So where was I? Last time I posted about New Years, Odawara-jou, so....okay, I'll backtrack a bit to say more about day-to-day living!
We went shopping nearly every day. Literally. Food shopping. We ate so much food. And whenever we drove down to town, I always wanted to go to a bookstore. Often to just stare at all the manga magazines, because I had nearly everything FMA that was out already. Also to search for the magazine with Raiden-18 and to ask around for Ojamajo Doremi. :D; But once my uncle took me to this used bookstore, and I randomly decided to buy Volumes 8-10 of Pokemon Special, and....yeah, you know. Every trip to the bookstore since then involved oggling/searching for Pokesupe manga. ^^; (Though, I bought other manga too- Detective Conan, Emma, etc.)
AND NOW TO TALK ABOUT BREAD! Yay, bread! So because mom and I are like so obsessed with Yakitate Japan and had been craving Japanese bread for a looong time, of course we bought lot's of it!! There's like a mini bakery in every supermarket, but later on we eventually found an independent bakery nearby. It was the smallest, loveliest place ever. *__* Baked Heart was the name, and that is where we found the TENGOKU NO PAN! (Bread of Heaven.) Our first thought was of course "Omg does this send us to heaven???" because we're dorks.
Basically, it's French bread. Made with this certain kind of yeast that I can't remember the name of (tennen koubo?). French bread Japanese style because I have NEVER eaten French bread so SOFT on the inside and CRISPY on the outside and OMGDROOL. We really did describe it like they do in Yakitate Japan while we were eating it. XD We didn't even put anything on it, just ate it as it was and it had it's own flavor and it didn't NEED anything else!
...Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. The first time we found the Baked Heart place, we bought a whole bunch of bread and had a BREAD PARTY at home!!!
In the middle there is the Tengoku no Pan, the two plates in the foreground are apple pies (SO GOOD) and pumpkin pies, the plate in the back is the most wonderful cream pan EVER, then there's the shoku pan (dinner bread) and....in the very back is a croissant I bought from the super market that didn't really look so good. >_> (I ended up not eating it and buying a far more superior croissant from the bakery.) The shoku pan is ALSO much better than anything in America, and so is the peanut butter I put on it!! There's this brand of peanut butter I've loved since I was a kid that is so creamy and sweet and... *__*
OMGWTF a decent picture of me eating bread!!!
Afterwards, mom called the bakery to tell them about our bread party and ask when they open and stuff. XD;;; And like, the bakery is only run by two people so basically their lives revolve around bread. Mom and I were impressed and she was like, "You should move to Japan after college and work there!!"
And um...okay. My opinion on certain kinds of Japanese bread. Curry pan: D: I didn't like it very much. But this is one that I bought from the supermarket...but I gave some to my mom and uncle and they said that's what it's supposed to taste like. Melon pan: IT DOESN'T TASTE LIKE MELONS. D: Yakisoba pan: I think this mostly depends on how good the yakisoba is. I saw some yakisoba pan in some 7-Eleven's and they didn't look so good, but the yakisoba pan I bought from Baked Heart was delicious.
Of course, there are tons of other bakeries like that ALL OVER Japan; we came across many in train stations in Tokyo, for example (oh god such good aromas of fresh-baked bread draw us closer and closer...)
.....and WTF ALL I'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT IS BREAD!! O__O I mean, we ate tons of other food. TONS. Lot's of good stuff on and around New Years (soba, ozouni, etc). Early on, mom, grandmother and I went looking for a place to eat ramen, and for some reason we couldn't FIND ANYTHING. We traveled through the closest town, and then into the next town, and there were tons of soba and unagi joints but no ramen!! So we settled with Sapporo ramen. But of course on every occasion after that, there were ramen joints ALL OVER THE PLACE! It became a habit for me to say "RAMEN" every time I saw a sign afterwards (which was often).
And oh yeah, 7-Eleven's in Japan are awesome. They're everywhere, and they have everything. There were many instances when we bought our entire dinner there. And cup ramen, all varieties of cup ramen, some of them even better than fresh-cooked ramen, oh god. *__* And vending machines, how I love thee, they also have everything. Cold drinks, hot drinks, all kinds of tea, water, coffee, beer, juice, some soft drinks, corn soup, oshiruko.....and they are everywhere!
WE ALSO ATE CAKE! OH WONDERFUL JAPANESE CAKE! But I'm sure everyone's tired of me talking about food by now. :/
We did do more than eat, honest. Like.....go to Toro Iseki! We'd been talking about cool places to go that were nearby, and when the Toro Ruins were mentioned, I became interested. Ancient Japanese ruins? COOL! And mom and my uncle were saying stuff like "Yeah, didn't we go there on a field trip in school?" and that it was famous so...yeah.
