Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Sushi Page 1 of 2

Blooming Azaleas

Over the past week, the azaleas have really started to reach full bloom. I wanted to visit the Nezu Shrine this week, unfortunately, the weather hasn’t cooperated with my plans. We’ve had a couple days of rainy weather. My “don’t let the weather stop you” rule doesn’t apply to flower chasing! The skies started to clear as I headed out on a few errands in Zushi. One of my stops was to pick up sushi for dinner.

By the time I returned to base, the rain had stopped and the clouds parted. Once back on base, I took a few minutes to enjoy the massive azalea mound near the parking lot of the mini mart.

The sunshine mixed with the rain drops on the petals were a bright ending to a dreary day.

The weather looks amazing for Thursday – Sunday. Rain returns Monday – Wednesday. I have English class Thursday, Friday, and Saturday this week. Looks like I need to break the news to Dave that Flower Church might be at the Nezu Shrine in Tokyo this weekend!

Kamakura Highlights

We gave ourselves time to relax and recharge after our trip home from Hiroshima Wednesday night. Thursday was dedicated to exploring Kamakura. Dave and I really enjoy walking around and shopping in Kamakura. We were excited to share our favorite spots with our friends. The first stop was at the Great Buddha of Kamakura. We were again lucky to see Sakura still blooming.

By the time we left the Great Buddha, we were ready for some ice cream. Not a problem. In fact, we enjoyed ice cream and croquettes.

We took the train back to Kamakura from Hase and stopped for lunch. We went to the conveyor sushi restaurant Dave and I visited a few weeks ago. We made quite the stack of plates. Strong work for a party of six!

Next up on the itinerary was a stop at the Owl Forest.

During our visit, we found Jennifer’s Patronus (Reference: Harry Potter – aka spirit animal).

Speaking of Harry Potter… We found Hedwig!

We walked up Komachi Dori, the main shopping street, and made our way to The Hachiman-gu Shrine.

We had fun posing by the sake barrels.

Our visit at the Shrine was cut a little short because we had reservations at 5:00pm at the newly opened Shiba inu cafe. Yes, a puppy cafe. In Kamakura. We were beyond excited and it was even more amazing than we imagined. I might need to make a stop here on Friday afternoons after my English class. Because puppies.

After the puppy cafe, we worked our way back home. We stopped for one last picture of Chase and a huge teddy bear at Tully’s Coffee. So, cute!

Before the Rain

I think we all are experiencing strange weather patterns. The back to back Nor’easters blowing up the east coast have us all captivated and thinking about our loved ones. Here in Japan, we are having lots of rain and wind. The humidity is starting to return with the rain. Yesterday and today were overcast and cool. Amanda and I decided to get a hike in before the rain returns tomorrow. We hiked the trail close to our house, Mt. Takatori. I always giggle when we pass by the nursing home at the start of the hike. There are always cute and strange statues.

Amanda and I came to a crossroads at the beginning of the trail. Here is the route we normally would take.

We hesitated because there seemed to be a very clear unmarked trail. Neither of us had ever taken it and decided today was a day for exploring!

Off we went and up we went!

Check out the worn areas on the rocks. Perfect for foot placement!

The trail went up and up and up. It was a total thigh burner!

We came to another crossroads and decided to go left. This led us back down and close a school where we started. Check out the wire mesh stairs. Brilliant idea on a potentially muddy slope!

At this point, we could either turn around and go back up the hill or end our hike and head home. We decided to double back. We finally knew we were on the right track when we started seeing the numbered signs!

We continued up and down and had an unrelenting burn in our thighs by the time we made it off the mountain.

Before getting on the train to head home, we stopped by the grocery store. I thought sushi sounded like the perfect dinner. Dave and I have a goal to eat sushi once a week while living here. It’s one of our favorites. Plus it gives me an excuse to use my Japanese pottery!

I hope everyone in the path of the upcoming storm remains safe. You’re in my thoughts!


