Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Japan in Timelapse

These timelapse videos were made with a Nikon D7000 on Dotonbori Street in Osaka, in a Belgian bar in Kobe, and from the Granvia hotel overlooking Kyoto train station. You get a little flavor of the variety of city life in Japan!

Personally: I really love how fast you can eat peanuts and drink beer at one frame every 5 seconds. (Cheers, Alan!)

Try to spot a giant crab, a Belgian monk (?), a snow squall, a Shinkansen bullet train, and an elevator dancing to the beat of my background music.

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When you are shooting a timelapse indoors, do try not to set the camera on your food+drinks table. But sometimes you have no choice… hehe. Here’s Kyoto train station at dusk…

Kyoto Train Station at Night

Posted 5 years, 6 months ago at 8:41 pm.

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Yakitori Surprise

For those who’ve seen other cultures’ meat on a stick, this is not satay! Yakitori is the Japanese version of meat on a stick. Meaning, a different sauce (hehe). And generally the meat (at least in restaurants I’ve been to) is very high quality.

Octopus Yakitori

My only quandary was: what to order? To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s the daily special menu:

Torizo Menu

The standard menu was no less confusing, and had limited pictures. Fortunately the server spoke a few words of English and knew how to draw. I think I ordered squid based on his drawing, but it looked like octopus to me (photo above). It was delicious with lemon and mayonnaise. For the next course I odered “Ahh… chicken?” and this seems to be a cubed chicken leg fit onto 3 skewers: fantastic!

Chicken Leg Yakitori

Of course nothing goes with beer and grilled snacks like edamame: boiled and salted soybeans. You squeeze them out of the husk (which isn’t eaten). Edamame are the standard appetizer at all US sushi restaurants, I definitely recommend to give ’em a go.

Edamame

Also of note, there was a strange fish tank with small plants swirling inside. My only guess is it was a fresh seaweed tank. There’s always something new in the world that I haven’t ever seen! That must by why I keep traveling…

Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 3:22 pm.

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Japanese Mascots Sell

What better way to advertise than with a mascot? Japan takes that to a whole new level on Osaka’s Dontonbori street. Let’s start with Spider Man, or rather a chubby spider-Satan baby.

Satan Spider Man Ghost?

Of course, dragons are always popular… until they eat your cue ball in the middle of a billiards game. Or roast your sheep and eat your children.

Dontonbori Dragon

There are so many angry mascots that I could’ve made a post titled “Angry Sushi Chefs.” I’m not sure I’d want to eat anything prepared by this guy. Did he spit on the fish? I think so.

Angry Sushi Chef

Damn, it’s time for appetizers and I’ve got a hankering for squid. But the nearest fish joint is miles away! Never fear, Calamari Boy is here… is that a squid-based throwing disc or what?

Calamari Man?

As I remember this guy is the Ganko sushi chef. I’m not sure if he wants to serve sushi, or perform a finishing move with chopsticks. Mortal Kombat style!

Another Angry Sushi Chef

Double shot! I’ve no idea what the Japanese Elvis in the foreground is selling, but the blowfish just behind him are for Zuboraya, where I tried Fugu yesterday.

Vegas Guy

Bluto seems to lead a double life: besides fawning over Olive Oyl, he also sells curly fried thingies in Japan.

Bluto eating chips?

An octopus selling Takoyaki is like a cow advertising McDonald’s. “Eat me! Over here… that’s right. My legs, diced up in a ball of fried dough with bbq and mayo on top. What are you waiting for!”

Octopus advertising Takoyaki

Pastéis de Nata are Portuguese egg custard tarts. Makes perfect sense that a British guy is advertising Portuguese desserts in Japan. Though I must say, they were just as tasty as the ones I ate in Lisbon!

British dude selling Portuguese tarts

So, there’s today’s view of Osaka’s most brilliant shopping street. Definitely give it a try if you’re in Osaka! And be sure to eat at the most outrageously advertised restaurant you see. If the mascot is angry that can only be a good sign. 😉

Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 10:05 am.

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Fugu at Zuboraya

If you’re looking for reviews/recommendations of a good restaurant in Osaka, Japan to try Fugu blowfish, read on! My recommendation is definitely for Zuboraya in Dotonbori…

Who hasn’t heard of Fugu, the poisonous blowfish? Japanese love to eat it, perhaps to prove they are masters of otherwise deadly sea creatures whose organs contain toxins that can paralyze our bodies. Yep, including the lungs… making it hard to live. In fact in my book Demon’s Bane, the characters used this poison as a weapon.

Fugu nigiri trio

Becoming a Fugu chef is not easy. One must practice for years before taking a test to be allowed to prepare this potentially fatal delicacy. On top of that, as I learned from reading some internet articles, Fugu doesn’t taste particularly great on its own; special recipes are needed to enhance its flavor. Guests won’t keep coming back just for the thrill if it tastes bad, and no one will pay the high prices Fugu commands for a bland strip of fish. So the chefs at Zuboraya have nice dishes with flavors that complement the Fugu, like spicy garnishes and lemony soy sauce with the nigiri.

Fugu sushi closeup

As I wasn’t expecting much flavor-wise, I went with a small nigiri set of three pieces for 800 yen ($10) rather than blow 3000+ yen on a big Fugu meal. I ordered some Unagi (sea eel) on the side, and cold sake (the best accompaniment).

Fugu and Unagi

The Fugu was lightly seared and was served with a lemony soy sauce, I guess designed to enhance the flavor (or give it some flavor). It was a bit chewy in texture, not soft like good tuna or salmon. Clearly a lot of work goes into making palatable Fugu dishes, because the fish doesn’t intrinsically taste good. But people do want to eat it for the thrill, and they’ll pay (really) good money for it, so… good work, Zuboraya chefs! Their location in Dotonbori, where I survived the ordeal treat:

Zuboraya Dotonbori Osaka

Overall, I’d recommend trying Fugu if you are at all curious. If you go to a known restaurant with licensed chefs (which is probably all of them in Japan), I wouldn’t have any concern about the safety. Your only choice then is whether you just want to say “Yep, I tried it,” or you want a big, luxurious meal. For a multi-course banquet of sashimi, soup, and the trimmings you’re looking at 3000+ yen compared to under a thousand for a few pieces of nigiri. I’m saving my yens for Unagi, Ikura, and Ama-Ebi washed down with Nigori-Sake!

In parting, here’s a pufferfish in the Osaka Aquarium: this lucky guy is not for eating :-)

Pufferfish at Osaka Aquarium

Happy Fugu…

Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 4:07 pm.

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Welcome to Japan!

Nothing says “Welcome to Japan” quite as well as the Osaka train signage in kanji. Okay, they do (briefly) switch to English for a few seconds. It’s similar with the announcements: 30 seconds straight of talking in Japanese, then one sentence of English. So far I am completely satisfied with that small percentage of English… after all, I am in Japan!

Osaka JR Train Signage

For lunch I visited this place, Ponpocotei near the Tsuruhashi station.

Ponpocotei Restaurant

First meal in Japan for this trip was Okonomiyaki! This is a thick, savory pancake about 6″ in diameter. I tried octopus & pork as my fillings. Those are fish flakes on top of the bbq sauce and mayonnaise.

Okonomiyaki in Osaka

The chef cooks it at a grill behind the counter, then serves it on your own personal in-table grill to keep it warm while you eat. Delicious!

Ponpocotei Okonomiyaki Closeup

I may have mentioned at some point: I love my Nikon 35mm f/2 for food closeups. :-)

Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 11:06 am.

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