Japan Travel: Visiting Himeji Castle

I couldn’t go to Japan without seeing a castle this time – and I always knew which one it would be. It would be Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) or White Egret Castle (Hakurojodue to its elegant bird like silhouette from its curved roofs and the white color of the plaster walls which helped it survive since plaster won’t burn down (unlike most of the other castles in Japan). Himeji is one of Japan’s only 12 completely original castles.
Himeji Castle also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance is situated on a high hill

This is the one that I have admired for years with it’s bright white walls from postcard and pictures even when I was young just passing through Narita for an airplane transfer. It didn’t matter which season, this castle always looks stunning – whether it be with the brilliant red and orange autumn foliage around it, or covered in snow, or with the blossom of cherry trees and the castle park also with its plum, peach, azalea and wisteria growing on the grounds. Or in the case when I came in December, with none of those atmospheric elements and just the castle on its own.
Himeji Castle also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance is situated on a high hill

We took the shinkansen train here from Kyoto – though you can also use Osaka as your home base if you want, since Himeji Station lies between these two cities at only an hour away. From Tokyo I think by shinkansen it’s about 4 hours away, so also possible as a day trip. As you walk out of the train station you can see it vaguely at the end of the street already because it’s on a hill. From the train station it was a 20 minute walk along the main boulevard, watching Himeji Castle get bigger and bigger as you get closer. Takopost has a great Himeji Castle Day Trip blog post showing pictures of the approach as well as some of the inside and tips.

Then, here is your view as your cross the last street into the park area. Also in the surrounding area besides the castle are a garden and city zoo and what looked like an amusement park. The moat here is one of three moats that were originally encircling Himeji Castle – there are only 2 moats that survive as the outmost moat has been buried.
Himeji Castle, Japan - our first look once we walked down the main boulevard and crossed the last street into the park here. Also in the surrounding area are a garden and city zoo and what looked like an amusement park. The castle was originally encircled by three moats, of which two still survive Himeji Castle, Japan - the castle was originally encircled by three moats, of which two still survive

We visited the castle when it first opened in the morning – in fact we arrived maybe 30 minutes before the admission gates opened. I knew that for the past 5 1/2 years, Himeji Castle has had scaffolding covering the castle while restoring and making repairs, and had only reopened earlier in March of 2015 revealing the full castle walls again. So, since it’s reopening it has been a popular attraction even for locals to revisit.

The pictures from Takopost from July 2015 had shown huge crowds and queues of people shuffling in constant lines through and around the castle, and I did not want that experience. He advised immediately getting in line and admiring the grounds outside after. So I intentionally came early to beat any tour groups or school trips, and hoped that the fact it was New Year’s week meant it wasn’t as much of a draw. This paid off in that we were among the first 50 people in… and it turn out to be a light visit day so we never felt crowded and could take our time in all areas. If you want to guess what the crowds might be, the official Himeji Castle website has a calendar where you can look at the probable amount of visitors for that time.
Open area around Himeji Castle as you approach it from Himeji Station Himeji Castle also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance is situated on a high hill

On your way you may see some of the resident cats on the property! Supposedly there are sometimes people who are dressed like samurai or ninja that are sometimes here to earn money taking photos with tourists, but we didn’t see any. Just the kitties. There was quite a small crowd around them – they are obviously being fed by someone here – as we watched one cat unsuccessfully stalk a crow several times. This feeding area we saw was right outside where the line to enter Himeji starts, where there are public park restrooms. Once you are inside Himeji Castle, there are not restrooms available until you reach the Inner Keep area (where the photo with me above was taken, after already going up and down the main keep).
Some of the cats on the Himeji Castle park area Some of the cats on the Himeji Castle park area

After paying admission into the main keep grounds, you have to follow many winding paths through doorways (there were 84 gates total originally in the entire complex) to actually get into the castle. This is intentional design to drive the enemy into narrow passages and areas with dead ends.
Himeji Castle also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance is situated on a high hill

There are paths that actually take you away from the tower even though you look like you’re going towards it. There are paths that correctly go to the main tower but are sloped downward to make intruders think they are going the wrong way.
Getting a bit photo happy as we approach Himeji Castle once they opened the admission gates (we had to wait about 30 min before they opened and were among the first 50 in I think). They have had scaffolding on the castle making repairs and only reopened earlier in that year after 5 1/2 years The Himeji castle property, situated on a hill summit in the central part of the Harima Plain covers 107 hectares and comprises eighty-two buildings. It is centered on the Tenshu-gun, a complex made up of the donjon, keeps and connecting structures that we are walking through here

There is even a trap by another gate that can send a landslide through to block the gate. Himeji Castle was designed ready for a siege – though it was never actually besieged in its history.
The entrance to Himeji Castle constitutes a veritable spiral maze of walls, gates and baileys, constantly under-fire attackers would need to penetrate and the design is intentional to drive the enemy into narrow passages and areas with dead ends. There are paths that actually take you away from the tower even though you look like you're going towards it, there are paths that correctly go to the main tower but are sloped downward to make intruders think they are going the wrong way The Himeji castle complex originally contained 84 gates, 15 of which were named according to the Japanese syllabary (I, Ro, Ha, Ni, Ho, He, To, etc.) At present, 21 gates from the castle complex remain intact, 13 of which are named according to the Japanese syllabary.

