In today’s (really March 7th but hey…) edition of “tasty coffee in scenic places with Daveo” I bring you this glorious handcrafted bevvie experience & view of the Seto-nai-kai (Inland sea) from an olive garden (no, not that one, an actual one) in Setouchi, Okayama, ergo:
Amidst the “specialness” of life – which included of late:
trip to Nagasaki and all the glorious trains, building and museums (well documented elsewhere)
Mae Maes spring concert in Tamano (artifacts to follow)
baby coming! (and related prep)
10 years anniversary of Vancouver Olympics (which was such a big deal for me and i meant to do “something” to commemorate, but ya know, this feeling was overridden with ambivalence (but do have some notes and copy/pastes i’ll get to before 11th anniversary)
– is the “regular out n abouts” of life. These moments are treasure and, as memory fades, are quickly lost to the “exciting bits” never the less, i capture and archive for me, for others like me, for the little one, for the future, for the process. You know this already so behold, more of the usual: trams, coffees, meals, and various items spotted in the wild.
Ergo, just things, observed / scenes of life in Okayama, en route to “seitai” treatment session:
* fine bicycle (wagyu burgers in bg) at sunny intersection
* non-chronological aside but related / wagyu burger (with Ted) / as an additional aside, compared to 25+ years ago when I was first year, so much more international food available, to go along with the obviously fantastic Japanese native food… Would having pizzas, mighty burgers, lots of India/Nepal food, there are Mexican food places but i don’t wanna be disappointed – Anyway we do not lack for fantastic food even in our small city
* angled manshon apartment bldg, striking against the sky (this is parking lot for seitai sensei)
Note: In the day’s between / around New Year’s – there are plenty of activities… today’s activities include hanged up the New Year’s decoration, drinking all the coffee to try to wake up & thwart headache, then going to an afternoon friends party/talent show where we will be singing a duet with Ryoko on piano.
Our selection is a modified (taking out the sort of dodgy creepy lyrics) version of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” with an arrangement vaguely based on this lovely scene in TV programme “The Crown”￼￼ season 1.
Do not expect video documentation of our performance though we diligently practiced and made a special vocal arrangement with some trade offs and whatnot.
However, I will present some insta-photos as evidence and to provide a bit of flavour of the 5th annual Kojo Piano Club (there was even a theme song) party / event in which all the friends (many of whom, perform or learn together) perform music in various ensembles, plus usual eating, drinking and frivolity.
Well, the days between Christmas and New Year’s aren’t really a thing per se in Japan as Christmas is just a reason for decor and music (as it should be at most) and all the build up is for New Year’s – this being my first “real” New Year’s in Japan, i just sorta held on for the ride…
Anyhow, regardless, during this time, Ryoko and I were out and about for various events, errands, chores, adventures and whatnot – much of which is documented elsewhere in this archive and here are the pleasant mundane-ities which didn’t fit anywhere else – with minor annotations perhaps of “Japan Life”.
Let’s begin with a few lunches and beverages – after a shop at a hardware store, we slipped into a little Yoshoku restaurant – sorta Japan remix of western dishes – this one sorta French but ya know, not really (and that’s not the point). Anyhow… had a sort of cutlet above and a pot of tea to follow.
Another lunchtime, our relationship with pizza toast continued at home.
Christmas isn’t really an “event” in Japan, more of a marketing campaign and a prelude to New Year’s Eve which is laden with tradition, nostalgia and routine. It’s kinda my speed as i am def turned off by rampant commercialism quasi-religious sabre-rattling which comes around.
Regardless, with new family (and more family arriving in 2020) i wanted to wrangle a bit of festiveness – also acknowledging been a long while since i had vaguely “regular” christmas and while this was atypical, established some new routines, scratched an itch… after all, with the turmoil in my life the last years, there is admittedly some misgivings and rather tough emotions which come around during all this hoolpa. Most importantly, got to show love and respect for wife and in-laws.
What follows are a few poorly-photographed artifact of activities from Dec. 24 – 26 JST. Carry On!
First off, Dec. 24 (christmas eve) we made dinner of grilled mackeral, squash, pickled cucumbers and tsukemono carrots, greens, miso soup, tea, rice, lotus root, and whatnot. Yup, not off to a very traditional start – ha!
