

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    Other than Hirome market we only had lunch once in Kochi and that was ramen at Kuraki. I can’t remember if there was an English menu but there were definitely pictures so ordering was easy. Very good shoyu ramen.

    Next it's on to Uwajima!
  • Post #3 - December 18th, 2020, 12:29 pm
    Post #3 - December 18th, 2020, 12:29 pm Post #3 - December 18th, 2020, 12:29 pm
    Cool and thanks. I visited Japan a few dozen times. Spent a lot of it in Matsumoto. When you were there I am sure you visited their castle. One of the local foods was crispy bumble bees. Legend has it that 100's of years ago, a huge snow storm wreaked havoc on the food chain. People needed food, so one of the things they did was to go out and raid the hibernating bee's nests and use that for sustenance. In speaking with the locals, it was a local tradition and would not be available in the other parts of Japan.
  • Post #4 - December 18th, 2020, 12:40 pm
    Post #4 - December 18th, 2020, 12:40 pm Post #4 - December 18th, 2020, 12:40 pm
    Nice. Usually, Flickr® photos take forever to load for me; but yours did not seem to cause that. :!:
    I anticipate future tales of your visit. :)
    Lately, I have been browsing English-language translations of these Japanese ramen reviewers: They are interesting. Obviously, they are not having as much diversity in their dining habits as did you. :roll:
    Valuable links for survival, without the monetization attempt: http://74.115.231.54/~pudgym29/bookmark4.html
  • Post #5 - December 18th, 2020, 1:08 pm
    Post #5 - December 18th, 2020, 1:08 pm Post #5 - December 18th, 2020, 1:08 pm
    Cool and thanks. I visited Japan a few dozen times. Spent a lot of it in Matsumoto. When you were there I am sure you visited their castle. One of the local foods was crispy bumble bees. Legend has it that 100's of years ago, a huge snow storm wreaked havoc on the food chain. People needed food, so one of the things they did was to go out and raid the hibernating bee's nests and use that for sustenance. In speaking with the locals, it was a local tradition and would not be available in the other parts of Japan.

    Yes, saw the castle twice, one with the cherry blossoms at full bloom. It's a beautiful castle. Had my favorite miso ramen there both times but did not encounter the crispy bumble bees. I'll have to keep those in mind for the next time I am there. Thanks!
  • Post #6 - December 18th, 2020, 1:11 pm
    Post #6 - December 18th, 2020, 1:11 pm Post #6 - December 18th, 2020, 1:11 pm
    Nice. Usually, Flickr® photos take forever to load for me; but yours did not seem to cause that. :!:
    I anticipate future tales of your visit. :)
    Lately, I have been browsing English-language translations of these Japanese ramen reviewers:
    RAMENOID
    mocopapa
    Stag Beetle
    Chris MacArthur
    They are interesting. Obviously, they are not having as much diversity in their dining habits as did you. :roll:

    Once I figured out how to do it the pics worked well. And that is the hard core ramen blog. I've definitely given it a look but it's a bit intimidating. They take their ramen very seriously!
  • Post #7 - December 18th, 2020, 1:56 pm
    Post #7 - December 18th, 2020, 1:56 pm Post #7 - December 18th, 2020, 1:56 pm
    Zelda-

    Thanks so much for posting! I'm going to spend some time when I'm not working in another window to savor your posts.
    -Mary
  • Post #8 - December 18th, 2020, 3:16 pm
    Post #8 - December 18th, 2020, 3:16 pm Post #8 - December 18th, 2020, 3:16 pm
    From Kochi we headed to Uwajima. The drive was fine and made better by a stop at the Japanese rest stops called Michi-no-eki. Michi-no-eki are rest stops with bathrooms and usually a small restaurant but what makes them special is they also sell local produce as well as local souvenirs & food stuffs. Need some local sake? They’ll have it at the Michi-eki. Forgot to get a bag of yuzu? Also found here as well as local prepared foods. We stopped at pretty much everyone we came across to check them out.
    ImageDSC_1965 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    ImageDSC_1968 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    Uwajima is smaller than Kochi (about 86,000 versus 330,000 in Kochi- note the largest city we’d visit is Matsuyama which is about 515,000). It too has an original castle though it is much smaller that Kochi’s. It's also got a nice garden (Tensha-en) and some good temples and shrines. Some might have heard of Uwajima (or at least seen pictures) because of the Taga Shrine located there. It’s a fertility shrine and as such has a lot of phallic images including one very large carved wooden member. As food specialties go Uwajima has some good ones like taimeshi which is sea bream served raw with raw egg and sauce over hot rice, jakoten which is a type of fish cake and Tachiuo maki which is fish wrapped around bamboo sticks, sauced & grilled.
    ImageDSC_2091 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    After checking in at our hotel we headed to lunch at Kadoya (かどや 駅前本店). Kadoya specializes in taimeshi and has a couple of different locations. We went to the main store that opened in 1955. They had a English menu with pictures that showed the different sets you could get. I got the taimeshi set while my husband got more of a sampler that had taimeshi, jakoten & another local dish whose name escapes me! We actually ate lunch here twice as we both loved the taimeshi.

