Okonomiyaki (Osaka special)

I had Okonomiyaki today.

Okonomiyaki (literally means ‘grilled as you like it’) is a savoury version of Japanese pancake, made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, meat/ protein and topped with a variety of condiments. Better known as ‘Japanese pizza’ in the US, you can definitely prepare the filling and toppings however you like it. A wonderful way to use up your leftovers!

Among all the Osaka specialty, Takoyaki (たこ焼き) and Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) are most well-known.

Okonomiyaki is sometimes called “Japanese Pancake” or “Japanese Pizza” by non-Japanese speakers, but personally I think it’s more like a dish between pancake and frittata.

It’s made with flour, eggs, tempura scraps (tenkasu), cabbage, pork belly slices and topped with a variety of condiments like okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, dried seaweed, and dried bonito flakes.

If you don’t eat pork or prefer other protein choice, this dish is very adaptable. The possibility for the filling and topping choices are endless, which is why this dish in Japanese translates to “Grill As You Like” – Okonomi (as you like) Yaki (grill). I will cover this topic more later on in the post.

May be taste is ok for Indian taste buds, but I am not sure ‘coz I have been eating some Japanese food and might have gotten used to the Japanese tastes..

The Okonomiyaki I had today is of pork and another one made from fish eggs.

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Hunt for Osaka Office.

Too tired after the long walk yesterday. Today I have to be in office and prepare a bit for the presentation. So, woke up around 6 am thinking I have to reach office before 9am. Though yesterday Iwasaki-san has said it’s nearby, I need to figure out the location. Also, the checkout timing at the hotel was 11am. So, I need to checkout and find the office. Around 8am, I checked out of the hotel and asked the cute lady at the lobby about the office address.. In her broken English, somehow she managed to help me with a print out of a map. I went to the location and was confused with 3 buildings as they have similar names and everything else was in Japanese. Around 9am I figured out the exact building, but I don’t anyone in this building. I have to wait for Tateno-san, Iwasaki-san and Takechi-san to arrive. Thinking that they will be in office by 9am, I messaged Iwasaki-san to check on their timing to office. He said he and Tateno-san will reach only by 10:30am. Duh! what am I gonna do.. Around 9:25, I got a message from him saying that Takechi-san has reached office just then. So, messaged him and got in the office. Osaka office is on the 8th floor of the building.

Responded to few emails and then Iwasaki-san and Tateno-san reached the office. We had few discussions and then my presentation. Everything was good and we went to have an early lunch – Okonomiyaki (Osaka Special)

Ginkaku-ji & Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto.

Woke up around 5am to get ready for Kyoto. Had to board the Shinkansen at Shinagawa. So, around 6am started walking to the local metro station and finally reached Shinagawa at 7am. They changed the timing from 07:10 am to 7:17am for my convenience and headed back to the platform. Couple of bullet train passed by and got few quick shots. Exactly at 7:17 I got in the Shinkansen and reached Kyoto around 9:20 or something. Well, I walked here and there asking what the best route was to see different places. Anyways, I got to the tourist information center, by then I had lot of pamphlets on what all ways to travel. The cheapest I felt was bike (bicycle), but I was wrong as I learnt the best way to travel is by bus. A 500 yen one day pass will allow you to board some of the city bus heading to many temple areas. Figuring out how it all work was a hassle as I don’t understand the language. Anyways, it was fun figuring out that. Finally I was in a long queue for bus and I think 30 minutes in the queue got me in a bus heading towards Ginkakuji temple.

Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺, lit. “Temple of the Silver Pavilion”), officially named Jishō-ji (慈照寺, lit. “Temple of Shining Mercy”), is a Zen temple in the Sakyo ward of Kyoto, Japan. It is one of the constructions that represents the Higashiyama Culture of the Muromachi period.

Ashikaga Yoshimasa initiated plans for creating a retirement villa and gardens as early as 1460; and after his death, Yoshimasa would arrange for this property to become a Zen temple. The temple is today associated with the Shokoku-ji branch of Rinzai Zen.

The two-storied Kannon-den (観音殿, Kannon hall), is the main temple structure. Its construction began February 21, 1482 (Bummei 14 , 4th day of the 2nd month). The structure’s design sought to emulate the golden Kinkaku-ji which had been commissioned by his grandfather Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It is popularly known as Ginkaku, the “Silver Pavilion” because of the initial plans to cover its exterior in silver foil; but this familiar nickname dates back only as far as the Edo period (1600–1868).

