A Travellerspoint blog

Hita, Japan

Arriving in the Japanese port city of Fukuoka, we hustled to the bus station to catch the bus to our next destination; Hita. This small town of about 70,000 people is nestled in the mountains of central Kyushu island. Here we will be working on another farm for around ten days. The house is quite full as they already have one WWOOFer and a Japanese agricultural student.

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The first day of work we went to one of the farmers' numerous fields that are sprinkled around the town. This particular field is next to the nicest house in the city and has several security cameras installed. The owner also has a full chest and arm tattoo and is unquestionably yakuza (mafia). Because of this, the fields are free to use as no one else wants them.

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Another of his fields is out in the surrounding mountains. Here the issue is wild boars that like to play in the rice paddies. To prevent this we installed an electric fence around the paddies after cutting the bushes down with sickles and weedwackers. The day ended with me testing the fence and a sunburn on my forehead.

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Third and fourth day are spent picking weeds in a field and pruning his decorative gardens. He said the last time was in May but I don't think the previous WWOOFer trimmed that much as it was overgrown. I must thank my mother for making me tend to her numerous gardens, as I impressed them with my trimming abilities. Instead of merely trimming branches I also removed whole trees to allow sunlight in and avoid overcrowding.

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As for the food there is almost to much to eat. We have had several great meals and here is a small collection of them. The first is tonkatsu or a breaded pork cutlet served with a silky smooth egg tofu, blackened eggplant (skin removed), miso soup with house made soybean paste and rice from thier fields. The pork was cooked perfectly, moist and tender, with a crispy exterior that held together.

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Another great meal was home made sweet curry. It gains its sweetness from tomatoes and bananas and the flavor is rounded out with several different spices and yogurt. Unfortunately, the picture was taken by Ben and it along with other pictures disappeared from his phone.

We also visited local craftsmen. There is a small village that was created in the late 16th century by Korean pottery craftsmen. Only ten families are allowed to practice the trade and it is strictly regulated. It is a craft that is taught from father to son.

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For dinner we had tonkatsu, a breaded and fried pork cutlet. It was cooked perfectly with the inside still moist and the outside crispy. As usual a menagerie of side dishes were included.

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In the morning we had mochi pizza. Mochi is a certain type of rice that is pounded until it becomes a sticky paste. This mochi here was made by our hosts from their own rice and was exceptionally good. The flavour was more robust and the texture was silky. Bake it into a pizza with fresh ingredients and you have a great dish.

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We made a journey to the outskirts of town to visit the last remaining blacksmith in the city. Here I picked up a new knife to assist me in all of the cooking I will need to do to test recipes when I return home.

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On our next free day, we went to find Ben some new shoes. I told him that it might be an issue due to his enormous, American feet but I think we found a pair large enough for him. They had a selection of odd geta (Japanese wooden sandals), including one with wheels and a pair for two people to wear back to back. This is a Japanese version of a three legged race. They also had several signed geta by famous sumo wrestlers, baseball players and others.

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During the summer months, Hita city builds a giant fish trap to snare the local ayu fish. This is highly prized as it has a sweet pleasent smell similar to watermelon. It is salted and cooked over coals til its blackened. The meat is sweet and is one of the best river fish I've ever had.

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We stopped by a local miso/soy sauce/fish and meat sauce/ramune factory. While it was not the busy season, the president still gave us a tour of the factory and explained the processes behind thier 30 different products. Apparently, there is a different type of soy sauce for each type of food. Ramen has one type, udon another, sushi a third, etc. Half of the restaurants in Fukuoka city use this factory's products and they export them to Michelin Star restaurants in Europe and America. I asked about the production and forOnee large bottles (about 1.8 gallons) and they churn out 300,000 in a single year. One of their signature products is Ayu fish sauce. Using the fish that we had eaten earlier, they produce a sweet smelling and robust flavor sauce. They also make ramune (soda) here and have patented their rainbow selection of organic ramune. I have had ramune before but they tend to have to much sugar. However, these were nicely balanced and had great flavor.

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Hita is renown for its fresh water and many factories have been built here to utilize this natural resource. One we went to was the Sapporo company and were able to taste a selection of their beer. Three large glasses within twenty minutes left me a little tipsy.