    Image20190402_132458 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    Image20190402_132617 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    Dinner that night was at Sushi Chichibu (鮨ちちぶ). Now my husband & I are not huge sushi fans. We like it well enough but aren’t the types to spend hundreds of dollars per person on fancy starred spots. That would be wasted on us. I don’t think we’d be able to tell the difference between a good spot & a great spot and frankly fancy places aren’t our thing. Sushi Chichibu was not fancy. It’s a mom & pop place that has been in business for 43 years run by an old couple. We were the only people in the place the whole night. They were both lovely. The husband was the sushi chef and the wife used a pamphlet she had to explain the different types of fish (it had pictures and the names in Japanese & English). So the husband would announce the name of the fish in Japanese and if we didn’t nod in understanding the wife would bust out the pamphlet & show us. Very little English but they tried their best to speak with us and it was just great. We did omakase and I was stuffed at the end. My husband says it was the best sushi we’ve ever had in Japan (granted there have only been like 4 other sushi dinners but still). At the end of the meal the wife gave us real matcha (we watched her whisk it) and a wagashi sweet to go with it. With 4 rounds of sake the bill was about 22300 yen so around $215. Unfortunately the only pics I have are of the sashimi we started with. But a lovely spot.

    Image20190402_200536 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    Image20190402_200533 by A-S-C, on Flickr


    Our second night in Uwajima dinner was at Hozumitei (ほづみ亭). This izakaya is in a great old building and serves local Uwajima specialties. They have an English menu which was a nice surprise. We had the Tachiuo maki (first pic) as well as a fish stew (my husband loved this so we had two), deep fried baby shrimp, bamboo shoots, grilled yellow tail collar, maru zushi (fish over essentially tofu instead of rice), and a few other dishes. We sat next to a lovely couple who were visiting from Tokyo. She had excellent English so we spent much of the night chatting with her while she played interpreter to her boyfriend who had limited English.


    Image20190403_200406 by A-S-C, on Flickr

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  • Post #9 - December 18th, 2020, 3:30 pm
    Post #9 - December 18th, 2020, 3:30 pm Post #9 - December 18th, 2020, 3:30 pm
    The next morning we headed to Matsuyama with a stop in Ozu. Lots to see here like the castle (reconstructed), Garyu Sanso Villa and the Omoide Soko Museum jammed packed with Showa era furniture, toys & nostalgia. If you decide to come you can now actually stay at the castle overnight for the low, low price of 1,000,000 yen for two (about $9700). I think I’ll stick to the daytime visits!
    ImageDSC_2874 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    We had lunch in Ozu at Aburaya (大洲炉端 油屋). Really beautiful spot. They have table seats that overlook the garden & the counter is a huge piece of wood left in most of its original shape. I wish I had more pictures of the inside. At night this is a robata (where they cook everything over the coals right in front of you) and the counter surrounds the grill area but during the day it’s upscale-ish set meals. The chef/owner moved from Tokyo where he has a couple of restaurant to open this place in Ozu. There is an english menu but I knew what I wanted before we sat down as I'd seen it online. We both had the tonkuri mabushi- pork & chestnuts over rice served with a teapot of chicken soup you can add to the bowl as you go. Excellent. I’d have loved to have come back for dinner but it was on to Matsuyama.

