Saturday, March 18, 2006

Expat Nosh (Cream Teas)

I met a couple of stoats from England the other day. We were chatting over a couple of bottles of Asahi Dry when they mentioned a mythical creature called 'cream teas'. They told me that they roam the south west of the country and can usually be found in close proximity to friendly farmhouses.

This set me a-wonderin', are cream teas exclusive to the shores of Britain or are they to be found in other corners of the globe?

I started my search in the expensive department stores of Osaka. No luck there, only tonkatsu, tempura and pasta. I then decided to try some local bakeries. Again, I was thwarted by the local cuisine preferences of baumkeki, fluffy cheesecake and chou buns. On my way out I remembered a busy little bakery in Hankyu had fruit scones. Then, like an udder slapping you in the face, I also recalled there was an import shop nearby where I may be able to procure the critical ingredient: clotted cream. With scones held tightly in my fuzzy hands I went to the import shop, and they had clotted cream!!. However, I almost crapped myself. It was $72 for 24 grams (give or take a few cents depending on the exchange rate). Reeling in the shop I made a decision to make do with whipping cream and raspberry jam.

Upon arriving home I set about whipping the cream. I have heard complaints that whipping cream leads to hurting arms (aaawwwwww). Grippy feet, hands and a tail meant I did not suffer the same fate as many a human cream-whipper.

Having now tried cream tea, I can say they are pretty good, but I do prefer banana bread myself.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Trains Trains Trains

As we all know, the Japanese are an efficient bunch. Nothing demonstrates this sweeping generalisation better than the trains.

Firstly, there are stations everywhere. There are Japan Rail (JR) stations, subway stations and private operator stations. Most stations have people with white gloves to point at the trains and blow whistles. The stations are clean and they all have a designated 'smoking corner'.

Next, there is the timetable. Times are posted for when each train is to depart the station. AND THEY DO IT. They run to the minute. It is unbelievable, with all the coming and going in rush hour and people getting stuck in the doors, they still leave on time, every time.

And there are the trains. On the platform are painted marks. The train arrives and the doors open right where the marks are. You stand by a mark and a door arrives. How do they do it?

The best thing about Japanese trains is the view. I love looking out of the clean windows, even when it's dark. I tried fixing my gaze as I was staring out of the window once, and I think I hypnotised myself. Often you can get a seat on private lines but on JR you'd better be fast to ensure you get a seat before the nimble obasans run on. They may look like little old ladies but they are mean, mean I tells ya.

Next objective: get my furry little tail onto the Shinkansen (bullet train) ooooooo baby.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Temples of Kyoto

Since I'm going be moving house soon from Osaka, in the Kansai region, to Niigata, way up north, I thought I'd better have a good look around at this area. So, last weekend, I went with some friends to Kyoto to do a bit of temple you do.
The first photo is me in front of the Golden Temple. It was beautiful, but to be honest, there were so many tourists there you had to practically queue up to have your photo taken. It kind of messed with the ambiance if you know what I mean. But, living in Japan, I'm kind of used to crowds so I still had a great time.
On the way to the next temple I spotted these Maiko babes...sweeeeeet! A Maiko is like an apprentice Geisha, and yes, there are still geisha in Japan. Because of all the misrepresentation and confusion about what they actually do there is a lot of secrecy about their lives. This contributes to the confusion, which encourages the secrecy, which... you get the picture. These two looked cool, but I could tell that they'd already had their photo taken about a thousand times that day so they were not impressed when another freaking gaijin* (a simian one at that!) asked to take their photo.
The last photo is me at another temple looking out over Kyoto as the sun was setting on a chilly but beautiful spring day. Ahhhh!
After that we went to eat at the 'Peace Cafe', an excellent vegetarian restaurant in Kyoto near Demachiyanagi Station. Such a cool vibe there, and the Thai curry and organic beer was good too!
Peace out!
*gaijin- a Japanese word meaning 'foreigner', usually used a bit derogatorily

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hello from Sockmonkey

Welcome to my Blog. As I travel around the world to interesting places I will add some entries and photos of me. I've been living in Osaka for the last month or so and I bought my first camera last week. So, I've been having a good look around Kansai (the area that Osaka is located in).

The bananas here are a little disappointing. We get the crappy homogenous ones from South America, nothing like home, but the katsudon is good. The sake is also good here, as you can imagine. Happily, as I am partial to a drop or two, I am moving to Niigata soon. That place is known for its sake so I'm very excited. More later on that. Meanwhile, back in Osaka...the bastard in the local shop won't sell me booze because I'm only 18 inches tall. Pretty discriminatory if you ask me. SOCKMONKEYS ARE PEOPLE TOO.