typhoon warning and other news

there’s a typhoon coming on Monday. Its kinda like a hurricane but much less intense. Don’t worry tho, I’m in the inland sea surrounded by hundreds of islands. But that does mean rain, and lots of it. I do love the view out my window of the rice fields rippled with rain drops, and the sound of frogs as I go to sleep at night. But it puts a damper on my weekend adventures / beach plans. Ufff, and its not even the rainy season yet.

the view out my back door

In other news, these are the tunes I can’t get out of my head. Nothing too new or ground breaking, enjoyable none the less.

I just bough a bike, I had to leave my old one in Okayama b/c it didn’t fit in my car, and my neighboors picked it about and locked it up w/o my lock. (loong story) So I found one on amazon.jp it had gears and will hopefully be more suitable for long distances. Thus continuing my love for the amazon.jp website and its english page, and free shipping in Japan. Money may not buy happiness, but it bought me a bike. And I’m almost always happy on a bike, so in a way, I just bought myself some happiness.

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Awashima Adventure 粟島 冒険

Last weekend I joined a huge group and escaped to an island. It was part of the international organization, which organized a day at a near bye island for foreigners to meet other people who live in the area. Since I’m still new to the area and don’t know many people I jumped on the chance to 1) meet more people 2) explore more of my area. The day exceeded all the expectations.

We started off the day climbing to the highest peak on the island. It wasn’t terribly high, however it was impressive since the mountain literally started at sea level. The entire hike up the hill was climbing wooden stairs that were carved out of the ground. While it wasn’t super hot, it was crazy humid, and I sweat enough to fill a water bottle.

and these went the whole way up the hill

we all made it

However, the view from the top was well worth the sweat stain on the back of my shirt. From the top you could see the rest of the island, and the inland sea dotted with hundreds of other islands. Although it was a hazy day, the views were still incredible.

view from the top

i couldn't help myself..

When we got to the bottom we had a rockin BBQ waiting for us. In the states BBQ for a bunch of people means hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad. This one was so much more. There were grills set up all over the park and trays of assorted meats and veggies with more than enough food to satisfy our small army of people. My only complaint was the lack of BBQ utensils and it was far too hot trying to use my chopsticks as a cooking tool.

before...

after

With our bellies full of food we were used to clean up the trash on the beach. It was in bad shape, and after getting so much food I was ok with being put to work.

We left the island tired and sunburned, but also with some new friends. The People who lived on the island sent our boat off with streamers and waved us off from the dock. This is just the beginning, the weather is getting warmer and there are hundreds of other islands to us to tackle.

COSTCO……in Japan!!!!

yes its true there are Costco’s in Japan. They’re all over the world actually, in 9 different countries, including Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. When we found out there was a Costco in Fukuoka, we decided that 1) we had to go 2) we had to drive so we could fit our treasures from the travel.

The store is basically the same as the ones in the states. A warehouse full of electronics, giant packages of food, a bakery w/ the same muffins and cookies, patio furniture, and bins full of random clothing.

Costco is especially odd in because everything else in Japan is smaller. The food comes in smaller packages, even the shopping carts in regular grocery stores are mini size. So to see Japanese people pushing around the giant carts and carrying 300 packages of raisins, is a little odd. The store looked like I was in America but every once in a while there would be a package of miso next to the box of doritos snack packs.

Although I was pretty stoked on Costco I didn’t buy all that much stuff.  It may have been cheeper to buy 100 rolls of TP, but we didn’t have the car space and that may take up my entire apartment. I did manage to find some great items tho. Einstien bagels- that’s right real bagels, peanut butter- its wicked expensive here and this was a great deal, Bean and Cheese burritos – gatta get my mexican fix, and Nature Valley Granola Bars- it is surprisingly difficult to find granola bars in Japan. Although I dropped my peanut butter during my mad dash to the Shinkansen, it was worth every yen. And I am still reaping the benefits every time I have apples and peanut butter for a snack. The jar is about the size of my head so I’m gonna be enjoying it for a while.

our shopping charriot and cafe eats

To round out our Costco experience we stopped by the cafe, and I got the hot dog combo and chicken bake for the trip home. Maybe I didn’t need both, but it was gonna be a while before I could experience the cafe again. And I can’t remember the last time I had a hot dog.

good as gold(en) week

Last week I had an awkward 3 days off in the middle of the week. Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday  were all Japan national holidays. A few of my friends and I decided to road trip down to Fukuoka city on Kyushu island, just south of the main island of Japan. We spent 4 hours driving down in Andrew’s little Kei car, and great as these cars are, they aren’t quite made for road trips. I have to say that little black stallion lived up to the challenge well.

The city of Fukuoka is a new city with a fun atmosphere. I have also heard that they have the prettiest people in Japan. Can’t say I have an opinion on the subject. We cruised around the city and ate lots and lots of ramen.

that's not a random creeper in the corner, just Miguel paralyzed with ramen excitement

Fukuoka also has a famous parade through the city during golden week. We caught the marching band section, and the Mickey Mouse float. The streets were lined with families, and the crowd went crazy once the mickey mouse float came rolling down the street.

We also went to an amazing dinner with the best sashimi I have ever had. The front of the restaurant had a fish tank, but it wasn’t for decoration, it held their fish for the kitchen. We ordered the special sashimi (raw fish) and they caught and cut up the fish. It was great. Then when we were done they cooked the fish body and made  fresh miso soup. Dinner = win.

giant menu

The next day we went to COSTCO, that’s right COSTCO. But that trip had enough epic for its own post. tootles for now….

ramen- so much more than cup noodles

Outside of Japan ramen is pretty much a joke. Sure it tastes good, but the only people that eat it are broke college students. People always refer to the days that all they could afford was ramen. So when I heard that there were ramen restaurants all over Japan, I didn’t get it. Why did people have to go to a restaurant to get instant food. Ramen in Japan isn’t even the same food. Instead of a bowl of heavily seasoned liquid and mush noodles, restaurant ramen is a delish greasy broth with thin chewy noodles, and lots of thin cut pork or crab….

Legend has it that ramen is of Chinese descent. The noodles are a Chinese style and the broth and soup is where Japan took control of the dish. The soup/broth base and toppings vary by the area of Japan.  Fukuoka is known for their Hakata Ramen – a pork based broth with egg, and pork on top.

there's noodles somewhere all that meat

Hokkaido is famous for its miso ramen, wish a miso based broth (obvious from the name) and topped with corn, more butter, and crab. This kind has enough grease on top to cause a heart attack withing minutes of consumption. It is also in the top 10 list of greatest meals ever.

dear hokkaido, i love your ramen

Ramen is known for its humble habitat. It is found in restaurants, but the best rament comes from tiny stalls or roadside carts.

stall from Sapporos ramen alley

A general rule for judging ramen carts- the worse the smell the better the ramen. If it smells like a high school locker room, you’re gonna have a great meal.

canal street ramen cart

Hopefully I have convinced you to look past the noodle brick and give ramen a chance.

If not, that means more for me…

love you MOM!!! <3

happy mother’s day MOM!!! I love you, and I’m sorry that I can’t be home with your on your special day. But just know that I love you and appreciate all that you do and all that you have done for me, if even if I don’t say it.

me and grama Emma Lou in Yellowstone '92