Tag Archives: Bento

Japanese Gastronomy: Eels at Chigusa in Hamamatsu City!

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Service: shy but very friendly
Facilities: traditional but very clean
Prices : reasonable for eels (eels are very expensive in Japan)
Strong points: Eels! Only local fish used! Great view on Hamana Lake

Summer is eel eating time in Japan, especially in Shizuoka renown all over the country for its great eels mainly bred around Hamamatsu City and in Hamana Lake in particular.
So the other day we decided to visit at long last a famous but traditional and very reasonable eel restaurant lost by the Hamana Lake in Mikkabi, Hamamatsu City, called Chigusa (ちぐさ/千草)!

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So instead of boarding a regular train, and taxi or bus we took a local train along the Tenhama Line (Japanese web site), a trip I would advise any true traveler (and photographer) to take to enjoy the sights and discoveries of old Japan!
We got down at an unmanned (yes, they still exist! Talk about Japanese trust!) station in the blazing sun.

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The station is called Okuhamanako/Far side of Hamana Lake.
Get down there and try to reach the main road through the countryside as soon as you can (there are many ways!)!

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This particular area, Mikkabi in Hamamatsu City, is famous all over Japan for its (still green now) oranges!

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Once you reach the main road turn left and walk along for 10 minutes along the Hamana Lake!

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You can’t miss it even if you can’t read Japanese as a long black eel is welcoming you from afar!

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A picture/snapshot not to miss!

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The entrance with unagi/鰻 written on the noren/暖簾, entrance curtain!
Who’s that guy taking a picture? LOL

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Past the entrance you will find these long metal tubes wrapped in rice straw ropes.
What are they? Can you guess?

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Portable fireworks!
This very rare festival is held beginning of August in Hosoe near Hamana Lake. I couldn’t manage my schedule to report but I’ll do it next year! Promise!

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Have a good look at the souvenirs before entering the dining room!

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Very traditional Japanese atmosphere inside!

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The menu is in Japanese, but the pictures will give a very good indication!
I personally chose the above, the best eel “double-decker” lunch set. Even at 3,200 yen (32 US $) it is very reasonable when you realize that the eel prices have almost doubled in the past 3 years!
And the eels are exclusively locally bred in Hamana Lake!
It is worth the trip, even by car as there is a big car park!

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Another important detail: you will have to wait some time before your order arrives. A good sign proving that contrary to the “cheap diners” food is individually prepared for best quality!
The lunch arrives at your table in a bento box shape on a tray.

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Take off the lids…. et voila!

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A succulent light soup containing eel liver/鰻肝!

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Home-made Japanese pickles, o-shinko/オシンコ!

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The broiled eel double decker/unagi jyuu/鰻重!

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Two layers of eel grilled and broiled to perfection with two layers of freshly (very important!) steamed rice enhanced by the sauce of the eel
Take your time and use chopsticks to make sure you eat slowly and appreciate it to the fullest! This eel in eel country!

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This gourd-shaped receptable contains shijimi/七味 mixed spice powder you can sprinkle over the eel for extra zip!

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Dragon (my worse half) chose the above which contains a single layer of broiled eel but with finely shredded omelet between the fish and the rice!

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Really appetizing, isn’t it?
I forgot: we visited Chigusa on Dragon’s advice! LOL

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Do I need to mention I helped Dragon to finish it under the pretense of sharing?

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It would certainly be a dilemma if I had to choose only one of those two lunches!
Make sure to come with a special company to taste as much as you can as I daresay that yen for yen this is the best value for eel in the whole Prefecture! (but I’m sure a lot of people will disagree! LOL)

CHIGUSA ちぐさ/千草
Hamamatsu City, kita Ku, Mikkabi Cho, Mikkabi, 1148-10
Tel.: 053-525-0218
Opening hours: 11:00~14:00, 16:00~20:00
Closed on 31st of December and 1st of January only
Reservations strongly recommended
Take-outs OK!
Cards OK
Non-smoking at lunch time
Car park available (30 spaces)
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)
BLOG (Japanese)

RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

BULA KANA in Fiji
Kraemer’s Culinary blog by Frank Kraemer in New York,Tokyo Food File by Robbie Swinnerton, Green Tea Club by Satoshi Nihonyanagi in Shizuoka!, Mind Some by Tina in Taiwan, Le Manger by Camille Oger (French), The Indian Tourist, Masala Herb by Helene Dsouza in Goa, India, Mummy I Can Cook! by Shu Han in London, Pierre.Cuisine, Francescannotwrite, My White Kitchen, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento, Hapabento, Kitchen Cow, Lunch In A Box, Susan at Arkonlite, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Bento Lunch Blog (German), Adventures In Bento, Anna The Red’s Bento Factory, Ohayo Bento,

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Another Pint, Please!, Beering In Good Mind: All about Craft Beer in kanzai by Nevitt Reagan!
-Whisky: Nonjatta: All about whisky in Japan by Stefan Van Eycken
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Non gastronomy must-see sites by Shizuoka Residents

HIGHOCTANE/HAIOKU by Nick Itoh in Shizuoka City

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Japanese Traditional Local Festivals: 5th Annual Miwa Cherry Blossoms Festival in Shizuoka City!

Recent times have seen a revival of local festivals in Japan, especially in the rural areas, probably because people wanted to forget the sluggish economy and come back to more basic social gatherings after long years spent away in dehumanizing cities.
My good friend Neil had mentioned that his neighborhood in Miwa was organizing their 5th Annual Sakura Festival yesterday so I rode my bicycle for a good 45 minutes from home till the other side of the Abe River in Shizuoka City!

I left my bicycle at Neil’s place and walked till the Miwa Primary School where I found this banner announcing the Cherry Blossoms Festival!

For once that the weather was fine I walked on the causeway along the Abe River.

It is still winter and the water was pretty dry in all senses of the word!

I finally espied the site!

The Festival has been scheduled on the 3rd Sunday of February whatever the conditions or weather.
Unfortunately the last three weeks have witnessed unseasonal cold and the early-blooming Kawazu Cherry Trees had not blossomed yet!

For a closer view!

On the other hand the Japanese plum trees were still very much in flowers!

And the kumquats were everywhere for a picking!

We are full in leek season! Great to fight colds!

Plenty of beautiful colors to be found in private gardens!

But someone had made sure we had some cherry blossoms on site!

Neil had been designated as the sound engineer of the event!

You can’t have a festival in Japan without drums!

I wonder what those fox masks are for!

Robust ladies!

Oranges and tea on sale!
Notice the “dustbins”!

The site was small but certainly crowded!

Local bonsai on sale!

Local farmers selling their produce!

What are they preparing here?

Tonjiru soup for free!
Very thoughtful of the organizers!

Ashikubo Green Tea!

Sweet dango/balls!

Boxed lunches and wagashi cakes!

Chirashizushi bento!
All bentos are really home-made before put on sale!

Okonomiyaki!

Grilled sausages!

Deep-fried sweetmeat buns!

Yakisoba!

Candy Floss!

Grilled mochi cakes!

Local Benihoppe strawberries!

Home-made umeboshi!

They even had a small flea market!

Oden!

Dorayaki!

Very traditional dance!

Another very traditional dance!

And very traditional drinking!
RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

Francescannotwrite, My White Kitchen, 47 Japanese Farms Through The Eyes of Its Rural Communities, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento,Adventures in Bento Making, American Bent, Beanbento, Bento No, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box,
Susan at Arkonlite, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Bento Lunch Blog (German), Adventures In Bento, Anna The Red’s Bento Factory, Cooking Cute, Timeless Gourmet, Bento Bug, Ideal Meal, Bentosaurus, Mr. Foodie (London/UK), Ohayo Bento,

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

The Homey Art Of Bento-Shizuoka Style!

All the bentoes are from the Missus’ archives!

Preparing a bento is an act of love.
Or an apprenticeship to love for single people!

As expats, although its notion has been ingrained in our gastronomic brains for more than half a century (not accounting for the Army ration packs of older generations), a lunch box simply cannot be compared to a Japanese bento!
After all, Western lunch boxes were a bit of a misnomer when you consider their very basic contents piled into an artless tin box.
On the other hand, why has bento grown so popular abroad (i.e. out of Japan)?
You just have to browse the Internet or Home Cooking Magazines to realize it has progressed far beyond a mere fad. The concept is here to stay and spread all over the World eventually.