During the Ōnin War, construction was halted. Despite Yoshimasa’s intention to cover the structure with a distinctive silver-foil overlay, this work was delayed for so long that the plans were never realized before Yoshimasa’s death. The present appearance of the structure is understood to be the same as when Yoshimasa himself last saw it. This “unfinished” appearance illustrates one of the aspects of “wabi-sabi” quality.

Like Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji was originally built to serve as a place of rest and solitude for the Shogun. During his reign as Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa inspired a new outpouring of traditional culture, which came to be known as Higashiyama Bunka (the Culture of the Eastern Mountain). Having retired to the villa, it is said Yoshimasa sat in the pavilion, contemplating the calm and beauty of the gardens as the Ōnin War worsened and Kyoto was burned to the ground.

In 1485, Yoshimasa became a Zen Buddhist monk. After his death on January 27, 1490 (Entoku 2, 7th day of the 1st month), the villa and gardens became a Buddhist temple complex, renamed Jishō-ji after Yoshimasa’s Buddhist name.

After extensive restoration, started February 2008, Ginkaku-ji is again in full glory to visit. The garden and temple complex are open to the public. There is still no silver foil used. After much discussion, it was decided to not refinish the lacquer to the original state. The lacquer finish was the source of the original silver appearance of the temple, with the reflection of silver water of the pond on the lacquer finish.

After getting good shots, it was noon and Kyoto is really hot. I checked how to go back to the station or get to some other attractions around.

Finally I got another bus which accepts the one day pass. I got down near Gion as I saw there were 2 small temples and then a huge temple – Kiyomizu dera.

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺?), officially Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺), is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site. It was one of 20 finalists for the New7Wonders of the World.

Kiyomizu-dera was founded in the early Heian period. The temple was founded in 778 by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. There is not a single nail used in the entire structure. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water.

It was originally affiliated with the old and influential Hossō sect dating from Nara times. However, in 1965 it severed that affiliation, and its present custodians call themselves members of the “Kitahossō” sect.

The main hall has a large veranda, supported by tall pillars, that juts out over the hillside and offers impressive views of the city. Large verandas and main halls were constructed at many popular sites during the Edo period to accommodate large numbers of pilgrims.

The popular expression “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression “to take the plunge”. This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one’s wish would be granted. 234 jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. The practice is now prohibited.

Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water fall into a pond. Visitors can catch and drink the water, which is believed to have wish-granting powers.

The temple complex includes several other shrines, among them the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to Ōkuninushi, a god of love and “good matches”. Jishu Shrine possesses a pair of “love stones” placed 18 meters apart, which lonely visitors can try to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone with their eyes closed implies that the pilgrim will find love, or true love. One can be assisted in the crossing, but this is taken to mean that a go-between will be needed. The person’s romantic interest can assist them as well.

The complex also offers various talismans, incense, and omikuji (paper fortunes). The site is particularly popular during festivals (especially at New Year’s and during obon in the summer) when additional booths fill the grounds selling traditional holiday foodstuffs and souvenirs to throngs of visitors.

In 2007, Kiyomizu-dera was one of 21 finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the World However, it was not picked as one of the seven winning sites.

Lot to walk and I was having a heavy backpack. Though tired, it was worth the pain. Finally, around 5pm, I head back to the Kyoto metro station to head back to Osaka where I have my hotel booking. Got into a local metro and reached Osaka around 6:30 pm. The hotel was just adjacent to the exit 3 of this Osaka station. It was really helpful. I didn’t have to again walk and figure out where it’s located. Since I was too tired I thought of going to the spa. I reached the spa to find many naked Japanese guys. So, I got back to my room and soaked myself in the bath tub. It was very relaxing. That’s when I realised, I didn’t have any food the whole day. I got out of the room and there were no restaurants nearby that has menu in English. Glad I had bought a data sim and used it to find a nearby McDonalds. Had burgers and head back to room and slept of around 11:30pm. Tomorrow is a big day for me. I have got some managers discussion and a presentation to be made. Did I prepare yet? umm.. Well I am confident though. Oh! where is the office. This is the first time in Osaka office and I am not sure where it is. I was searching in google map to find, but nope nothing.. I messaged Iwasaki-san and I got direction and he said its very close the APA Hotel where I was staying. I was happy hearing that and didn’t bother to check and slept off..

Photography in Rain..

We had plans to do so many things this Saturday, but it started drizzling early morning spoiling our plans.

Anyways, we thought about street photography in rain. So, planned to go to Asakusa where we can take the best street photography.

