Monday, August 29, 2011

Take me out to the ball game....

I am not a fan of baseball, but I absolutely love going to Japanese baseball games. Do you think that's weird? Before you answer that question, you should go to a Japanese baseball game. Even if you are not really into baseball. Then, if you still think I'm weird, please feel free to come on here and call me weird. It's okay. I can handle it.

This summer has been a crazy one for me so while I have been wanting to go to a baseball game, I just have not had time. Then, last Friday, I finally made it to a game. Not just any game either. They were playing the Yomiuri Giants. The Giants are probably one of the most (maybe THE most) popular teams in Japan. Thank goodness we got there a little early because the game was sold out and we had non-reserved tickets. It's always nice when everyone can sit together.

Once we had found some seats, a few of us made the trek downstairs to the food area. I have to say, the Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium (I LOVE that name!) has a very impressive food area. There is just about anything you could want from hot dogs to udon. It was super crowded so there were people everywhere, but we managed to find some spots that didn't have super long lines. The game was getting ready to start and I didn't want to miss it! Oh. Wait. I didn't go for the baseball.......really. I continued to wander around trying to take pictures of some of the different eateries. It was hard with so many people walking around, but I did get a few pictures. I also thought it would be a little less crowded if I came back a little later in the evening.

The squid rings were good! If you like squid (I do!!).

I saw lots of people walking by with bowls of udon on trays. Oh, it smelled soooooo good. But all I could think was, "are these people crazy?!". It felt like it was 100 degrees outside. I couldn't imagine eating hot anything. I just smelled it and kept walking. Next time. Next time I will have some udon.

They also have stands selling Carps obento.

and a big cooler with beer and tea and soda

Once I was back in my seat, I opened up my rice balls and started eating. I had Jason take a picture of me taking a bite out of my rice ball, but he said it was a very unflattering picture so he told me to just hold the rice ball next to my face and smile. I figured I should post pictures of me actually eating the food once in a while, but I guess I'm not a cute eater.

While I eas eating my rice ball I spotted a beer girl coming up the steps. I was trying to hold my rice ball and get my camera ready at the same time. By the time I got all ready, she was next to me.

But I got a shot of her going back down the steps -

LOVE the people selling the beer! For those who were wondering, the beer is 700yen per cup.

A little while later I see this girl coming up the steps.
What is she selling???

Shaved ice in a bag? Why not.

Oh. Did I mention earlier that I was going to go back downstairs and take more pictures of the food places? Yeah, that didn't happen. I got caught up in the chanting and noise making. I guess that means you will have to go to a baseball game yourself and check out all of the food stands in person.

The baseball season runs into October so you still have some time to catch a game this season. Our non-reserved seats were 1600yen per person and we got our tickets at a 7-Eleven. You can also purchase baseball tickets at the local train station. Just go to the window where you buy your train ticket from and they can sell you baseball tickets.

I go for the atmosphere. Japanese baseball games are unlike any baseball game you will ever see in the States. The chanting and the clapping and the banging of the noise makers. It's like a big party. I also go for the food. I didn't eat very much this time because it was just too stinkin hot for me, but there is definitely something for everyone there.

Pick up a schedule from Information and Referral over at ITT and check out when the next Carps game is. Then grab some friends and go! I really think you'll be happy you did!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jan Jaka

Jan Jaka is a nice yakiniku restaurant that is not too far away from the base. They have some pretty decent lunch sets so that was where Kimberly and I decided to go for lunch the other day.

They do have English menus and their staff can speak a little English so ordering is not a problem.

After looking over the menu for a few minutes, neither one of us wanted yakiniku. She ordered a salad and some spring rolls (SUPER yummy!!) and I ordered the Ishiyaki Bibinba set. Ishiyaki Bibinba is a rice dish that has vegetables and egg and a little bit of meat in it. It is served in a really hot stone bowl and you are supposed to mix it all up right away and press it into the bowl a little. You can also add some hot sauce to make it spicy if you like. I love bibinba. Even when I go for dinner I order a bibinba with my yakiniku.

