I keep two dogs.
They are my life partners in Nasu life. Nasu has much space not like Tokyo. We can play together in the garden of my house, which is a real pleasure.
I found them in New Zealand while I was there and I took them back to Japan with me. Actually they were afraid of noise of airplane and being alone in the dark luggage room of the airplane because they were shivering when I again met them in Japan after a long time flight from NZ.
That's why I decided to stay in Japan as long as they live. I plan no more life in NZ but Hawaii is my ideal life place if I get out of Japan. But being with my loving dogs, and playing with them, I still love my life in Nasu.
This year, 2012, I traveled to Kyoto. The last time I was there, I was just a student and I didn't know how kyoto was important to our life of the Japanese. I remember I just watching temples and shrines without thinking anything. Beautiful was everything, but nothing was more important for me then. What a stupid man I was.
This year's Kyoto trip was totally different in the sense of my mind status. I was very curious about origin of Japan and Japanese people, Kyoto was the most important part for studying that mystery. Yes, I think Japanese origine is a total mystery. Nobody can tell us correctly how Japan started, how Japanese religion Shinto was formed, and how Emperor of Japan has been kept the same in our mentality for such a long time.
During the trip in Kyoto, I was extremely excited to see such legendary things around us. My biggest concern was Shimokamo Shrine. I was goosebumped when I stepped into the insde garded of the shrine. It's interesting. I'm just a Japanese and I can come to Shimokamo shrine anytime if I hope so. The culture and history are not strange for me either. But being in the shrine made me extremely get moved with some kind of special emoption.
Now I've learned a lot about this place, and also about Japanese shinto's origin. Shimokamo Shrine is the most important place for the study... or for the reason of existance of Shinto, Emperor, and us Japanese. The people who run this shrine from the starting time to present time are called Kamo clan. Kamo clan is apparently the top group of Hata clan, who created Japanese shinto system, or we can say Hata clan created Japanese basic social system and they built Kyoto city about 1200 years ago. Then, Who is the Hata clan ? This should be the simplly important question for that historical fact. And, who is the Kamo clan, the top of Hata clan ? If I start telling about it, I can't write all at once here in correct words. So I dare not to write about it.
But it's fact that they, Kamo clan, played significant role in forming Japan as a country and Japanese mentality as they are now. Kamo clan produced a lot of psychic medium in the history of Japan and all of them controled the power of old Japanese government. Some even say they, Kamo clan, are playing more important role still now than Emperor of Japan to keep Japanese Shinto system.
Then I will have to ask ouselves, what is Japanese Shinto ? Why does Shinto still affect on Japanese people so much and how it could be existing in Japan against the big power like christianity ? What kind of relation is lying between Shinto and Emperor of Japan ?
Again, it's too many aspects that we have to consider on that question, so I don't write about it in this limitted space.
The more I try to know it, the more mystery come up in fron to myself. This is what Japan has been...I think like that. Japan was formed and has been running by a certain powerful people, but all are still hidden. That " unknown consciousness about our country, Japan" helps forming the spirit, mentality, and nature of Japanese people.
What I write here probably sounds a little crazy for readers ( maybe mostly foreigners ). However, it's true that even I, myself as a Japanese, don't know the real facts of Japan or Japanese history, origin and the reasons of existance for such a long history. Also it's fact that I, a Japanese, get so excited to go to the shirine, Shimokamo Jinja in Kyoto and I feel like being coverd by some unknown power of Japan's mystery in the heart of Shimokamo Jinja shrine.
Tere are many exhibition about the history of Shimokamo jinja, which includes Emperor related heritage. Of course I will repeatedly come back here to share the feeling of Japanese spirit. I can't explain well, but this is a feeling of myself, a Japanese person.
I visited Shirakawa 2 days ago, and visited some nice spots.
Shirakawa city is a little famous for history lovers in Japan as this city played historically important role over years.