Bento officionados usually agree on the following as the reasons for its popularity:
-Health: a real bento combining all the ingredients of a normal meal (and even more!) is bound to make up for a better-balanced repast than any lunch you would hurriedly buy at a baker’s, fast food joint or supermarket before wolfing it down at your office or workplace.
-Practicality: bento is conceived to be carried in vessels taking a minimum amount of space in your luggage. As it is usually wrapped with chopsticks (or fork and spoon) inside a tablecloth or large handkerchief one only needs to untie it, leave it atop its wrapping, open it and enjoy it at leisure on your office desk, at the company cafeteria or in a nearby park.
-Aesthetics: you just have to open a well-conceived bento box to have your friends or colleagues peer into it with envy and wonder. How many times have people witnessed others taking photographs of each other’s creation for further reference? Good friends will actually venture as far as exchanging some of their better morsels!

The idea that a bento is a woman’s or wife’s (or girlfriend’s) work has slowly but steadily become obsolete.
In Japan they even show (single) men preparing their lunch box alone in the kitchen on prime time TV shows.

Choosing your box or vessel:
Although traditional cedar wood boxes make for an exquisite gastronomic experience, one does not have to lavish money on extravagant bento boxes.
Such boxes may be of all shapes and material.
Many young Japanese men go as far as designing their own boxes into metal and plastic encased sets that look more than space shuttle contraptions than anything else.
A hard round plastic Tupperware can make for an appropriate bento box if you use plenty of dry curry over rice (don’t forget to decorate with crumbled boiled egg and a few sprigs of green!).

A rectangular bamboo fiber case very commonly found to pack souvenir treats will do well for sushi rolls where they can stand their cross section up.
Do not discard any reusable box that can be easily transformed into a practical vessel for your lunch.
Now, if you want to invest some money into a true Japanese bento box you basically have the choice between a compartmented box (round, square or rectangular) and a single-tiered or double-tiered bean-shaped box. The former usually comes lacquered while the latter can be made of cedar tree sheets bound with cherry tree bark.
I must confess that I have a special fondness for the latter because one can separate his/her lunch into two distinct “dishes” one can pick from in turns.
Do not forget your chopsticks, or fork or spoon. Choose the former to last long enough for the sake of ecology!

-But I have no time to prepare a bento before going to work in the morning!

True to say, a good bento requires some planning and organization.
But the more you put into it, the more contented (or proud) you, your partner or family member will feel.
Actually bento is no less than the epitome of slow food disguised into fast food if I may afford the apparent contradiction:
A bento bought at a convenience store is fast food. A lunch concocted with love and passion is slow food. But you eat it like fast food!

Organization should not be that complicated.
First of all decide on your staple the night before: rice, bread (yes!), potato (why not?). Keep in mind this will form at least a good third of your lunch.
Next check your fridge for meat or fish for the main “partner” of your staple. That is, if you are not vegetarian. Talking of vegetarianism (or veganism), this is not an obstacle at all!
Alright, you have decided on your staple and its partner. You still have to think of how you are going to accommodate your meat or fish. Fried? Sauteed? Steamed? Broiled? And their seasoning!

Next, think of dietary balance and decorative value.
This is where you have to think of the vegetables and fruit (no biscuits, or junk food, please! Keep it healthy!). Are you going to serve them raw (don’t forget you need dressing including oil for good digestion of raw vegetables!), grilled, fried, or steamed? Keep it in mind to strike a good balance between all ingredients. The key is not to prepare them all in the same fashion!
You will find out quickly that colors are a good guide when considering the nutritious value of your bento!
Right, you have struck the right balance and proportions!
Now it is up to your artistic sense!
I’m sure you will be able to emulate the picture(s) in this article and even better after some practice!
Why?
Because bento is an act of love!

RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

My White Kitchen, 47 Japanese Farms Through The Eyes of Its Rural Communities, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento,Adventures in Bento Making, American Bent, Beanbento, Bento No, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box,
Susan at Arkonlite, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Bento Lunch Blog (German), Adventures In Bento, Anna The Red’s Bento Factory, Cooking Cute, Timeless Gourmet, Bento Bug, Ideal Meal, Bentosaurus, Mr. Foodie (London/UK), Ohayo Bento,

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery