Sunday, April 16, 2017

Grub on the Road: Table for Two

"Look up," he said...
Traveling with someone is not my normal state.  It's not that I want to be alone (although it's nice, especially when it comes time to write blogs) so much as that I generally can't be bothered coordinating travel plans with others.  I want to go where I want to go...but if one of my nearest and dearest wanted to come along for the ride, I'm generally pretty copacetic.  This trip didn't exactly go down like that...I maybe encouraged Five to go to Japan so that I would have an excuse to go back even though I just spent our October break in Kyoto, but since I still have no idea what I'm doing next year, I'm kind of okay with that.

Anyways, back to my opening shot - traveling with someone is different.  When I'm alone in vacation mode, I sometimes forget to eat all day.  Or maybe not forget...it's just that I've got so many things to do that food kind of gets de-prioritized.  On the other hand, if my raison d'etre on the road is learning new things, Five's is to eat new things. For this reason I put her in charge of restaurants.  For about five seconds - I changed my mind after she announced that we were going to try raw chicken sushi.

That saying about how you won't know if you like it until you try it?  I call bullshit.  There are some things you don't need to try to know they're not good.  Salmonella is one of them.
Fire Ramen, on the other hand...  Five was reading up on places to eat on our second day in Kyoto, and came across this place on someone's foodie blog.  The lines are supposed to be long, so we decided to go the next day for an early lunch and walked right into a special news feature from Tokyo.  They hooked us up with mics and asked us some questions - kind of awkward, but then again, it seems to happen a lot around me.  I didn't think the flavor of the broth was that different, but the fire definitely had an effect.  There were tons of green onions piled on top, and when they poured the flaming oil into your bowl, apparently the onions soak it up, and take on this sort of smoky flavor.  I am not a huge fan of green onions - normally I eat around them, and that was my plan at Fire Ramen.  But I accidentally grabbed a few with my chopsticks, and they actually tasted really nice.  I ended up eating them all.

Afterwards she went to Nishiki Market, the food street I'd showed her the night before so she could try more new things.  I ditched her to catch up with the Kawaii Kingpin - after walking along the Kamo we ended up having an early dinner at Coco Curry.  He introduced me to it back in October, and I was planning to take Five, but she said she didn't really like curry.  Then another friend told her about it, and I came back telling her how you got to choose the size of your portion - in grams of rice! - and she decided that she'd give it a try for lunch on our last day in Osaka.  And ended up loving it so much that she bought a pack to bring back to Mongolia.

The next day we went to USJ.  Theme park food is generally not worth writing about - it's overpriced and the quality doesn't generally match up with said price - but eating fish and chips in the Three Broomsticks with a cold butterbeer was worth it.  The fish was tasty, and the ambience was on point.  I should have taken a photo, but I was less snap-happy this trip.  Which is dumb because that's one of the best things about having a travel buddy - having them take ridiculous photos of you - but there ya go.

We ate a lot of strawberries.  We were there smack dab in the middle of strawberry season, and although we couldn't quite fit in a visit to an all-you-can-eat strawberry farm we made up for it buying strawberries just about every time we saw them.  My favorite strawberries were in the crepes I found at the end of Teramachi arcade - just the right amount of strawberries smothered in whipped cream.
In Osaka we stayed near Shinsaibashi, first in a ryokan that smelled like cabbage when it didn't smell like cigarette smoke, and then in the historic first capsule hotel, located in Asahi Plaza.  This meant we were right in the thick of things, and we had the chance to drool over a lot of food.  Osaka is famous for its okonomiyaki, and it's generally a good idea to try the local specialty, but I had another reason for wanting to try it.  My first anime, Ranma 1/2, had a character who made okonomiyaki.  Five didn't know that when I kept referring to it, but when she finally figured out what I was talking about - apparently okonomiyaki rolls off my tongue a little too fast and explaining it as "this pancake-ish thing" didn't tell her much - she was interested to try it.  I think it was my favorite thing I ate all week.  We were each going to have okonomiyaki, but when we saw their yakisoba, we decided we'd share, and that was delicious, too.

Speaking of anime, I actually had some success in my shopping this time.  We passed the Jump Shop on our way into USJ, and it was still open when we left that night, so I picked up a reproduction of the sketch of the final fight between Naruto and Sasuke, along with a few other things.  In Denden Town I found several nendoroids I wanted to buy, but ended up only getting Araragi from Bakemonogatari (even if he's an idiot and falls for the wrong girl, he's still my most recent favorite).  But my best find was in the Mandarake Grand Chaos, across the street from our capsule hotel.  I originally marked it on Google maps because someone wrote about their selection of cosplay goods, but I didn't get that far into the store - I realized they were closing in 15 minutes while Five was getting her pot bing soo on our last night.  They had a huge selection and I managed to find something I'd been on the look-out for the entire trip moments after walking into the store - another nendoroid.  This one is from an anime I mentioned during my previous trip - Touken Ranbu - about swords that have been turned into boys.  Mikazuki's design is particularly beautiful, and I'm considering making him for the doll contest this summer.  So it's design research.  Yeah, that's a pretty good justification.

So if you're thinking it's taken me a long freaking time to spit out this final blog, you're right.  I haven't really been neglecting the blog so much as neglecting everything in my life.  I decided to get involved in the school musical this year - originally I was supposed to be responsible for costumes and sets and things like this poster, but when our music teacher, The Voice, asked if I wanted to play flute with the pit band I realized it has been a really, really long time since I had played in a group, and that I really wanted to.  So I borrowed one of the school flutes - they're not great, but my flute was at home and is now in Canada, although for some reason the Canadian post held onto it for 10 days and as a result it didn't make it to Mongolia with my principal.  So that's taking up most of my time.  In fact, I'm actually supposed to be painting sets right now, but when I woke up from my Sunday afternoon nap, the sounds of sad sax were wafting in my open window, which I immediately shut and started blasting one of my Youtube playlists.  If hearing that in my apartment is torture, painting just upstairs from it is even worse, so I decided to order sushi and work on this post instead.

Moral of the story - if you're in Mongolia next week, you should come watch Kiss Me Kate.  As stated previously, my students are amazing and the things that Engrish and The Voice have managed to do with them make me so proud they bring tears to my eyes. 

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