Finally, we arrive at the actual castle building. Very early on after entering the inside castle building, we were given plastic bags to carry our shoes and we are all wearing slippers they gave us as we start to ascend the levels of the castle, which you may catch in some of the photos I have. Externally, the Himeji Castle keep appears to have five floors because the second and third floors from the top appear to be a single floor. But, the tower actually has six floors and a basement. The castle’s granite base, combined with a highly flexible wooden structure, is designed to help Himeji Castle sway during earthquakes.
Finally about to enter the actual castle building now! The walking we have been doing is intentional in the design The entrance to Himeji Castle constitutes a veritable spiral maze of walls, gates and baileys, constantly under-fire attackers would need to penetrate and the design is intentional to drive the enemy into narrow passages and areas with dead ends

There are lots of windows as we go up each floor: this gives us a view of the city, the keep area… in the second photo you can see that big boulevard you see on the right is the street we walked on from the Himeji train station. You can see why building Himeji, which started as a fort, on top of Himeyana hill originally in 1333 was such a smart idea with this strong vantage point.
"iew Besides the detail look at the mythical tiger-headed fish called kinshachi as a talisman for fire protection, that big boulevard you see on the right is the street we walked on from the train station

From the windows you also see many of the Himeji Castle tiger-headed fish statues called kinshachi that are spiritual measure for the prevention of fires.
View from a window at Himeji Castle, Japan. The fish statues you see are spiritual measure for the prevention of fires and these mythical tiger-headed fish are called kinshachi View from a window at Himeji Castle, Japan. The fish statues you see are spiritual measure for the prevention of fires and these mythical tiger-headed fish are called kinshachi View from a window at Himeji Castle, Japan. The fish statues you see are spiritual measure for the prevention of fires and these mythical tiger-headed fish are called kinshachi

The weapon racks inside were empty, but you definitely notice how many there are. At one point, the castle contained as many as 280 guns and 90 spears. In the Ikeda family period (they significantly rebuilt Himeji Castle from 1601-1609 and started the castle complex that stands today) there were about 500 samurai warriors in residence here.

Honda Tadamasa and his son Tadatoki and daughter-in-law, Princess Sen, inherited the castle from the Ikedas. They had more than 1,200 vassals in addition to 4,000 foot solders and servants as they expanded the castle keep into a castle complex in 1617-1618, including a special tower for Princess Sen. Himeji Castle has then mostly been intact since then for the next over 400 years! In the Sakakibara family period there were 3,000 people at Himeji. When Sakai was the last lord of the castle just before the Meiji Restoration there about 2,200 people.
Himeji Castle, Japan - where you hang your weapons, at one point, the castle contained as many as 280 guns and 90 spears. In the Ikeda family period there were about 500 samurai warriors. Honda Tadamasa and his son Tadatoki had more than 1,200 vassals in addition to 4,000 foot solders and servants. In the Sakakibara family period there were 3,000 people. When Sakai was the last lord of the castle just before the Meiji Restoration there about 2,200 people. Himeji Castle, Japan - where you hang your weapons, at one point, the castle contained as many as 280 guns and 90 spears. In the Ikeda family period there were about 500 samurai warriors. Honda Tadamasa and his son Tadatoki had more than 1,200 vassals in addition to 4,000 foot solders and servants. In the Sakakibara family period there were 3,000 people. When Sakai was the last lord of the castle just before the Meiji Restoration there about 2,200 people.

All the stairs were like this at Himeji Castle – steep, and you have to watch your head when clearing the floor. There is no alternative to the stairs, so you must be physically fit enough to go through this to visit the inside of Himeji Castle.
'All 'All

Here’s another look at a stair to another floor. The wooden framework of Himeji castle is made from huge pillars including a nearly 800-year-old cypress beam. Even though I’m not an engineer or architect, I am nothing but impressed with the design and construction that it took at the time to make Himeji Castle what it is today.
The wooden framework of Himeji castle is made from huge pillars including a nearly 800-year-old cypress beam, which is thought to bestow good luck on touching it.

