It's easy for me to get bogged down in news reports of political corruption and failed economic policies. As much as most people see me as a fun-loving, goofy, gregarious (not in a good way), fool, the reality is I have an extremely serious side that spends at least an hour or two everyday reading about global affairs and my opinion of the current situation is bleak; Quite bleak indeed.
That said, this month I wound down the arrival of Hiroshima's newest batch of about 45 new ALTs by getting wound up with them, and my "days off" were equally exhausting - the kind of exhausting where your head hits the pillow and you fall asleep mid-thought. Luckily for me, each night that thought was the same: "what an awesome weeken....ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ"!
Friday, August 13th:
I took the day off work, but woke up at 6am to pile in a van with Kazu, Mika, and Bacon (his real last name for those confused). We then drove non-stop to Fukuoka for another legendary RAMEN TOUR. Ramen in Japan in completely unrecognizable to the instant ramen college students live off. Without overstating things, it is one of the best, most indulgent, unique to each shop that sells it, dishes in existence.
but there are more restaurants devoted to just ramen, than there are Starbucks in any given American city. Two prefectures, Fukuoka and Hokkaido, are reknown for having the best. Hokkaido is famous because they use their other famed products, butter (any dairy product from Hokkaido is considered superior though, really) and crab. Fukuoka, on the other hand, is famous for their Tonkotsu (lit. Pork Bone) broth that is fatty, bold, and delicious.
There are hundreds of Tonkotsu Ramen shops throughout Fukuoka Prefecture, so Kazu reads restaurant reviews, travel magazines, and online "rate this ramen" style reader based review sites and puts together his own personal tour. He also keeps a secret blog online where he gives his review in Japanese, but says it is top secret. I suspect he does this anonymously and wonder if he is something of an internet legend, but he is far too humble to admit it.
So we arrived just as the first few shops were opening for the day (It's not what you'd call a breakfast food) and not having had anything to eat, devoured our first bowl, said "thanks" and proceeded to the next shop. On the way there we decided that we would only eat half a bowl at each following restaurant in order to double the number of places we could try! By the end of the night we had been to 10 restaurants. That's 5 and a half bowls total for the day, but the next morning, we woke up and went to four more restaurants. The night before our friend Tamami came out to join us for round two.
At the last of day 2's four restaurants, we all ordered a full bowl, and shared some gyoza too. We were full, but no one was tired of eating tonkotsu. That's how good it is. The five of climbed back in the van, and headed back to Hiroshima, but not home. We had a big night ahead. On the ride back, we watched Avatar on the DVD Navigation while nodding in and out of food comas. Once back in Hiroshima, we went straight to the port and grabbed a ferry to Miyajima for the annual fireworks competition. Like ramen, fireworks shows here are often a different animal entirely from what we know in the states. I wrote "competition" because several different firework companies actually bring their special fireworks and each take turns, so the result is several rounds of fireworks and finales that lasts around an hour! Having the luxury of being held on the Seto Inland Sea, this show included plenty of fireworks that are detonated at eye level, just above the surface of the ocean!
Afterward, I said goodbye to my friends and hopped on a different boat going back to Miyajima where I walked to Tsutsumi-ga-Ura Beach to meet up with another group of friends camping there, but most everyone was tired and went to sleep not long after I arrived. I did still take a dip in the ocean, which had those luminescent plankton that sparkle when you splash around. Cool.
Sunday, August 15th:
The sun woke everyone up quite early, myself especially, and I took walk around and snapped some photos. It was weird to shoot in the early morning light, since I am usually asleep or half asleep on the way to work, but the deer were out grazing on a sports pitch, and turtle scuttled into the lake and everything was quite peaceful.
After everyone else had woken up and packed up their tents we went back to the beach and had a great morning swim. I played with Morgan's dog, who loved to play tag in the water, and took photos with everyone else.
Believe it or not, that was only one of three amazing weekends this month, but I have blogged enough for one day. I will return with more soon...