Posts Tagged ‘gyoza’

I stopped in Fukuoka on the way back towards Tokyo, since it’s here, it’s cheap ($40/night for a hotel right in the best part of downtown), it has reputed good food, and it has reputedly the most beautiful women in Japan. Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyushu, and is called “the gateway to Asia” due to its proximity to ports in China and Korea. The food is OK, not as good as Osaka, or perhaps not as “everywhere” as Osaka, but the beautiful women part seems to be at least partially correct. Maybe I am just partial to Asians. OK fine, I think Asian chicks are hot.

It’s a shame I don’t have more time; I’d like to stay here another few days and check it out more. It’s not so crowded as giant metropolitan areas, more elbow room, but all the sort of good stuff and infrastructure you want in a town. Fukuoka has that Goldilocks “just right” vibe to it.

I had recently read the news about Hayao Miyazaki’s announced retirement, on Sept 1, when it occurred. It was a source of discussion between myself and the English-speaking girls assigned to me at the ryokan in Kurokawa; it came up in conversation that I used to work in animation, and inevitably Miyazaki and his films come up, and then his retirement, as well as the recent release of his latest film, Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises). One of the girls had seen it and enjoyed it.

So, by chance, in my wanderings through Fukuoka, I found a branch of the same gyoza restaurant from Osaka, so I had to stop there and eat. Then a few minutes after leaving, I came upon a theater which was playing Miyazaki’s movie. Sure enough, it starts soon… the chance to see one of my favorite artist’s work, his last work in fact, in his home country, in its original Japanese… well, that’s a chance occurrence that I cannot pass up!

Kaze_Tachinu_poster

I was introduced to Miyazaki’s work in high school, through AnimeBob, who ran the local Japanese Animation club. At that time, there was very little material coming into the states from Japan, and any bits and pieces we could get our hands on were devoured quickly. Really bad-quality subtitled recordings on VHS were the norm, copied from a copy from a copy from a copy from a copy that originated with some basement-dwelling Otaku enthusiast who had translated the whole movie and put the subtitles in. The first one that went into my VCR was Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and I was hooked.

I ran into AnimeBob many, many years later, in Portland, Maine, of all places, during a hole-in-the-wall showing of Howl’s Moving Castle. He was there by chance as well, on a short assignment to Portland for work, saw the ad for the movie showing in the local arts paper, and dropped in. I spotted him in the lobby and the likeness was far too familiar, so I had to ask him, “Hey, did you go to (crappy high school in Chicagoland)?” and sure enough it was him. What are the chances of that?

Kaze Tachinu is a movie about chance encounters as well. The story revolves around Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Mitsubishi A5M airplane, the next incarnation of which, the A6, was the famed “Zero.” It is not only a story about his inspiration, success, and deep nostalgic moral questioning of technological advancement (as is all so common in Japanese storytelling), it’s also a love story about Jiro and his wife Naoko, who met several times by bizarre chance encounters.

As a conoisseur of Miyazaki films, it’s evident that the past couple of them have been deeper and more nostalgic, telling of an old man looking back at his life and wondering, “what if?” and “have I done right?” Mr. Miyazaki has nothing to worry about; everything he has produced is nothing short of excellent, and the latest is no exception.

So I was wondering just who the hell I would run into at this movie theater, but nothing weird happened. Yet. But I still have 12 hours or so left in Fukuoka. The cosmos is chomping at the bit trying to align my path with some long-lost fragment of my past.

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Good thing that the Japanese like Sumo, because I am rapidly heading towards qualifying with all the delicious food readily available at all hours…

Today I slept in from last night’s food coma, and headed to Osaka castle around 11am. As it is a Saturday, and one of Osaka’s premier attractions, the castle was rather crowded, despite the weather, which was grey and threatening (and eventually following through) with rain.

Osaka-jo was first built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who died the same year of its completion in 1597. It became the property of the Tokugawa clan after they laid siege upon it in starting in 1615, and shortly thereafter removed the Toyotomi clan from the gene pool. Since then it remained in Tokugawa hands, but the castle burned down several times from lightning strikes. Finally in 1868, rather than let it fall into the hands of the Meiji restoration, the Tokugawa clan burned it to the ground again.

Then in WWII, its use as an arsenal prompted the Allies to blow it to hell yet again.

So, what you see today, other than the stone outer walls and moat, is nowhere near original; however it is beautiful nonetheless and houses an interesting museum.

Osaka-jo

Osaka-jo

Ahhhh, Engrish! Don't worry, I will through from other side, after rematerialize.

Ahhhh, Engrish! Don’t worry, I will through from other side, after rematerialize. Beam me up, Scotty!

After marching around Osaka some more, I found the Doguyasuji arcade, which sells anything and everything related to restaurant equipment. All the fake sushi you can imagine, lanterns, teapots, etc. It is my intent to leave here with a professional sushi knife, and there is a foundry shop in there which makes beautiful stuff. I shall return tomorrow, if it is open, and, barring that, on Monday.

More Osaka nightlife…

The internet is an amazing thing. It now lets us filter through the dreck and find the best, highest rated anything in any given area by meritocracy. I wanted to go to the best sushi-train restaurant (the kind with the conveyor belt) in the area, and found it, $1 a plate, and good stuff. Found their webpage, translated it with online tools, found it in the online map, sent it to my phone, and off I go with GPS directions. Yeah yeah anyone can do it, but despite having had these tools for many years, it still amazes me, especially when you can do it in a foreign country whose language you do not know, and an alphabet you cannot read. To think that just 10 years ago you wouldn’t have been able to do this; it’s an amazing travel and cultural immersion enabler.

I wouldn't even know how to spell this place's name, that's how Japanese it is. But it was awesome. There must be 1/4 mile of sushi track in here.

I wouldn’t even know how to spell this place’s name, that’s how Japanese it is. No Engrish signs = fun! There must be 1/8 mile of sushi track in here.

And, of course, more gyoza!

And, of course, more gyoza!

more night scenes in Dotombori

more night scenes in Dotombori

I like how you can find little scenes like this, tucked away in corners and back alleys.

I like how you can find little scenes like this, tucked away in corners and back alleys.