Both the third and fourth floors of Himeji Castle have platforms situated at the north and south windows called “stone-throwing platforms” where defenders could observe or throw objects at attackers. They also have small enclosed rooms called “warrior hiding places” where defenders could hide themselves and kill attackers by surprise as they entered the keep. Windows are also placed higher to provide ventilation for gun powder.
Both the third and fourth floors of Himeji Castle have platforms situated at the north and south windows called stone-throwing platforms where defenders could observe or throw objects at attackers. They also have small enclosed rooms called warrior hiding places where defenders could hide themselves and kill attackers by surprise as they entered the keep. Windows are also higher to provide ventilation for gun powder. Both the third and fourth floors of Himeji Castle have platforms situated at the north and south windows called stone-throwing platforms where defenders could observe or throw objects at attackers. They also have small enclosed rooms called warrior hiding places where defenders could hide themselves and kill attackers by surprise as they entered the keep. Windows are also higher to provide ventilation for gun powder.

Once the path takes you up and then down through the main castle, you have a chance to admire the outside again. On the buildings, surrounding walls and roofs, look at the tiles at the end of the curved gables. If you pay attention you can observe that different types of family crests can be found. This is because many lords claimed Himeji Castle as their home and they each used their own crests. For example, you might see the butterfly crest of the Ikeda family, the paulownina crest of the Hashiba family, the hollyhock crest of the Honda family, and a cross-shaped crest for a Christian lord that once ruled Himeji Castle.
On the buildings, surrounding walls and roofs, look at the edge of the tiles. If you pay attention you can observe that different types of family crests can be found. This is because many lords claimed Himeji Castle as their home and they each used their own crests. For example, the butterfly crest of the Ikeda family, the paulownina crest of the Hashiba family, the hollyhock crest of the Honda family, and a cross-shaped crest for a Christian lord that once ruled Himeji Castle. On the buildings, surrounding walls and roofs, look at the edge of the tiles. If you pay attention you can observe that different types of family crests can be found. This is because many lords claimed Himeji Castle as their home and they each used their own crests. For example, the butterfly crest of the Ikeda family, the paulownina crest of the Hashiba family, the hollyhock crest of the Honda family, and a cross-shaped crest for a Christian lord that once ruled Himeji Castle.

You can observe open window like holes in the walls in the shape of circles, triangles, and rectangles located throughout Himeji Castle. The shapes are intended to allow defenders armed with tanegashima or archers to fire on attackers without exposing themselves. They have different heights in places based on whether you are in standing position, kneeling position, or prone position.
Himeji Castle also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance. Below you can see windows for an archer or defender using a Matchlock Himeji Castle, Japan. You can observe loopholes in the shape of circles, triangles, and rectangles are located throughout Himeji Castle, intended to allow defenders armed with tanegashima or archers to fire on attackers without exposing themselves. They have different heights in places based on whether you are in standing position, kneeling position, or prone position.

And what’s an old castle without a ghost story or two right? There are two for Himeji Castle that I read. The first is for Okiku’s Well. The story is that Okiku was falsely accused of losing dishes that were valuable family treasures, and then killed and thrown into the well. Her ghost remained to haunt the well at night, counting dishes in a despondent tone.
Himeji Castle, Japan. This is December so there isn't much color, but the park has hundreds of cherry trees and great fall colors in spring and fall. The extensive castle park also has plum, peach, azalea and wisteria growing in the grounds

The other is Genbei Sakurai, who was Ikeda Terumasa’s master carpenter in the construction of the keep, and who felt responsible for the mistaken measurement that causes the tower to lean in the southwest direction so he committed suicide by jumping off a donjon. The real reason for the castle leaning to the southwest is because of sunken cliffs in the east and west. Who knows if either of these folktales are true.
"Himeji "Himeji

On a previous post I shared street treats, which included photos and a video of Ningyo Yaki (a cake filled with sweet red bean paste) here they are available in the shape of Himeji Castle… Those stores are located right across the street from Himeji Castle park on the way back to Himeji Station. Because of the time of year that we visited, we did not visit the Kokoen Garden nearby (offering 9 gardens, and also an opportunity to experience traditional tea service – you can purchase a combined ticket with Himeji Castle admission if you so choose), so we spent about half a day here at Himeji, leaving after lunch and actually then heading to Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion in Kyoto which I covered a couple posts ago.
Himeji Castle Ningyo Yaki -Ningyo Yaki is a cake filled with sweet red bean paste. You will often see it in the shape of various buildings or animals.