Now there is a beautifully restorated Castle in the middle of the city and the castle park is a good community space for citizens to hold festivals. Castle is not totally the same as it used to be, but still we can enjoy the image of the history of this city here.
At the other spot, there is a really beautiful and historically known lake, NANKO. This is the first manmade lake in Japan for rich agriculture water. Now it's not only for agriculture but the lake is a totally relaxing park for visitors. Nanko park and Castle park are both very popular when it's time of Cherry blossoms.
There also is a very very famous historic site called Shirakawa No Seki, which used to be a gate to North Japan 400 years ago. People needed to go through the gate to north, that gate was built for keeping peace and order. There also are some more same kind of gates in some palces of Japan. All were for the same reason.
Nothing special about Shirakawa city, but it's interesting for tourists to visit and see some of the historic places and having good ramen at TORA ramen restaurant.
After that, I went to pick up my new glasses at Nasu Garden Outlet Mall. This mall is very clean and it has so many tenants that sell big discount things. My favorite shops are Banana Republic, Gap, Brooks Brothers, and some good restaurants inside. I work with my computer for a long hours a day, that's why I need eye- protecting glasses. Recent glasses are very cheap. The new glasses has eye protection for PC, UV cutting funtion with lens and frame included. This costs only about 10,000 yen, when I was a stundet, probably the same glasses cost double or tripple.
For lunch my wife and I visited the fabulous Chinese restaurant, RIN. This is located a little behind the main street so that local people are the major users. But the food quality is unbelievably high. I tried so many Chinese food in my life in Japan or in other countries, and from casual to highend places, I would say RIN is the best one. My wife also agrees with me and RIN is our recent best and most frequent choice for our lunch and dinner. Today, I had noodle dish and my wife had Chinese cili shirimp dish. Words can't explain how the taste is wonderful and the staff at the restaurant are really nice for guests. It's such a nice place. Please visit there if you come to Nasu.
After such a satisfying lunch, I bought some bread at my best bread place, Couronne. Many kinds of breads attacted my eyes, but I chose my favorite ones again. In Nasu, there is a very very popular bread shop amoung tourists to Nasu, called Penny Lane, which used to be my NO.1 in my life. After Couronne opened in early 2012, my best bread choice changed. Probably my wife much more keeps going to this shop than I do.
Nasu has so many good shops and sightseeing places. I think I'm a litte conservative about my food choice. I can't easily try new places if I once find my best one.
In Nasu resort area, there are many gourmet restaurants. Comparatively we have more Soba and Udon noodle restrautants and Western style restaurants than what we usually see in Urban cities like Ramen, Chinese, Tonkatsu, or some fast food places.
Udon is a Japanese traditioanl noodle besides Soba noodle. Many of the traditional Udon are like just Udon only with small stuff like Age ( fried Tofu), leek, or egg on the Udon noodle Tempura on the Udon is recently a standard style but it was rather a delux Udon dish and we could have it just on special occassion when I was a kid becuase tempura Udon costs more.
Recently in Japan, hard and thick texture Udon called Sanuki Udon ( traditional type in Shikoku island of Japan ) is really popular, and it's chain shop called Marugame Udon restautants are also expanding both in Japan and in some of other countries. I hear it's really popular in Hawaii too.
In Nasu, there is a newly sophisticated Udon dish. At Okamoto Udon restaurant, we can have a carefully made modern Udon dish ( as photo). It's cold Udon with delicately blended soy source dashi soup which we put on the Udon by ourselves, as the photo below, it comes with no soup fristly, then we do it by ourselves. The taste is fabulous. Noodle is not so hard but good enough to enjoy resilient texture. Tempura is also softly cooked, we don't feel like heavy oily food because the oil is quite lightly ( not heavily ) used in Tempura making. The balance of Udon Noodle and Tempura is really good.
AS a problem, the location might be hard to find. Please contact me if you really wish to go here. I think I can show you the route to this place and some more info.