    Image20190404_120919 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    Image20190404_121617 by A-S-C, on Flickr
  • Post #10 - December 18th, 2020, 4:54 pm
    Post #10 - December 18th, 2020, 4:54 pm Post #10 - December 18th, 2020, 4:54 pm
    We’d been to Matsuyama once before so we largely just use it as a base for day trips. We did check out the castle again since it was cherry blossom time (and last time we were there in September) and did a little shopping. From Matsuyama we did a day trip to Uchiko which was a wealthy wax town back before electricity came long. There are some big houses & preserved streets and a kabuki theater from 1916 (Uchiko-za) that has been preserved. First pic is Matsuyama castle and the others are of Uchiko.
    ImageDSC_3477 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    I had picked up a cold the day before and the first night in Matsuyama I felt the worst of it. Dinner was at Izakaya Amimoto (居魚屋 網元). I wasn’t feeling great so I didn’t eat a lot and we definitely left earlier than we would have otherwise. This was the most “family friendly” spot we ate dinner at. There was a family with little kids nearby. I’m sure the fact that there are huge aquariums along the walls full of fish adds to that. The place is very casual with a sort of beach shack vibe. Our waitress was from China and spoke perfect English so she took us through the menu. We had their specialties, the mackerel sashimi along with a few other types of fish and their mackerel tataki (seared over straw like the katsuo version in Kochi), as well as hamo tempura (conger eel), a grilled fish, deep fried oysters, pickles and smoked daikon. The food was good but I just wanted to go to bed so not the best night.
    Image20190404_211851 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Thankfully I was feeling better the next night for dinner at Jiyurian (寿浬庵). Great spot. Very casual and busy and seemed family run . Menu is written on the board. We were able to read a bit of it. I had also found a partial menu online & translated that in advance. We could see there was sashimi and the prices were cheap so my husband ordered 5 different kinds. I’d like to mention he did not consult me on how many he was going to order (just “let’s get some sashimi”). But the prices here were really cheap so we figured the 5 together would be like the mixed sashimi we got at other places (essentially a little bit of all 5). Oh no it was not. These were the largest pieces of sashimi I have ever seen and in huge quantities. We could not finish all of this. We wanted to try at least one other thing so we ended up very casually stuffing my purse with the remaining sashimi. It ruined the purse (man did it stink) but it was worth it so we could get something else and also not leave behind food (which is insulting to chefs in Japan). The pic below is after we’d been eating the sashimi for a while (so most of that ended up in my purse). We then got an order of deep fried oysters and this was a huge portion as well (and so cheap, the prices here were really great). With a couple of grilled rice balls that was all we could eat. I’d love to go back & try some other dishes (I’ll skip the sashimi this time). This definitely felt like a Great Neighborhood Restaurant.
    Image20190405_200824 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    I’ll try to finish up the trip this weekend.
  • Post #11 - December 20th, 2020, 4:30 pm
    Post #11 - December 20th, 2020, 4:30 pm Post #11 - December 20th, 2020, 4:30 pm
    Next we headed to Tokushima. This was our least favorite city on the trip. Nothing wrong with it really, it just didn’t grab us. The city felt slightly deserted. They are known for their Awa Odori, a giant traditional dance festival held each year in August (except for 2020 of course) and the start of the 88 temples pilgrimage is nearby. We checked out temple #1 where the henro buy their vests, hats & walking sticks as well as some of the other close temples. We did a few other day trips like checking out Honrajuki Temple where the owner/priest/caretaker (not exactly sure since he was just dressed in street clothes but clearly living there with his family) gave us a personal tour of the place including some prayer room we’d never been able to see on our own using his iPad to translate the words he didn’t know. Just wonderful (1st 2 pics). We also visited Wakimachi, Mima and their preserved street of Udatsu buildings (meant to prevent fires from spreading-3rd pic) and Ōmatsu Daigongen the vengeful cat shrine where every detail was cat related (7 lucky gods- cats, the dragons usually on the roof corners-cats and so on-4th & 5th pic). We also took the scariest ropeway I have ever been on to mountain top temple Tairyūji (temple 21 of the 88 temples). It was so high (I am scared of heights) and it lasts 10 minutes (6th pic- note those pylons are already up on high hills). We rounded out the time in Tokushima with a trip to Himeji to see the castle in full bloom (we’d been there in September before- pic 7).
    ImageDSC_3756 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    The one food specialty we definitely wanted to check out in Tokushima was their ramen. Tokushima style ramen is basically a tonkotsu shoyu (soy sauce) ramen, dark brown in color & topped with a raw egg and fried pork. We realized on our last night we hadn’t had it yet so after dinner we stopped at a spot near our hotel and split a bowl at Rairai (来来).
    Image20190408_215300 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    This is also the first time we had a reservation denied because we were foreigners. We had tried to reserve at a popular yakitori spot Kokoro but they told my credit card company they’d had no shows form foreigners before so wouldn’t accept a reservation. There’s always people out there ruining it for the rest of us!