While we were going to only stay 7 days initially, we ended up at Renge farm for 16 days because of the great hosts, city and food. However, everything comes to a end and now we must continue on. There are only 17 days left before we return to the States and another adventure begins.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 19:34 Comments (0)

Hita, Japan

Arriving in the Japanese port city of Fukuoka, we hustled to the bus station to catch the bus to our next destination; Hita. This small town of about 70,000 people is nestled in the mountains of central Kyushu island. Here we will be working on another farm for around ten days. The house is quite full as they already have one WWOOFer and a Japanese agricultural student.

IMG_20140820_073429_472.jpg
IMG_20140815_170518_961.jpg
IMG_20140815_163700_797.jpg
IMG_20140815_152642_448.jpg
IMG_20140815_163700_797.jpg

The first day of work we went to one of the farmers' numerous fields that are sprinkled around the town. This particular field is next to the nicest house in the city and has several security cameras installed. The owner also has a full chest and arm tattoo and is unquestionably yakuza (mafia). Because of this, the fields are free to use as no one else wants them.

IMG_20140816_130915_131.jpg

Another of his fields is out in the surrounding mountains. Here the issue is wild boars that like to play in the rice paddies. To prevent this we installed an electric fence around the paddies after cutting the bushes down with sickles and weedwackers. The day ended with me testing the fence and a sunburn on my forehead.

IMG_20140817_122858_688.jpg

Third and fourth day are spent picking weeds in a field and pruning his decorative gardens. He said the last time was in May but I don't think the previous WWOOFer trimmed that much as it was overgrown. I must thank my mother for making me tend to her numerous gardens, as I impressed them with my trimming abilities.

IMG_20140819_073214_308.jpg

As for the food there is almost to much to eat. We have had several great meals and here is a small collection of them. The first is tonkatsu or a breaded pork cutlet served with a silky smooth egg tofu, blackened eggplant (skin removed), miso soup with house made soybean paste and rice from thier fields. The pork was cooked perfectly, moist and tender, with a crispy exterior that held together.

IMG_20140821_203558_455.jpg

Another great meal was home made sweet curry. It gains its sweetness from tomatoes and bananas and the flavor is rounded out with several different spices and yogurt. Unfortunately, the picture was taken by Ben and it along with other pictures disappeared from his phone.

We also visited local craftsmen. There is a small village that was created in the late 16th century by Korean pottery craftsmen. Only ten families are allowed to practice the trade and it is strictly regulated. It is a craft that is taught from father to son.

IMG_20140820_113628_556.jpg
IMG_20140820_114913_136.jpg
IMG_20140820_114149_428.jpg

For dinner we had tonkatsu, a breaded and fried pork cutlet. It was cooked perfectly with the inside still moist and the outside crispy. As usual a menagerie of side dishes were included.

IMG_20140821_203436_816.jpg

In the morning we had mochi pizza. Mochi is a certain type of rice that is pounded until it becomes a sticky paste. This mochi here was made by our hosts from their own rice and was exceptionally good. The flavour was more robust and the texture was silky. Bake it into a pizza with fresh ingredients and you have a great dish.

IMG_20140827_113111_062.jpg

We made a journey to the outskirts of town to visit the last remaining blacksmith in the city. Here I picked up a new knife to assist me in all of the cooking I will need to do to test recipes when I return home.

IMG_20140828_101427_252.jpg
received_m..9473e5507_0.jpeg

On our next free day, we went to find Ben some new shoes. I told him that it might be an issue due to his enormous, American feet but I think we found a pair large enough for him. They had a selection of odd geta (Japanese wooden sandals), including one with wheels and a pair for two people to wear back to back. This is a Japanese version of a three legged race. They also had several signed geta by famous sumo wrestlers, baseball players and others.

IMG_20140829_150720_815.jpg
IMG_20140829_153443_812.jpg
IMG_20140829_153429_834.jpg

During the summer months, Hita city builds a giant fish trap to snare the local ayu fish. This is highly prized as it has a sweet pleasent smell similar to watermelon. It is salted and cooked over coals til its blackened. The meat is sweet and is one of the best river fish I've ever had.

