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Posts Tagged ‘Grantourismo’

Last spring my husband and I travelled for the first time to Japan. We arrived at Kyoto by train and checked-in in a small hostel at Gion district. A lovely place in a pedestrian street with red paper lanterns and old-style houses.

It was a rainy evening, the streets were almost empty and we only saw a small restaurant with no-photo menu and no English signs in the facade. We sat at the bar and asked for food, a difficult task given a bad combination of us not speaking japanese and them not understanding english. While we’re looking at the cooks preparing our meal our waitress suddenly stopped and screamed at the door. A geisha entered!l The restaurant workers were extremely happy with her visit.

The geisha was curious about us and asked a lot of questions about where we were from. When she didn’t know some word in English she explained with sign language. We were fascinated with her, her make up and clothes were perfect and she was so delicate in her moves. She didn’t eat much but drank a lot of sake and beer.

We finished our unexpected dinner with the geisha and one cooker asked to take a photo with us. We also wanted a photo with the geisha but we thought it wasn’t polite, she was dressed to eat with some clothes off and paper napkins to protect the rest of her dress. That’s why there is no geisha photo, she is only in our memories!

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo Homeaway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

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Last spring my husband and I travelled during 20 days around Japan. It was a travel of many discoveries: perfect queues to take the train, toilets with more buttons than my mobile, geishas up and down the streets and food… mmmmmmm, the food!

We used Hiroshima’s streetcars to move around the city. The fare is just 150 yen (£1.10) and stops and signs are in English… Japanese do try hard to make tourist’s life easy! We visited a modern and stimulating city, it’s hard to believe that an atomic bomb fell there on 1945. And we also tasted an okonomiyaki, a dish we hadn’t heard of before and an easy way to justify our whole trip to Japan.

So, let’s start with the name! “Okonomiyaki” is derived from the word “okonomi” that means “as you like” and “yaki” that means “cooked on a grill”. Western people compare okonomiyaki to pizzas or pancakes, depending on if you’re talking with an Italian or a British… You get the idea: bread (more or less) with toppings (anything you can imagine and some you can’t!).

Okonomiyaki is Hiroshima’s most famous dish. To get the complete experience you should eat it in Okonomi Mura (okonomi village), a building with 3 floors of Hiroshima-yaki eateries. We visited it on a rainy Saturday evening and there were families with kids, young couples and teenagers. Be warned, though, smoking is not forbidden! Okonomi Mura isn’t a stylish building. It’s really old, but all the same you feel like you are transported to bladerunneresque future.

There are two cities in Japan that claim to have the best okonomiyaki style, Osaka and Hiroshima. The ingredients are pretty much the same but the cooking technique is not. Osaka style puts all the ingredients in a bowl with the paste, mixes and then grills it. Hiroshima style requires a progressive layering of the ingredients, it should include fried noodles and it’s much more elaborated. Don’t tell osakans but we prefer Hiroshima style!

Every Hiroshima-yaki begins with the chef placing a very thick circle layer of wheat flour paste on the grill. After this, a lot of cabbage and fillings like pork, noodles or shrimps go on top. Then, the chef continues his show by flipping the whole thing over, breaks a fresh egg and places the other special toppings like bacon, corn, green onions… He flips it over again and puts the original okonomiyaki sauce (like Worcestershire sauce but sweeter). We watched amazed while two different cooks took turns on our okonomiyakis, layering ingredient after ingredient. In the typical Okonomiyaki restaurant the grill is in front of you and close to your table so the okonomiyaki remains hot while you cut and eat it.

So, sit down where you prefer and experience the okonomiyaki. Japan has a fame of being an expensive country, but eating an okonomiyaki in Okonomi Mura will only set you back around 1.000 yen (£7.5). Worth every penny!

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo Homeaway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

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