Wednesday, July 29, 2009

World 1-2 (龍河洞)

Ryugado is one of three major limestone caves in Japan, and as such, it is a major tourist attraction in Kochi Prefecture. The less said about the horrendous Onaga-dori Center the better (see pics below).

Being a cave, most of the joy of visiting Ryugado comes from admiring the different stalactites and rock formations. The cave is also home to dwelling space and artifacts used by an ancient and long forgotten people. Wouldn't you agree that the phrase "long forgotten" adds mystery and intrigue whenever it's used?

The $10 price of admission allows visitors to walk through a 1 km long predetermined route inside the cave, ducking under rocks and squeezing through narrow passageways as they go.

There's also an adventure course available, that has participants strapping on head lamps and traveling into the inner depths of the cave. Wishing to avoid those pale, missing-link creatures from "The Descent", I chose to stick to the wussy course.

Needless to say, it was incredibly cool inside the cave (both definitions of the word "cool" apply in this instance). Since the place was packed with tourists, it did at times feel like some sort of giant spelunking conga line - squished back-to-back with fellow visitors, all waiting to snap our photos of the next stalactite or mite.

Occasionally a water droplet would pelt my shoulder, having wiggled its way down from the labyrinth of rocks above. It was during one of these fleeting moments that I realized...I am Indiana Jones.


Entrance to Ryugado Cave in Kochi Prefecture. Watch out for the ferocious guardian lion!

Making one's way through the cave can sometimes be difficult. Time to suck in those guts!

Is it just me, or does the big one look exactly like a giant king crab leg?

These waterfall-like stalactites make for a nice photo.

Dramatic green lighting and stalactites are a perfect match.

What you see here is the Kami-no-Tsubo or "God's Urn". Though mostly covered in limestone, this historic artifact dates back over 2000 years. It is believed to have been used by the 'primitive people' who once called Ryugado home.

The primitive people are believed to have looked exactly like this.

Onaga-dori in training.

The Onaga-dori or "long-tailed cock" is a cross between a pheasant and a Japanese rooster. These famous Kochi birds are prized for their rarity and unusually long 8 meter tails. How do you raise a bird with an 8 meter long tail? Why by strapping it into a locked cabinet and restricting its movement of course!

(Blogger says this is my 2000th post!)

Gives a new meaning to "cock in a box". Yay for the inhumane treatment of animals!

"Be seeing you!"

Anybody get the reference?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ehime Gourmet 1 (美食の第1巻)

As my time at Ehime University begins to wind down, I find myself entering what can only be rightfully described as "going away party season".

Since almost all of said going away parties will take place at fancy-pants restaurants, I consider it my personal duty to document all of the delicious and beautiful food that I will be eating.

This first volume - entitled, "The Fish Dinner" - features dishes from a downtown Matsuyama seafood restaurant named Nishitomi (にし富).

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed eating the food...oh wait, that's not possible!


Hamo ~
The meal began with this appetizer of pickled Hamo or conger eel.

Kame No Te ~
Literally "turtle's hand" in Japanese, this is actually an edible barnacle. Cracking open the exterior reveals meat that is similar in flavor and texture to clam.

Sashimi ~
Including a giant raw oyster from Yamaguchi Prefecture!

Fish Head ~
Tai (red snapper) simmered in sweet soy sauce with strips of gobo (burdock root).

Tempura ~
The left spiral is hamo (the same fish as before) wrapped around pickled plum. The right spiral is regular eel wrapped around green onion.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Beach Boy (桂浜)

Katsurahama is a famous beach located about a half hour outside of Kochi City via bus. The spot is particularly famous because it "faces the Pacific."

I find this description a bit odd, since I was under the impression that all of eastern Japan "faces the Pacific." In any event, perhaps Kochi Prefecture is merely proud of the fact that its uninterrupted coastline generates big waves. Waves so big, in fact, that swimming at the beach is off-limits.

There's not much to do at Katsurahama aside from stroll along the waterfront and appreciate the waves. Though, the beach is home to a smallish aquarium and a museum dedicated to Kochi's homegrown government overthrowing hero, Sakamoto Ryoma.

Enjoy the pics below!


Welcome to Katsurahama Beach in Kochi Prefecture!

A view of the entire beach.

"Take my arm!"

Probably the most picturesque scene from my visit.

A closeup of the small temple jutting out into the Pacific.

Looking through the torii gate towards the beach.

Katsurahama is home to a famous statue of...well, I'll just let you read the Japanese.

The back of the statue...

...and the front.

A Kochi native, Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬) was instrumental in overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate and bringing about an end to Japan's feudal period. He was also assassinated on his 33rd birthday. Talk about a crummy way to go!

UPDATE: I have since been informed by a student that this statue is unique in that Sakamoto Ryoma is wearing both a traditional kimono and modern-style shoes. East meets west baby!

A dramatic shot of Kochi's favorite son.

"It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Market and a Castle (日曜市・高知城)

The two main tourist attractions located within Kochi's city center are the Sunday Market and Kochi Castle.