IMG_20140828_110724_368.jpg
IMG_20140828_111201_772.jpg

We stopped by a local miso/soy sauce/fish and meat sauce/ramune factory. While it was not the busy season, the president still gave us a tour of the factory and explained the processes behind thier 30 different products. Apparently, there is a different type of soy sauce for each type of food. Ramen has one type, udon another, sushi a third, etc. Half of the restaurants in Fukuoka city use this factory's products and they export them to Michelin Star restaurants in Europe and America. I asked about the production and for the large bottles (about 1.8 gallons), they churn out 300,000 in a single year. One of their signature products is Ayu fish sauce. Using the fish that we had eaten earlier, they produce a sweet smelling and robust flavor sauce. They also make ramune (soda) here and have patented their rainbow selection of organic ramune. I have had ramune before but they tend to have to much sugar. However, these were nicely balanced and had great flavor.

IMG_20140831_123543_245.jpg
IMG_20140831_115025_435.jpg
received_m..f6c8b8e28_0.jpeg

Hita is renown for its fresh water and many factories have been built here to utilize this natural resource. One we went to was the Sapporo company and were able to taste a selection of their beer. Three large glasses within twenty minutes left me a little tipsy.

While we were going to only stay 7 days initially, we ended up at Renge farm for 16 days because of the great hosts, city and food. However, everything comes to a end and now we must continue on. There are only 17 days left before we return the States.

IMG_20140901_110403_934.jpg

Posted by CulinarySojourn 19:31 Comments (0)

Busan, South Korea

From the capitol, we make our way south to the port city of Busan. From here we will take the ferry to our next destination. The only entertainment for the five hour ride is watch the scenery.

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We arrive later than expected and the first night is spent in a rush to get to the hostel before they close. Another case that having a phone that worked would be quite useful. After settling in we venture out to find some food. The area we are in is surrounded by two universities and there are several bars around. One of the bad things about Korea is that public drunkenness is accepted unless things turn violent but passing out in the street or vomiting is common in the streets. It is annoying at best and can be quite a trail at the worse as we would discover.

We found a BBQ restaurant and tried to order several different dishes only to be told that you have to have three people to order it. We eventually used the translation app to tell them to pick out a dish, as every one we chose was wrong. The owner fussed over us, cooking the meat for us. At least until Ben chased her off only to burn the meat. A little char is what he said but once the owner saw it she brought some scissors to cut off the burnt parts. We eventually convinced her not to bother since Ben wanted it that way.

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In the morning we head to a unique temple. Unlike the majority of Korean temples that are built in the mountains, this one is directly on the shore. After that we headed to the nearby beach. Normally it is quite crowded but the raining weather kept the crowds away. There were some girls in bikinis but they were a part of an advertising group handing out free samples of instant spicy rice. We were unable to secure any for trail.

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As we were at the beach, we went to several of the fish markets. I was searching for spicy grilled eel but was unable to find any that looked fresh. We found a food alley and quickly found several carts to try. The first dish is thin dumplings with a rice filling, sauteed and topped with spicy octopus and cabbage. The guy even topped us off with a few extra. I did find a Busan specialty, a donut filled with sesame seeds and sugar. This was so tasty, I couldn't wait to take the photo. Waffles are everywhere in South Korea and here was no exception. Topped with apricot jam and fresh whipped cream they are delicious and fluffy.

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As we depart on the ferry for Japan, we are treated to the Diamond Bridge. Thousands of LED'S make the bridge sparkle like its namesake.

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Our room on the ferry was shared with six others. Most were fine but three decided to stay up and get drunk. Once they came stumbling in they were loud and obnoxious. While two had been in earlier to set up their beds, the third waited til now to grab his pillow and futon. Ben had his bed where the drunk Korean wanted to be but Ben wouldn't move. This would be a fateful decision, as he laid down next to me and fell asleep. Some time during the night he rolled over and started to spoon me, with his arm over me. Despite a quick elbow to his chest, as I was asleep and expecting a late night tryst, he rolled back over and and continued to sleep. A couple of other times during the night I had to push him back on his mat and I cursed Ben every time. My only solace was that apparently he had it even worse.

