Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Chu-Hai

Life’s a Peach

Remember Coffee Plus and Coca-Cola Plus? Have you heard about the latest Coca-Cola flavor that is only available in Japan? Coca-Cola Peach. Seriously!! It arrived on store shelves on January 22nd. From my research, Peach drinks have the highest sales in Japan from January through March. One reason for the “peach season” is Japan’s Hinamatsuri “Doll Festival”, celebrated on March third. During the festival, houses are decorated with dolls and plum flowers (more on that this weekend). The Japanese also love peaches because according to ancient legends, peaches have the power to sweep away evil. Because of these reasons plus, the fact it’s an “only in Japan” item, I knew I had to try it. (Fingers crossed they don’t come out with Corn Coca-Cola!)

On my way home from English class today, I stopped at the grocery store to buy a few items. I saw the Coca-Cola Peach and knew today was going to be taste test day!

While I was at the grocery store, I saw many other peach flavored beverages. I selected four of them. Three of them were non-alcoholic and one was a chu-hai.

I started my taste test with the Coca-Cola Peach. When I first opened it, I immediately smelled a strong peach odor. I poured it into the glass and could smell the peach as I sipped. The taste wasn’t overly peachy. If you like peach and you like Coca-Cola, you would probably enjoy the beverage.

The Gokuri Peach beverage on the other hand, was like drinking peach nectar. It was sweet and very peachy. It wasn’t unpleasant, if you like peach juice. I think it would probably taste better diluted with fizzy water, over ice.

The third beverage was a little intense. It was not at all what I was expecting. It was like a runny peach yogurt. I managed to take a sip, but that was all I could endure. Perhaps it could be mixed with plain yogurt and granola for a sweet breakfast treat. It was just too sweet and too peachy for me!

The last taste test was the peach chu-hai. It was delicious and refreshing. It had the right amount of peach flavor and fizz. Plus, the perfect amount of alcohol for a pre-happy hour, post English class Friday. As I sipped, I felt all evil being swept away! Kanpie!

Here are the four beverages lined up together.

Of the four different peach beverages, I enjoyed the chu-hai the most. I’ll be honest though, I’m not sure I would purchase any of them again. Well, maybe the chu-hai in a pinch if I need to keep evil away! Happy Friday! Kanpie!

Smile Because It Happened

One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Seuss. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I find this quote to be very comforting when I’m faced with the many changes brought about living life as a Navy spouse. One thing always consistent with Navy life is moving. Each move brings new adventures in new locations and new friends with whom to share them. Unfortunately, too often, paths crisscross for only short periods of time. Dina and her kids left Japan for vacation today. She will return and move while I am away next month. Last night we enjoyed one last delicious dinner at Sushiro. Our favorite!


True to typical form, we made friends who were more than willing to have their picture taken with the two tall and cute Americans.


Happiness is friends and a big slice of tuna.


The night wouldn’t be complete without a stop or two at combini for chu hai.


The best picture and memory of the night was Dave giving Eme a shoulder ride up the hill on the walk home!


I will miss you, my friend. Thank you for all the laughs, adventures, and morning runs to the beach. A quick throwback picture to our first run to Zushi beach last October.


It’s not sayōnara, it’s only jā matane – see you later…

Kameido Tenjin Shrine 

Spring in Japan means one blooming session after another. Right now, the wisteria is about to reach full bloom. Having a free day, with no adulting obligations, I decided to travel to Tokyo and visit the Kameido Tenjin Shrine to view the wisteria. It was a schlep, 1.5 hours one way. Far enough for me not to impose the trip on my husband or friends. Here was my route.

The Shrine is located near the Tokyo Skytree. It provided a delightful backdrop to several pictures.

I wish I could share the scent of the wisteria with you. It might be the one thing I will never have much luck sharing with you. It was truly delightful.


I decided to venture up today because next week is Golden Week. I’ll tell you more about the meaning of Golden Week later. For now, it means Japanese holiday and lots of crowds. I was glad to have smaller crowds today. Occasionally, I was able to snap a picture without people. First, a few of the crowds.