While waiting for our train time to go to the plastform at Himeji Station, we followed our noses to find this, a treat called Gozasoro. They put a pancake like batter on one side add the bean paste filling (either the ‘shiro-an’ white bean paste or ‘aka-an’ red bean paste fillings), then put batter on the other side, just before the batter hardens, they put the two sides together to make a round cake and flip several times while cooking until golden brown. I highly recommend you try it!
We saw this at the Himeji train station while waiting for the train - this is a treat called Gozasoro. They put a pancake like batter on one side add the bean paste filling (either the ‘shiro-an’ 白あん white bean paste or ‘aka-an’ 赤あん red bean paste fillings), then put batter on the other side, just before the batter hardens, they put the two sides together to make a round cake and flip several times while cooking until golden brown. We saw this at the Himeji train station while waiting for the train - this is a treat called Gozasoro. They put a pancake like batter on one side add the bean paste filling (either the ‘shiro-an’ 白あん white bean paste or ‘aka-an’ 赤あん red bean paste fillings), then put batter on the other side, just before the batter hardens, they put the two sides together to make a round cake and flip several times while cooking until golden brown.

Helpful articles on visiting Himeji:

Clearly you can tell I had a huge interest for visiting Himeji Castle as I had already done so much previous research (which I then summarized in a word document to print out so it’s thin) before even arriving at the castle so I would be able to enjoy it with history and knowledge already in hand when I finally made my dream come true.

I do have other castles on my bucket list – a mossy Irish castle, a medieval French castle on an island (Mont Saint-Michel), an elegant German castle that was the inspiration for Disney (Neuschwanstein Castle, though seriously Germany has so many lovely castles).

Have you ever done a lot of research on history or features of a specific attraction before visiting? What was it for? Do you have a dream castle you’d like to see?

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Mother’s Day Tea and Cake with Smith Teamaker

Looking for a low key event to celebrate Mother’s Day beyond brunch? Smith Teamaker is hosting a special Mother’s Day Tea and Cake event on Sunday May 8th, offering cake by Tiffany Howard from Oh Honey Bakes with their delicious Smithmaker teas. There will be seatings every hour from 10 AM – 2 PM at the Smith Teamaker Headquarters /SE Tasting Room at 110 SE Washington St. For $25, each Mother’s Day Tea and Cake seating ticket includes 2 slices of cake and a tea pot for two.

The cake will be a Jasmine Silver Tip infused cake layered with macerated raspberries and topped with a chocolate ganache and covered with a raspberry buttercream. Smith Teamaker Head Teamaker, Tony Tellin, has selected three Smith teas to pair with this cake, and the full tea menu will be still be available to make your own selections.

Mother's Day Tea and Cake - Smith Teamaker and Oh Honey Bakes team up on May 8th, 2016

Even after the pot of tea, consider adding on a flight of tea to try more since you’re already at the tasting room. Or, if you’re overstuffed from brunch and need a pick me up, add on a tea latte. The location is also a store so feel free to purchase some to take the experience back home (and perhaps share with other fellow moms – friends, sisters, more moms and aunts and grandmoms…). I’ve always admired the impressively elegant and classic design of the tea boxes they have for their teabags,  and they are light to carry or ship.

Tony Tellin showing off how teas can be be created from a lot of different ingredients in order to get the particular perfect balance of flavor Smith Teamaker Maker's Series No. 003 Phuket Fire with collaborator Gregory Gourdet of Departure

Smith Teamaker Head Teamaker, Tony Tellin showing off how teas can be be created from a lot of different ingredients in order to get the particular perfect balance of flavor

My personal favorite is to get growlettes of their tea on tap – with flavors like Masala Chai and Strawberry Honeybush, it’s more unique then the normal lemonades, regular iced teas, or punches for a get together where you want to offer a non-alcoholic drink.

You can reserve your time slot for the Mother’s Day Tea and Cake at the Smith Teamaker website.

What are you doing for Mother’s Day?

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Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016

Here’s a look at the Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 brunch bites and bloody mary contenders for the Bloody Mary Smackdown. I have previously recapped the Portland Monthly Country Brunch when I attended last year in 2015, the year before in 2014, and then in 2013. If you haven’t heard of this event before, it’s an annual event, now in it’s fifth year, that benefits Zenger Farm.

Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Last year's winner of the Bloody Mary Smackdown Raven and Rose returns with the Full Bloody Irish that includes a Bloody Mary topped with Oregon made (Agrarian Ales) Irish Stout AND bites of a Irish Breakfast for garnish and wins the 2016 Judge's Choice and People's Choice

This year was the first one where the event setup did not have tables and chairs, which left people trying to find room to stand at the hightop cocktail tables or a few stone counters that were placed on top of garbage cans (so you throw your garbage into the center of it where the hole is). Of you were very lucky you might sit really low at a handful of round ottomans with a few end tables. It was that or awkwardly balancing their food and drink standing. The comfortable seating for everyone at previous events was specifically one of the pros for me, and now that advantage is gone. I was lucky in that since I had a VIP ticket that let me an hour before regular tickets, I was the first to grab a chair and part of a small low end table in a corner by the entrance, farthest away from all food and which I shared with a family that included 3 generations. The event is  family friendly since you can buy tickets for food only, and those under 3 years old are free, but it’s hard to agree it’s comfortable for a family with next to no seating.
Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Spring Kale Salad from Milk Glass Mrkt with Farm Kale Mix, French Lentils, Garlic Dates Pickled Red Onions, and Savory Granola Tossed in a Creamy Sunflower Dressing plus Grain & Gristle's Bloody Mary Smackdown contender of Beet'n to a Bloody Pulp with Pureed Beets, Tomato Juice, OJ, Old Bay, Portland Ketchup Company Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco Horseradish Pepper, Bacon Rim and Pickles Spear