Near my home, there are many nice sightseeing spots for tourists. Today, I try to pick up Inawashiro Lake and Urabandai area.
Inawashiro Lake is the 3rd largest lake in Japan, so it's easy to find in a little big map of Japan. Just behind the lake, there is a beautiful mountain called Bandai as you see above photo. This area is a very popular tour spot in Japan and also we can adventure more in the back side of the mountain, where is called Ura-Bandai area. Ura means rear in Japanese, so Ura-Bandai means the place of rear mount. Bandai area.
In Urabandai area, we can enjoy more in the green woods. Now it's getting closer to Winter time, but just a few weeks ago, this area was covered by amazingly colorful trees and leaves. Hotels and small Inns are a lot here, but there not many modern convenience stores or supermarkets, which reserves this place as nature lover's destination.
Not only Inawashiro lake, but there are several really beautiful lakes in Urabandai. Unfortunately, the most popular place called Goshikinuma ( Five color lake ) photos were not taken in good picturesque timing. That place is a must tour spot but words can't describe how it's nice. So next time I will try to take them and upload here.
Driving around Inawashiro lake and Urabandai is probably one day tour for standard sightseeing. But if you explore the nature by walking, it will be more fun and a few days trip will be required. After Urabandai, it's worth going to Aizu Wakamatsu City for taking a look at old Japanese Samurai time castle and their remained heritage in the city. Especially for local food, Wappameshi is a very unique and popular food in Aizu Wakamatsu city, I will try to introduce again about it later.
If I expand on the trip around this area, one article is not enough at all. This should be continured more.
When it comes to Ramen topic, it's such a hard decision to pick up some good Ramen places in Japan as there are rediculously many Ramen restaurants all over Japan. However, if I'm asked what the best ramen is for me, my asnwer is always the same. It's TORA ramen shop in Shirakawa city.
If you are a ramen lover, you maybe know that Japanese ramens were raised regionally or in each city locally with the history of food culture. Also the tastes of them are respectively different from each other like there are Shoyu (soy source) base soup, Miso base soup, Shio (salt) base soup and Tonkotsu (pork bones) base soup. Nowadays, some of the really good ramens from those regional places are specially focused and popular among ramen lovers in Japan as we know Hakata Tonkotsu raman, Sapporo Miso ramen, Sapporo Shio ramen, Tokyo Shoyu ramen, Kitakata ramen...and more.
My all time NO.1 favorite ramen is Shirakawa Tora Ramen, which is locally cherished in Shirakawa city for more than 50 years and now it's widely known in Japan as one of the best local ramens of Japan. As seen in the photos, this ramen is made by Chicken broth shoyu soup with totally handmade noodles. The Charshu pork slice on the top is really well smoked and tastes fabulous.
I've been craving this ramen since I was a child in Shirakawa city. Whenever I wanted ramen, the first dream I had was myself eating here in TORA ramen restaurant in Shirakawa city especially when I'm out of Japan or even in Tokyo being away from this place. Now there are some TORA pupils' ramen shops also in Tokyo suburbs and in Yokohama area too, which enables us or new Shirakawa ramen lovers to survive from TORA ramen addiction. BUT, to be honest, this main place, Tora ramen restaurant in Shirakawa city offers us the best one even recent days. New cheffs, or the pupils of Tora ramen actually well realized the close copy of Tora taste, but they can't beat the original. So coming back to this place is my must action when I need the REAL ramen.
Maybe this Tora type ramen is regarded as the real traditional style ramen of Japan. If people of Japan taste this or even look at photos of this ramen, they would say it's the traditional one !
For recent ramen lovers especially foreign people, it may be hard to understand this taste because it's not such clearly appealing taste compared to Tonkotsu or Miso ramen. Shoyu taste is deeply related with all kind of Japanese food, so the delicate difference of ramen soups might be a little hard for foreigners to understand for the first time. But if you are a ramen nut, and if you want to know the origin of ramen of Japan, I would highly recommend this place. I hope this experience could be your new motivation for ramen adventure in Japan.