Here is the set I ordered -

I took some pictures inside so you could see how nice it is. You can also see that there is a grill in the middle of the table. All of their tables have the grill.

They also have some larger rooms in the back for parties. I've organized a dinner there for 12 people and there was plenty of room for a few more.

It wasn't long before they started bringing our food out. The salad that Kimberly ordered looked so good. The sesame dressing there is AMAZING. I think all sesame dressing is amazing, but theirs is like the amazingest! Is that a word?

AND the dressing comes in these cute little bowls!

Kimberly also ordered some Bibinba Spring Rolls....
......OH - MY - GOSH! They're yummy.

My lunch set came with a little salad and some soup and you could either choose a drink or dessert. I chose dessert.
This is how they bring the Bibinba to you -

and this is how it looked after I mixed it up....
.....and took a few bites. I meant to get a picture right after I had finished mixing, but I was talking and listening and talking....and talking. Hey. Kimberly and I haven't seen eachother in a while. We had lots of talking to do!

Here's my little salad.
They don't put sesame dressing on the little ones that come with the set, but the dressing they do use is very tasty. You can probably ask them to change it to sesame though. The worse that can happen is they say no and you still get some yummy dressing.

The soup is like a broth with seaweed and green onions in it. I really like their broth too.
Especially in the winter time.

I did remember to take pictures from the outside this time. I know. Impressive. It really is. I have to be one of the most forgetful people around. I blame it on getting older, but I think I've been like this all of my life.

To get to Jan Jaka, I prefer to go out of the Monzen Gate. Go right to the main road. Turn left and follow that until you get to a light. Turn right at the light and follow that for a few minutes until you see a road that you can turn right onto. Turn right and you should go over some railroad tracks. At the next light, turn left. After a minute or so, you should see the sign for Jan Jaka on your right.

Here is a picture of the entry with their hours posted on the left.

Great place for lunch or dinner. Kids love it because you get to cook your own food. I think that's why some adults love it too.

Have you been to Jan Jaka? What's your favorite thing about going there? Please share!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Molly Malone

Every now and then I want some good....non-Japanese food. Maybe I should say non-Asian food. I want something greasy and heavy and good! When I get that feeling, I usually head to Hiroshima. I really like KeMBY's, The Shack, and Molly Malone's. I am not sure if The Shack is still open though. I think I heard that it closed....or maybe they moved..?? Maybe I'll have to go to Hiroshima again soon and check it out.

This time I went to Molly Malone's. I love their fish and chips! I also love the fact that I don't feel like I'm in Japan when I walk in. It's a nice little Irish pub. As much as I love Japan, it's nice to escape every now and then for a couple of hours.

They have English menus and our server spoke really good English so no worries there.

I really do love their fish and chips.
So much so that I order it every time I go. This time, I thought I would try something different since Jason was going to order the fish and chips. How boring would it be if I only blogged about the fish and chips? They really are tasty though. I was super tempted, but I figured I could steal some of Jason's food so I went ahead and ordered Uncle Arthur's Pie. It sounded interesting and I had never tried it before.
It was pretty tasty. Like a beef pot pie.

I'm not a beer drinker, but they have Guiness on tap and you can also order a Black and Tan. I'm not sure what that is, but I did take a picture of it. They also have Heineken on tap and they have what looks like an ice box around it. Yeah...I'm not very knowledgable about beer. Apparently having it in an ice case or box is a big deal though because once it was pointed out to me I was also told I had to go back and, "check it out". It looked okay. I think I was supposed to be a little more excited about it. Did I mention I'm not a beer drinker?

I am, however, a lover of dessert.
And their chocolate cake is pretty fantastic. It came with these little coconut truffle-like things that were so good.

I'm going to give very basic directions because Hiroshima is big and there are a couple of ways to get there. I usually take the train, but we drove up this time and parked in a lot that was about 3 blocks from the restaurant. It was 800yen for a couple of hours so parking in Hiroshima can be pricey, but it was cheaper than train tickets for three adults and two children.

