Car Trip to Izu

Omihachiman 近江八幡

We reached our first destination before noon and went straight to the William Merrell Vories Memorial Hall. Vories came to Japan in 1906 as an English teacher with the intent of telling people about Christ. Later he founded the Japanese Mentholatum company and also an architectural firm, jointly called the Omi Kyodaisha. (近江兄弟社)He married an aristocrat named Makiko Hitotsuyanagi and finally became a Japanese citizen.

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Vories Museum in Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture



William Merrell Vories

Many buildings designed by Vories still stand here and in other cities. We saw several of them as we walked around this area. The old post office was very interesting. as was the Omihachiman Church.


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Bungo-san, guide at the Vories Museum

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Omihachiman Post Office (Wm. Vories)

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Omihachiman Church (Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan)

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Omihachiman YMCA (Wm Vories)

Walking around, we found an antique shop and, though most things were out of our price range, I bought some old postcards of Omihachiman and an old “fujin-zashi.” (Woman’s magazine. ) Here I am with the owner of Nakajima Shoten. (中島多吉商店)

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Members of the Local HIstory Research Club (地歴探訪倶楽部のメンバー)

At lunch, we happened to talk to a few of the members of a unique club based in Osaka. They visit many historic sights with a guide twice a month to learn about local history. They have been to many areas like Nara, Himeiji, Kyoto and so on. They learn about places and events that are not so well known! I thought this was a great idea and envy them! There are about 50 members in their club.

Junko-san had urged us ot visit the Sweets Shop called La Corina. (ラ・コリーナ)We were so surprised at this amazing “living” building. There were so many people even on a weekday that we didn’t order any desserts. We found a small bakery behind the main building and bought some rolls there! Amazing place to visit!

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La Corina Cafe in Omihachiman

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From there, we drove up a very winding mountain road to our inn, the Hotel Wellness at Yunoyama Onsen, Mie Prefecture. It was a kind of scary road and I was glad HIroo was driving and not me!

Inuyama (犬山市)

Our next stop was at Inuyama Castle, the only castle remaining from the Senkoku Period.  (1467~1603) It was built in 1537 by Oda Nobunaga’s uncle. It is a designated National Treasure. The Steps inside that lead up to the watchtower on top of the tenshu were quite steep for me ot climb. But hte view from  the top is definitely worth it.

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View from atop Inuyama Castle

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Watchtower atop the Castle

I enjoyed the old buildings along the streets beneath the castle and ate “gohei mochi ” at a little shop there. I wish I’d had more time to enjoy the area. But I had an appointment to meet a very interesting person at the Million Dollar Cafe!

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WIth artist and cafe owner, Takeshi Ozawa,(百万ドルカフェ、犬山市)

For 50 years, Mr. Takeshi Ozawa has run this cafe. It was first a pub, then a unagi restaurant, and now it is a karaoke cafe. We ordered coffee only but look what they served us.

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Ozawa-san is an artist. He told me that at a very low point in his life he dreamed of a dragon. He had the same dream three times. Then he painted the dragon and after that he continued to paint。

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I was so glad to meet his business partner (former wife) Chitoshi. She and I hit it off. I liked her a lot and she was so friendly and easy to talk to ! You should definitely stop by this place. YOu certainly can’t miss it if you are driving by!

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Million Dollar Cafe, Inuyama

Yui Port- Mt Fuji- Izu

Hiroo wanted sakura-ebi tempura on rice for lunch so we found the Yui Port and got in line. There were tables and everyone eats outside. I enjoyed my tempura, but Hiroo got a bad stomach after eating his boiled shrimp and shirasu donburi! I don’t recommend you get that!!!

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Seafood on Rice at Yui

From there, we headed toward the Izu peninsula. ANd suddenly Mt. Fuji appeared in front of me. I’ve been here going on 44 years but never seen this symbol of Japan until now! It didn’t disappoint! What an amazing and thrilling sight!! I took over 50 pictures, I think!

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We took a central route into the Izu hanto, passing through the Shugenji Onsen (or hot springs) area. This hot springs appears in Kawabata Yasunari’s novel, The Dancing Girl of Izu. We took a break and had Japanese sweets and iced latte.

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Japanese sweets at Shugenji Onsen area 

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Shugenji Temple, Izu

I especially enjoyed the ashi-yu foot bath that is heated by the hot springs. Then we travelled on to Shimoda.

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Relaxing Foot Bath at Shugenji Hot Springs

On the way, we stopped at what we thought was a “Michi-no-Eki” souvenir shop but were pleasantly surprised that it was really a Literary Musuem. Novelist Inoue Yasushi  lived in Yugeshima near here.  He was sent to live with an old woman there from the age of three until he left elementary school. He wrote the autobiographical novel “Shirobamba” about that time.

