Posts tagged “Japanese food

Japanese cuisine, table manners and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Yesterday (Sunday for me, Saturday for the US), our landlady, Sachi, and her husband (whose name I can pronounce, but not spell) took us out to explore Okinawa.

Originally, the Bagpiper and I thought we were just being treated to a meal (which was perfectly fine with us), so we were very pleasantly surprised when Sachi and her husband told us that they were treating us to lunch, a visit to the largest aquarium in Japan and dinner!

Lunch was about five minutes away from the house, at the local fish market. I was a bit skeptical, because I’m not a big fish eater. But, I was going to be polite and at least try something new. Sachi translated the menu for us, and asked me if I liked lobster. Lobster is one of the only types of seafood I do enjoy, so I told her I did and she told me to order the lobster. Sachi and I ordered lobster and Bagpiper and her husband ordered mackerel.

The meal came with raw tuna, which I tried and liked, but didn’t want to eat all of it since I’m not supposed to be eating sushi/sashimi while pregnant. The lobster was so good and had some orange sauce that was great, but I have no idea what kind of sauce it was. The meal also came with steamed rice and fish soup. While I tried the fish soup, I didn’t like it. Bleh.

The Bagpiper’s meal was the same, only with a giant mackerel instead of lobster. He said it was really good, but he wasn’t used to eating a fish with so many little bones. But Sachi’s husband showed him how, and after a few attempts fumbling with chopsticks, they got him a fork. Sachi also taught us a little bit about Japanese customs at meal time, like how to take soup (they don’t use spoons, they just sip it from the bowl), mixing wasabi with soy sauce for the sashimi (raw tuna –I used soy sauce, but I stayed away from the wasabi) and they taught us what to say before/after a meal.

Before the meal: itadakimasu (ee-tah-dah-kee-mas), which means something like “I gratefully receive this meal.”

After the meal: gochisosama (go-chee-so-sama), which means “Thank you for the meal.”

After lunch, we drove for about an hour and a half to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which according to Sachi is the largest aquarium in all of Japan. It was definitely huge, and even though we spent all day there, we probably only saw about a third of the park.

View of the aquarium courtyard from the entrance.

We saw the planetarium and took a small show. It was all in Japanese, but I was able to figure out (through pictures) that the story was about Chiron. After that show we looked at the boat/sea artifact exhibit.

I think Sachi's husband told us this boat was actually Chinese.

Then we wandered over to the aquarium area and looked at tons of fish. Sorry to say, but the Dallas Aquarium has nothing on the Okinawa Aquarium. Nothing. LOL

The "touch tank".

We also got to gaze at fish, shark and rays in the largest viewing room I have ever seen in an aquarium (granted, the only other aquarium I’ve been to is the one in Dallas). The viewing glass was floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall. We’re talking at least 20ft high and 30ft wide. I wish I could have gotten a better picture of the scope of this thing, but it was too dim to get a really good picture.

You can still tell that this is a HUGE vieiwng room.

After sitting in the viewing room for a few minutes to rest and enjoy the a/c, we saw the manatee exhibit, the sea turtle exhibit and then we took in a dolphin show! I’ve never seen a dolphin show outside of Sea World San Antonio, so this was a lot of fun for me. The back drop of the dolphin show is the ocean, so it was gorgeous to watch these creatures jump in the air with the full ocean view behind them.

They did a lot of tricks, and I think the narrator was explaining stuff about the dolphins and the handlers, but of course, it was all in Japanese, so Bagpiper and I just enjoyed the show. At one point, the handlers made the dolphins sing which was really cute — though after a minute or so the noise was a little annoying.

Jump!

The really nice thing about this aquarium, is that it’s right on the coast. So even though it was hot and humid, we had a lovely sea breeze keeping us fairly cool most of the day. All in all we spent about five hours at the aquarium and then we had an hour ride back, and Sachi and her husband took us to a really nice buffet dinner at a fancy looking hotel.