Molly Malone's is located across the street from the second Parco building. The second building is the one that is not right across from Starbucks. If you go into the second Parco building from the side where you can see the Starbucks, just walk through to the other side and exit. Once you exit, cross the street and you should see a sign for Molly Malone's. It really is right across the street from Parco. It's a busy main street so make sure you aren't coming out on the wrong side.

The next time you get a craving for some fish and chips, or you just feel like sitting in an Irish Pub and have a Guinness or some Heineken that comes out of a tap that is surrounded by an ice case (Wow!!), you should definitely check out Molly Malone's!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I had plans to go to Zen for lunch the other day with a great group of ladies and, that morning, I had a family emergency. I ended up being super late, but they were all so nice about it. I love that I am surrounded by so many wonderful people! And we were still able to enjoy good food and great company.

Zen is a nice Japanese restaurant in downtown Iwakuni. I have been there for dinner many times and I have always loved their food, but I had never checked out their lunch menu.

One thing that I didn't like (probably the ONLY thing) about Zen is that they didn't have English menus and they didn't have pictures on their menus. I was super happy to see that they have pictures on their lunch menus.

Picture menus make me happy too because, although I can speak Japanese fluently I can't really read and write it all very much. I went to M.C.Perry so I really only learned Hiragana and Katakana. So I am definitely not very good with Kanji.

I thought their 1000yen lunch sets were very reasonable. The one I ordered came with steak, sashimi, miso soup, rice, and dessert. There was a really good dipping sauce for the steak. had grated daikon in it. So good. A couple of ladies ordered the one with the shrimp tempura. Looked yummy. I think they all came with raw fish though so if you are not a fan, they might be able to substitute with something else.

I LOVE the Gobo Salad...I think gobo is burdock. It's quite tasty.

I just took random pictures of all the dishes that came with the different sets. Everything looked so good.

To get to Zen, go out the main gate and turn right at the intersection after the railroad tracks. Follow that road to downtown Iwakuni. You will pass Fuji Grand on your right. Keep going and turn left at the fourth light (you should be at the rotary where the train station is). Then at the first light, turn left and then turn right. There is a pay parking on your right. I usually park there. Go into the covered shopping arcade (some people call it the "yellow brick road") and go right. You should pass Ganesh on your left. Keep walking until you are almost at the end of the covered area. On your left you should see a couple of restaurants. Turn left into the restaurant area and there should be some stairs to your left. Go upstairs and to the left you should see this sign -

A nice, reasonably priced place for lunch. I think it even included coffee, but we ran out of time. Give Zen a try the next time you are looking for a new place to go to for lunch.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Okonomiyaki - Hiroshima style, or Kansai style?

Last weekend I took a trip up to Osaka for the weekend. We were going to Summer Sonic, but had waited too long to buy our tickets (oops!) so we were only able to get tickets for Sunday. No big deal. We were very close to Kyoto so we spent Saturday in Kyoto. Sweating so much that I think I lost at least five pounds. I will never go in August again, but Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I can't wait to go back. When it's not scorching hot, of course. If you ever get a chance to go, you should definitely do it.

I have a bad habit of digressing. I always feel the need to tell you all about everything instead of just getting right to it.

"It" is okonomiyaki. I think most foreigners call it a Japanese pancake. Okay, I can see where that came from. It does kind of look like a pancake. It's round. It's flat. However, it is not sweet. It also has lots of cabbage in it. There are two styles of okonomiyaki. If you live in Iwakuni, you are very lucky because authentic Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is just a short train ride away. My favorite place in Hiroshima is Okonomimura, which literally means "Okonomi Village". I will be blogging about it in the near future.

Since I was in Osaka for the weekend, I had to try authentic Kansai style okonomiyaki. Osaka area is also referred to as "Kansai" so that is where the Kansai comes from. I'm sure you are wondering what the difference is between the two styles of okonomiyaki. For me, it's in the way the okonomiyaki is prepared. For Kansai style, everything is mixed together and then poured onto the hot griddle. With the Hiroshima style, just the batter is poured onto the griddle at first, and it's cooked like a thin crepe. Then you put the cabbage and whatever other toppings you've selected on top. You can get noodles with both, but I did notice in Osaka that the noodles were thicker. In Hiroshima, we usually have a choice of soba noodles or udon noodles. My favorite is the soba noodles.

