Japan Trip 2018 – Day Thirteen


Travel day.


Two cars to the train station – minshuku owner insisted on helping out with his car.

Then hanging around till the first train – the small Aizu Mountain Express.

Daughter and the train driver became friends and chatted together for much of the journey.

When it came time to switch trains, he got off his and walked us as a group to the next one, making sure we were all sorted before going back to his own train.

Long journey to Tokyo and an approaching typhoon.

Subway to the appropriate stop and a short walk to the hotel.

Not a fan of western style hotels, but the beds are comfortable and the shower is good.

They charged us an extra 9 000 yen to put in a sofa bed for the daughter, having assumed, when the room was booked for two adults and a child, that the ten year old would sleep in one of the beds with an adult.


Wife set out into Suica Card Hell.

Daughter and I went to one of the many local combini to forage for food, then an early night.

The typhoon was disappointing.



We got up.

Crazy finalised packing, then had breakfast.

Checked out of the minshuku.

We went on the local train and made friends with the train driver, who let us, (me and mum), stand up the front.

He gave me chestnuts.

Saw the kitten train station master.

Then fancy train for three hours when a typhoon was brewing.

Quickly rushed to the hotel.

Turns out they did not have my bed ready yet, so we waited . . . . . .

Finally my bed was ready and we went into the room.

Mum did jobs.

Me and dad went to the combini for dinner, then bed.

When the typhoon hit, I was fast asleep.



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Twelve


Another relatively lazy day.

No appetite for breakfast.

Drifted in and out of sleep in the minshuku whilst wife climbed a nearby mountain.

Once she had returned, we wandered to a dengaku place down the road that I have always wanted to try, but never quite got the timing right, (they only seem to be open for a couple of hours a day, around lunch time).

Turned out the others were also there, finishing the remains of their meal.

The usual communication battle to express our vegan needs, along with the no miso sauce caveat of the child. This, in particular, is always a difficult concept to express in such venues.

Mochi was the best and freshest so far and the tofu even better; all cooked on an open hearth in the floor next to us.

We separated back into our original groups and our three headed to the local pottery shop.

Aizu is famous for its pottery.

The owner, Ryoko, remembered Wife and daughter from last year and a very cute and broken English conversation ensued.

Purchases made, she followed us out of the shop, exchanged names with daughter and waved us off.

She may be waving still.

Wife asked if I minded going to the giant Samurai House gift shop on the way back.

I did mind.

So I said no.

In we went.

More purchases were made.

I did find a nice gift for the instructor left behind, who was running the classes for us. One relevant to his first trip to Aizu many years ago.

A minshuku drop off and then up to the onsen area to book a private room for a family bath.

Everything was shut or overbooked, so we settled for soaking our feet in the preferred foot bath of the Shinsengumi.

Eventually, we went to our final Ne Ne Ya, for a comparatively subdued meal and are now packing for our trip back to Tokyo, tomorrow morning.

There are problems of Newtonian physics involved; matching the now expanded level of mass, compared with the available baggage space and number of carrying appendages.



Last Aizu day.

Oh my, Japan is going so fast!

We got up and had breakfast.

We were given presents from the minshuku owners: Japanese sun umbrellas.

Then mum went for a walk, while me and dad relaxed. I got a new phone game: merge plane.

Went and had lunch at the mochi place. Fresh mochi, (not as good as at the castle).

Soaked our feet in an onsen foot bath, then headed back to the minshuku.

But at the Samurai House, mum went into a gift shop. So much stuff.

Mum has bought more stuff.

Dad bought a pack of cards for the instructor back home.

Relaxed at the minshuku, then at 5:45 p.m. we headed to Ne Ne Ya for dinner, then cleaned teeth, then went to bed!

ZZZZ. . . . .


Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Minshuku Aizu


As we bring our stay at the minshuku to a close, they finally bring out the big guns.

This pickle is daikon with a vibrant orange colour.

It glows with promise.

Thinly sliced, about 2-3mm.

Cut in quarters.

Salty, with the perfect amount of moisture.


A strong turmeric flavour.

I am pleased with this pickle.

When I close my eyes and think about Japanese pickles, this is the flavour and texture that will come to mind.