Flying solo, I could take my time and wait for the perfect shot. And I did. I waited and I was totally ok with it. Because the shots were worth it. Here are my favorites. The red bridge is in most of them – #becausejapan


Have you noticed the structures supporting the wisteria? Some are wood others are artificial. All are strong.


According to my research, Kameido Tenjin Shrine was founded in the 1660s to honor the memory of the ninth-century scholar, Sugawara no Michizane. The temple was just as beautiful as the wisteria.


While at the temple, I enjoyed my own miniature hanami. Japanese yam and a chu-hai. Life is as sweet as these roasted yams with sugary topping.


When you’re planning your springtime visit, we will see as many flowers as possible. You will need to be willing to travel. As my friend Jen reminded me, seeing stuff requires a little bit of effort. Just a few more pictures….

It truly was an amazing experience and worth the travel. I’m ranking this temple in my top five “seasonal” temples.

Motomachi 

Earlier this week, Yasuko-San called to tell me our Friday English class would need to be cancelled. That gave me a whole day to do – whatever! Happy Friday to me! 

Dina also had a free day and we planned to go to collect more sea glass at Sea Glass Beach. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for the day. It never rained but, remained overcast and cool. Not so much beach weather. 

Instead, we decided to venture up to Motomachi shopping district in Yokohama. Here is the gateway welcoming shoppers. 


Motomachi 500m upscale shopping street in Yokohama. It is located between Chinatown and Yamashita Park. Here was our route on the train. 


The street was filled with a couple of familiar stores. 


There were also a variety of other stores. Like this men’s purse store. The St. Bernard bag was too cute! The sexy lady men’s pins were just weird. 


Speaking of purses, I did buy a new purse from Kitamura2. 


I’ve been searching for a new crossbody bag to replace my tired Longchamp bag. This purse was a 40th birthday present from my Mom before we went to Paris.  I have enjoyed carrying for the past two years so much. It is absolutely perfect. If Longchamp still made it, I would buy at least two more in blue and black.  Considering the miles and continents it has travelled, it’s in pretty great shape… just like me! Ha


Today, I welcomed Blue Boy into my life. He is cute, functional, multicolored, and my first Japanese purse. He has a few more zippers than Longchamp and a very big job to fill. 


I was so thankful to have Dina along with me. She provided sound support as I invested in my new traveling companion (my new purse) and she provided comic relief at a fine leather goods establishment. First, you must stick your hand in his mouth. Which I did… it was furry and warm. 

And then there was the all-American fire truck… in Japan. 


The best was helping Dina find a new hat… maybe not this one. 

It’s Japanese size! 


And there was the incident with the BIG chair. Honestly, I wanted to sit in it. I was just too scared of making a scene! A selfie will have to do. 


One more place to mention as we walked through Motomachi was the adorable pet store. Kawaii!!!

These two puppies were ridiculous. The first one will not get bigger than a soda can. He was only ¥199,800 or about $1800. 

This little fluffy friend was ¥299,900. For shock factor, let’s say $3,000. (I know, I rounded the wrong way) by the time you buy supplies he will be that much! Crazy cuteness. 


We reached the other end of Motomachi and we were ready for food. 


We decided to head to Chinatown for lunch. On our way, we passed this adorable group of teenagers. Pandas in Chinatown, of course. 

Eventually, we found a delicious sushi restaurant in Chinatown.  Tuna rice bowl made complete with a grapefruit Hi-Ball and corn on my salad. 

Tuna rice bowl…. Nom nom nom…


As we headed back to the train, we saw our Panda friends again. This time, the were more than willing to pose! Kawaii! 


Happy Friday! May we always have a good friend(s) to laugh, shop, and drink with!  Kanpie! 

One More Sakura Adventure 

Tuesday it rained and rained. It was pretty ridiculous. If this isn’t the “rainy season” I’m not sure I’m gonna make it without owning a canoe! Haha

The clouds finally parted and Wednesday started off beautifully. Dina and I had plans to hike to Mt. Miurafuji and to visit the cemetery pagoda in hopes of catching a few remaining Sakura.