There is a problem. This location is very hard to find. Even for the residents of Shirakawa city, it's all the same. Interestingly, Tora restaurant is situated being surrounded by rice fields ! In spite of such hard access, people try to go there somehow even from Tokyo or Osaka. Also there usually is a long line for waiting to come in.
Please ask me if you REALLY want to try this place. I can tell you the best way to go there and best timing not to miss the ramen. It's such a nightmare if you can't have it after a long trip to this ramen lovers' spot.
I seldom go to family restaurants in Japan. Just in case, family restaurats are like Denny's or something like that, we call so in Japan. Anyway, today I went to one foe them called COCOS in Nasu. COCOS is of course a chain restaurant so that we can find them many places in Japan, not only in Nasu.
AS ai mentioned above, I don't use this type of restaurant so often. But being in Nasu, COCOS often are really nice choice especially in hard decision on what to eat. COCOS menue has wide range of dish and most of them are reasonably not expensive and good enough for us to enjoy the meal.
Today I had hamberg steak and fried egg with rice ( as photo ). Taste was really good, and the cost was only 680 yen ( maybe 8.5 dollars or so ).
Western style food in Japan is often arranged into Japanese taste as this photo, some even say this is not Western food but Japanese food alreay. Actually I really love this kind of Japanized Western food.
Not only hamberg steaks, we can enjoy more like Pasta dish, pizza, fried rice, noodles, tonkatsu dish, curry dish....many more. If you stay longer in Japan, I think it's worth trying at least a few times at family restaurants in Japan. You will not be disappointed.
Nasu, where I live now, is a famous resort area with a lot of fun. One of the popular attractions here in Nasu is Onsen, or hot springs.
Most of the traditional ryokan ( Japanese style Inn) has traditional bath tab with Onsen water from fountain of mountain. If you are interested in trying it, you can reserve a onsen ryokan here, then you can fully enjoy the onsen with a full course dinner also in Japanese style. As usually meals for dinner and breakfast are included, price for ryokan is higher than standard business hotels in Japan.
Onsen is know as public bath. And many from overseas don't like it for the first time because they need to be naked while taking the bath together with other people. The Japanese are naturally trained for the custom of naked bathing becuase we usually are brought to onsen by our family when we are little kids.
In Nasu, just like standard Onsen places, there are some public bath also outside the ryokan. The bath house is just for bathing only, so you can't stay there. Addmission is cheap. For example, at Shikanoyu, the most famous and oldest public bath house in Nasu, we just pay about 400 yen ( about 5 dollars ) per person.
Shikanoyu is a really old bath house as you see photos. It's located near the river, and building is a really old wooden house. It's a kind of nostalgic experience for me to go there because this type of old bath house is no longer existing in many of the cities of Japan. It's still clean but you might not like it if you are accustomed to modern bathroom at your home.
Surrounded by mountain with beautiful trees, we can enjoy a relaxing time of Onsen in Nasu. If you are nature lover, Nasu is a good choice. Also onsen experience is one of the traditional Japanese culture we still have. It might be nice for you too if you are brave enough to check it out.
Recently I feel like playing it in a band. If you are a music lover and if you play the drums or the bass, please contact me ! I would love to form a new band in Nasu or in Tokyo... or in Sendai. I often travel on business from city to city, so your place is not a big problem. Anytime, please email me.
Ise Jingu shrine is a mecca of Japanese Shinto religion, or mecca of Japanese spirit. For myself, year 2012's main meomory is that I could finally visit the Shrine.
It's hard to explain how this Shrine means for the Japanese. Dense history, mysterious legend, or people's cause for existance is always with this Shrine for us, Japanese.
It's in the sacred wood. Main shrine house is moved every 20 years for a long history time. Peopls of Japan come here to pray before they die without knowing the reason for that pilgrimage. This place has something important when we explain about the origine of Japanese people.
I would love to visit again soon.