    Our first dinner was at Shokurando Mocchan (食らんど もっちゃん). There was no english menu and so the chef asked one of his regulars to sit with us and help us order. This was a very nice gesture but ended up being a bit awkward. The gentleman gave use some recommendations in the beginning but then, rightly, went about his own dinner. But the chef (we were at the counter so you ordered through the chef) seemed to want the man to order for us so we didn’t really feel like we could order on our own. The food we had was quite good but it was pricey and the evening just felt odd. In all the weirdness I forgot to order the one dish I had wanted to try from seeing it in all kinds of pictures- lotus root filled with minced shrimp and then deep fried. We had sashimi, meatball skewers (tsukune), stewed chicken & bamboo (bamboo was in season so that’s why we are having it at most places), grilled fish, lightly grilled beef (Awa beef is a local specialty), potato salad (interestingly this comes in something like the crisp outside of a monaka- sadly I don't have a picture),

    Image20190406_205220 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    The next night we had dinner at Izakaya Harubou (居酒屋 はる坊). We were led upstairs to a semi private room (us plus another table with a privacy screen) after taking off our shoes. We enjoyed this dinner a lot more than the night before. I had a translated menu so ordering was a lot easier. We had their deep fried shrimp with mayo (this appeared to be their specialty based on all the pics I saw online), grilled Awa beef, mixed tempura, potato salad, horse mackerel tataki, deep fried oysters & some sort of Awa chicken dish (my notes don’t say). A nice evening

    Image20190407_201131 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Image20190407_210949 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    The last dinner was at Sakae Sushi (栄寿司). This casual sushi spot has been in business for over 100 years. We each had the 70,000 yen course. This includes sashimi, sushi (of course), a seaweed shabu shabu (the seaweed changes color in the hot water which was neat), grilled fish, deep fried fish, a tofu dish and what I believe is fish liver. The course ended with coffee jelly. There was a group of salary men in a private room in the back having a jolly old time. A good spot.
    Image20190408_204128 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Onward to Takamatsu!
  • Post #12 - December 22nd, 2020, 11:27 am
    Post #12 - December 22nd, 2020, 11:27 am Post #12 - December 22nd, 2020, 11:27 am
    Amazing post(s). I've been itching to leave the country on a trip since before this pandemic began. Not possible so reading something like this is the next best thing. After visiting Japan last year I now understand when people describe it's power to pull you back fast. Thanks for sharing.

    Zelda Pinwheel wrote:If you are there be sure to try the gyoza from Yasubee.


    I got to check out their Tokyo satellite location and they were some of the best dumplings of any kind I've ever had. I'd read about some Franklin Barbecue type waits but was lucky to get seated quickly bc I was solo. If I go back I'm going to have to wait if there's a line no matter the wait time. They're that good.
  • Post #13 - December 22nd, 2020, 12:32 pm
    Post #13 - December 22nd, 2020, 12:32 pm Post #13 - December 22nd, 2020, 12:32 pm
    This is great and keeps bringing back memories. We used to go to Omachi for business and were lucky enough to visit a wasabi farm with the clean spring water flowing through. Had wasabi ice cream that day and brought back some wasabi powder. Also near Omachi are very famous places for Soba noodles. A source of pride for that area. I guess lines are very long in the tourist season. We were able to snag a seat thanks to our local contacts there. We also went to Iiyama on occasion and would stay in a Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort at a traditional Japanese Hotel with futons. They also had a hot spring running through the hotel. We would sit in the hot spring, put on Kimono's and slippers and walk in the snow a short while to go to a bar that also had the hot spring run though it. They would soft boil eggs in the hot spring and it was part of the bar food. Again, thanks for the great overviews and rousting some things from my memory.
  • Post #14 - December 23rd, 2020, 9:14 am
    Post #14 - December 23rd, 2020, 9:14 am Post #14 - December 23rd, 2020, 9:14 am
    Thanks all for reading & the kind words. I hope to be able to finish up tomorrow.

