9.28.2012

Voyage Home (Part 1) - Tribute to the Land of Bonito and Shochu

©2012 Rika Manabe Photography


Here it is. I'm finally posting about my Japan trip that happened three months ago. In the late Spring, I returned to my hometown with the kids to see my family. This time, I had a very specific mission in mind - EAT whatever foods I fantasized eating at home, especially seafood. Oh and of course, to have some quality time with the family. 

(I decided to make two posts out of the trip so that it's easier to go through.)

I hadn't been back home for four years. I managed and survived the flight to Tokyo with two toddlers without my husband. I had arranged for my mom to meet us in Tokyo since we had to transfer to another airport → fly for two hours → drive for another two hours to finally get to my parents' home, which is more like reaching to a goal rather than destination.

But it is worth the long trip. Everyday, every meal, was just wonderful and incredibly fresh.  We had fish caught by local fishermen or ourselves every night for dinner. Fresh salad with vegetables that my dad and other family members had grown too. 

The town is very well known for bonito (see where the blog name came from?) and sweet potatoes. My family worked in both the bonito fishing and sweet potato farming industries for generations. 




©2012 Rika Manabe Photography


The photos above are taken at the local port where the bonito boats arrive with the catch. Bonito is a very important fish in Japan because smoked bonito sticks are used to make broth. 




©2012 Rika Manabe Photography


My dad used to work on a bonito fishing boat. Nowadays, he just enjoys catching small fish like aji, saba and squid around the coast at home. The way of fishing you can see in the photos here was my favorite summer activity when I was little because I was guaranteed to catch fish every time.  My dad cleaned them and my mom fried and then marinated them with sweet vinaigrette with onions and carrots. It was the best and seeing my kids experiencing it was worth the long and challenging trip back home. 






©2012 Rika Manabe Photography


As I wrote in my past posts, I've been getting into growing my own food at home. The inspiration comes from everywhere including my parents. My mom has been a health nut all my life. e.g., she would eat the parsley meant for garnish at restaurants because she thought she wasn't getting enough greens on her plate. My parents have a small garden in which they grow vegetables like cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes, green onions, kabocha squash and shiso







©2012 Rika Manabe Photography


My cousin who is very superstitious took us to this odd shrine which has become a sensational popular spot in Japan recently for making your wishes come true... if you can walk from here to there with a rice pot lid on your head without dropping it. We didn't make it because it was so windy, but I hope our wishes will come true anyway.




©2012 Rika Manabe Photography

As I mentioned, the town is also known for producing sweet potatoes, which are mostly used to make shochu.  Shochu is a clear liquid alcohol. I think it's more like vodka, processed differently from sake. It's hard to find here in Seattle, but I just saw some for sale at a Korean grocery store and they had one made only a few blocks away from my parent's house. Anyway, if you've never had it before and find yourself at a Japanese restaurant, give it a try and see what you think.

©2012 Rika Manabe Photography

The photos above and below are taken at a shochu museum.

©2012 Rika Manabe Photography


My cousin also works at this izakaya in our neighborhood offering local dishes, meaning lots of shochu and bonito. Izakaya is like a pub or laid-back bistro in Japan. The Sashimi plate at the top of this post is from this place as well.



©2012 Rika Manabe Photography


Here's a photo of a bonito dish below called kabutoni - kabuto means head. Basically the whole fish head is chopped into big pieces and simmered with soy sauce, sugar, sake and ginger. People who know fish know that the head is often the best part. And yes, you are supposed to eat it like you would ribs in America. Grab a piece and eat it all up including the eye balls! 

Unfortunately? I have never been brave enough to suck the eye area like my parents do and I probably never will be able to... but you never know.


©2012 Rika Manabe Photography


To be continued to the next post which will be up by the end of the week, hopefully... I'll be posting photos from one of the most amazing restaurants I have ever been to in the world. No kidding.



NOTE: All the photos and content of this post is reserved and copyrighted by Rika Manabe Photography and Bella Bonito.

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