GreenAroundTheGlobe - Part 16

Change of Plans

by Amy on July 2, 2010 · 2 comments

Amy and Lewis

In case you did not see it on Facebook, we are back in the States.  While in Australia, we received the news that my stepfather, Lewis, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Two weeks later we were on a 27-hour plane ride from Sydney to New York and the next day we caught a flight visit Lewis in Charlotte, North Carolina.  For now, we’re bouncing between family and friends while we figure out our next move. We still have stories to tell from our three weeks in Australia, so stayed tuned for tales of catching our first waves, wining and dining our way through the Hunter Valley and cheering on Australia’s Union rugby team.

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“Take me out to the ballgame…

I am not a sports girl.  But ever since I read this article about baseball in Japan I have been obsessed with seeing a game firsthand.  With tickets in hand thanks to JapanBall, I got my chance to watch the Seibu Lions battle it out with the Yakult Swallows.

Getting to Seibu Stadium, however, was a little bit of a journey.  Unfortunately we were staying on the opposite side of Tokyo, so it took two subway lines and two commuter trains to reach the game.  The beauty, however, of the Tokyo trains is that they are fast and almost always on schedule, and the station is just meters away from the stadium entrance.

We arrived at the domed stadium just in time for the singing of the national anthem and opening pitch, finding our seats along the first base line close to home plate.

Take me out with the crowd…

The crowd was a mix of men in business suits, kids in t-shirts and fans of all ages in their favorite team’s gear.  While far from a sell out, the enthusiasm radiating from the stands was palpable.  A cacophony of cheers and clapping surrounded us, interspersed with moments of intense umbrella waving. Yes, you read that correctly, umbrella waving.  I’m not sure how pastel plastic umbrellas became the foam finger of Swallow fans, but there you have it.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack…

I know this is totally un-American, but we snacked on neither peanuts nor Cracker Jack.  But we did have hotdogs.  And soba noodles. Between the French fries and chicken tenders, we also could have indulged in sushi, tempura and other Japanese culinary delights, but we had to make sure to save room for the beer.

Beer delivered to our seats.

By cheerful girls in pigtails.

With kegs strapped to their backs.

Keith’s never really been a huge baseball fan, but I think he may have found his new favorite sport.

I don’t care if I never get back…

We did get back to our teeny-tiny bunk bed room in Tokyo, but really, there’s not much else to say about the ride home.

Let me root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a shame…

In the US, when the crowds get really riled up, say, in the bottom of the ninth with a tie score, you might get a “Let’s go!” chant going in the upper decks.  If the crowd is really, really into it, you might even get a wave. But here in Japan, all it takes is a new player up at bat and the cheap seats go crazy.  I’m talking jumping up out of their seats waving Canadian flags while singing at the top of their lungs crazy.  In fact, each player has a unique cheer that doesn’t end until that player either strikes out or gets a hit.  Foreign players get their home country’s flag in the air while Japanese players get signs that are, well, in Japanese.  No one in the outfield seats sits when their team is at the plate.

Oh, and the home team did win.  In the bottom of the ninth the Seibu Lions hit the winning run, making for a very exciting game.

For it’s one, two three strikes you’re out at the old ball game!”

Great game.  Delicious food.  And grown Japanese men jumping around like three year olds with pixie sticks.  What more could we ask for?

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Glorious Japanese Fish

by Keith on June 25, 2010 · 3 comments

As noted by Kristin in the comments of my Cuisine of Japan post, I made no mention of the glorious sushi found throughout Japan.  That’s because the sushi of Japan could not be simply lumped into a roundup cuisine post, with fish this amazing it demands a dedicated post.

The Tsukiji Market
This is the undisputed biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind.  It is the source for most of Tokyo’s amazing sushi and for those reasons I was really looking forward to visiting.  So much so that I excitedly set the alarm for 4:30am to ensure we caught the very first train to the Tsukijishijō Station at 5:12am.  However, even this effort was not enough to secure one of the 140 tourist spots to witness the famous tuna auction on the official tour.  Not being so easily defeated, I was able to strategically position myself outside one of the massive garage doors that opened into the tuna area.   From the picture below you can see that I was able to get a much better and unobstructed view of the action than the tourists on the official tour.  They are the ones in the green jackets roped off and fighting with each other for a view and a quick snapshot over my left shoulder.

After seeing the tuna auction, which ends by 7 am, we wandered around the inner market looking at all the other great fish and seafood on offer.  Watching the precision carving of a massive tuna with a 3 foot knife was amazing.  Not a bit of the expensive meat was left on the bones. The market itself is huge and we spent a good hour wandering around and taking in all the sights and sounds.  Oddly different from any other fish market we visited, and even the fish vendors at Reading Terminal Market back in Philadelphia, there was no fishy smell to speak of.  This is a result of the extensive daily cleaning the market gets everyday at 1pm once it closes.

Sushi Breakfast
The best end to a visit to Tsukiji is a sushi breakfast at one of the many  restaurants ringing the market.  Amy and I decided on a small one just to the east of the market.  The only seats were at the counter and there were 4 options for sushi sets: good, better, best and really expensive.  Amy went with “good” and I decided that “best” was the way to go.  The fatty tuna was silky, the rice firm and my first taste of raw prawn was quite good.  I would not recommend raw prawn outside of Japan but I thought it has to be better than my sister Kristin’s experience, when she mistakenly ordered raw chicken.  Thankfully there was no raw chicken on my gorgeous breakfast banana leaf.  I savored each bite and lamented that what I previously thought was good sushi at home was never going to measure up to this.

Logistics

  • Tuna Auction: if you really want to go on the official tour of the auction you need to spring for a taxi.  The trains do not start running early enough to ensure you get there in time to get one of the 140 tourist spots.  Also be sure the taxi takes you to the office where the tickets are distributed on Harumi Street, northeast of the actual tuna market.
  • Photos: taking pictures in the fish market is tough.  It is early in the morning, the light is very low and the distance from you to the tuna is 20-30 meters at best.  The key is to ensure you have a camera with a high ISO setting (>1600) and if it is an SLR you have a zoom lens with a wide aperture while at 200-300mm.  I used a Tamron 70-300 1:4-5.6.

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Update June 27, 2010:
This morning after reading the New York Times Magazine cover story on the destruction of the wild blue fin tuna stocks in the worlds oceans I felt compelled to link to the article as a way to help inform others.  Before reading this well written and informative article I was not aware of the perile that these wonderful, if tasty, fish are in.  I will no longer be able to order tuna sushi in good conscious and I would suggest that if you enjoy tuna that you read the article to see if it changes your mind.  If  Japanese sashimi was my last, I am glad for it.

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