    Puckjam- that sounds amazing and now I want to go to that bar.

    DaBeef- the first time we tried to get Yasubee in Kochi they had a sign up saying if you order now here's when your food will be ready and I believe it was about 90 minutes. We got lucky the 2nd time since it was an odd time (like 3pm). And I was glad to see you enjoyed your trip. We actually exchanged emails where I gave you some tips and helped out with train info.
  • Post #15 - December 26th, 2020, 11:54 am
    Post #15 - December 26th, 2020, 11:54 am Post #15 - December 26th, 2020, 11:54 am
    Next we headed to Takamatsu. Our very first stop is one of Takamatsu’s most famous attractions- Ritsurin Garden (first two pics). This garden is extremely beautiful and also very large. We only ended up seeing a little more than half of it because we were starving for lunch. And lunch was one of Takamatsu other claims to fame, Sanuki udon. Sanuki Udon has a firmer more chewy texture than the other two famous udon styles. We only got to have it once but it was great. Our lunch was nearby the garden at Ueharaya (讃岐うどん 上原屋本店). This is basically self serve udon. You grab a tray, pick out your tempura or oden sides and then tell the ladies the kind of udon you want. I went with a hot version with broth (kake udon) while the husband ended up having two servings, one cold with a dipping sauce (Zara Udon) and another hot but with just a small amount of broth/sauce (I believe it was Bukkake Udon). If you are getting a hot version they give you the noodles & you heat them up in a water bath & then add your own broth and toppings like green onions and tempura bits. In the 5th picture the station in the middle has the water bath behind, the broth area in the middle and the toppings in the front. Then you find a seat, eat & turn in your tray. Excellent and really cheap!
    ImageDSC_4663 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    ImageDSC_4646 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    Image20190409_141224 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Image20190409_140524 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    From there we headed to Yashima Mountain where we got great views and visited Yashima Temple (#84 of the 88 temples). This was a favorite of ours because one section had a bunch of tanuki (the mischievous big bellied raccoon dogs of Japanese lore). My husband collects them (they live on our deck) and there were shops nearby selling them. He picked up two to add to the collection.
    ImageDSC_4677 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Ones of the days was extremely cold and rainy so we were able to check out another of Takamatsu’s claims to fame- the longest shotengai in Japan. Shotengai are shopping streets, generally covered and they are everywhere in Japan. We love them. They can be upscale (like one section here in Takamatsu that was full of upscale designer shops) or more mom & pop with junk stores, izakayas and other shops. Lucky for us the worst weather day of the trip came in the spot with the longest covered street. One section even had a small farmers market.
    ImageDSC_4824 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    ImageDSC_4821 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    We did one long day trip (since the weather had ruined one of the days) checking out Kompirasan/Kotahira and it’s 1368 steps (we only did 785 to get to the main hall and the Ema Hall where sailors come to pray for safety which includes a small individual submarine-pics 1,2 & 3), Zentsuji which is the birthplace of Kobo Daishi who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism (the 88 temples pilgrimage is essentially retracing his footsteps) which has 300-500 rakan statues (depending on what info you read-pics 4&5) and Marugame the smallest of the 12 original castles in Japan (pic 6)
    ImageDSC_4866 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Our dinner the first night was at Bijintei (美人亭). The owner was an older women who did all the cooking. Her assistant was a young mother who worked the whole night with her baby strapped to her back (wish I would have gotten a picture). The food here was good but the owner essentially kicked us and the only other table there out when she decided she was done for the night! We had an assortment of her premade dishes like potato salad & konjac, sashimi, stewed fish & grilled fish.

    Image20190409_203802 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Lunch on the rainy day was at Sanuki Rock (支那そば 讃岐ロック) for ramen. We had the shoyu and the owner gave us free samples of a curry he made. Excellent & very friendly!
    Image20190410_123555 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    Image20190410_122216 by A-S-C, on Flickr

    Dinner the second night was at Temma (天馬). I had a google translated partial menu & the waiter tried very hard with google translate on his phone. Very friendly & helpful. Good food though the bill was extremely high. This being Japan I don’t think they were cheating us. We must have ordered something very expensive without realizing it or there was a mistake. We had sashimi, lotus root & shrimp dumpling in broth, pickles, stewed fish, grilled fish, grilled squid, baked asparagus, grilled chicken, rice balls and grilled eel