We got to know one another better over dinner, and because dinner was buffet-style, I didn’t have to worry about ordering something I wasn’t comfortable with eating. I had some chicken, vegetable stir fry, salad, fruit, soup and dessert.¬† So our “lunch” turned into an all day affair, but it was definitely worth it. Not only did we get to see a whole lot more of Okinawa and learn a little bit of the customs at meal time, but we got to get to know our super nice/friendly landlords.

They even mentioned that in a month or two they’d like to take us out again, so I think that sometime while we’re here Bagpiper and I will have to treat them to a meal or get them a gift for being so hospitable and welcoming.

By the way, the rest of the pictures of the aquarium can be seen HERE.

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Exploring Okinawa: Home Sweet Home, Cafe M and high-tech toilets.

Yesterday, the Bagpiper and I did a little exploring off base.

First we took care of “important stuff”, like getting internet set up for the new house (bonus, we get a US IP address, which¬† means I will have access to Netflix instant streaming!), and setting up how we’ll pay all the bills. We stopped at a convenience store (Family Mart — these places are everywhere) and I bought some of the most succulent strawberries evah. Too bad the cup only came with about four, these where some seriously good strawberries.

Then Bagpiper took me to see the house, which is more amazing and beautiful in person than in the pictures. I kind of went picture happy inside the house, snapping pictures of every nook and cranny in each room. Rather than bombard this post with tons of pictures, I used Picnik to make a pretty little collage…

Still can't believe this is our new home!

There is a bad thing about the house, the oven is SUPER SUPER tiny. Like, I’m not even sure what one would possibly cook in there, cause anything I’ve ever put in an oven requires much more space than the Japanese oven in the house. It’s definitely going to take some creative experimenting to bake goodies in that kitchen. But one really exciting/nerdy awesome thing about the house? It has a cupboard under the stairs. Like in Harry Potter. Bwahaha! So after seeing the house and imagining what it would look like with furniture (and also wondering how I would set up the nursery), Bagpiper and I walked around the corner and found a hold-in-the-wall place to eat called Cafe M.

Cafe M was really quaint. There were shelves and shelves of all sorts of manga and the tables were actually video games. The menu was in Japanese, so neither of us could read it, but the cook spoke English and he broke down the lunch menu for us. We opted for “Lunch A” which was some type of pork with veggies and wrapped in fried deliciousness. Lunch also came with a bowl of steamed rice, a bowl of soup, two types of noodles, an egg roll, a piece of sweet chicken and a cabbage salad.

The entire meal was delicious beyond deliciousness. Hole-in-the-wall places are almost always good, and I’m so glad we found this place and that it’s literally right around the corner from our house. It’s definitely going to be a favorite spot. We also got some very refreshing iced tea. I have no idea what type of tea it was, but it was really good. They gave us a small (very small) pot with a sweetner (it looked like sugar water, but more syrupy), and at first we didn’t know what it was for, but watching the other people around us we were able to figure out that it was to sweeten the tea. ^_^v

I had taken a picture of lunch, but I took it with my phone, and it doesn’t have a data plan so I can’t email it to myself. -_- Never fear, I’m sure I’ll have food pictures soon enough!

After lunch we used the restroom in the cafe. Who knew that this would become a mini adventure in itself! Even though the toilet was a little weird, I was able to figure it out no problem. Bagpiper on the other hand…

…well, afterward, I asked him what took him so long and he explained that he had no idea what the buttons on the side of the toilet were for. Basically, he discovered the bidet settings. He said he felt violated….but then he admitted to doing it twice! LOL I mean, I thought the pictures on the controls were pretty self-explanatory:

..at least we didn't have to squat!

Anyway, that was our day. Monday we will move into the house and Tuesday we will get some borrowed furniture to use until our stuff arrives. The only bad thing I can see in the near future is that it’s going to take a week to get internet set up. Boo.