September 19, 2016

Really? Really???

Japan take two was great, but there is a series of complicated life events surrounding us, and we leave for Hawaii day after tomorrow:

  • Mother-in-law wants more opiates than her doctor wants her to have and is pitching fits
  • Mom's best friend of 75 years is in hospice
  • Mom's caregivers are flaky (this item seems small by comparison, but I've filled in by spending every day with her since I came home, and I'm beat)
  • One of our favorite cousins had a major stroke yesterday
  • #2 cat is violently ill and is puking and drooling
  • Middlesis isn't speaking to me

Should I stay home to deal with some of this?


September 4, 2016

Japania 2016 Saturday -- On The Way Home

It was blisteringly hot in Nagasaki. So hot that I'd preferred to do nothing than do something in Japan, one of my favorite places in the world. Kinda sad.

My plane from Nagasaki was scheduled to leave at 7pm, but I took the bus to the airport at 11am (my hotel checkout time). The bus trip kills some time, which is nice. And you get to see some real Japan. Once at the airport there is air conditioning.

Anyhoo, I shopped at the airport. Looked at every possible knicknack and food thing. I came home with a Kewpie floating in a bathtub of Champon.

I did not purchase the "make rain go away" characters. But this ghost dude emerging from a bowl of Champon was the best. When I made these into earrings, weeks later, mrguy was both impressed and entertained.

Then I ate a set lunch and melon soda, while reading a book -- a former employee's fictionalized account of his time at the forklift factory. What's interesting is that he transports it to more present day times, when we all have phones. It would be too hard to explain the reality of his time, struggling with Palm Pilots that are supposed to recognize your handwriting and running around with heavy binders, then back to our desks where our computers lived. I read this book voraciously, and annotated with a pencil.

  Around 4pm I realized that the sound I was hearing was the hyoshigi (japanese blocks, clapped together to announce the beginning of the day's sumo matches). The sumo broadcast was starting! Right on. Nobody was in the seating area in front of the TV except me, a mother and her little boy, who was an avid fan. I watched all two hours pretty much by myself, except for a nun who joined me at the end and watched the proceedings while slowly munching a rice ball.

There were amazing foodstuffs on sale at the airport. Nice to know that you can get some whale bacon for the road. Ugh.

Hours later, at Haneda, I had another long wait. At one point I heard my name called. Never a good sign when traveling internationally. The gate agents invited me behind the ticket counter for an apologetic frisk. After that it was smooth sailing.

Tomorrow is Labor Day and I'm headed back to do this Japan thing all over again. Preferably with less whale!

Japan July 2016 Friday

Again with the food! I should amend what I said about Thursday's meal, by the way. We were "treated" in the sense that it is a treat to be able to partake of the artistry of someone who is so gifted. We did, in fact, pay (and handsomely!) for that meal. And no our per-diem doesn't really cover that level of cuisine, but we ate many cheap meals at the supermarket that week.

At this point in my trip I was ready to go home. My work was done, and I had a whole day to loaf around. I spent it at the mall, and then wached the sumo broadcast and napped until it was time for dinner. This was the big finish. Kagetsu, where the dining experience to have is Shippoku Ryori.

Established in the 1600s, Kagetsu began as a fancy courtesan house. It is now a restaurant, where you are served by ladies in gorgeous kimono.

We had an entire corner tatami room to ourselves, overlooking the garden. 

Adjoining it is a room you step down into, wearing slippers. This room was the first Western-styled room in Japan. I took weird photos of the ceiling and floor.

This is early on in our meal. Our server brought out dishes, explained them to our colleague who was translating for us, and then we asked questions. She would then take the one gorgeous plate and make six equally gorgeous portions out of the one. That alone was pretty spectacular.

There are some famous dishes associated with this meal, and we called ahead to say "No whale and no turtle". They must have just heard "whale" and "turtle". Witness "Whale Three Ways". Noooooo!

Now you know what whale bacon looks like. It's the two-toned stuff on the left.

Next was a famous Nagasaki dish called a "Pasty". This was the dish that contained a love bomb of turtle. Ohgeez.

This little gelee contained shrimp, gold leaf and okra. As you do.

Local vegetables, beef, more fois gras?

There was a pork belly dish, which I didn't photograph, and a dessert, and mochi swimming in sweet red bean sauce. The evening was kind of intense. And awesome. We paid these people wheelbarrows full of cash for this experience, and it was worth it. To be able to have these beautiful dishes described to us, and have this translated was alone a special treat.

So ends the last fancy night in Nagasaki. On our walk home we saw little bobtailed Japanese kittens in the parklet across from the restaurant. So cute.

Japan July 2016 Thursday

Thursday we were treated to an amazing kaiseki meal at a six-seat restaurant.   The reservation process was a little complex. A guy from the museum called for the reservation because he's a regular. Turns out that there was already a reservation for *one*, and we were already a party of six. But the guy who had the reservation was a friend of the guy from the museum, so the museum guy persuaded him to eat there on another night. We had our kaiseki meal after all.

