Oita

JAPANESE CUISINE: DAM CURRY

Curry rice is one of Japan’s most popular and beloved dishes. Spicy, sweet, and hearty, curry rice is Japanese comfort food.  The basic recipe utilizes potatoes, carrots, onions, and beef.  The curry is typically served alongside rice although you will also find it served with udon noodles (curry udon).  Some recipes substitute pork or chicken for the meat component.  You will also find curry dishes known as katsu kare which is a curry recipe utilizing a breaded deep-fried cutlet, either pork or chicken.

Curry was introduced in Japan during the Meiji era by the British.  Curry gained popularity in the 1960s as it became available to purchase in supermarkets and was offered on restaurant menus.  It has  been adapted since its introduction and consumed so widely that it has become Japan’s national dish.

The latest trend in Japanese curry is what is known as “damukare” or dam curry.  It is a special type of curry dish popularized in 2007, where the rice is shaped into the structure of a dam.  Damukare is found at restaurants near major Japanese dams which also serve as tourist attractions. According to the Japan Commission on Large Dams there are 136 major dams in Japan with hundreds more comprising the lesser or smaller dams.

atmeal012_01

atmeal012_02

am

Some of the major dams include:

Kurobe Dam

Kurobe Dam (Toyama): Japan’s largest arch dam, completed in 1963. With a height of 186m, it remains the tallest dam in Japan. The dam serves as a tourist attraction between late June and mid-October.

Okutadami Dam

Okutadami Dam (Niigata):  Stands at 157 m tall and has a storage capacity of 600 million tons of water used to support the largest hydroelectric power station in Japan. Completed in 1960, the station supplies electricity to the Kanto and Tohoku regions. The dam created a lake called Okutadami Lake or Ginzan (silver mine) Lake because there was a silver mine there during the Edo period. A pleasure cruise is operated on the lake from May to November.

Hoheikyo Dam

Hoheikyo Dam (Hokkaido):  Was constructed in 1972 and is one of the only two dams in Japan built in the Arch-type style. In a conservation effort, only electric buses operate in the area. Tourists are encouraged to leave their cars in the parking lot and utilize one of these buses to reach the dam or go on foot. In autumn, the area is an excellent spot to view the changing of the leaves.

Hakusui Dam

Hakusui Dam (Oita):  Was constructed in 1938 and has been frequently featured in television and print ads.  The dam was designated as a national cultural important property.

So there you have it, a brief introduction to Japan’s major sightseeing dams and to damukare.  Be daring, take the dam journey and try the dam curry, you will agree that it is dam good!

Advertisements

JAPAN: Oita Prefecture, Beppu (African Safari Wildlife Park/ アフリカンサファリ)

Having written about the Fuji Safari Park in Shizuoka earlier, I would like to introduce you to yet another safari park in Japan that is popular with both adults and children.  Located about an hour from Beppu Station is The African Safari Wildlife Park (アフリカンサファリ). Situated on the island of Kyushu, Beppu City in Oita Prefecture is popular with tourists because of its many onsens (hot spring baths). The sprawling African Safari Wildlife Park is just a few miles outside of Beppu City on the Tsukahara Plain (Tsukahara Kogen) and is equally popular.

Open year round, the park affords visitors the opportunity to view the animals either from the safety and comfort of their own vehicles or from within a safari park bus. Unlike other zoos, the animals of the safari park roam freely and it is the humans who are restricted.

The safari park buses are designed to look like enormous exotic animals. Their large windows are protected by heavy gauge wire and visitors can feed the animals through the bus windows. If you drive your own car through the park you are  not permitted to roll down your car windows or get out of your car under any circumstances.

The safari park is divided into multiple zones because while some animals are allowed to mix freely, others have to be kept separate from each other. It is easy to understand because lions, for instance, are the natural predators of gazelles and cheetahs may not get along with the tigers, etc. There are “neutral zones” in between the various habitats.  This design enables the park rangers to send back any animals who may have followed the cars or park buses and may potentially end up in a different zone.

The cost of your admission includes a food tray with various treats for the animals roaming the park.  Instructions on how to feed the animals is in Japanese however, the animals themselves will clue you in on what treats they will accept as they are known to refuse something that is out of their ordinary selection of food items. You will be given a pair of long-handled tongs to pass out the treats with.  Understandable, as you will be feeding carnivorous animals in the park who may confuse your hand as part of their treat!

There is a petting zoo area within the park as well with the typical creatures you will find in other petting zoos.

The safari park is open from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (March 1 to October 31) and from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM (November 1 to February 28).  There is a night safari offered on a limited basis from 5:00 PM – 7:20 PM. Admission is ¥2,500 for adults and ¥1,400 for children. Please note that there is an additional charge for the safari buses. The rate is ¥1,100 for adults and ¥900 for children.