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Two bald men at Shugenji


There is a very old and famous tunnel nearby called “Amagi Tunnel” which is also featured in the story of the Dancer from Izu.


Amagi Tunnel from “The Dancing Girl of Izu”

I really wish we had reached here earlier in the day. I wnated to hike to the tunnel and see it for myself but it was 1.8 kilometers each way. It was already 5:00 PM so I had to give up on that.


Shimoda is where Commodore Matthew Perry signed the pact to trade with Japan in 1854. Here is the temple where it was signed. We can visit the “Kaikoku Museum” and walk along Perry Road. Many old buildings with namako-kabe walls still remain and give a special aura of Meiji era to the town.

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Perry Road with lots of little shops and cafes


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Treaty signed here at Choraku-ji

We stayed in a really wonderful hotel on the ocean called Yamato-kan. The outdoor bath ( rotenburo) on the roof has a fantastic view of the bay. I enjoyed three different hot tubs and wished my daughters were here to enjoy it too!

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The view from our balcony at Yamato-kan hotel

I wanted to eat samma-zushi (mackerel sushi) and we found the one shop that sells it at the small port of Irozaki(石廊) at the tip of the Izu peninsula. Unfortunately, they were sold out, so if you hope to try samma-zushi,  you should call ahead!

I enjoyed chatting with the owner of Fujiya sushi shop, Mitchan. She has been operating this restaurant  since she came as a bride in about 1971.

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The only place that makes samma-zushi!

The samma-zushi was a recipe that her own grandmother used to make in Shimoda using vinegared-mackerel in oshizushi style. She said to salt down the mackerel for one whole day and then put into nibaizu marinade (酢100cc+砂糖大さじ1.5+塩少々)for a day before making the sushi. SHe also puts slices of fresh ginger in the marinade. Let’s make it some day!!

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I’m still disappointed that i couldn’t eat it! Next time! ANd I’ll hike to the tunnel too!!Who wants to go with me?

We made it safely home! The new Nagoya station building was crazy! So big and so many people there as it just newly opened, it seems. I’d avoid that!

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Iwashina Gakko, Matsuzaki

The last night in Izu, we stayed at a friendly family-run inn. These women are married to two brothers, one who runs a fishing boat every day. We had fresh fish. These sister-in-laws are 77 but full of energy. We all agreed we should keep working as long as we can. They seem to enjoy running the inn!

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At Sanrakuso Pension (三楽荘、松崎、伊豆)

I met Nobuko next door. She is 90, born in Taisho 15. (1926) Although she no longer runs an inn, she seems very energetic! It inspires me!

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Great trip. But next time, I’ll plan one that is not quite so far away. Hiroo had to drive really far! I guess over 1500 kilometers! Otsukaresama!


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Everyday Cupcakes


From the time my girls were little, I used to bake these versatile cupcakes, adding chocolate or lemon zest or apples and cinnamon. The kids loved them even un-iced! They are so easy as you only need one bowl and very basic ingredients. Use either butter or margarine and just one egg to make 12-16 cupcakes!




100g. margarine

1 cup sugar  (180-200g)

2   1/2 Teas Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 whole egg

1   3/4 cups regular flour  (210g)

180-200 cc milk

Cream butter and sugar. Gradually add slightly beaten egg. Mix flour with B.P. and salt. Alternately stir in dry ingredients and milk. Fill cupcake papers half-full. Add either vanilla essence or lemon.( For chocolate, melt 3 Tbsp butter and add 7 T cocoa. mix. Stir into batter.)

Preheat oven. Bake at 375F (190C) for 15-20 minutes. Cool well before icing.CookingCUpcakes

Old Friends

This week old friends visited the farm! Mayumi was my English student in junior high and high school. I hadn’t seen her in 12 years! It was great to meet her husband and kids. They live in Sweden, about an hour from Stockholm.

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Mayumi and daughter Maya,10

I was worried for Hiroo’s sake that they couldn’t speak Japanese, but fortunately even the kids spoke good Japanese as wella s English. Swedish is their main language and it sounded strange to my ears!

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Unfortunately, it rained the whole time and never let up. But we had a BBQ anyway, under the tent and on the porch!

They were staying at the nearby Green Pier resort but without meals so when we heard that, Hiroo decided to make sushi for dinner! He went to Kurose to get fresh sashimi and make a great meal. It seems the kids mostly eat salmon sushi as that is plentiful in Sweden.

We had a great time and I appreciate guests who wash all the dishes! Maya and her Mom made rice balls ( o-musubi). Maya was good at that!

Thirteen-year-old Leo is a soccer player and studies Spanish at school. ( His 4th language!!)

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Too bad we couldn’t play in the ocean or on the beach but the whole family really got into doing “take-zaiku” or bamboo craft, making chopsticks and bowls from green bamboo.

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Good sushi, Hiroo!

