Chugoku

New Book: A Blogger’s Guide to JAPAN

2016-11-11_10-26-52

Friends, good news! My book is now available to purchase online. Please note that if you purchase the book from the CreateSpace eStore, you can use the discount code (YVW7YCQG) to receive $3 off the list price. Worldwide shipment is available.

Further, Amazon.com is offering a special limited time holiday discount.  Use the following code to receive $10 off the list price at check out:  HOLIDAYBOOK

Thank you so much for your support!

•CreateSpace eStore: Now available
https://www.createspace.com/6595032

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Bloggers-Guide-Japan-Kristine-Ohkubo/dp/1539033112/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480353733&sr=8-1&keywords=A+blogger%27s+guide+to+japan

•Amazon Europe: http://www.sysmod.com/amazon.htm

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Japan: Chugoku Region / Tottori (Daisen)

Now that I reside in Southern California where everything is green year round (well, brown now due to the drought), I appreciate the changing of the seasons even more. One of my favorite places to observe the changing of the seasons is Japan. Depending on the time of your visit you can enjoy the blooming of the sakura (cherry blossoms), the changing of the momiji leaves (Japanese maple) or ski down one of Japan’s many slopes as there are countless ski resorts throughout the country.

One place in Japan that offers all of these options is Daisen (大山町) located in the Saihaku District in the Tottori Prefecture.  The focal point of the town is Mt. Daisen, a volcanic mountain which stands at an elevation of 1,729 meters (5,672 feet) making it the tallest mountain in the Chugoku Region. They sometimes refer to the mountain as Saihaku Fuji as it resembles Mt. Fuji when viewed from the northwest side, especially when the top of the mountain is snow-capped.

Beech Forest

Beech Forest

The entire area is designated as Daisen-Oki National Park and Mt. Daisen itself was selected as the third greatest summits in Japan following Mt. Fuji and Mt. Yari (Yarigatake). During the spring and summer months, hikers descend upon the area drawn to the natural beauty created by the vast greenery, budding trees and blooming flowers. Mt. Daisen is also renown for having Japan’s premier beech forest. In fall, visitors comes to admire the changing foliage and the winter months draw droves of skiers to the area’s resorts. As a matter of fact, Daisen is considered to be the best skiing area in southwest Japan.

From October through November, the foliage is ablaze with red, yellow and orange and there is no better place to experience this than the Ogamiyama Shrine (大神山神社). Located above the Daisenji, the shrine’s stone paved path is considered to be the longest approach in Japan measuring 700 meters (2296 feet).

Daisenji

Daisenji

Daisenji Garden

Daisenji Garden

Ogamiyama Shrine

Ogamiyama Shrine

You can also travel down to the town of Mizokuchi which is home to the Oni Museum (demon). The museum caters primarily to children but they have a nice collection of oni masks not only from Japan but all over the world that are worth seeing. Mizokuchi is 11.8 km away (approximately 7 miles).

The nearest city to Mt. Daisen is Yonago. There are direct flights from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport into Yonago Airport.  Alternatively, you can also take the Sunrise Izumo night train which runs between Tokyo and Izumo, exit Yonago Station.

Web page:         http://en.go-to-japan.jp/daisenguide/

JAPAN: Regional Dishes (Kansai and Chugoku)

The Kansai region sometimes referred to as the Kinki region is located in the south central part of Honshu, Japan’s main island. The prefectures of Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo and Shiga all comprise what is known as the cultural and historical heart of Japan. Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto are the second most populated urban areas after Greater Tokyo.

Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan can be found in the Kansai region as well as four of Japan’s national parks and six of the seven top prefectures in terms of national treasures.

There is a deep seated rivalry between the Kanto region, the symbol of standardization throughout Japan and the Kansai region which represents the counterculture of Japan. Many of the characteristic traits of the Kansai people descend from Osaka’s merchant culture. Oftentimes, Kansai people are seen as pragmatic, entrepreneurial and possessing a strong sense of humor. In contrast, the Kanto people are perceived as more sophisticated, reserved and formal.

Kansai is particularly known for its food, especially Osaka. Popular Osakan dishes include: Takoyaki (balls of grilled, savory batter with pieces of octopus inside), Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes with cabbage, meat or seafood, flavored with Japanese worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise), Kitsune Udon (literally means fox noodles, udon noodles served in hot soup and topped with seasoned aburaage/ deep fried tofu), Osaka Zushi (pressed sushi or box sushi as it is sometimes called) and Kushikatsu (seasoned, skewered and grilled meat). Other regional delights include Yudofu (a popular dish in Kyoto, this is tofu simmered in hot water with kombu/ seaweed and eaten with various dipping sauces). Kansai is also the home of many Wagyu brands including Kobe, Matsusaka and Omi beef and the region produces 45% of all sake in Japan!

Takoyaki

Takoyaki

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki

Kitsune Udon

Kitsune Udon

Osaka Zushi

Osaka Zushi

Kushikatsu

Kushikatsu

Yudofu

Yudofu

The Chugoku region is located in the westernmost part of Honshu and consists of Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori and Yamaguchi prefectures. The area is further sub-divided into the heavily industrialized Sanyo region and the more rural Sanin region.

Popular dishes in this region include Okonomiyaki, Matsuba gani, Katsuo no tataki and Sanuki Udon. The okonomiyaki made in Hiroshima is quite different from the dish you will find anywhere else in Japan. Instead of pancake like batter cooked on the hot iron griddle, Hiroshima style starts with a crepe like thin pancake on the griddle that is topped with heaps of shredded cabbage and other toppings such as bacOkonomiyaki, Matsuba gani, Katsuo no tatakon, tempura bits or seafood. On the side, yakisoba noodles are cooked along with a fried egg before all the ingredients are assembled in layers. Tottori Prefecture is famous for Matsuba gani/ Snow crab and boiled crab commands high prices. The Kochi Prefecture is famous for bonito fishing and Katsuo-no tataki is a general term used to describe this fish seared over a flame. It is often served with lots of sliced garlic, thin sliced onions, shiso, green onion, myoga, and lemon with generous amount of soy sauce mixed with yuzu citrus. Sanuki style udon is served al dente with a simple soy sauce or broth.

Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki

Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki

Katsuo no tataki

Katsuo no tataki

Sanuki Udon

Sanuki Udon

So there you have it! Getting hungry yet? Stay tuned as we venture further south and sample other regional dishes.