The lines for some of the food participants snaked through an entire section of the outdoor area – I’m not sure why they thought to put 5 of the 6 food participants all in one place as they tried to cook and plate dishes while the beverage booths and high tables but otherwise empty space  took up the largest area, inside Castaway. Without seats, people tended to go as soon as they were done eating and drinking, so no more feel to relax and listen to the live music (this year by June Bugs) or a little dancing in front of the stage like in previous years. The June Bugs were fun, performing some folk rock interpretations of some modern pop songs now and then.
Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016, live music provided by the June Bugs

The main positive is as always that the bloody marys were carefully crafted and were done quickly with a lot if prep work done before. There was never a line of more than a half dozen people in the way to get a Bloody Mary. And, the photo booth station this year by BedMart and Phototainment did inspire some hilarious poses
Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Photo Booth sponsored by BedMart

The six restaurants and food carts offering brunch bites include

  • Screen Door offered my favorite of the brunch bites, Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 – Brunch Bite by Screen Door of Shrimp & Grits, wild caught gulf shrimp sauteed with country ham, garlic, tomato, and white wine over parmesan spoon bread
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Brunch Bite by Screen Door of Shrimp & Grits, wild caught gulf shrimp sauteed with country ham, garlic, tomato, and white wine over parmesan spoon bread Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Brunch Bite by Screen Door of Shrimp & Grits, wild caught gulf shrimp sauteed with country ham, garlic, tomato, and white wine over parmesan spoon bread Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Brunch Bite by Screen Door of Shrimp & Grits, wild caught gulf shrimp sauteed with country ham, garlic, tomato, and white wine over parmesan spoon bread Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Brunch Bite by Screen Door of Shrimp & Grits, wild caught gulf shrimp sauteed with country ham, garlic, tomato, and white wine over parmesan spoon bread
  • Broder always does a nice tablescape presentation whenever they are at these food events, which I appreciate. They brought warm fresh aebelskivers with lingonberry which you can watch them making right behind the table. Definitely my second favorite of the brunch bites.
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - tablescape by Broder for the aebelskivers with lingonberry Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by Broder of a warm fresh aebelskivers with lingonberry Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by Broder of a warm fresh aebelskivers with lingonberry Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by Broder of a warm fresh aebelskivers with lingonberry Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by Broder of a warm fresh aebelskivers with lingonberry
  • The Dump Truck had the longest line of all the food vendors where you had a choice of 2 dumplings from the menu of Mr Ma’s Special (a pork with green onion and ginger), Bacon Cheeseburger, Down2Earth (vegetarian with portabella and rice noodles with ginger), Potato Curry (vegetarian malaysian style with yellow curry), or the Dump Truck Breakfast with egg, jack cheese, seasoned sausage, red pepper and chive which is what I got to go with the breakfast theme, and since I’ve already tried the others at their usual truck location by SW 12th and Alder.
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by The Dump Truck where you had a choice of 2 dumplings from the menu of Mr Ma's Special (a pork with green onion and ginger), Bacon Cheeseburger, Down2Earth (vegetarian with portabella and rice noodles with ginger), Potato Curry (vegetarian malaysian style with yellow curry), or the Dump Truck Breakfast with egg, jack cheese, seasoned sausage, red pepper and chive Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by The Dump Truck where you had a choice of 2 dumplings from the menu of Mr Ma's Special (a pork with green onion and ginger), Bacon Cheeseburger, Down2Earth (vegetarian with portabella and rice noodles with ginger), Potato Curry (vegetarian malaysian style with yellow curry), or the Dump Truck Breakfast with egg, jack cheese, seasoned sausage, red pepper and chive Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by The Dump Truck 2 dumplings of Dump Truck Breakfast with egg, jack cheese, seasoned sausage, red pepper and chive
  • Pip’s Original Doughnuts offered a sample of two of their mini doughnuts, a Raw Honey and Sea Salt doughnut and a Meyer Lemon and Pear Butter doughnut, a sample of either their Smoky Robinson Chai or Heart of Gold Chai
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by Pip's Doughnuts of their Raw Honey and Sea Salt doughnut and a Meyer Lemon and Pear Butter doughnut, with a sample of either their Smoky Robinson Chai or Heart of Gold Chai Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by Pip's Doughnuts of their Raw Honey and Sea Salt doughnut and a Meyer Lemon and Pear Butter doughnut, with a sample of either their Smoky Robinson Chai or Heart of Gold Chai Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by Pip's Doughnuts of their Raw Honey and Sea Salt doughnut and a Meyer Lemon and Pear Butter doughnut, with a sample of either their Smoky Robinson Chai or Heart of Gold Chai Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - brunch bite by Pip's Doughnuts of their Raw Honey and Sea Salt doughnut and a Meyer Lemon and Pear Butter doughnut, with a sample of either their Smoky Robinson Chai or Heart of Gold Chai
  • Milk Glass Mrkt offered a nice break from the mostly sweet brunch bites with the Spring Kale Salad from Milk Glass Mrkt with Farm Kale Mix, French Lentils, Garlic Dates Pickled Red Onions, and Savory Granola Tossed in a Creamy Sunflower Dressing that was vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Spring Kale Salad from Milk Glass Mrkt with Farm Kale Mix, French Lentils, Garlic Dates Pickled Red Onions, and Savory Granola Tossed in a Creamy Sunflower Dressing is vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Spring Kale Salad from Milk Glass Mrkt with Farm Kale Mix, French Lentils, Garlic Dates Pickled Red Onions, and Savory Granola Tossed in a Creamy Sunflower Dressing is vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free
  • Batter PDX Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Brunch Bite of Maple Bacon Pancakes (although this is clearly a waffle…) from Batter Griddle & Drinkery
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Brunch Bite of Maple Bacon Pancakes (hey that's what the sign said even though it's clearly a waffle) from Batter Griddle & Drinkery Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Brunch Bite of Maple Bacon Pancakes from Batter Griddle & Drinkery (hey that's what the sign said even though it's clearly a waffle)