Connoisseur two

Classic daikon pickle.

This is what you expect from a Japanese pickle.




Almost as good as my own.



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Eleven


Slow start, very tired.

Wife, daughter, student two and student three went for a drive.

I napped.

Then daughter, myself and wife headed for the castle, so daughter could do some souvenir shopping.

They went ahead and abandoned me, but by catching the next, correct, bus, I arrived before them.

Student one was on that bus.

Daughter did her shopping then we went to the saké brewery and did ours.

Another bus to drop things off at the minshuku, then another bus to town for wife to do some stationery shopping.

Reconnected with student one.

He and daughter and wife raced ahead to look at another shop; I lost them whilst photographing the sunset.

Had a very expensive beer in a bar and rejoined, by now, everyone, in a very expensive Italian café for half a bowl of very expensive salad.

It was drink saké from the castle walls night, so to reduce taxis, student two and I walked there whilst the others headed back to the minshuku to pick up the saké and car.

We climbed the walls, drank, viewed the moon.

Back home for bed.



Today we had breakfast, then me, mum, student three and student two went into the car.

We got out at a forest mountain walk. We found a playground, then we played.

I had turns with student three on the flying fox, then went on a forest walk.

There has been a bear incident here recently, so that has freaked us out a bit, so back in the car and drive back to the minshuku.

We, (me and mum and dad), tried to catch the bus, but left dad behind!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So he caught the next bus, while me and mum are on the bus taking the long way to the castle.

I bought stuff.

Then mum bought stuff from a stationery store.

Back to the minshuku, then at 8.?? p.m. we head back to the castle to watch the moon rise, but we made it at 9.30 p.m.

It was still beautiful and the castle was glowing and everyone was having a good time.

Back to the minshuku, shower, bath, chip stars, clean teeth, then around 11.00 p.m., bed.

Ahhh, so relaxing.



Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Minshuku Aizu


Sunny day.


The hum of the surrounding refrigerators adds white noise to the already ticking clocks and buzz of the light fixtures.

Pickle 1 – Plum

It was suggested that the plum should be added to the morning’s rice, sprinkled with dried ribbons of seaweed.

The plum was pitted and shrivelled.

It is a strong flavour.

Strong enough that first contact with the rice is enough to flavour the bowl.

After stirring the rice, the plum disintegrates.

It is an incredibly sour plum.

I do not like it.

By comparison, the lemon served with it was positively sweet.

Pickle 2 – mini eggplant – the size of brussel sprouts.

It has the soft texture of a black olive.

It is juicy, but not in a good way and the juiciness is watery and slightly briny.

Not an enjoyable pickle.

It is difficult to bite and too large to eat whole.

I recommend serving it to guests who have annoyed you in some way, but you want to remain friends with them – possibly because your children have activities together.



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Ten



Went to a Buddhist temple on the way to Kitakata.

We like Kitakata because two years ago we had a gestalt culinary experience there; which we hoped to duplicate.

The temple has a gingko tree that is over 800 years old.

But the open, unwalled hall, built almost 1 000 years ago is now my preferred Japanese dojo space.

From here to the restaurant: we talked, negotiated an agreed price and food type and a time to return.

We wandered and returned.

Then we ate.

It is nice when expectations are not just me, but exceeded.

Food was good!

Good food!

Saké good!

Good saké!

From here we went to the temple that made the red cow famous, their name escapes me, but is possibly on an Aizu brochure somewhere.

Nice temple, with river and misty mountains as a backdrop.

Stopped somewhere on the way home that was not where we thought it was and then went home.

Had a bath, a beer, a saké; may relax soon.



We got up and had breakfast, yum, yum.

Then went to the AKABE TEMPLE!!

This was where Akabe became famous in Aizu.

Said thank you to Akabe.

Had a selfie, then did a video for class 5S.

Then had a yum, yum lunch, then back to the minshuku.

Oh, also, me and mum went in a graveyard that was closed then back to the minshuku.

Now I am writing this diary, waiting for my shower and bath.

See you later!!!


Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Minshuku Aizu


Light rainfall.

A heavy onion theme in this morning’s menu.