 

Location:            2-1755-1 Ajimumachi Minamihata, Usa-shi, Oita, JAPAN

Web page:         http://www.africansafari.co.jp/english/

Please visit Amazon.com to purchase my book, “A Blogger’s Guide To Japan,” where you can read about the Fuji Safari Park and many other interesting destinations in Japan.  The book is available in print and electronic format.

untitled

20100506205927d47

dsc_7458

20140530_734908

affri59

71073643_624

caption

rhino

p1

 

JAPAN: Regional Dishes (Kyushu)

Making our way through Japan while sampling various regional cuisines has led us to Kyushu (meaning nine provinces). The nine ancient provinces have since given way to seven prefectures: Fukuoka, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Saga. Most of Kyushu’s population is concentrated in the northwest in Fukuoka City and Kitakysushu City (North Kyushu City).

Mt. Aso

Mt. Aso

Located southwest of the main island of Honshu, Kyushu is the third largest island of Japan and home to the most active volcano in the country, Mount Aso as well one of the most famous hot spring (onsen) in Japan, Beppu Onsen. Miyazaki and Kagoshima enjoy a subtropical climate and major agricultural products include rice, tea, tobacco, sweet potatoes and soy.

Kyushu is also known for the various types of porcelain that have been produced in the region over the years including, Imari, Satsuma and Karatsu.

Imari Porcelain

Imari Porcelain

Satsuma Porcelain

Satsuma Porcelain

Karatsu Porcelain

Karatsu Porcelain

The Kyushu area can well satisfy the seasoned traveler as well as the most exacting gastronome. The regional cuisine ranks right along with the area’s other famous offerings! Among the dishes to sample are the Mizutaki (a stewed dish consisting of chicken and vegetables eaten with ponzu dipping sauce), Hakata Ramen (noodles in a tonkotsu / pork bone stock soup topped off with beni shoga/ pickled ginger, sesame seeds and pickled greens), Motsunabe (stewed beef or pork intestines), Champon (a ramen-like dish consisting of seafood and vegetables), Chicken Namban (batter-fried chicken served with tartar sauce), Dango Jiru ( Wheat dumplings served in a miso or soy based soup with vegetables and pork), Kakuni (pork belly stewed in a sweetened soy broth) and Toriten (tempura chicken that is typically dipped in a soy based sauce that is popular in Oita.)

Mizutaki

Mizutaki

Hakata Ramen

Hakata Ramen

Motsunabe

Motsunabe

Champon

Champon

Chicken Namban

Chicken Namban

Dango Jiru

Dango Jiru

Buta no kakuni

Buta no kakuni

Finally, if you still have room for dessert, try the Castella (a sweet, rectangular sponge cake that was introduced in Nagasaki by the Portuguese). This item is also popular as a souvenir for anyone visiting Kysushu to bring home to the friends and loved ones.

Castella

Castella

Our journey will take us to our final destination of Okinawa where we will introduce you to some very distinct regional dishes, so stay tuned!

Japan: Oita (Himeshima)

Just off the northeast corner of Kyushu on the Kunisaki Peninsula, you will find a tiny remote island called Himeshima (Princess Island). The island is part of Oita Prefecture and accessible by ferry.

At slightly over 4 miles long, the island is known for its onsens (hot springs), delicious kuruma ebi (tiger prawns) and an Obon dance festival, which takes place annually from August 14 to 17 , called Kitsune Odori Matsuri (Fox Dance Festival). This is the one time of year when this tiny island gets crowded with visitors, but it is a quiet retreat the remainder of the time and a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Exploring the island, you feel as though you have been transported to a bygone era. The quiet alleys are lined with beautiful old buildings that are preserved in excellent condition.

The best way to explore Himeshima is on a bicycle. There are several that are available to rent on the island. Once the sun starts to set, ride off to the Kannonzaki Peninsula, which forms the northeast point of Himeshima.  There you will find Sennin-do, a tiny temple building situated on a rock overlooking the sea. The temple grounds offer the best scenery found on the island. In the distance, you can see the mountains of Kyushu, Honshu and Shikoku and the fishing boats sailing out at sea. On the eastern tip of the island, there is a beautiful lighthouse with fantastic views as well.

The island’s inhabitants earn their income from the famous kuruma ebi. They are farmed off the island but, wild prawns are also available in several restaurants, which dot the island. During October, the main season for prawns, the island hosts a Kuruma Ebi Festival.