Meanwhile, the seven competitors for the Bloody Mary Smackdown (the vodka is from Crater Lake Spirits) include

  • Raven & Rose (2015’s Judges’ Choice Winner) returns with the Full Bloody Irish that includes a Bloody Mary topped with Oregon made (Agrarian Ales) Irish Stout AND bites of a Irish Breakfast for garnish
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Last year's winner of the Bloody Mary Smackdown Raven and Rose returns with the Full Bloody Irish that includes a Bloody Mary topped with Oregon made (Agrarian Ales) Irish Stout AND bites of a Irish Breakfast for garnish Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Last year's winner of the Bloody Mary Smackdown Raven and Rose returns with the Full Bloody Irish that includes a Bloody Mary topped with Oregon made (Agrarian Ales) Irish Stout AND bites of a Irish Breakfast for garnish
    Once again they won Judge’s Choice, and they were the People’s Choice winner too for 2016.Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Last year's winner of the Bloody Mary Smackdown Raven and Rose returns with the Full Bloody Irish that includes a Bloody Mary topped with Oregon made (Agrarian Ales) Irish Stout AND bites of a Irish Breakfast for garnish
  • Pizza Jerk just a stack of pizzas ready to be warmed in the oven and then serve as garnish for their Pizza Mary that has a slice of pizza chilling in a sauced up bloody mary that took cues from pizza tomato sauce.
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - just a stack of pizzas ready to be warmed in the oven and then serve as garnish for Pizza Jerk's Pizza Mary that has a slice of pizza chilling in a sauced up bloody mary Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - pizzas warmed in the oven and then serve as garnish for Pizza Jerk's Pizza Mary that has a slice of pizza chilling in a sauced up bloody mary Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - pizzas warmed in the oven and then serve as garnish for Pizza Jerk's Pizza Mary that has a slice of pizza chilling in a sauced up bloody mary Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - pizzas warmed in the oven and then serve as garnish for Pizza Jerk's Pizza Mary that has a slice of pizza chilling in a sauced up bloody mary
  • Grain & Gristle Bloody Mary Smackdown entry of the Beet’n to a Bloody Pulp with Pureed Beets, Tomato Juice, OJ, Old Bay, Portland Ketchup Company Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco Horseradish Pepper, Bacon Rim and Pickles Spear
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Grain & Gristle's Bloody Mary Smackdown entry of the Beet'n to a Bloody Pulp with Pureed Beets, Tomato Juice, OJ, Old Bay, Portland Ketchup Company Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco Horseradish Pepper, Bacon Rim and Pickles Spear Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Grain & Gristle's Bloody Mary Smackdown entry of the Beet'n to a Bloody Pulp with Pureed Beets, Tomato Juice, OJ, Old Bay, Portland Ketchup Company Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco Horseradish Pepper, Bacon Rim and Pickles Spear
  • Besaw’s Maria en Verde, with under ripened green tomatoes used to make a green bloody mary garnished with a smoked oyster
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Bloody Mary Smackdown contender Besaw's with Maria en Verde, with under ripened green tomatoes used to make a green bloody mary garnished with a smoked oyster Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Bloody Mary Smackdown contender Besaw's with Maria en Verde, with under ripened green tomatoes used to make a green bloody mary garnished with a smoked oyster Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Bloody Mary Smackdown contender Besaw's with Maria en Verde, with under ripened green tomatoes used to make a green bloody mary garnished with a smoked oyster
  • Boke Bowl presented the Boke Bloody Mary that feature stheir Hot Boke Sauce, Fish Sauce, Housemade Pickles, and Boke’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken (available spicy or extra spicy). I’ve been to Boke Bowl brunch before, and the one at the actual restaurant is pretty impressive in terms of garnish
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Boke Bowl presented the Boke Bloody Mary that feature stheir Hot Boke Sauce, Fish Sauce, Housemade Pickles, and Boke's Buttermilk Fried Chicken (available spicy or extra spicy)
  • My Father’s Place Blood Sucker, a housemade bloody mary mix infused with cilantro and garlic and with lots of aleppo pepper for smokiness in the garnish
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Blood Sucker, a housemade bloody mary mix infused with cilantro and garlic and with lots of aleppo pepper for smokiness in the garnish from Bloody Mary Smackdown contender My Father's Place Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Blood Sucker, a housemade bloody mary mix infused with cilantro and garlic and with lots of aleppo pepper for smokiness in the garnish from Bloody Mary Smackdown contender My Father's Place Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Blood Sucker, a housemade bloody mary mix infused with cilantro and garlic and with lots of aleppo pepper for smokiness in the garnish from Bloody Mary Smackdown contender My Father's Place
  • Woodsman Tavern wins for most impressive display with their many many bottles of Bottle Conditioned Bloody Mary with Potato Vodka, Amontillado Shery, Tomato Juice, and Woodsman Secret Bloody Mix with a pepperoni stick
    Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - The Woodsman Tavern brought a Bottle Conditioned Bloody Mary with Potato Vodka, Amontillado Shery, Tomato Juice, and Woodsman Secret Bloody Mix with a pepperoni stick Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - The Woodsman Tavern brought a Bottle Conditioned Bloody Mary with Potato Vodka, Amontillado Shery, Tomato Juice, and Woodsman Secret Bloody Mix with a pepperoni stick Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - The Woodsman Tavern brought a Bottle Conditioned Bloody Mary with Potato Vodka, Amontillado Shery, Tomato Juice, and Woodsman Secret Bloody Mix with a pepperoni stick