The noodle broth and fried potato featured prominently.


Pickle 1: shallot

At first, it looked like a large clove of garlic.

Firm, with a slight sheen, almost pearlescent.

You have to go all in on this one. It is too slippery to be held with chopsticks and bit into.

Not overpowering in onion flavour, but definitely like eating raw onion. The brine was sweet and thin. Almost superfluous.

I can’t think of a time I would eat this again.

It has no complexity or subtlety.


Pickle 2: Plum

25mm in diameter.

Heavily wrinkled, like a walnut.

The skin has a slight sandpaper texture.

It is a firm, crisp pickle that is tart and the medicinal sweetness comes very late in the tasting.

The size is dominated by the pit, which makes it difficult to eat around.

Honestly, that damn onion is still all over my tongue and this ruined anything good this pickle has to offer.

It is mediocre in quality and too much work for the small reward.


Connoisseur two

Another plum.

More traditional umeboshi than yesterday, but too crisp for my taste.

I enjoy popping a whole umeboshi into my mouth and sucking it off the seed.

Not possible with this plum – too large, too hard.

It remains uneaten on the plate.


I did not regard the shallot as a pickle.


Connoisseur one – Kitakata observations

Kitakata eggplant symphony restaurant

Pickle – cucumber

Thick slices, probably 10 mm thick and 50 mm in diameter.

A perfect size for takin two bites per piece.

A dominant sprout flavour.

Not very salty.

Crisp with a slight miso under current.

A good complement to the rest of the meal, which featured eggplant and wasabi tofu.

Only two pieces were provided.

It was a good interlude to the meal.

Any more sprout flavour and it would be too much, but it balanced the cucumber flavour with the sweetness of the roasted eggplant and took my mind off the sadness of knowing I would never again taste the ecstasy of that fig dish.



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Nine


Today we fully abandoned the “serving suggestion” trip itinerary that was thrown into chaos by the introduction of student three’s car.

We drove to an Edo period post town, taken off the main highway by the Meiji restoration, so retaining its original buildings. Lots and lots of gift shops, housed in beautiful old buildings with thatched rooves


Bought my first hard core souvenir: a dragonfly noren, with money wife gave me for such things two Japan trips ago.

Later, on her advice, daughter and I visited an off the path shrine.

It was truly magical. No. Just for student two, I make that capital T, Truly magical.

Daughter herself stopped talking, except in occasional whispers.

It was an other worldly place. Totoro lives here.

Too early to go home, so we bathed our feet in a train station, foot bath, onsen, where wife made a new friend.

Then we took student one to see a nearby, famous rock/river/sacred site, that the rest of us had visited two years ago.

He enjoyed the geography, but apparently not the cave monk’s lack of the pursuit of excellence in table manufacture. Student three and he subsequently engaged in a long winded, pointless, philosophical argument about this table.

On the way home, we stopped at a tori leading into a forest, that we had spotted earlier, on the way to the village.

Best steep stairs in Japan so far.

Student one once again demonstrated his arachnophobia was as real as he has always claimed.

Brief chill out at the minshuku, then Ne Ne Ya for the usual excellent repast. This was marred only by a heated philosophical debate on extreme cultural relativism versus universal truths. Personally, I find that kind of relativism equates to moral cowardice, but this is not the place to carry on the argument.

Food was good.

Back to the minshuku.

Nice bath.

Now drinking sake with my beloved wife.



I got up, played some phone games while waiting for mum and dad to get up.

When they FINALLY get up, we had some breakfast.

When we were done with breakfast, we got ready to go out to an old village.


You might think this is a crazy idea, but I found, FULL BOTTLES OF DRINK IN THE MOUNTAIN WATER!!!

That is TRUE!

That is what they did before we had refrigerators. They would use cold mountain water.

We also had my favourite food, mochi on a stick. So yummy.

Then we headed somewhere so amazing, me and dad.


This was walking distance, not far from the old mountain village. It was like a Totoro forest, how a bunch of trees were growing together.

Once we entered the gate, all the loud noises just, WERE JUST GONE!!

We could not hear any cars at all! Then we entered another gate.


