Yaki and Age and Ice! (oh my!)

22 04 2010

So, festivals (or matsuri) are pretty common in Japan, but some how I had managed to avoid them for the last 6 months or so.  Not intentionally, it just happened like that.  Anyway, at festivals there are always heaps of little stalls selling the standard foods like yakisoba, yakitori, takoyaki, okonomiyaki and chocco-banana.  So when you see something new, it’s pretty exciting (well, for a food geek like me).

When I went to the Mito Plum Festival there were two new stalls that I had never seen before –

Yakiniku Onigiri

Yakiniku Onigiri

Firstly we have Yakiniku-Onigiri, basically a rice ball wrapped in thinly sliced barbecued meat served with cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce and sesame seeds.  The line for this stall was really long, but well worth the wait.  At 300yen or so, they are slightly expensive, but they are really good!  Kinda taste like a burger actually.  And since the Plum Festival I have also seen stalls at my local Cherry Blossom festival, so hopefully they are catching on!

Agemonja

Agemonja

Next we have Agemonja, which is Monjayaki in a fried pastry shell.  Monjayaki is the Kanto region version of Okonomiyaki, a savory pancake made with cabbage, however Monja is… well… runny.  So I guess in order to make it a hand held food they needed to put it in a shell (as opposed to Okonomiyaki, which they just wrap around a chopstick).  Once again, the line for this stall was quite long, however this time it was due to the time it took to put it together and fry it.  It priced at about 500yen which, considering the size, is quite standard.  However..  it tasted kinda funky.  When Monja is good, its good.  When its bad, it pretty gross.  I think the ingredients were turning bad, it had a slight bitter taste.  But great idea!  I think if you had this made well it would be tasty.  Plus they should add some cheese.  Cheese goes with everything!

Here’s a view of the insides, to give you an idea of the consistency –

Inside Agemonja

Inside Agemonja

And finally, although not a stall, what festival is complete without ice cream!

Ume Icecream

Ume ice cream

And at a Plum Festival you have to have plum ice cream!  It tasted like Umeshu, which is plum liqueur with a sweet and sour flavour.  It was a little strong, and I think it would have been nicely toned down if you could get a mix of ume and vanilla ice cream, but yum none-the-less!

More ice cream adventures are coming next when I write about going to Hakone with Lauren!





Kairakuen Ume 偕楽園 梅

18 04 2010
Kairakuen Gate

Kairakuen Gate

Another very famous place to see Ume (Japanese Plum) is Kairukuen 偕楽園 in Mito 水戸, Ibaraki 茨城県.  Kairakuen 偕楽園 is actually known as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, and has over 3000 plum trees.  The Mito Plum Festival 水戸梅まつり is held every year from February 20th to March 31st, and lends the garden a fun, festival feel on top of the plum blossom viewing.

Kairukuen 偕楽園 is accessible from Kairukuen Station 偕楽園駅 during the festival, but trains are irregular.  It is also approximately 30 minutes walk from Mito Station 水戸駅.  Entrance to the park is free, but to enter Kobuntei 好文亭 (The traditional Japanese house) is 190yen.  More details are available on the Kairukuen 偕楽園 website.

Here are some photos from my visit to the park on March 18th.

View towards the lake

View towards the lake

As you can see, on a Sunday during the festival there are a lot of visitors at the park

Kobuntei

Kobuntei

Kobuntei was also really popular, with lines over 30 minutes just to enter.

White and Pink Plum Blossoms

White and Pink Plum Blossoms

The day I went to the park the blossoms were about 80% in bloom, and there was quite a variety.

Green Plum Blossoms

Green Plum Blossoms

These blossoms were unusual as they have a green center.  I was listening to a guide who said that even a week before the green was very strong.

White Plum Blossoms

White Plum Blossoms

Kairakuen also has a bamboo grove and cedar wood –

If you want to see some more pictures check out my flickr set.

Also, keep an eye out for my food report from the festival!