Once I knew we were going to Osaka for sure, I tried to do some research to find a good okonomiyaki restaurant. I didn't have to look too far though because my friend, Courtney, very kindly introduced me to her friend, Taichi, who lives in Osaka. Taichi-san told me to check out Fugetsu. It was near our hotel so it was also very convenient.

So, after sweating in Kyoto all day we got off the train at Umeda station and starting looking for the building Fugetsu was in. It took all of about 30 seconds to find it. It is on the 8th floor of the Yodobashi Camera building. Ummm...the Yodobashi Camera building is huge and hard to miss. As we crossed the street, I was super excited about two things. Okonomiyaki, AND a large camera shop! In the same building! We made our way up to the 8th floor and found Fugetsu after a few minutes of wandering around in awe. The 8th floor is all restaurants and some of them looked and smelled really good. My happiness in finding Fugetsu went down a notch when I saw the line in front. The it went right back up again because I remembered that a busy place means a yummy place. I went in and looked for a list to put my name on, but I didn't see one. One of the servers came over and told me that they just seat in the order of arrival so we just had to get in the back of the line and just keep moving up until we get to the door. Okay. Off to the back of the line we went. I have to say, the line moved pretty quickly. We thought we were going to be waiting for a long time, but I think it took about twenty minutes for us to get to the front of the line. One of the servers came out to get us, but first she pulled me aside and said, "it's VERY hot at the table and our tables are not really that going to be okay?" I told everyone what she said and they all looked as confused as I felt. Why was she telling me this? We knew it would be hot. It's cooked at your table. Then we realized, they must get complaints from foreigners who don't realize it's cooked at the table. Aahhhh. But the table wasn't small so I'm not sure where that came from.

As soon as we were seated, we all started guzzling water and checking out the menu.

It was way past our feeding time so we were all starving. I ordered my usual, regular with pork and noodles. Jason got his with pork and kimchi, Bill got his with beef, shrimp and cheese, and Alma got the same kind I got. They turned on our griddle and it started getting really hot, really fast. Luckily, they had these cute, pink hand fans with pigs on them for us to use.

It wasn't long before our server was bringing out our orders. He verified who ordered what and went right to work. He held one bowl out over the griddle and started mixing things up.

Once he had mixed it all up enough, he poured it all onto the hot griddle.

Then he grabbed another bowl and did the same thing, until they were all on the griddle. Super cool and super yummy looking. Did I mention we were all starving? It was like torture to look at them on the griddle and smell them cooking.

I had to post a picture of the one with kimchi. Doesn't that look good????

Then it was time to put the noodles and the bonito flakes on them.

Our server would come by our table periodically to check on them. Then he would ask us to please wait a little longer.

Then it came time to flip!

Then he asked us to wait a little longer. Okay. I see another difference between the two styles. I think the Kansai style takes longer to cook. Not complaining. Just repeating what my stomach told my brain.

Finally, it was time to add the finishing touches. The sauce and the mayonnaise. I got both, but you can just get sauce if that's all you want. I just really love the sauce mixed with mayonnaise.

Now we can eat!! I couldn't wait to dig in!!

It was really good. I would have a hard time picking which style I like better. I like them both, but if I absolutely had to choose one.....I would have to say I like Kansai style more than I like the Hiroshima style.

If you are ever in Osaka, check out Fugetsu. They have two locations in Osaka. One is right by the Umeda(Hankyu) train station in the Yodobashi Camera building, and the other one is located in Universal City Walk by Universal Studios Japan. You can also get Kansai style okonomiyaki in Iwakuni. There is a Tokugawa restaurant on Route 2. You cook it yourself and most of it is mixed together. There are also a couple of little okonomiyaki places scattered around town that make the Kansai style okonomiyaki. Definitely give okonomiyaki a try while you are here, and definitely try the different styles.