Even the mushrooms were glowing.


We did our shrine wishing, then back to the village.

We saw some cool looking spiders, Mummy long legs.

Once in the village, we waited for the others to get back . . . . . then they FINALLY arrived.

We hopped in the car. Then went to the place that I went to on my first trip. I was eight then and I was scared, but now, not as much. Did exploring, then bought some peaches and apples.

Then went back to the minshuku, then had a shower and bath, cleaned teeth, then went to bed.



Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Minshuku Aizu


The quality of light reflecting on the tatami highlights the glossy shine of today’s pickle.

The breakfast was heavy with mushrooms.


Only one pickle today.

Seaweed with some thin mushrooms.

I can’t nail down the flavour of this pickle.

The seaweed is firm with almost a candied coating.

It is salty with an earthy sweetness.

Not a good pickle for eating on its own, but would be good in a sandwich to provide a counterpoint for mustard.


Connoisseur two

Seaweed and mushroom.

Flavour is difficult to define, but distinctly Japanese.



Texture chewy, but not overly so.

Not a palate cleansing pickle, but certainly a tasty one.



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Eight


Today, student three bought a car, so transportation is now positively luxurious and simple.

Our weary legs thank him.

In said car we travelled to the Nisshinkan.

The dynamic between student three driving behind the wheel and student two driving from the back seat is going to be a source of ongoing entertainment.

Nisshinkan was good, is always inspiring to visit.

We then lunched at Ne Ne Ya, successfully feeding everyone.

Next stop was the helix tower and its surrounds: White Tigers memorial and other shrines.

Student one paid for us to ride the travellator instead of the stairs, continuing the leg free theme of the day.

Wife, not coping with all the easy travel and worried her blister were beginning to heal, decided to walk back to the minshuku.

We chose the car.

A relaxed evening of chatting, drinking student three’s yam vodka, playing cards, then bed.



I got up.

We had breakfast, then hopped in the car, drove to the forest, then had a beautiful walk.

I went up the hexagonal, weird tower with students two and one. Dad did not go up though.

Then looked at some SPECTACULAR sacred trees, they were HUGE. Daddy too my photograph with the SPECTACULAR TREES.

Started to go back to the minshuku, then mummy showed up at the door as we arrived.

We went inside, then I had a bath and shower, cleaned teeth and then bed.


Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Minshuku Aizu


Light rain

The ticking of the one working clock was there to remind us of the fleeting beauty of the morning’s breakfast pickles.

Pickle 1

Freshly made cucumber in a sweet brine.

Thinly sliced.

Accented with small pieces of seaweed.

A good start and the sweetness keeps with the theme of the breakfast.

Pickle 2

Flaming kimchi.

As previously reviewed: nice and hot.

But probably not an intermediate course between two sweet pickles.

Pickle 3


About 30mm in diameter

Under ripe.

Slightly furry texture on the skin.

Biting into it is an exercise in commitment. There are no nibbles with this pickle. There is initial resistance, until sufficient pressure is applied and then you bite straight down to the pit.

The flavour is intensely sweet, but doubtful that is due to the natural sweetness of the fruit.

The first impression is cherry syrup that would be poured on shaved ice.

There are notes of cough syrup and old lollipops.

I enjoyed this pickle.

Mainly because of the lingering sourness that arrives and stays.

It is practically candy.


Connoisseur two

Fresh cucumber and seaweed.

Fresh is the correct term for this pickle.

Delicious, not too piquant.

An excellent palate cleanser.


Large umeboshi – also homemade.

Too sweet, hints of aniseed.

Odd texture and quite vile.


Kimchi is back.

Perfect as before and necessary to remove the taste of the plum.



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Seven


Big festival day.

No, that was yesterday.

Is late.

Is bourbon.

Today we went for a walk in the forest.

I come here for the forest.

Off to town for the Shinsengumi remembrance ceremony.

Was hot, much sun.

It burned.

So many speeches.

Daughter and I hid from the sun behind a bell tower, where a man recognised her from last night’s dance horror and took that as permission to speak with me.

It was not.

He gave daughter some weird gifts and mentioned kangaroos and wallabies to me.

We moved away from him and back to the ceremony.