A friend of Dave’s suggested we take a side trip to Otaru during our visit to Sapporo. He highly recommended Otaru for amazing sushi. We didn’t need to be told twice! Otaru is a coastal town about a 40 minute train ride from Sapporo Station.

We arrived in time for lunch. We walked down to the canal street known as sushi row.

We were told to sit at the sushi counter and ask for “omakase” or chef’s choice. As a result, this magnificent plate of sushi arrived.

I ate everything. Even the sea urchin. I cheated a little bit and picked off the sea urchin and swallowed them whole so I didn’t taste them. Then I ate the rice. The rest was delicious. The tuna was of course my favorite and maybe the best piece of tuna sashimi I’ve ever eaten. I would rank this sushi plate in my top three.

After lunch, we walked around the town and many shops. There was so much snow. I couldn’t get over all of the snow. There were piles everywhere.

Look at all the snow fences on the hills to prevent avalanches.

And icicles!

In true Japanese fashion, many shop owners and residents made kawaii snow sculptures. They were an adorable addition to the winter wonderland.

Plus, a few snowmen.

How great is Dave’s new face mask!?!

We headed back to Sapporo in the middle of the afternoon. I’m glad we took the suggestion to visit Otaru for the sushi. Plus, we had a chance to see a little bit more of the area.

Plan Your Work

We arrived at the Naval Base in Sasebo Sunday afternoon. We were able to check into our room at NGIS. This might be the fanciest Navy room I have ever stayed in. Not only is it HUGE, there is a doormat, leather furniture, full size fridge, dining room, beautiful backyard, and a massage chair! Seriously!?!

The view out the back door.

The massage chair.

After checking in, we headed out to see the area outside the base. Dave has been to Sasebo for work several times. He took me to one of his favorite restaurants. They actually use a net to catch the fish in the tank for you and serve it on the sushi platter.

I’m not sure there is a fresher way to enjoy sushi.

I was a bit of chicken and ordered my favorite and safe sushi choice. Maguro (tuna) and rice bowl.

After dinner, we stopped at a few local watering holes and then headed back to the room. I used Monday morning to work out our plan for sightseeing during the week. I stopped by IACE travel and was able to obtain a plethora of information for things to do around the area. The travel agent was very knowledgeable about the area and helped me put together a week full of adventures.

One noticeable difference between Sasebo and Yokosuka is the train schedule. I realize now we are very spoiled living in Yokosuka. We have trains running every 8-10 minutes from our closest station. Here, trains run hourly most of the time. This makes it a little bit more challenging when planning an excursion. I was a little frustrated this afternoon because I missed the 12:43 train. The next one wasn’t going to arrive for an hour. This wouldn’t give me enough time to get there and back before my rendezvous with Dave for dinner. Grrr. So, plan B. I decided to use my time this afternoon to plan my work for the next couple days so I could work my plan and not end up in the same predicament. I picked up some lunch and returned back to base, timing how long it would take to go from NGIS to the train station (at a leisurely pace). I ate my lunch on our patio with this amazing view.

Then, I had a massage in the chair. Once my appetite was satiated and I was completely relaxed from my massage, I set to work on my plan. I wrote down a few notes and train schedules for my intended adventures over the next couple of days. Now that I’m squared away I’ll be ready to hit the ground running tomorrow! Adventures await!

Sushi and Sake

After our adventures exploring the Wara Animal Sculptures at Uwasekigata Park, we worked our way back to Niigata. Fortunately, the taxi driver gave us a card of the taxi service to call when we were finished. We called and had a taxi within minutes. We went back to the train station and then back to Niigata. We had a short walk to our hotel. 

We booked the Shinkansen and hotel through IACE Travel, the travel agency on base. The travel agent made everything so easy. She printed the train schedules because they don’t run as frequently as trains near the bigger cities. Also, she printed our hotel voucher making our check-in super easy (always remember to bring your passports). Our travel agent also gave us a voucher for a free sushi platter to use at one of several participating sushi restaurants in the area. To help us locate the restaurants, she printed a map! At check-in, the receptionist gave us two ¥500 coupons to use with dinner. 