The onsen water on Himeshima is cold, clear and mineral rich. However, once it comes in contact with the air it turns a milky- brown. The water is heated in the onsen baths to make it more enticing for the bathers.

Himeshima is a 20-minute ferry ride from Imi Port. The first ferry departs at 5:50 AM and the last one at 7:10 PM. In between those times, boats run on the hour.

 

???????????????????????????????

eacf2e9a

28c388ad

c0053399_11363722

SEB201308140025

SEB201208150027

9bf908b7

19079919

2389fee88e790bdb2bcb03ddc2011310

0000031242706016

???????????????????????????????

Japan: Oita Prefecture (Kunisaki Peninsula)

Located in the northern part of Oita Prefecture in Kyushu, is the Kunisaki Peninsula. Characterized by numerous hills and valleys, several inactive volcanoes, forests and sparsely populated farmlands, Kunisaki is a veritable Japanese holy land, said to contain more than half of Japan’s stone Buddhist statuary as well as some of its oldest.

The peninsula is home to a unique local Buddhist culture, called Rokugomanzan, which combines elements of Buddhism, Shinto and mountain worship. The culture revolves around the peninsula’s numerous temples and the Usa Shrine. The stone statues are a defining characteristic of the Rokugomanzan culture.

During the early 8th century, a priest named Ninmon, founded 28 temples in this peninsula and created thousands of Buddha statues throughout the course of his life. The temples were constructed in six districts in the valleys radiating out from Mount Futago. (Rokugou means six districts in Japanese.) Another 37 temples were added during the 12th century, bringing the total number to 65.

A local lord named Atomo Sori, a Christian, did his best to deface the area’s Buddhist heritage and as a result only 33 temples remain today, which along with the Usa Shrine form a pilgrimage route.

The area is not very accessible even to this day necessitating renting a car or utilizing a tour bus. Further, one needs a certain level of fitness to negotiate the steep stone steps to the sacred sites deep in the Kunisaki Peninsula for they have buckled and been deformed by time.

If you are fortunate enough to visit this mysterious land, the following points of interest should not be ignored.

Futago-ji Temple: Futago means twins in Japanese and the temple receives visits from the families of twin children, which is a rather rare occurrence in Japan. The temple is located at the center of the Kunisaki Peninsula near to the top of Mount Futago. At the entrance of the temple, a pair of Niou (the guardians of the temple) keep watch. There is a path through the temple, which leads to the top of the mountain.

Usa Shrine: Dates back over 1,000 years and is dedicated to the God of War, Hachiman. The shrine is the oldest Hachiman shrine in Japan.

Fuki-ji Temple: Is the oldest wooden temple in Kyushu and one of the oldest wooden structures in Japan. The original temple dates back to 718 AD. The main hall contains a seated image of Buddha, which was designated as a National Important Cultural Property.

Kitsuki City: Is home to what is claimed to be the smallest castle in Japan, two samurai districts and one merchant district.

The two samurai districts are somewhat similar to those in Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture. As in Hagi, a number of former samurai residences are open to the public including the Isoya Residence, the Sano Residence, the Nomi Residence and the Ohara Residence.

The Hitotsumatsu Residence is the former home of Sadayoshi Hitotsumatsu (1875-1973), a Showa era politician, which is also open to the public. The mansion was considered to be the height of technology in its day.

The area is also known for two major festivals. The first is the Kitsune Matsuri (Fox Dance Festival). It takes place from August 14 to 17, on the island of Himeshima off the coast of Kunisaki. It is a traditional Obon festival honoring the deceased ancestors which draws considerable crowds to the normally tranquil and picturesque island.

The second is an interesting festival, which takes place in the small village of Ota during the month of October. The Shirahige Tahara Doburoku Matsuri is dedicated to sampling doburoku, the early fermented mash resulting from the sake brewing process.

Without doubt, there is plenty to see and do in this seemingly serene region that many tend to overlook during their travels to Japan. Whether you are inclined to take part in the fun and excitement afforded by the festivals or simply want to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery, the Kunisaki Peninsula is worth visiting. Kunisaki Peninsula is accessible via the Chuo Expressway and the Sanyo Expressway from Tokyo. The trip will require over thirteen hours and includes traveling by fery.  Otherwise, you can fly to Oita from Tokyo utilizing either the Narita or Haneda Airports. Total flight time is an hour and 30 minutes, non-stop.

Futago-ji Temple

Futago-ji Temple

Futagoji Temple

Usa Shrine Gate (Torii)

Usa Shrine Gate (Torii)

kunisaki_shrine_usa

Fuki-ji

Fuki-ji

Kitsuki Castle

Kitsuki Castle

Isoya Residence

Isoya Residence

Ohara Residence

Ohara Residence