He followed us.

He explained there would be a sword demonstration.

Yes, I said, that is why we are here. I gave him my business card and explained we do sword back in the Antipodes. He looked up the web page and forced a nearby, anonymous person to photograph him, myself and daughter as a family portrait.

No sword ever happened, so the two of us left, leaving wife somewhere in the crowd.

We sat at a nearby concrete park, waiting for her. Eventually, the cigarette smoke forced us out.

We refound wife and left.

On the bus ride back the other joined us.

We and student one hopped off the bus at the nearest supermarket to the minshuku to buy dinner and, it turned out, lots of alcohol.

Student one bought pickles.

Lots of pickles.

Plan was to catch the bus home.

No buses.

We walked.

It hurt.

Was much longer than the map suggested.

Ate food, drank, good chats, will go to bed at some point; maybe shower first.



We got up, had breakfast and I found that there was soba noodles!! Yum, yum, yum!

After breakfast, we said goodbye to student four, then she left . . . . .

Then we headed out, there was a ceremony. AGAIN so boring.

Then this guy came over to me and gave me gifts! After that he wanted to take my photograph.

Me and dad left after that to eat some inari zushi. Then waited . . . . . and waited . . . . . until the ceremony FINALY finishes.

We went to the bus to go to the supermarket for food, (with mum), then headed to the minshuku and had dinner.

Hung about, then it was my shower and bath time and I had that time with mummy, then cleaned teeth and went to bed.

Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Minshuku  Aizu


A cool morning with a slight breeze.

Only one pickle.

It looks like chopped bok choy in cow drool.

Upon lifting a small chunk of it the clear mucus appears to reach back to the bowl for safety.

I touched a small bit to my tongue and was repulsed.

It did occur to me that perhaps it wasn’t me who offended the chef, but instead another in the group.

It doesn’t matter.

I have been doomed to pickle Hell.

I await what new form of pickle torture they will devise tomorrow.


Aizu Supermarket Pickles

Below the minshuku stairs

Two packages of two pickles each


Low humidity

Slight smell of old brochures and manga in the air

Pairing: second beer of the day, (Kirin, red can)

Pickle 1 – Cucumber

Classic, slightly sweet pickle.

The pickles were a delicate small diameter that was thinly sliced.

Salty and complimented the chips well.

Pickle 2 – Cucumber


Medium diameter, thinly sliced.

The flavouring was similar to dill, but more citrus.

I found this to be a good pickle.

Worthy of a middle course.

Pickle 3 – Cucumber

This was packaged with the daikon radish.

It was a similar flavour and saltiness.

I would have begged for this pickle this morning, but tonight I found it to be far too salty.

Not a good accompaniment to the chips, but okay with the beer.

It is suitable for mindless eating.

Pickle 4 – Daikon Radish

We began the day with the worst life has to offer and we finish the day with a solid pickle.

A pickle with a crunch that resonated in my teeth.

A pickle large enough to cover the top of my tongue and delight several different flavour sectors.

This is not a legendary pickle.

Nobody is writing a song about this pickle.

But it was a fantastic way to end the day.


Connoisseur two


No real review here.

Tasted some bitter glutinously stringy mass.

No inclination to pursue beyond the first bite.

Pickles remain in their bowl.


Aizu Supermarket Pickles

1. Daikon Radish

For a generic daikon radish, it is surprisingly good, and I make an excellent homemade daikon pickle.
This one is a little heavy on the turmeric, but is crisp and nicely salty, with just the right level of piquant.

2. Cucumber A

Extremely salty – a little disappointing.

3. Cucumber B

Is purple, also very salty with a hint of citrus.
Yuzu perhaps.

Slightly disappointing chewy texture.

4.Cucumber C

Milder than the others, takes a while for the salt to build up.

Definitely crunchier than the purple, with which it shares the packet.

Best of the cucumbers in my opinion, but I have just finished my second bourbon.



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Six


Delightful breakfast, as we have come to expect.

Then crowded bus to the castle. Student two spoke to a Ginger whose Japanese was as good as his English.

Much of the festival was difficult to see – I had no idea there would be so many people here!