We enjoyed eating and talking together and I was glad to see her Mom Kay, after so many years! It is good to see old friends!

Mayumi’s husband, Bosse, was really nice and laid back! I’m glad to have the chance to meet everyone! And honored that they took the time t come all the way to Yasuura to see us!


Setsubun and Chasing Away the Demons!

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At the beginning of February, we celebrate the coming of spring , although this year we had snow up into March! The Setsubun Festival is held on February 3rd. Setsubun  means “seasonal division.” Associated with the Lunar New Year, it is kind of like a new year’s eve and thus includes a ritual to cleanse us from last year’s evil spirits.

Mamemaki (Bean-throwing)

It is customary to put on a oni (demon)mask and throw roasted soybeans from the entryway while shouting Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi! (Demons Out! Good Luck in!!) Here we see Sumiko doing that!

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Sushi Roll (We cut it! Uh-oh!)

Eating Uncut Makizushi

Around here people have a custom of eating a whole uncut roll of sushi while facing in whichever direction is determined to be this year’s lucky direction.

Another food-related custom is eating sardines and the hanging the head (or the whole set of bones on your front door. This is also to ensure good fortune and prosperity in the coming year.

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This year Itoh Mama was visiting me so we decided ot try all of these customs! Mostly eating! And I discovered that salted sardines (shio-iwashi) are delicious! I had previously thought they were a vile, smelly fish..but these salted, partially dried ones are really good!

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Hanging sardine bones on the entry brings prosperity

Many shrines hold bean-throwing rituals, also throwing mochi or sweets. I heard that people used to throw coins and children would scramble for them too!

Mamemaki in Kobe

Ikuta Shrine in Kobe, THrowing Lucky Beans!!

For more information you can look at this GetHiroshima site! Lots of fun!

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We also tried making the Cake de Sale that Namika gave me the recipe for! It has bacon, spinach and lots or gruyere cheese. Surprisingly good, it is a savory cake that goes with wine!

Finally, we did a sewing project together and made these for my bathrooms.

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Itoh Mama and me! BFF

Even though we see each other only once a year, it seems like we were never apart. Such a good sister-friend! I love  you!!




A Old-time Cookbook

I was looking for a recipe I posted several years ago and found some smart lady had put all of the great recipes on Thingaday into one nice “cookbook” for us. I had made many recipes from the  American Heritage Cookbook. One of my favorites was  Mormon Spit Pea Soup which has meatballs and potatoes and is a main dish in itself.


Mormon Split Pea Soup

We recently met a man who traps and butchers deer and wild boar and he has given us lots of delicious meat. The Thingaday Cookbook is a good reference so I want to tag it to my blog! You can find hte recipe for Barbecued Venison, which is actually cooked in a pot!


BBQ Venison

I want to make the Creole Gumbo again! Ane Prune Bread! Lots of good recipes on this site!!

Prune Bread

Prune Bread

Here is the deerslayer on the far right! Mr. Nakabepu! He also has six goats,100 chickens and 600 blueberry trees.

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Yoko is holding an egg from one of his “arokana” chickens!

We were thrilled to make friends with this interesting guy and it happens that he speaks English quite well…and took part in our English Bible class last week!! We all had a great time!

Check it out!

The Old-Fashioned Way

Happy New Year to all of you! We enjoyed a nice holiday, kicking it off with making the mochi  rice cakes the old-fashioned way with a mallet and stone mortar. The rice was steamed over a wood fire in a seiro steamer, then men took turns pounding it with a big wooden mallet called a kine. (KEY-NAY)

Steaming hte Rice outdoors!

Steaming hte Rice outdoors!


Pounding the Rice

Pounding the Rice

Hiroo was excited as he hasn’t done this since he was a kid at his Grandma’s house in Saitama! Then we hurried to divide the gelatinous mass of sticky rice into balls, rolling them by hand to shape them. Here you can see they put a sweet bean paste inside some of the mochi. But it is good plain, grilled and served with soy sauce or nori!

Shaping the mochi

Shaping the mochi

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Our friends had prepared so much food! Grilled oysters in the shell, barbecued meat and other delicacies! (Chicken momo taktaki with grated ginger and soy sauce, special kind of sashimi and many other things!)

Roasting oysters!

Roasting oysters!

Hiroo loves oysters and he ate his fill! We really enjoyed it and want to thank our hosts for inviting us!! We had a very good time! I was surprised that Hiroo wasn’t shy but got in the middle of things and made many new friends. ( Especially a pretty young girl who loves Japanese swords!)

Yuki-kun takes a turn

Yuki-kun takes a turn

Soda -kun with Grandpa!

Soda -kun with Grandpa!

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Having fun!

Having fun!

Watch this!!

Thank you all for such a good time!