Since I am going to Kyoto tomorrow, I need to buy a spare battery for the camera as well. So, planned to go to Yurakucho Bic Camera and then head to Asakusa street. We reached Bic Camera only to find that this specific battery was out of stock. By then it started to rain heavily. We got in a train towards Asakusa with changeover of trains in between and reached Asakusa street. So many girls in colorful Kimono holding umbrella.It was lovely.. Took lot of photographs and checked for bag and shoes. Devadas bought a bag and I bought one pair of shoes.

We didn’t realise it was so late, but we both enjoyed taking photography. Around 6pm, we thought of going to Akihabara in search of battery. I know I’ll get the battery in Sofmap electronic  store. So, got in a train towards Akihabara. I got out of one of the exit in Akihabara station and I was kind of lost. I had been at this place for more than 40 times already and so was hoping that I will be able to figure out. We both walked and walked and didn’t reach anywhere. Finally started asking people and some tried helping and I could’t understand a word they said. Anyways, walked into one electronic store, but they didn’t have the battery, but my aim was to ask him and locate the Sofmap address. The sales person got us a map and showed where the place was and asked us to follow the map. It was at a different corner of the street. We started walking for 1 hour and I reached a different Sofmap store mainly for games. Then I started asking for metro station and in between we both reached the JR metro station and adjacent to that was Yodobashi Electronic store. Battery was there, but was a little expensive. So, asked them the location of Sofmap. They showed us the direction. It was another 20 minutes walk in the rain and finally we were about to reach the sofmap when Devadas was super hungry as always. 🙂 Anyways, we got into Mc.Donald and had a burger and a strawberry milk shake.

After dining, we went to Sofmap and got the new battery. Then we both had an electric chair massage and then head back home.

Overall the day was good though it was raining through out. Enjoyed the rain and the photography as well.

Excited about tomorrow’s trip to Kyoto. 🙂

Lunch meet and Odaiba

Today met Vincent and Duy-san for lunch meet and it was fun. Discussion was on when we started production support and also on yesterday’s party at Diana night club.

Later after office, Devadas and I went to Odaiba. Went around Venus Fort and did some street photography. Got good snaps of Odaiba and old Toyoto cars. Will be posting the pictures later.

Diana Club @Yurakucho

Met Duy Doan from another team and one of his Turkish friend and 2 girls with him from Istanbul. Had burgers and beer with them, then we both head to a night dance lounge – Diana at Yurakucho.

This dance club was unique,  in the sense that it was underground (3 or 4 floors beneath the road level). Way too dark and then you see oldies dancing, well break dancing.. You won’t get to see 65+ aged men and ladies dancing like crazy anywhere in the world.. Having said that, it’s not just oldies, but youngsters too who hip-hops so well. Anyways, Duy-san and I had couple of girls dancing with us.. I tried, but it was ladies night and its free drinks for ladies. So, hard luck. Well, I had couple of beers and wine and enjoyed the night.

It was one hell of a night 🙂

In and around Shinagawa…

Today, both Devadas and I went to Shinagawa. Showed him the place where I stayed before. It was late evening though, but he loved the greenery around. Took some photos and enjoyed the evening. On the way back went to AEON mall, grabbed some burger and went back to our apartment.

Oh! by the way, I got the heater fixed before I left for Shinagawa. The maintenance guy doesn’t speak a word of English.. Was very hard to understand each other, but somehow with the sign language, I was able to make out that hot shower was fixed. That was a big relief.

Rakuten Crimson House

8th May, cold shower again, hoping I’ll be able to fix the heater today, head to office, Rakuten Crimson House. This was the 1st time in the new office. It’s huge.. and lovely park nearby and a river running besides the building. Shopping centers around the same building with multiplexes, MacDonald’s etc. But something is missing… and it’s the greenery. The old office at Shinagawa sea side was all green. Though Crimson House is super cool with all modern amenities, all automated and humongous cafeteria and other facilities, I still missed the old location. May be it’s because I stayed at Yashio Park next to Shinagawa seaside for 6 long months together and then every now and then I stayed in and around Shinagawa. I miss the green which I was used to.

Ueno Zoo

7th May, again cold shower on a Sunday morning and head to Ueno zoo. I have never been to Ueno. This time with the photography in mind and the new tripod explored each and every corners of the zoo. Got great photos and both of us explored different techniques in photography. The whole day was spent in zoo and in evening again roamed around akihabara and got back home. Anyways, I’ll post few photos taken from zoo later.