For dessert, or to relieve your palate from the spicy bloody marys, Crispin Cider offered Honey Crisp Floats with Crispin Cider’s Honey Crisp Cider and ice cream
Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Honey Crisp Floats with Crispin Cider's Honey Crisp Cider and ice cream Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Honey Crisp Floats with Crispin Cider's Honey Crisp Cider and ice cream Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Honey Crisp Floats with Crispin Cider's Honey Crisp Cider and ice cream

To sober up, Coava Coffee was present with David Mancia coffee sourced from Honduras
Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Coava Coffee Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Coava Coffee Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Coava Coffee brought David Mancia single sourced from Honduras

Additionally, a booth from New Seasons Market sponsor offered Mimosa Gummies, made of orange juice, cava, and grassfed beef gelatin and non alcoholic beverage options of Urban Moonshine Digestive Bitters + Owls Brew Pink and Black Tea Minxer + La Croix Sparkling Water + Lime, and also an option of Urban Moonshine Energy Tonic + Hot Lips Ginger Soda
Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Mimosa Gummies presented by New Seasons, made of orange juice, cava, and grassfed beef gelatin Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Urban Moonshine Digestive Bitters + Owls Brew Pink and Black Tea Minxer + La Croix Sparkling Water + Lime, presented by New Seasons Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 Urban Moonshine Energy Tonic + Hot Lips Ginger Soda, presented by New Seasons

Sunshine Dairy also offered two extra beverages, chocolate martinis using Sunshine Dairy and Moon struck Chocolate collaboration full milk Drinking Chocolate.
Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Sunshine Dairy booth offering two chocolate beverages, this one is the Moonstruck Chocolate Martini with chilled drinking chocolate Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Sunshine Dairy booth offering two chocolate beverages, this one is the Moonstruck Chocolate Martini with chilled drinking chocolate Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Sunshine Dairy booth offering two chocolate beverages, this one is the Moonstruck Chocolate Martini with chilled drinking chocolate Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Sunshine Dairy booth offering two chocolate beverages, this one is the Moonstruck Chocolate Martini with chilled drinking chocolate and hazelnut espresso

Most importantly, Sunshine Dairy brought Sandy, Sunshine Dairy’s newest fuzzy friend at only six weeks old and 90 pounds from an organic dairy farm.
Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Sandy, Sunshine Dairy's newest fuzzy friend Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Sandy, Sunshine Dairy's newest fuzzy friend Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Sandy, Sunshine Dairy's newest fuzzy friend Portland Monthly Country Brunch 2016 - Sandy, Sunshine Dairy's newest fuzzy friend