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Here is an example of one of the nicer rooms.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 02:02 Comments (0)

Seoul, Jeonju and Geunsansa; South Korea

We encountered our first medical issue, other than disagreeable food, here in South Korea. Ben has injured his ear and will need to stay at the hostel to rest and continue to see a doctor for the issue. Unfortunately, the hostel has no room left, so I must figure out what to do for the next three days.

For the first day, I tour around Seoul more on my own. Checking out the large temple in the southern portion near Gangnam and eating some massive dumplings in the north. The filling is a mix of pork and tofu giving it a much softer texture than just meat alone. The broth is made with ox bones and has a delicate flavor.

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For the night I headed to a local jjimjilban. This is a Korean bathhouse, where you do indeed need to be nude to enjoy the bathing facilities (not coed). Once you soak in the tubs of different temperatures, you change into clothes given to you by the bathhouse and can enjoy the rest of the facilities. They also had TVs and a comic library for you to use. They also had a few saunas to use with small pebbles to lay on and a cold room. Once your finished, you can pick up a mat and a pillow and find room on the floor to sleep. All of this for a duration of 12 hours for only $10.

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Needing some food after walking around I visisted the restuarant to purchase some food. At this jjimjilban you add money to your account and then your key becomes a credit card to pay for optional amenities. The meal was a sweetened soy stock with thin cut meat and rice noodles, which included rice and three sides. The stock was rather thin, needing more soy sauce to brighten the flavor.

The next day I boarded a free shuttle to the city of Jeonju. The local tourist board has a special, limited time, shuttle they auction the seats to foreigners. I tried for all three possible days and managed to get some tickets for Saturday. Jeonju has one of the largest hanok (traditional Korean residential neighborhood) in Korea and is filled with local tourists trying out the scores of street food carts and restaurants in the area. This area is known for its excellent cooks and a variety of dishes that have since spread to the rest of Korea. The most famous being bibimbap, or rice topped with up to thirty different ingredients and then mixed together. It is a filling meal that showcases the best of the local produce.

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Towards evening, I ventured into the mountains to do a Templestay at Geunsansa. This program is part of the Korean government's drive to share the culture of Korea. After learning the basics of Korean Buddhism, I participated in some meditation and prayer sessions (one at 4:30am, its a good thing Ben wasn't here). We also made a rosary of 108 beads after doing 108 full prostrations. After 80 it was hard going. We also enjoyed the temple food which was bibimbap, curry and a delicious soup which reminded me of collard greans but using soy beans instead of pork.

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The next day I headed back into Jeonju and grabbed some locally made yogurt with cactus flavoring. Where Aryan was watery, this was thick enough you had to chew but had a great flavor. I also had fried cheese, similar to mozzarella but more crumbly, and a shish kebab of sausages and tofu covered in a sweet mustard and teriyaki like sauce. I then jumped on board the shuttle again and arrived back in Seoul in time for more fried chicken with a mostly recovered Ben.

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The final night was once again spent in a jjimjilban. I was a little concerned, as it was late and the trains stop running at a certain point. One of the reasons for the popularity of these 24hr bathhouses. I didn't want to be stuck halfway to my destination in the American part of town (which also happens to be the most seedy part). This particular bathhouse has six floors including a video arcade, a outdoor pool and several restaurants and salons.

In the morning I headed back to the hostel where Ben was at and met back up with him to prepare for our trip south to the port city of Busan.

Posted by CulinarySojourn 05:43 Comments (0)

DMZ, Korea

We traveled north to the border with North Korea. It was unfortunately a overcast day so we were not able to see much into the reclusive country. The Demilitarized Zone is a 4km wide strip of territory that was created as part of the ceasefire in 1953 between the two Koreas. There are restricted villages from both Koreas on their respective sides. The North Korean one had no one living there til factories were built by the South on the North Korean side of the border. South Koreans living in their village receive $80,000 a year and are exempt from military service. However, their actions are severely limited and are under guard at all time.

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Part of the tour included going into the restricted Joint Security Area (JSA), which is a United Nations HQ with South Korean and American forces. While the first part of the tour allows you to see the DMZ and the villages inside, this portion brings you to the border and into the conference room used by both sides. Technically we were 4 meters inside North Korea. While the JSA had several guards stationed, North Korea only had a lone sentinel.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 17:20 Comments (0)

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