We set out on the hike I did last month to Mt. MiuraFuji and made the steep climb. Unfortunately, today was not a clear enough day to see Mt. Fuji. The blue skies want to promise you otherwise. None the less, the views along the hike were stunning. If we were going to see Mt. Fuji, it would be in the first picture.


At the top, we made the decision to head towards the Nobi train station. There was a trail and a sign pointing the way and I thought this might connect us to the pagoda faster. Simultaneously, we knew we wouldn’t see Mt. Fuji anywhere else on the hike. So, the pagoda became our next goal.

Off we set, back down the mountain.


Soon we came to a fork in the path and a sign. Google Maps helped to point us in the correct direction. We veered right at the fork.


Down we went.


It doesn’t look very steep from the top. How about from the bottom!


We continued hiking down and found a beautiful little over look. The dark spots in the photo are Sakura petals falling. It was so serene.


We were eventually dumped out into urbanization. We followed Google Maps to the cemetery. On our journey, we passed through a quaint little park and beautiful cemetery. Both with Sakura trees in bloom.

My beautiful friend! How is she not a sweaty mess?

Me… Sweat-a-Saurus Rex! Honestly, who cares about me! Look at those Sakura Blossoms!


Ok, enough with the suspense already, we made it to the cemetery. First stop, Buddha.

This view!


A few more steps and the pagoda was in sight!


The Sakura trees in bloom with the pagoda were well worth the hike. Dina and I picked up onigiri for lunch and had our own Hanami under the Sakura trees. It was perfect. Except we forgot the Sake!!

I think the first picture is my favorite. Or maybe the second…


By the time we stopped for Hanami, I was pretty hungry. I snapped these pictures after we both finished our onigiri. Oops! It was a beautiful setting!


As we returned home on the train, clouds started to roll in and so did a few sprinkles. By the time I was walking up the hill towards home, it was full on raining. I had no umbrella, just more beautiful Sakura and a chu-hi!


Kanpie!

Alcohol Vending Machines

Vending machines are very common in Japan. There is always one nearby when you need it. In fact, when we go out for a long run, we take yen with us and stop at a vending machine for water. It is a very convenient alternative to having to carry water on long runs. Normally, we see this type of vending machine. It is stocked with sodas, water, sports drink, coffee, and other options. If you look a little closer, notice the color of the price tag. The items with a blue price are cold and the items with a red price are hot. 


The other day, Dave and I were on our way back home during a long run, we saw a vending machine and decided to stop for water. Upon approaching the vending machine, we realized it offered a different option! The vending machine was stocked with Chu-Hai and beer. Kanpie! 


We were confused about the advertisements for the Sake Pass. I took pictures and shared them with my Japanese friend Miki hoping to get a little bit more information.


Here is the information Miki shared with me. I copied and pasted her message.

“Oh! I didn’t know the liquor pass card.😅 the machine is not old. google….

When we buy alcohol by this machine. We put in Sake pass or drivers license. If we show ID the liquor store. They give us The card. It’s free. The idea was made by the maker of the vending machine company’s. but performance is badly. ha ha sometimes it doesn’t work. 

I asked my son about Sake pass card. he said There is two vending machines near my house. However, It’s not work😁 the machines don’t read the cards and Driver license. minor can buy Sake! 

They have friends who are over 21years old. I think minors can get the cards! 

They can buy Sake. They don’t need show their ID. It’s useful for them. Im confused about rules about alcohol.😂😂Like you😉”

Miki is fantastic and very funny. She has become my go-to when I have a “Japan” question. 

The even funnier part of the vending machine is the setting. Right in the middle of a neighborhood and right across the street from a bus stop. Convenient if you need a beverage to hydrate as you climb the hill to home! 


As always, every day is a chance to learn something new! Happy Friday! Kanpie! 

Update 10/19/17: since first posting this article, I have been able to find several alcohol vending machines during my travels. I have also purchased myself a Chu-Hai and Dave a beer. They were cold and delicious. 

Setsubun

Our friend, Miki, invited Dina and me to go with her to the Seto Shrine to experience Setsubun. The Seto Shrine is located near the Kawazana-Hakkei train station (only two stops from our normal station, Jimmuji). Dina and I both forgot our temple books… therefore, we will obviously need to return.

