Tochigi #5: Mashiko Pottery (益子焼)

My sincerest apologies for the long wait for a new post. I’m afraid that I wont be much better at updating from here on out, but I shall try not to let too much longer go between posts!

Tochigi’s 5th postcard depicts the kilns of Mashiko, a small town famous for its pottery. I’ve never been, but recently Japan Guide published a piece on Mashiko in their Chotto Zeitaku series, which I thought would be fun to share with you. Since the article does a fabulous job of explaining the pottery and the town itself, I will let it speak for itself. Without further ado, please click here for more on Mashiko and the pottery experience!

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Nagano #5: Oyaki (おやき)

Sometimes I go through my old pictures and realize I have postcard pictures I haven’t ever gotten around to posting. You’d think I would be on top of this stuff!

Here’s Nagano’s fifth postcard, representing oyaki, a popular regional dumpling made from a buckwheat (soba) dough and stuffed with various vegetable or other fillings, then fried. A friend went to Nagano and brought us back some different flavors of oyaki, so while I’ve never actually had oyaki IN Nagano, I got the chance to try it and took some pictures.


Two flavors of oyaki


They are best hot, so we friend them really quickly


Hey not bad!

I’m sure they are even more tasty when you get them fresh with tea in Nagano, but they make a great snack regardless!

Hiroshima #5: Makeup Brushes (熊野筆)

Hiroshima’s fifth postcard is of makeup brushes, called Kumano brushes or fude. Originally, the area of Kumano was famous for producing the brushes used in calligraphy, but when the demand for calligraphy brushes declined, the industry expanded to include makeup brushes of the highest quality. Kumano makes about 80% of the brushes in Japan, and most of the town is involved in the industry. If you’re in the city around late September, you can see the Brush Festival, where the used brushes are burned to thank them for their hard work. If you aren’t around then, though, don’t worry! Head to the Fude-no-sato Kobo Brush Museum to see how each brush is hand made and catch a glimpse of the largest brush in the world.

After feeling the brushes I saw for sale in Miyajima, I can say that they are unbelievable soft and well crafted, but you definitely pay for the quality! Maybe one day I can afford a set of these brushes…


Postcard and brushes

Hiroshima #3 – Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

Okonomiyaki… how to describe this delicious dish? The word means basically “cook it how you like it” and refers to a sort of pancake type thing made with different ingredients depending on, well, what you like!

Okonomiyaki is famous in Hiroshima as well as the Kansai region, especially Osaka. Each area has a different style of making it. Instead of mixing it all together like in Osaka, Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is layered, and usually with noodles on the bottom then topped with lots of chives and a sweet sauce. Part of the fun of it is making it yourself on the table in front of you, and then trying to eat it with flat spoon type things before it burns. Talk about food with an effort!


Getting Hiroshima style okonomiyaki in… Yamaguchi. Oops.

Hiroshima #2 – Rice Scoop with Carp Mascot (しゃもじ withカープ坊や)

WOW, long time no post! Sorry for seemingly abandoning the site… after coming back from my trip to Europe, I was both extremely busy with work, and waiting impatiently for the 8th set of postcards to come out. Work is still busy, the new cards still aren’t out, and here I’ve gone half a month without posting anything. So I’ll be doing a post a day for awhile to show I’m not dead! Here to begin is Hiroshima’s second postcard, combining rice scoops (shamoji) made in the area with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp Baseball Team’s mascot, Carp Boy.

Shamoji are said to have been developed by a monk living on Itsukushima, better known as the famous Miyajima near Hiroshima City. Now, these rice scoops are a household item throughout Japan, often of plastic these days, but also sometimes the more traditional wood. I guess just the rice paddle was too plain of a card, so a picture of carp boy was added. Hiroshima’s baseball team is… well, they’re not that good (sorry, Hiroshima). Mostly the reason is that they are actually the only team that’s not majority owned by a company, so the team is always short of money!

Anyway, when I visited Miyajima, I could see the giant rice paddle commemorating the humble beginnings of the shamoji:


Here we go… wow its big!


Without the postcard


You can take home one of these smaller ones. It’ll fit in your luggage better, for sure!

I probably should have bought one, but I don’t actually have a rice cooker so…

Kagawa #2: Olives (オリーブ)

In 1908, olive saplings were imported to Japan and planted in three places around the country thought to have the right conditions to grow them. The only one to survive was in Kagawa Prefecture’s Shoudo Island, and thrive it did in the sunny hillsides, so much so that now Kagawa is Japan’s number one producer of olives today. There’s an olive shrine on the island, a working olive grove, a museum, shops, restaurants, and even a bath house! There’s also an Olive Harvest Festival from October to November every year. If you like beef, you might try “Sanuki wagyu”, cattle fed on dried olives. And don’t forget to pick up some olive face oil when you visit! Mmmm, olives…

Kumamoto #7: Watermelon (スイカ)

Kumamoto is the highest producer of that quintessential summer fruit, the watermelon, and its 7th card reflects that. Anyone who has tried to buy watermelon in Japan knows it’s a pretty expensive fruit. It is hard for me to justify the price when I know just how cheap and big they are back home, but I can never resist… it’s my favorite fruit! (Well, one of them anyway!)

When I was in Kumamoto last summer I didn’t have the chance to look around for any watermelon to buy, but I did find watermelon soda for sale, and grabbed some to try. I’m not sure I’d buy it again, but it was almost as refreshing as an actual slice of watermelon.


Postcard and the watermelon-themed cooler the drinks were kept in

This summer I will have to see if my local supermarket gets in any Kumamoto watermelons to take a picture with. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to eat them again!

Fukuoka #1: Mentaiko (めんたいこ)

Mentaiko is salted cod fish eggs marinated in chili sauce, and is a Fukuoka specialty. It originated in Korea, and is now popular all around Japan, especially in pasta or as filling for onigiri rice balls. I’ve had mentaiko in pasta before, and it is sometimes used as a topping for sushi rolls, but on the whole I’m not a big fan, so have never tried a big chunk at once like is popular in Fukuoka food stalls. My husband doesn’t really like it either, so I can’t count on him to eat it if I bought some for a picture, hence why I don’t have a picture for this blog. Maybe one of these years I’ll make it down to Fukuoka to take some pictures!

Shizuoka #2: Eel (うなぎ)

A few years ago I visited Nagoya City in Shizuoka Prefecture for a long weekend. I had the chance to eat a very nice (and expensive…) eel dinner during my trip, and as a big fan of eel it did not disappoint! Unfortunately, unagi is getting harder and harder to find at a good price due to high demand and overfishing, so I was glad to have eaten it when I did. I always look for eel when I eat sushi, but usually it is absent. It has a more common cousin called anago that is usually available, but on the whole I prefer unagi to anago (unagi are fresh-water eels and anago are salt-water eels by the way).


Eel over rice


Eel mixed with seaweed and onions. You can eat it like this, or pour a clear broth over it and enjoy it that way too.

Ok, now I really want some eel!

Aomori #4: Garlic (にんにく)

Aomori is the number one producer of garlic in Japan, and you can find Aomori-grown garlic at supermarkets across the country. In fact I usually always buy Aomori garlic because while there are usually fewer cloves on a head, they are very big and therefore easy to use for cooking!

Along with regularly grown garlic Aomori also produces fermented “black garlic”, a milder variety whose growth is a closely guarded secret among its producers. Apparently this kind of garlic has a lot of health benefits, and is preferred by people who find the usual white garlic variety too strong. As a lover of garlic myself, I love regular white garlic, so I’ve never tried black before, but I’ve seen it in stores. Maybe the next time I catch sight of it I’ll get some and post how it is!