Saturday, June 30, 2012

Umibudou - Sea Grapes From Okinawa

Umibudou 海ぶどう is a seaweed that can be found only in Okinawa. And the Philippines. It literally means "sea grapes" and looks like tiny grapes.

It is also called "green caviar" and it is eaten fresh, with vinegar, in a salad or simply as a snack.

They have a crunchy texture.

Being rare to find and yummy, the price is rather high and the quantity served reduced to a small piece. I loved its exquisite taste.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fish Market In Akashi City

Today I will show you photos taken in the fish market of Akashi. It is a city in Hyogo Prefecture, west of Kobe.
Akashi is famous for the planetarium there, standing on the meridian of 135 degrees east longitude. It is the place used to determine Japan standard time. And Akashi is also famous for Uontana -  魚の棚 "fish-shelf" - the fish market where local fishermen display plenty of seafood caught nearby.

Akashi is well-known for Akashiyaki, a kind of takoyaki. It is a dish with tako, octopus.

Octopus can be found in various other ways.

Apart from that, there are lots of species of fish for sale.

And sea vegetables:

General view inside the market:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ishiwarizakura - National Treasure In Morioka

Ishiwarizakura 石割桜 - literally ishi 石 "stone," wari 割 "crack, splitting" and sakura 桜 "cherry tree" - is a cherry tree growing out of a granite rock in front of the district courthouse in Morioka, Iwate-ken. This cherry is about 400 years old.

This tree is a national treasure of Japan.

A nice message on it nearby, and a gorgeous look of the tree blooming every early May:

It is a ten-minute walk from the Morioka train station, and definitely a special landmark of Japan.

I believe the Rock-Breaking Cherry Tree looks magnificent at any time of the year.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kanzashi 簪 - Hair Decorations

Kanzashi are the Japanese hair decorations, adding an elegant touch to the traditional wear and general appearance of the ladies.

Such decorations are seasonal, and their most common use nowadays is during Shinto weddings and by maiko/geisha. Maiko wears more hair decorations than a geisha. The latter's status can be immediately guessed by the way she wears her kanzashi.

There are many varieties of kanzashi and many styles of wearing them. There are seven basic kanzashi.

The season and the month dictate which kind of hair ornament should be worn.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Biggest Aquarium In The World - Okinawa

It is in the Guinness World Records, 22.5m x 8.2m.

Here is the entrance of the museum:

In the garden:

It is sultry since the beginning of May, and there are several places to cool down for a while in vapours of cold water.

There are so many species of underwater life exhibited inside.

Nemo! :-)

Two clownfish below - they can absorb toxins from sea anemonies and use them as defence.

Zebra moray: 

The Guinness World Records Certificate says: "the world's largest aquarium window."

The window is 603mm thick.

Feeding time: 

The lionfish - it can inject lethal hemotoxins even through wetsuits. It has been considered the most venomous fish until recently.

Amethyst anthias - It is a blurred photo, yet their lovely pink colour stands out. Their video, together with plenty of other information, is on the official website of Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.

There are lots of information regarding underwater life, as well as take-away educational materials.

In the exit area, some local sea-related legends are introduced to the public.

It takes at least a couple of hours to visit this large aquarium. Once in the area, it worths your visit.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Youkan - Bean Jelly

Youkan is a Japanese dessert made of red bean paste and sugar. It looks like a thick jelly. It is usually available as a small block, and eaten in slices. Youkan comes in red and green. The red one is made of red beans - azuki. The green one is made of white beans, has a much milder flavour and it is coloured by using green tea powder - matcha.

Youkan has this kanji 羊羹, "sheep" and "thick soup" respectively. It was originally a Chinese snack, a gelatin formed after boiling sheep. Since Buddhism forbids killing, the animal gelatin was replaced by beans.

Youkan can be stored for a long time without refrigeration. However, after opening the pack, it must be kept in the fridge. It goes well with tea.

Some friends generously offered me this lovely set of plates with seasonal haiku. Thank you!

I bought this special matcha youkan in Gion, Kyoto.