Wandered towards the town in the wake of the procession, to meet up with the others so we could eventually wander out again and catch a bus back to the minshuku.

Hung out there.

Students two, three and four went for a drive in student four’s car.

Wife, daughter and I went off for dinner at a local soba place.

It was shut.

So we stayed on the bus to go to an Italian café we had discovered last trip.

It was shut.

Fortunately, the café opened once they saw us – seems they remembered us from last year.

The vegan garden salad was very good.

Time to go home.

But no!

Wife hears the evil siren sound of the Bandaisan dance.

They are doing it again.

Japanese, fucking, Morris, fucking, dance!

Many, many, many hours later, I managed to plug my family’s ears with wax and blindfold them long enough to escape the endless loop.

By this time, daughter has been regaled with fans, tiny hatha, a happi coat, (which was returned after the dance), and much praise from the locals.

Walk to the taxi rank, back to the minshuku and now writing this whilst others shower.

Students two, three and four are still out.

Last anyone saw of student one, he was surrounded by flirting Japanese women in what was ostensibly a free, English language, guided tour of the castle.

He was the only gaijin in the group.



It is the day of the big Aizu samurai festival at the castle.

Today I did not want to bus, but I HAD to, yep.

I was right, so boring. I could not see ANYTHING. Tree branches, including people, blocking the entire thing.

Me and dad were going to get some water, but no water, and we could not get back to mummy.

We watched the samurai march by with all their armour. This time I could see SOMETHING!

After that mum met us and we had mochi on a stick. YUM! I had it with no sauce. Mum had it with sauce. Dad took a photograph of some spiders and a HUGE fish and a quite big turtle.

Then we walked for a while, then headed back to the minshuku. Hung out for a bit, then headed out for dinner.

I had spaghetti.

We heard some loud music with taiko drumming. Me and mum were excited!

It was the BANDAISAN DANCE!!!!!!!

Dad was like, no, no, no.

But me and mum just danced.

I borrowed the clothing for the dance and actually joined the group, then got a flower on a hair band. A lady came over and tied it in my hair then she gave me a sign. After that we did more dancing. Then a camera pointed directly at ME!

After the dance I got a gift: fan; then another gift: another fan.

Then we headed back to the minshuku. Had shower and a short bath, cleaned teeth, then bed.


Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Minshuku Aizu


A warm morning

Sounds of traffic dominate the quiet moments between those who choose to talk at breakfast

Only one pickle on offer this morning.

The quality leads me to believe I have inadvertently offended the chef.

  • Very small mushrooms in a sweet sauce
  • Mild notes of chilli pepper
  • Slight molasses flavour

I tried.


I tried bits of this pickle throughout the meal and it complemented nothing.

The green tea only dulled the odd flavour.

I did not like this pickle and found it disagreeable.


Connoisseur two

One pickle only today, difficult to have more than one taste, but if pursued, the sense of doubt remains.

Mushrooms and what is theorised to be molasses.

Too sweet and not piquant enough for this palate, with a sticky texture.



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Five


All but daughter and I went off to a memorial service for the war dead. We thought it sounded far too much like school assembly, so decided to give it a miss.
Instead we walked to the herb garden. Daughter wanted to turn back halfway, but once there enjoyed the place immensely.

Probably because she found a cricket and a duck.

After the serenity, we made a quick dash to a nearby supermarket for lunch supplies for her and beer for me, then made it back to the gardens with three minutes to spare before the bus arrived.

At the minshuku we did the laundry, threw animals at each other and watched Sumo wrestling to a Laurie Anderson soundtrack.

Students one, two and three also eventually came back and we set off together, by bus, to the castle and the children’s lantern festival, and to meet up with the wife and student four.
They were not there, so we followed the procession into town.

Here there was an infinite folk dance loop that captured daughter and student two and later also wife.

After many, many hours we managed to break the spell, extract the dancers and escape the crowds for a long walk home and bed.


Yawn . . . . Yay! Another day in Aizu!
Lazy day!

While mum and the others went to a boring ceremony, me and daddy had the day together, so we went to the herb gardens, and my phone went out of battery. Yes, AGAIN! So annoying isn’t it?