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Tokyo Revisited

The National Museum, Tokyo

The National Museum, Tokyo

We don’t have the stamina to hit all the tourist stops, but we enjoyed 3 days in Tokyo. We stayed very near Ueno Station at the Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno. I would recommend it. We had the basic priced twin bed room.  But they provided everything …even pajamas and bathrobes. The best thing is the location, right across from the station. We were hungry when we arrived about 11:00 AM so we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe in Ueno Station..which was special for someone like me who lives in the countryside! The charcoal-grilled hamburger was just great!

Charbroiled Hamburger at he Hard ROck Cafe, Ueno Station bldg

Charbroiled Hamburger at he Hard Rock Cafe, Ueno Station bldg

From there we went to Ueno National Museum. I was a little disappointed in it. I would have liked more history and English explanations. You can see ancient swords that are so finely-crafted, as well as the hilt and cap with intricate designs. Also there is armor, kabuto helmets and so on.

Haniwa horse from burial mound

Haniwa horse from burial mound

Haniwa seen here were often used in burials to provide for the deceased in the afterlife.

Porcelain form Korea

Porcelain form Korea

This ancient porcelain plate portrays how the world emerges from a seashell according to Chinese legend.

Kimuraya Penny candy shop in Yanaka Ginza area

Kimuraya Penny candy shop in Yanaka Ginza area

I confess we were worn out by then and my feet hurt so we took a taxi in front of the museum and went to see Yanaka Ginza, an old commercial area with many older shops. I particularly was interested to see the ‘penny candy shop” called Kimuraya.

Setsuko Kimura at Kimuraya!Nostalgic place!

Setsuko Kimura at Kimuraya!Nostalgic place!


I met the owner and heard how the store was opened just after the war by  Kimura-san, a war widow. Setsuko was adopted at the age of 10 and has lived  here ever since. The shop was filled with treats like karume-yaki and mugi-choco!

Chestnut IceCream!

Chestnut Ice Cream!

Hiroo samples Karinto manju at a sweets shop on Yanaka Ginza street

Hiroo samples Karinto manju at a sweets shop on Yanaka Ginza street

We wandered sown the street poking our noses here and there! I had a chestnut -flavored soft ice cream! This is another cat haven so we can see cats strolling around as well as “cat art!” Hiroo tried a “karinto manju!”

Corador Bakery, Yanaka

San Godaru Bakery, サンゴダール

The battery on my camera conked out so I couldn’t take a photo of the owner of the little old bakery called San Godaru.  Hirose-san’s grandfather started it in the Taisho era. She told us the shop specialty is a cake called”Siberia” that has sweet bean paste rolled into Castella cake! But we got some sweet rolls and enjoyed the atmosphere of this historic bakery!

In the evening we walked around the Asakusa area. Here I am in front of the Kaminarimon.

At Kaminarimon, Asakusa, Tokyo

At Kaminarimon, Asakusa, Tokyo

Sensoji Temple, Asakusa

Sensoji Temple, Asakusa

We saw Sensoji Temple and had dinner in an ordinary little restaurant. By then,my feet hurt a lot and i was tired out!!

The next morning we set out for Tsukiji Market, an open air fish market that has lots of food stalls along the streets too! We met up with Moeko and had an early lunch of raw fish dishes! I had sushi, she had unagi eel on rice!

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

At Tsukiji Market

At Tsukiji Market

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It was amazing to see them cutting up the huge fish, even though we weren’t brave enough to make it to the 5:00 AM fish auction. Walking around we found such enticing delicacies as tuna eyeballs for just 100yen apiece! and actually sampled some of the sakura ebi gelato (dried shrimp ice cream!)

Eyeballs for sale!

Eyeballs for sale!

Perusing used books in JImbocho

Perusing used books in Jimbocho

In the afternoon , we visited Jimbocho where  used bookstores line the whole street! They even had an issue of The Saturday Evening Post from the 60’s selling for $100! Moeko took us to this cool cafe that is kind of a landmark in the area… Saboru!

Saboru, a iconic cafe in JInbocho

Saboru, a iconic cafe in JInbocho

After resting up at the hotel we met up with Moeko and went to  dinner at Fonda De la Madrugada, a Mexican restaurant with live mariachi band in Harajuku.

Mariachi straight from Mexico!

Mariachi straight from Mexico!

In front of Italian restaurant in Kagurazaka!

In front of Italian restaurant in Kagurazaka!

The next day we met Nobuko-san and Haruhide-san and enjoyed a lovely meal together in Kagurazaka. Hideharu-san gave me a beautiful book on Japanese art. I will do my best to read it and learn!! It was so fun to get together and talk with them! They saw us off at the subway on our way to Chiba. We had a great time in Tokyo! Thank you guys, so much!! And thanks to Satoshi for carrying our heavy suitcase all the way!! See you in Hiroshima next time!

日本その心とかたち 加藤周一


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