Christmas morn, we opened our stockings (pictured above) purchased from a 100yen store ($1), nothing but the best! and enjoyed toast with cream cheese and my kaki (persimmon) jam which i am always talking about, and nashi (pear). My sock had snacks, Ryoko’s had expired 35mm film and a necklace and snacks.
Then we went to post office (one of my fave activities of course) and i wore a Santa cap (borrowed from Ryoko who wore at Mae Maes Christmas concert) to the amusement of the post office staff and the kids at the grocery store which was our next stop. Folks are stocking up for New Years time during which many stores are closed or scaled back hours and folks generally wanna hunker down.
Then we picked up a pre-made feast from a great lil cafe called Sakura-mi we had ordered a while back when we went on a little lunch date. Here’s the café’s post box.
And i got to make a fire in the wood stove. So yeah, post office and fire making in the same day! Pleased.
Took the grub home and set up at parent’s house (next door).
Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travellers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup, and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee (which all taste moreorless the same) in ubiquitous vending machines.
Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. With some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures.
Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea.
Best to fly to Kansai (KIX) Osaka airport. This schmancy modern airport is located on a human-made island in the middle of the bay and includes 2 hotels, like 100+ restaurants, post office, an airplane viewing platform and importantly, a train station. The hotels (the full-service Nikko Hotel & business-single-pod-style First Cabin) are super useful if you arrive exhausted from the long flight (usually about 14 hours from N.A. west coast). A short trip from the airport’s island by shuttle bus brings you to loads of other hotels. This airport village also has loads of shopping for buying treats on your way home. Of course, the are other airports, specifically Tokyo (massive international hub Narita NRT or sometimes Haneda HND which is usually used for domestic flights) and the new Centrail/Chubu/Nagoya (NGO) airport. While you might save a few dollars on the flight, you’ll have a longer (more expensive) train journey to reach Okayama which is the destination for the shindig.
Fly direct to Okayama (OKJ) via the charmingly convenient and cute Momotaro Airport. If you fly to Haneda or Narita (Tokyo) mentioned above, you can transfer and fly right here. Sometimes this requires an airport shuttle between Narita (mostly international) and Haneda (more domestic). There is a bus service from Momotaro to downtown Okayama too. Note: there is a huge service difference for the long-haul flights from North America. My personal experience is to fly an Asian-based airline, i.e.: Japan (ANA *fave, JAL), Korean (Korean or Asiana), Taiwan (EVA), HK (Cathay Pacific) or Singapore if coming from YVR, SFO, LAX, etc. If coming from other Asian destinations, well you are usually all good. I have experienced much less enjoyment from US-based airlines and China mainland airlines often have low prices but check the reviews and adjust against your comfort levels.
After all the friends came and went from the wedding festivities in April (including a hospital stay by one intrepid adventurer) and then the Emperor abdicated and new one enthroned, then we rambled through much of May to Toyama, Nagano, Niigata etc. seeing small museums, riding various trains, soaking in a few hot springs, visiting a few pals… oh then of course, doing all the paperwork and procedure for my zairyu card, national insurance and pension programs and setting up our little house with some 2nd hand furniture, a fresh shelf books and hooks and hangers… we set about just “normal life” here.
Note: Indeed, indulged with a very practical maneouver to acquire a stack of books… this pile is primarily from Vancouver and Vancouver-related by Grant Lawrence, Aaron Chapman, Eve Lazarus, plus Marc Zegans and David Willis… i will document these and many others recently added to collection forthwith(ish).
What follows are very mediocre snapshots to chronicle various normal-outings, non-events, day-to-day errands, and other otherwise insignificant actions.
For the record, we live in Tsuchida neighbourhood outside of Okayama city (shi), the capital of Okayama prefecture (ken). A mix of old (pre-war) homes, new homes, rice fields. 20 mins by car or 30 minutes by the fantastic Uno Bus to Okayama Station. Easy to go to Kurashiki or Bizen or the inland sea.
I’ve even tried to plant some garden boxes and various seeds for greens. Okaasan (mother) has a much better technique and diligence with gardening.