I had a go at daddy’s camera. So complicated. But I managed to take a good photograph of some flowers. We saw a huge bee. It was this big: [                                                 ]. That is HUGE! Then saw some big fish, they were as big as the entire page! And some were Super big.

Then ducks came super close to me! So amazing! It was like the animals knew me and trusted me!

Then we headed back to the minshuku. I ate lunch: inari zushi, sprouts, cherry tomatoes and CHIPS! So yummy.

We played catch, watched sumo wrestling on TV and relaxed.

Went to the children’s lantern festival, ate some Hot Chips!.

Also did the Bandaisan dance.

Then had a shower with students two and four, then went to bed.


Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Minshuku Aizu
Light rain
Dull senses from last evening’s saké

Pickle 1 – Seaweed
Long thin strips with sesame and a thickened soy sauce
Delightful in its unremarkableness
There is nothing about it to keep me from eating a bucket of it, or from wanting more
The sesame notes linger

Pickle 2 – Spicy Kimchi
Step 1: pick up more than you normally would, (pieces are slightly larger than expected)
Step 2: feel the limp structure of the leaves and doubt its texture
Step 3: bite down. Continue chewing longer than expected
Step 4: wait for the heat to build, and build, and build.
This is like Latin dancing with someone who is a much better dancer than you

Connoisseur two

Good texture, not too chewy, slightly sweet and sprinkled with sesame seeds. An excellent counterpoint to the kimchi.


Delightfully piquant with just the right amount of heat that slowly builds at just the right pace as one continues to eat



Japan Trip 2018 – Day Four


The ryokan was able to provide adequate breakfast for four of us.

I saw a falafel shop on the way to the train station; this glimpse counted for my meal.

Wife discovered yesterday, thanks to some helpful English speaking railway officials that our IC cards would get us to Aizu, so she loaded them up with enough yen to do so and we boarded our first train.

The rain is nice.

On the second train we were informed by the non English speaking railway staff and also via phone by other English speaking rail staff, that no, our IC cards would not get us to Aizu. So cash had to be paid to cover this leg of the journey and somehow we have to try and recover the money off the cards back in Tokyo. Wife was not happy about this and having expressed her feelings, perhaps less than adequately for her, she is now known as a person of interest to all railway employees and security personnel in the Kanto and Tohoku districts.

Dropped our bags at the minshuku; confirmed the veganess of our breakfasts and headed back into town for a relaxed meal at Ne Ne Ya, one of our favourite eating places.

Student four was waiting for us when we returned. She had been exiled from the School many years earlier for once calling Archimedes, “the heel guy”, in class and now lives in Japan studying classical history in her spare time. Catch up chats and saké before heading to bed.

No one other than myself has expressed anything besides confusion and horror at my Plan B for staying in Japan:

I have the minshuku family adopt me as their half human, half tengu hybrid offspring and they keep me here with room and board, but because of the shame, I never have to interact with others.

Is a good plan.


We got up.

We packed our bags, then headed to the train station and waited . . . and waited . . . until our train FINALLY arrives.

Mum had a talk with the handler to show us where carriage 1 is. He led us, we said thank you, (in Japanese). We boarded the train and sat down. I played slitherio. After that we hopped off and waited . . . until another train that we are supposed to catch FINALLY arrives and we boarded and I played slitherio, but my phone went flat.

I was so bored after that.

Had a wolf nap, then hopped off the train.

When we arrived at the train station I played with Akabe, then caught a taxi to the minshuku.

Showered and bathed after dinner then went to bed.



Today’s Tsukemono

Connoisseur one

Ryokan breakfast

Lingering humidity between light rain

Western breakfast with three pickles

Pickle 1 – radish

Sliced in rounds and quartered

Very peppery and crisp

Gone before I could grasp it

A fleeting thought of a pickle

Pickle 2 – shibazu?

Reddish colour and minced with sesame seeds


I could spend a moment with each 1 mm x 1 mm piece

Pickle 3 – cucumber with heavy turmeric taste

Very thinly sliced and looked withered

The spice was overpowering, but there was a satisfying crack when I bit down

Disappointing that this was the last pickle for the day