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Showing posts from September, 2009

Daisetsuzan National Park - A Brief Note

Fifth in a series about a recent trip to Hokkaido ! There were many reasons to head north this summer to Hokkaido. The heat and humidity of Tokyo drove us out as did the lure of the beauty of this northern island. Our friend, Ryan , had told us of the many wonders to be found there and suggested we come up for a camping trip. It took less than a second to agree to go. We spent eight days backcountry camping and hiking in Daisetsuzan National Park. Japan's first and largest national park, Daisetsuzan contains a wide variety of landscapes, flora, and fauna. While we didn't see any bears, we took in many of the other delights of the park. Following is a sampling of our photos along with some interesting links. Great links about Daisetsuzan National Park Ryan has been wandering and photographing the park for more than five years now, and his library of images is awe-inspiring . He led us on a series of hikes that showed us some of the many facets of this incredible place. The

Snack Discovery - Nanbu Senbei

Fourth in a series about our recent adventure north to Hokkaido ! Hachinohe proved a veritable gold mine for us. Not only did we find fresh fruits and vegetables and cooler temperatures, but we found a new favorite snack - senbei. Now, unbeknownst to us we've been eating plenty of senbei all along - rice crackers just made for snacking and sipping tea - in various forms and often with long culinary histories. However, we stopped in a little store while strolling about waiting for our next train, and I grabbed a bag of an unknown looking food. Warning: This is a risky habit that usually works out well, but not every time. We recently discovered a sweet-and-sour form of dried seaweed that just isn't for us. This time, though, we hit it right. The senbei we found are specific to the Aomori area and are called nanbu senbei . Traditionally served as part of a dish called senbu jiru - cracker broth - they are made from wheat flour and baked in a round mold. (More commonly, se

A Peach of a Train Station

Third in a series about our recent trip up noth to visit the island of Hokkaido and our food adventures along the way! We left Tendo early the next morning to begin the next long string of local trains that would get us to Aomori and the night express train to Sapporo . Pivotal in getting us to our friend, Ryan , in time for our planned departure to Daisetsuzan National Park , we were a little nervous about this train. We happened to be traveling during obon , a period when Japanese people return to their hometowns to visit family and friends, and pray at the graves of their ancestors. It was not possible to reserve a seat on the train so it was a question of being first in line to be sure to get a seat. One of the tricky parts about travel of any kind is eating healthy. In our case, whatever time we had at assorted stations was used to ensure we found the right train and got on it before it left. Missing a train drastically resets the entire schedule of travel for the day, and c

Pickled in Tendo

Second in a series about our recent trip to Hokkaido and some of the food discoveries along the way! As I mentioned in a previous post about this first meal , Masae also served an assortment of homemade pickles. Okra, eggplant, and cucumber pickles she'd made the night before graced the table, and were perfect for a summer's evening meal. Also known as tsukemono , these pickles can range from simple overnight varieties to those left in jars for long periods of time. Pickles offer a chance to cleanse the pallette between types of sushi or dishes in a meal. We ate in what I call "family style" - fishing out this or that directly from the serving bowl - and bringing it back to the rice bowl or small accompanying plate. If the pickle, tofu or tomato made it to my rice bowl (versus flopping onto the table or another serving bowl) it added a nice bit of flavor or worked well in combination withh something else I snagged earlier. Masae's Pickled Eggplant 1. Slice w

Dashi (Seven Vegetable Relish)

Recently, we took a series of local (read "slow") trains north to Hokkaido . August is the height of travel season in Japan, and we found most trains, ferries, and planes sold out or out of our price range. Luckily, Japan Rail (JR) offers a rail pass that for a flat fee allows travelers to puzzle together a series of local trains to their desired destination. We broke our trip into three days, and spent our first night in Tendo with a Couchsurfing family. We enjoyed our evening with them immensely, and of course, the food was amazing. Dinner consisted of cubes of deep-fried tofu (dredged first in rice flour and sesame seeds) with a series of pickled vegetables - eggplant, cucumbers, okra, and tomatoes - along with rice and dashi (seven vegetable relish). We drank glass after glass of mugicha , and finished off the meal with sweet, sweet watermelon long chilled in the refrigerator. It was a quinticessential summer meal similar in tenor to those shared with my mother in the