It wasn't as cool as I expected. :/
I mean, it was still really interesting, but I think I've been spoiled by all the other museums I've been to in the past. >.>; These people basically lived rather peaceful lives with abundant resources, no big predators, and a fair climate. I'd sure prefer to live there instead of, say, ancient Mesopotamia.
That's the grainery. It's built up off the ground so rodents and other pests can't get in.
From the museum exhibit. :O You could go around and try out the tools that they used.
Straight after we got out of the Toro Ruins, we went searching for a place to eat sushi in the city! (Yes, food again.) And to look for this art exhibit of this guy who painted places on the Silk Road. This took us several hours, despite the fact that we had Nabiko-san (mostly because we didn't listen to her many times because she was just a machine- but OOPS, it turned out she knew so much better than us and we're just stupid humans).
After a lot of driving around, groaning, complaining about how hungry we were, looking for parking spaces, (and I learned the kanji for "sushi" yay!), we settled down for kaiten-zushi near a train station. It was good, I guess. I don't like seafood so I got what I always get: cucumber rolls (kappa maki), orinarisan, tuna salad rolls, etc. I like to brag that my mom is lucky I'm such a cheap eater; if I were the type to eat as many expensive things as she does, then we'd be out of money fast. :D
After THAT (it was a long day), we went to Fuji to visit my aunt's house!
My cousin Hiro-kun and his dad.
Hitomi-obachan and my cousin Yumi-chan cooking dinner. When we took this picture, I told them I'd post it in my online journal and they said "NOOOOO!" ....>DD
And now I come to the last days we spent in Japan, shortly before we left my grandmother's house for Tokyo. Out of the list of places I wanted to visit, we still hadn't gone to a temple or shrine. We didn't have much time for both, so I had to choose between the otera (Buddhist temples) and jinja (Shinto shrines). I'm more interested in the Shinto religion so we went to the big jinja in Mishima called the Mishima Taisha.
The family had once lived in Mishima for a long time, so consequently I'd been brought to this place many times when I was little. I don't remember much of it, though I've seen video tapes and pictures of myself dressed up in a kimono and chasing pigeons. ^^; (All I remember about the kimono was that it was really uncomfortable and I hated how they did my hair.)
As it was only about a week after New Years that we went there (oshougatsu goes on for quite a while), there was still people praying and various charms being sold. I bought an omikuji (a fortune) and supposedly I'm going to be lucky in money this year. :/ Ehhh...I don't really buy it. But I still keep the charm inside my wallet just in case.
After that, I wanted to go visit the family's old house in Mishima. That was the house where I stayed every summer in Japan when I was little; I went to school from there, I played there in the streets, and it's just one of those places that remind me of my childhood. I still dream about the place sometimes.
It's a pretty old-fashioned house. It doesn't have heating or air conditioning, no modern toilet, etc. It's raised up way off the ground level, so when you walk around in the garden, you have to be careful or else fall over the ledge and go SPLAT onto the pavement below.
Anyway, the place looked so much smaller than I remembered it. Well, that makes sense because I've grown up since then, but it felt very surreal. The garden that used to seem like a jungle that I would explore, the stone stairs that I used to leap from step to step, the garage that used to feel like an immense cave....they looked so ordinary and empty.
The neighborhood bookstore that I used to walk to? It's now a 7-Eleven. The Hinoya supermarket where I used to run to buy ice cream from? It's also changed into a different store.
The old woman who lived next door is still there. My grandmother took me to go see her, because she used to look after me when I got lonely staying in the house by myself. I actually don't remember her very much; she remembered me, but when we met she said she wouldn't have even recognized me anymore if we'd met anywhere else.
There's this one alley that goes between the houses and is like a short cut; I used to run up and down that alley pretending it was my secret passageway. I walked down it again and could still remember little details, like a dog that used to bark at me from a certain yard, or how laundry used to hang in this yard, or a tree with clementines in another. The dog wasn't there anymore, but the clementine tree was. I used to catch lizards there too, but now I don't even know where to look for them....
The only thing that didn't seem to have changed is the fact that little children still run around in the streets and play like I used to. I didn't know who these kids are, or if their families were the same people that used to live there years ago, but it made me smile to see them there.
Aaand that's it for today. Next time I'll post about Tokyo and then I'm done!