In Ise district, they have a unique Udon noodle called Ise Udon. The texture is very soft and tender. Usually people like a hard and resilient Udon but this Udon is totally on contradiction. Personally I like it. If you are Udon lover, a try is recommended.
Fortunately I could experience many Chinese restaurants in both Japan and other countries. There are still good memories of China town restaurants in Yokohama or in Hawaii. But to be honest, this restaurant called RIN in Nasu resort area of Japan might top the rest of all for me. Like such, the encounter with this restaurant was amazing and memorable for me.
The cheff seems to have mastered Chinese cooking in several traditional restanrants, especially Sichuan dish is his main work. Actually Sichuan noodles or any Sichuan dish have unforgettably deep tasty flavor being not only characterized by hot seasonings. While other than Sichuan type, his Shang Hai type dish or Beijin type dish are also highly recommended. In a word, the cheff has amazingly superb talent in making Chinese dish for modern people's taste.
My wife and I often go here, so one article about his restaurant is not enough at all. This is just for the first introduction. I think I will keep writing about this place even though it's not Japanese food restaurant. You should not miss this taste if you come to Nasu.
Nasu has some nice bread shops. Among the, I would choopse COURONNE as my top favorite. This shop opened recently in 2012. Soon after the shop started, I went to check the place. The result was real pleasure ! The taste is really delicately created so that many of the adults would be sure to understand the skill of the cheff.
I tried many of the varieties here, but I was not dissapointed even a single time. They often create seasonal menue using seasonal vegitables or crops. The sensitive taste is really fantastic. It's more than amazing experience with magical taste of bread.
The shop is located in a quiet area, and there are tables and chairs in the shop's garden. It's a nice breakfast or lunch in the sun.
Japanese Soba Noodle is, I think, the most traditional type of noodle in Japan. As known, Ramen noodle could be the most popular now in the world among Japanese noodle dish, and maybe next one is Udoon noodle, rather than Soba noodle. However, for us Japanese, if we are ever asked what the most traditional Japanese noodle is, the answer would be Soba.
Soba is a very simple food. AS we grow old, we become more sensetive about the taste of Soba. It means that we need time to understand the real Soba taste.
I went to a Soba restaurant in Nasu today. The Soba place is often chosen as the best Soba restaurant in Nasu, the name is Sekishin ( 石心）。
During the tour time in Nasu, when they have a lot of travelers, it's hard to have Soba here because many come here to taste, consequently the shop often closes soon after the lunch time as the Soba noodle for a day runs out. In Winter time, when poeple are not that many, it might be easier to take the table for lunch time. They are not open for dinner, so lunch time is the only chance for us.
Taste is really sophisticated and purely we can feel the natural Saba. I'm fan of Soba dish, and I highly recommend this place for Soba or Japanesee food lovers.
Also th service is excellent. You will soon notice that you are well treated by the service lady. The location is in the back street beautifully surrounded by forest, which turns red and yellow in the Fall of Japan.
You can contact me for more information if you want to visit there.
I live in a mountain resort place called Nasu in Japan. It's beginning of the Winter here, and the most of the leaves of the trees are gone. Still some are beautiful with red and yellow colors. From now, Nasu will have a very cold time, however, the sonow covered scenes of this nature land is also nice to see.
There are many cozy hotels and traditional Japanese style Inns ( called Ryokan with Hot Springs Spa) here in Nasu. Many of the tourists enjoy the summer time of Nasu, while the Winter time here is a good choice for Onsen Hot Springs lovers.
Also there are some Skiing areas. From the heart of the town, those Skiing areas are not far. It's a nice combination of choices to enjoy Skiing in the day time, and Hot Springs in the night time in Nasu.
Emperor of Japan has his own resort house in Nasu. He comes here often with his family to have calm vacation time. Many of the residents wave flags and their hands to Emperor from the window of his car, which is one of the symbolic pictures of Nasu when it's introduced in Japan.