We dropped our backpacks and headed out for sushi. I wish I had my camera ready to capture the sushi chef’s face when we walked in the door. He was obviously shocked to see two American girls walk into his restaurant. ? The chef and sous chef were welcoming and gracious hosts. They seated us at the sushi bar. We ordered two beers. When the beers were served I handed the sous chef our voucher and coupons. There was conversation between the two chefs and from what I understood, the voucher was good and the coupon would be applied to our beers. A short minute or two later, the sushi chef was displaying pieces of sushi for us to eat. 

The pile on the left is ginger. The white fish was good and the tuna was so buttery. Yummmmmmm… my favorite. 

Next, from the kitchen we eat were given a bowl of miso soup. 

The sushi chef placed more tuna (on the right) and raw shrimp. I wasn’t as squeamish as last time about the shrimp. It was delicious, actually. 

He added to our sushi display, krab stick, clam, and another white fish. I was worried about the clam. It was ok. It was slightly pickled, making it very crunchy. It was kindof a weird texture, but tasted ok. 

He place tamago (egg) on the right. And then the salmon roe and sea urchin arrived. I couldn’t do the sea urchin. I still remember the awful taste from our experience in Hiroshima. I used a trick my Mom taught me when she was forced to eat oysters. I hid the sea urchin in tissues and threw it away after we left. Sonia was so much braver than me. She ate hers like a sushi boss. 

When we eat completed our platters, I was still a little hungry. I ordered two additional pieces of tuna – maguro. “Oishi des” – “This is delicious!” Our sushi chef smiled. 

Once we finished, we requested our bill. The total costs was ¥1300 – less than $13.00. The voucher and coupons covered everything except my second beer and two pieces of additional maguro! The tuna was ¥350 each and the beer was ¥500. I’ve never eaten so much delicious food for so cheap!

We decided to walk around after dinner. We headed toward the train station and discovered an interesting sake shop. For ¥500, you received a sale cup and 5 Sake tasting tokens. 

There were 111 different sakes to taste! I started with #97! It was good. Better than any Sake I have tasted. 

We asked for recommendations for others to try. Number 86 was pretty delicious. 

The process was so kawaii. You set your Sake cup underneath the dispenser, inserted your coin, and then pressed the yello button. Five seconds later, you had Sake to taste. 

In addition to the Sake tasting, there were a plethora of different salts. Using the little scoop, you placed some on the back of your hand and licked it before tasting the saki. It was like the Japanese version of tequila shots. 

A map in the Sake tasting room showed where many of the Sakes were produced. 

The sake and salt tasting was another unique Japanese experience. It was another peek into the beautiful culture of Japan! 

Chasing Rainbows 

When it rains, chase rainbows. Or maybe train stamps. Except if it involves Hello Kitty. Because the cutest train station in Tokyo may have amazing Sushi… but, it doesn’t have a train stamp. Seriously. Dina and I rode the train for an hour and forty-five minutes with additional delays to arrive at Tama Station. Hoping for Hello Kitty overload and at least a stamp. We did get a little kawaii but, no stamp.

The highlight of kawaii in the station was the stained glass. I went to the floor to get the perfect shot or five. Photo credit to Dina for the picture of me on the floor of the train station… 

Here were my shots from the floor. 

The day wasn’t a complete rain out. We enjoyed amazing Sushi and self squeezed lemon chu-hai.

Lesson learned. Train stamps aren’t always the pot of gold you seek. Instead, settle for tuna.

One Bite

Our first night in Hiroshima, Dave found us an amazing sushi restaurant called Sushitei Hikarimachi. The well-renowned Sushi chef was truly a culinary expert. We sat at the bar and allowed him to select the Sushi he would make and serve us. It was an fun and adventurous sushi dining experience. I was pushed out of my sushi comfort zone twice. 