The former is a 1 km long chain of outdoor tents and stalls, all selling locally grown meat, fish, and produce at insanely low prices. There are a few stalls that sell souvenirs, such as Kochi's famed kitchen knives, as well. From a distance, the entire set-up is remarkably reminiscent of a homeless tent city.

While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, I found it fun to stroll past the stalls and examine all the strange and unusual vegetables. 10 points if you've heard of an indigenous Japanese ginger shaped like a tulip bulb, known as "myoga".

Despite being a bit on the small side, Kochi Castle is well worth a visit. It is known as one of Japan's 12 "intact" castles. This means that all of the inner buildings and castle keep are still in their original pre-Meiji Restoration form, dating back to 1729.


Kochi's weekly Sunday Market has been going strong for over 300 years. This 1 km long outdoor shopping center features over 600 stalls, all selling different types of fish, meat, produce, and souvenirs.

Here you can find things like tubers...

...or festive coal in many attractive shapes and sizes...

...or a giant tower of sweet potato fries!

Now to change gears. It says "National Treasure Kochi Castle". The "national treasure" part (first two characters) is written using old-style kanji variants not commonly seen today.

Here is Kochi Castle's giant rock wall!

Peeking over the trees.

Kochi Castle has a bit of an odd shape. This was the most complete picture I could get of the entire structure.

Saying goodbye to Kochi Castle.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kochi City (高知市)

Since I was blessed with another seemingly random Japanese holiday this past Monday - thank you Ocean Day! - I used my three-day weekend to travel to Kochi Prefecture.

I am now pleased to say that I have visited all of Shikoku's four prefectures. Kochi, the largest one, covers the entire southern half of the island. Since Kochi faces the Pacific Ocean, it is a popular destination for aquatic activities, including canoeing, rafting, and whale watching.

Kochi's size also means that it is rather inconvenient to explore without a set of wheels. It takes a minimum of one hour to travel from Kochi City to most tourist destinations, and over three if you want to visit one of the two famed southern capes.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kochi. Subsequent posts will focus on the places I visited in and around the city. In the meantime, down below are some pics I snapped while wandering around downtown.



Harimaya Bridge is the most recognizable landmark in downtown Kochi City. This is because the bridge was the setting for an ancient and tragic love story. In the story, a Buddhist priest buys a hairpin for his secret lover from a store beside the bridge. Being a priest, he is forbidden to have such a relationship. He is soon found out and sent away. I'm crying as I type this.

They were setting up a festival in the local shopping arcade. Spotted this life-size bowling alley...

...Also spotted this. Never seen a grandma mannequin before!

Kochi Prefecture is famous for its Katsuo (Skipjack Tuna). Here you see Katsuo-Don; slices of tuna sashimi over rice.

This is the most popular way to eat the fish: Katsuo Tataki, or "Seared Skipjack Tuna". This dish is quite similar to seared ahi in America. The Kochi variety is served with sliced onion and garlic, in a light ponzu sauce.

Closeup of the meat.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bird Brain (下手物)

Went out to a yakitori place last nice with some friends. The super special menu item was a grilled wild bird. Make that a WHOLE grilled wild bird. As you can see, the neck, head, and beak were all intact. Sorry the pic isn't better, I took it on my cellphone.

Every part of the bird was 100% edible (and delicious, I might add!). The head was the best part. After biting through the crunchy skull, the creamy bird brain oozed in your mouth. Just like Gushers!

I'm working to get my "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" merit badge.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Water World (西条市)

This past weekend, I visited the nearby city of Saijo with a few friends from the medical school. Saijo is approximately one hour east of Matsuyama by train, though our trip took considerably less time thanks to a car. One hour from Saijo is Ishizuchi Mountain, the tallest mountain in western Japan.

Quite simply, Saijo is famous for its water. The city is said to have the tastiest water in all of Japan. Having not personally sampled water from throughout the country, I cannot attest to the validity of this statement.

Though, my first gulp of Saijo water, from a plastic bottle conveniently filled at one of the city's many public watering holes, was certainly a pleasant one. The water was crisp, cool, and refreshing. But honestly, in near 90 degree weather with insane humidity, even dirty pond water would have been pleasing.

Due to its first-rate water, Saijo is home to many sake breweries, as well as the Shikoku headquarters for both Asahi Beer and Coke. The fruits and veggies are also said to be wonderful as well. The city doesn't have much to offer in terms of dedicated sightseeing spots, though we did visit a shrine, an eel restaurant, and an onsen (in that order).

My fridge is now stocked with bottles of all shapes and sizes. I'll be drinking Saijo water until 2012 - at which point the world will end.


This majestic water pyramid welcomes you to Saijo City in Ehime Prefecture. Saijo is approximately one hour east of Matsuyama by train.

My friends and I visited a shrine in Saijo City. Unfortunately, I forgot the name of the place. You can also see the decorations for Tanabata in this picture.

Saijo Water - A favorite among demons!

This guy is sad because he recently had to move to To-on City for business, and no longer gets to drink Saijo's delicious H20.

Since Saijo is said to have the best tasting water in Japan, there are a number of these fountains sprinkled throughout the city, where visitors can fill up their water bottles. I only brought a small sports bottle, but my friends filled giant, bomb shelter-style water tanks.

Quick! Better fill up before it's all gone!