    Image20190410_202146 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Our last dinner was at Renge Ryouriten (れんげ料理店). Unfortunately this was a bust. In hindsight I should have asked the credit card company to ask the restaurant to set-up a menu. But we figured we’d be able to make it work like we have at all of the other places. No such luck. The menu was handwritten and was almost impossible for us to read. We were able to figure out the sashimi section & ordered two at random. We asked the waiter for a suggestion or to let us order a course (we could tell from the prices & way it was written there were a couple of courses on the menu but he refused). He definitely did not want us there. We ordered some stuffed chicken wings because the people next to us got some but after that we were out of options. The chef/owner seemed concerned when we left right after that but since the menu seemed like it was a daily menu we didn’t think tabelog or Instagram pics would help us. Nice place though, had a kind of hip vibe to it. It was our own fault for just assuming we would always be able to make things work at places without English menus. So we headed back to Sanuki Rock and got their shio ramen this time. This time the freebie was some chicken wings. All really good.

    The only other meal we had (and I didn’t get pics) was at Ikkaku. We got there right when they opened at 4 to avoid the wait (and because we had dinner reservations). Ikkaku is all about roast chicken on the bone but the difference is you can get young chicken (Hinadori) or old chicken (Oyadori). The young chicken is more tender and the older is more chewy. We got both of course and ended up liking the old chicken the best. It just had so much more flavor. The chicken is very greasy & pretty impossible to eat with chopsticks so everyone just picks & up and eats with their hands.

    And then it was on to Tokyo. We dropped off the car and took the train to Okayama & then on to Tokyo.
  • Post #16 - December 26th, 2020, 4:48 pm
    Post #16 - December 26th, 2020, 4:48 pm Post #16 - December 26th, 2020, 4:48 pm
    I'm not clear why you are publishing this on LTH ( thank you ) - you need to publish this in a book.
  • Post #17 - December 26th, 2020, 5:02 pm
    Post #17 - December 26th, 2020, 5:02 pm Post #17 - December 26th, 2020, 5:02 pm
    We’d been to Tokyo 3 times before so this brief stop was mostly for shopping which for us means flea markets & antique stores and just exploring different neighborhoods. As mentioned before my husband collects tanuki and I collect traditional kokeshi (sort of like wooden dolls that come from the Tohoku region) and those are great spots to get vintage ones. There is also a great bookstore in Kanda called Hiyane that upstairs is full of kokeshi so we have to stop there. Interestingly every time we’ve been it’s almost exclusively older men there shopping for the kokeshi.

    Of course we had some lunches as well but without pictures it seems weird to write too much about them. But we got good miso ramen at Tsujita Miso Noshou (つじ田 味噌の章), excellent mazesoba at Hazeryū (麺恋処 爆龍) near some good shopping streets and good spicy miso ramen at Ramen Fuuraibou (ラーメン 風らいぼう) which looks to be closed.

    We also had dinner at a couple of our favorites from past trips. We didn’t take pictures this time so the pics below are from previous visits.

    One dinner was at Ebisu Soregashi (恵比寿それがし). They have a great sake selection and the menu is made to pair well with sake. The first picture is one of our favorite sakes we’ve had in Japan. We tried to find it in stores there but had no luck. Highly recommended. Some dishes we’ve had are smoked daikon, dried fish plate, pickled mackerel, eel, duck breast, potato salad and a seasonal rice cooked with firefly squid & bamboo shoots. They have a partial English menu and the servers we’ve had speak English & are great at recommending sake.
    Image20180402_200051 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    Image20180402_200548 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Another dinner was at Bunten Nakamura Shokudou (分店 なかむら食堂). This is the casual restaurant from the owners of the more upscale Namikibashi Nakamura. We love the place, this was our 4th time there (I know, we should try new places but when you are only there once a year it’s hard not to return to old favorites). It’s always felt like a GNR to me, full of people having a good time, not pretentious in any way, very friendly staff. There is no English menu but every time we’ve been there we’ve sat at the counter & asked for omakase and they’ve always been fine with that. The one dish we always ask for is the potato salad that comes with big slabs of what I take to be pork belly. They are also known for the ham katsu korokke- spam filled with potatoes & eggs and deep fried. We’ve also had a hot pot with meatballs, mushrooms & tofu, chikuwa fish cake, grilled fish, chicken sashimi and other dishes. Each time has been different.
    Image20171011_201438 by A-S-C, on Flickr
    Image20171011_205817 by A-S-C, on Flickr
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    Image20171011_205812 by A-S-C, on Flickr


    We had one more dinner but I’m keeping that one to myself as the owner is a bit grumpy and I don’t want him to refuse our reservation in the future. Sorry! But we've had some other good dinners on other trips I'd recommend if you are looking for tips.