Let the deliciousness begin! 

This photo shows a cube of savory something, topped by a pickled yuzu bud. The champagne flute to the left contains some lobstery fluid with seaweed.

Sashimi of various fishes served with their respective livers:

 While waiting on us and preparing other dishes at a *furious* pace, the chef was also tending to the grill on the left, which had a heat source under what looked like Spanish roof tiles.

This plate was complex -- two nubbins of pickled ginger that the chef had grown and pickled himself. Two chunks of cod miso yaki, a gigantic scallop and some sort of scallop pudding that was the best thing we ate all night (right up there with the lobstery liquid).

In this photo, our chef is putting the final touches on filet mignon.

The pace went on unabated, and we were filling up fast. It was a little intimidating, because the chef was pouring his heart and soul into these dishes and they keep coming. Some, like the sashimi of fish and their livers, were quite rich. I think there's one dish I didn't even photograph! Here is the filet, with a huge chunk of fois gras, a potato and a gigantoid mushroom. It arrived bloody rare. So huge. I felt trapped. Everything was delicious but I thought I'd pop.

Finally, the end. White peach season was upon us, and the white peaches in Nagasaki were delicious. White peaches, white peach ice cream and something else -- maybe white peach gelee? 

We waddled home, petted Pudding and had another excellent conversation with Pudding's mama. We hugged a lot that night. I missed my own mama, so it was nice to hug a willing, toothless old lady (even if she did slap me in the boob and call me fat earlier in the week).

Japan July 2016 Wednesday

On Wednesday, we finished the condition reporting. It was amazing to be done that quickly. I spent the rest of the day on documentation.

After work we walked to a restaurant where we ate in a tatami room. I don't know the name of this pesticide company with the rooster mascot, but I love this sign for their mosquito coils.

It was fun to have a place to ourselves (with a phone to call downstairs for more beer or food). It was up a set of stairs that was quite precipitous. 

The food was delightful, but I'm ashamed that I ate whale. This was whale tail, and it was fluffy like gelatin and served with some steamed and exquisitely prepared green onions. A mystifying dish.

It wasn't all about whale. We had some gorgeous sashimi, as well.

Then we headed to a cowboy bar, Jimmy's Graceland. Jimmy's wasn't technically open that night, but he agreed to show up and play some music for us. He sang Route 66 and some Hank Williams. And we were the only customers. I felt bad about this because I am a cheap date these days, so there wasn't much in it for Jimmy except for the mad amounts of press he'll get from the readers of mrsguy ;).

Japan July 2016 Tuesday

Work continue to go amazingly, and we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. 

The night sky was fabulous.

Japan July 2016 Monday

Our first day at the museum went so smoothly. Really. The jet lag kicked in just before we needed to wrap up at 6. Then we went to an Ojiya restaurant. It was magical. Super woodsy, with whatnautical jimcracks everywhere. The Ojiya was a bowl of umami. Something so tasty and evenly ingrediented that it was just a big bowl of salty pleasure.

The walk home:

We walked through a shopping arcade on the way home. These figures are supposed to make it stop raining, but they're kinda creepy.

I love a figure of Colonel Sanders, so I had to stop and snap a photo:

At one point we stopped to light some sparklers. Japanese sparklers are awfully pretty. I don't understand why the custom is that we hold them with the flame below our fingers. That's a little nerve wracking.

Across from our hotel is the home / restaurant of a lady who has a beautiful bobtailed cat named Pudding. His bobtail is striped, he has a single teacup-sized striped spot on his side, and striped ears. We petted him yesterday, and did so again this evening, disturbing her dog, so she came out to say hello. 

We had a long conversation, aided by our tour manager, during which she decided that I would be huggable, so she hugged me, and then we got to talking about cats, so I showed her a picture of our second oldest. She thought my cat was fat, so she started rubbing my tummy and indicating that she looked like me. This woman was so much like my mom ten years ago. She opened her outer jacket and indicated that she had no boobs, and then up-slapped mine. 

No really.

You can imagine how much my crew was enjoying this. I should stop to say that I’m wearing the plumeria in my sprout that so horrified the people of Vienna and Budapest. It has the exact opposite effect on people here. It’s a) taking Nagasaki by storm and b) emboldening them to say and do almost anything.

Japan July 2016 Sunday

Walked to Amu Plaza and saw many things. 

Went to Tokyu Hands. Didn’t buy the bag that converts to a backpack and I should have.

But later at the supermarket I bought a cheap (5 bucks) and awesome bag that comes inside a bag. I used the tiny bag on Monday to bring my tiny lunch to the museum.

Back at Amu Plaza there were lovely things to see:

We went on a tour of Nagasaki harbor in a reproduction of a boat given by the Netherlands to the Emperor of Japan. The tour was hosted by our museum translator. I love rusted stuff.

Then we went to the supermarket and bought things for our dinner. I made a salad! Japan's awesome that way. I'm bringing a Tupperware when I come back in September.
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