Each piece was served on the leaf. We were directed to use our hands, not chopsticks. The chef told us to use our fingers fingers and take only one bite. We were not allowed to dip in soy sauce either. Some of the bites were rather large! Fortunately, we had cold beer in standby. 

First piece, white fish. Very good. It was lightly seared and brushed with a teriyaki sauce. 

Second piece. Also very good. It was salmon wrapped around rice and cream cheese. 

Seared tuna. Again, delicious. 

And then I was tested. Raw shrimp. Lightly seared. It was surprisingly good. Once I let go that it was raw shrimp. 

After that, the mackerel was a breeze. 

The avocado with fish roe was one of my favorites. 

And the tuna flower. Definitely my favorite. 

I was completely out of my comfort zone when he served us the sea urchin. Oh, my. Awful. My palette is not sophisticated enough to enjoy the salty deep sea taste. More for you. 

We also enjoyed tempura vegetables. Sweet potato, asparagus, and lotus root. Very delicious. 

Yokosuka for a Day

Over the past few weeks, Tuesday has become my “Yokosuka” day because I am the substitute for an English class. Today, I decided to make a whole day of Yokosuka. I started with lunch at a new Sushi – go – Round restaurant near the Yokosukachuo train station. The Sushi was delicious! Tuna, tofu, and more tuna! I’ll definitely revisit! 

The delivery method of the Sushi was adorable. The small plates of Sushi were delivered via a Shinkansen train! Kawaii!

After lunch, I walked over to the main base for a manicure and pedicure at the salon. You don’t need to see a picture of my gnarly running feet, trust me. They look a lot better and so do my nails! 

After my nail experience, I walked back to the Yokosukachuo Station for my English class. The good news there, only one more remaining! I feel like summer break is close by! Ha. 

The highlight of the entire day was having dinner with Dave. We enjoyed dinner with several people from his command at Doma Doma, our favorite Izakaya restaurant in Yokosuka. Unfortunately, the menu selection wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t go away hungry… but, I wasn’t impressed. It was as if they tried to make it “American” or something. It started out well, edamame, daikon salad, cabbage salad, and sashimi. 

Then the courses were bizarre. Starting with bland fried shrimp crackers and fried chicken (mostly skin).  

Then chicken legs strangely resembling a duck and roast beef slices. Nah. I stopped after the bland shrimp chips. 

Like I said, my favorite part of the day was dinner with Dave, despite the menu. Followed by a ¥756 ($7.50) sashimi lunch. Obviously, pre manicure. 

Only one more Tuesday in Yokosuka until my substituting commitment is over. I feel I need to make a go of it. Bring on summer vacation! And wine. 

Coca-Cola Plus

Coca-Cola Plus is available only in Japan. It is described as a “healthy” soda. 

I know, I’m thinking the same thing, “what could possibly make a soda healthy?” Coca-Cola Plus claims it’s the added fiber that makes it healthy. It’s is also a zero calorie soda. Despite not having sugar, it tastes super sweet and flat… I guess it lost all its fizz in the first pour. 

According to Google Translate, the white writing in the middle red line says:

“Suppresses the absorption of fat ingested from the meal, raising the neutral fat in the blood, and additional sugars.” Hmmmm.. suppresses the absorption of fats and sugar? Sounds too good to be true and surely without consequences! 

From my research, I learned about several people experiencing a fluid bowel movement. It reminded me of the late 1990’s Olestra potato chip. Today was the perfect rainy day to conduct further research and try the beverage myself. As I typed up this blog, I consumed the entire soda. That was no small feat! 

I waited an hour to see if I experienced any of the said side effects. Fortunately, I didn’t. And I feel no need to purchase Coca-Cola Plus again.

On another fun note, we went to our favorite Sushiro for lunch with our Chick-Fil-A sauce. The chicken was more delicious than I expected! Thank you, friends for sending delightful goodness.  

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