    And that’s it for this trip. Thanks for reading. Since we had to cancel our Kyushu road trip and our return to Portugal this year writing this has been as close to traveling as I’ve been able to get! Any questions feel free to ask.
    Last edited by Zelda Pinwheel on December 26th, 2020, 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #18 - December 26th, 2020, 5:05 pm
    Post #18 - December 26th, 2020, 5:05 pm Post #18 - December 26th, 2020, 5:05 pm
    I'm not clear why you are publishing this on LTH ( thank you ) - you need to publish this in a book.


    Well, the forum is called Beyond Chicagoland so I guess this fits the bill. I know a lot of people on here love Japan so I thought this might be helpful since this area isn't heavily visited. And for me it's been fun reliving the trip! So it's a bit selfish.
  • Post #19 - December 26th, 2020, 5:35 pm
    Post #19 - December 26th, 2020, 5:35 pm Post #19 - December 26th, 2020, 5:35 pm
    Zelda Pinwheel wrote:
    I'm not clear why you are publishing this on LTH ( thank you ) - you need to publish this in a book.


    Well, the forum is called Beyond Chicagoland so I guess this fits the bill. I know a lot of people on here love Japan so I thought this might be helpful since this area isn't heavily visited. And for me it's been fun reliving the trip! So it's a bit selfish.

    Nothing selfish about it. Personally, I'm really digging it. I was planning my first-ever trip to Japan for early next year but those plans have been scuttled. Seeing your travelog is really inspiring . . . and it's making me really impatient.

    Thanks!

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #20 - December 26th, 2020, 5:43 pm
    Post #20 - December 26th, 2020, 5:43 pm Post #20 - December 26th, 2020, 5:43 pm
    Nothing selfish about it. Personally, I'm really digging it. I was planning my first-ever trip to Japan for early next year but those plans have been scuttled. Seeing your travelog is really inspiring . . . and it's making me really impatient.


    Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it. I hope you'll be able to go later in the year (or if you want cherry blossoms then spring 2022). It's a great place to visit and I'm sure you'll love it. If I can help in any way feel free to reach out!
  • Post #21 - December 26th, 2020, 6:01 pm
    Post #21 - December 26th, 2020, 6:01 pm Post #21 - December 26th, 2020, 6:01 pm
    Zelda Pinwheel wrote:
    I'm not clear why you are publishing this on LTH ( thank you ) - you need to publish this in a book.


    Well, the forum is called Beyond Chicagoland so I guess this fits the bill. I know a lot of people on here love Japan so I thought this might be helpful since this area isn't heavily visited. And for me it's been fun reliving the trip! So it's a bit selfish.


    I’m thinking he was kidding—that LTH isn’t a big enough platform for your beautiful posts :)

    I’m just sorry your trip has come to an end. I haven’t traveled much except for business the past few years but have been saying I want to go to Asia for ages. Reading your posts reminded me that I need to make this happen as soon as it’s possible (whenever that may be!!!)

    And thanks again for providing the inspiration!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #22 - December 27th, 2020, 10:52 am
    Post #22 - December 27th, 2020, 10:52 am Post #22 - December 27th, 2020, 10:52 am
    boudreaulicious- thank you so much for the kind words!
  • Post #23 - December 28th, 2020, 10:18 am
    Post #23 - December 28th, 2020, 10:18 am Post #23 - December 28th, 2020, 10:18 am
    Really well done. Thank you for posting.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #24 - January 1st, 2021, 11:22 pm
    Post #24 - January 1st, 2021, 11:22 pm Post #24 - January 1st, 2021, 11:22 pm
    Wonderful and very informative posts and pictures! Thank you and hope you post more!
    What disease did cured ham actually have?
  • Post #25 - January 3rd, 2021, 12:32 pm
    Post #25 - January 3rd, 2021, 12:32 pm Post #25 - January 3rd, 2021, 12:32 pm
    Thanks Jazzfood & Elfin!

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