Setsubun is Japan’s bean-throwing ritual that occurs on the lunar calendar’s last day before spring (February 3). The bean-throwing event is called mame maki. The celebration is a means to cleanse the past and bring good fortune for the new year. During the event, roasted soy beans nicknamed fortune beans are thrown from elevated stages while shouting, “Devil out!” “Good fortune in!” As attendees, our goal was to try and catch bags of beans. Once catch, you must eat your age +1.

At this shrine, they throw beans every 15 minutes or so starting at 3pm. We were just arriving so we were towards the back for the first round.

I have to take a minute and give props to our friend Miki. She brought two very tall Americans to this event. Unfortunately, we didn’t have quite the catching skills she was hoping for. Simultaneously, I know we stood out. And she had no problem being there with us. I truly appreciate her friendship.

And here we all are together.

She also wanted to make sure I took a picture of the front of the temple.


And she took one of us!

I did eat my 42 dried seasonless soybeans and Dina ate her respective amount. Miki told us she doesn’t like them and saved them for her husband to eat with a Chu-Hai. Haha! Regardless, I’m hoping for a year with the “devil out” and “good fortune in!”

PS. In English class today, I peeled my tangerine like a local!

Strawberry Season

Yes, that’s right. January through March is strawberry season in Japan. The strawberries are mostly grown in greenhouses, enabling a winter growing season. Fruit in Japan is often considered a dessert. Strawberries are no exception. They are beautifully packaged and can be very costly also making them a nice present.

These strawberries are for sale at YorkMart, the Japanese grocery store near our house. One of the packages pictured below is ¥753 including tax. With 11-15 strawberries in a container, that is a pretty steep price! However, for the fresh right off the vine taste, the price was worth it. The strawberries taste delicious and freshly picked!

This is the package I purchased from the YorkMart.

These Japanese strawberries were for sale at the Commissary on base.

The package I purchased at the Commissary for $4.99.

Fresh strawberries are not the only popular item during strawberry season. Looking around the grocery store, I found strawberries in a variety of items. From snacks, cookies, chocolates and nuts!

I also found strawberry chu-hai, strawberry pocky and chocolates with strawberry filling.

The best find was the delicious pancake with strawberry and cream filling.

As with other things, the Japanese didn’t invent the strawberry, they just found a way to make it a little bit better. They made it better by offering fresh vine ripened strawberries in the middle of winter when everyone is craving a little extra vitamin C.

Hi – Chew or Chu – Hai

It is important in Japan to make note of subtle differences in the language.  To prove my point, I’ll use the example of Hi-Chew and Chū-hai (pronounced chew-hi).  Both can be purchased at any convenience store in a variety of fruit flavors and contain a significant amount of sugar.  One can be eaten by kids of all ages and one should be consumed responsibly by legal drinking age adults. Asking for one when you mean the other could have disastrous consequences.

Hi-Chew candy is similar to a Starburst, maybe a little softer.  I have tried a variety of flavors and really like the banana and mixed berry the best.


Chu-Hai is sold in aluminum cans in a rainbow for fruit flavors.  The drink originates from the shōchū highball.  The shōchū highball was made with the alcohol shōchū and carbonated water.  Now known as Chu-Hai, the canned drink is typically made with vodka, carbonated water and artificial fruit flavor.  The alcohol content is also high – 9% or 18 proof. I have been cautioned of their potency from several people. Typically, I was warned of buying a fresh Chu-Hai from a stand in town. There is no regulation on the amount of vodka or other alcohol when made fresh. Often the first one goes down so easily, another is ordered and it becomes a night the person doesn’t remember. I haven’t been tempted to order one. Although, curiosity did get the better of me and I purchased two cans for “blog research.” They are both still in the refrigerator.  I’ll post an update when we finally break one open. If I remember what happened… Until then, Kanpai!


PS.  Our shizzle arrives tomorrow!  Good bye air mattress.  HELLO sleep number, blender, couch, clothes, clothes and more clothes!

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