If some of these bloody marys got you excited and thirsty, there is a new event this year, the Kachka Bloody Mary Bloc Party, that is happening this Sunday May 1, 2016 from 11 AM – 3 PM that also includes brunch bites and housemade bloody marys from

The cost is $30 ticket (buy your tickets here) and is good for a shot of Kachka Horseradish Vodka when you first check in to get your passport in your souvenir shot class. Then the passport is good for one mini bloody mary and one brunch bite at each of the five location with a closing rally at Bit House Saloon from 2 – 3 PM for your vote (votes must be in by 2:30 PM) to hear the winner of the “Best Bloody Mary on Grand.” The first 75 people to purchase a ticket, like myself, also get a Kachka Trucker Hat. I can’t wait to model mine during the event.

I’ll be there!

Do you enjoy bloody marys, and if so what is your favorite bloody mary joint in Portland? If bloody mary is not your brunch beverage of choice, what is?

Signature

Clear Creek Distillery 30th Anniversary

Can you believe that this year marks the Clear Creek Distillery 30th Anniversary? It’s been 30 years since in 1985 Clear Creek first started producing pure fruit brandies based on fruit harvested right here from the orchards of the Pacific Northwest. Headquartered in Portland, Clear Creek Distillery is the second oldest craft distillery in the country and is known for producing unique spirits such as eau de vie, brandy and grappa.

Upcoming Clear Creek 30th Anniversary Events

Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30!

To celebrate the 30th anniversary, some Portland Clear Creek partners have planned special cocktail-inspired events around Portland:

Wednesday, April 27 from 4-6 PM
Punch Bowl Social + Clear Creek Distillery Tasting
Clear Creek Distillery will offer samples of the popular Pear Brandy, two-year Apple Brandy and Loganberry Liqueur, and the Punch Bowl Social bar team will share specialty cocktails, including Up Apple’s Creek Punch and Loganberry Shake. Executive chef Cory Chunn will prepare complimentary appetizers to pair with the cocktails.

Saturday, April 30 from 11 AM – 5 PM
Clear Creek Distillery Tasting Room Open House and Tastings
Join us at the Clear Creek Distillery Tasting Room in Northwest Portland at 2389 NW Wilson Street, Portland, Oregon for an afternoon of tours and tastings. There will be complimentary distillery tours on the hour from noon to 4 p.m. and up to five free tastings per person of Clear Creek Distillery spirits and liqueurs. You must be over 21 to taste. Children are welcome.

Monday May 2, 8-11 PM
Clear Creek Popup at Teardrop Cocktail Lounge

Saturday, May 7 6 PM
Park Kitchen and Clear Creek Distillery Anniversary Dinner
Join Chef David Sapp for a five-course dinner with drink pairings by Bar Manager Curtis Day. Dinner is $100, including gratuity and pairings. For reservations, please call 503-223-7275 or email info@parkkitchen.com.

5 Course Menu Highlights with Cocktail Pairings

  • Blood orange pear brandy sidecar paired with Spring pea salad, with hazelnuts, grana padano and romesco
  • Portland Meets the Big Apple (hazelnut washed apple brandy, bitters, sweet vermouth) paired with Ayer’s Creek Migration barley, smoked beets, pomegranate and chevre
  • A Collins-style drink with lime, lime cordial, Douglas fir, and Genevere paired with Sunflower risotto, leeks, mushrooms, fir tips
  • McCarthy’s single malt, Sherry, Benedictine, bitters and salt paired with SuDan Farm’s grilled lamb, Your Kitchen Garden spinach, scrapple, caramelized yogurt, and cardoon relish
  • Beverage TBD paired with Double chocolate tart, salted caramel, hazelnut ice cream

Clear Creek Distilery is open daily for tastings (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) and is located at 2389 NW Wilson Street, Portland, Oregon

Clear Creek Cocktail and Food Pairing Ideas

I was fortunate enough to attend the Anniversary party, where Matt Mount from Merit Badge mixed up some Clear Creek cocktail recipes from local bartenders from Altabira City Tavern, Bull in China, Clyde Common and Park Kitchen. Overall, I was super impressed with Merit Badge keeping up with the crowds in mixing cocktails for several hours for the anniversary party guests from the cocktail menu below – I wish I had an excuse for using some cocktail catering. So here I am reporting back on some fantastic ideas for cocktails…
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! For the Anniversary Party, Merit Badge mixed up some Clear Creek cocktail recipes from local bartenders from Altabira City Tavern, Bull in China, Clyde Common and Park Kitchen

The Diamond Rush cocktail created by Bull In China with Clear Creek Apple Brandy, Honey Syrup, and Lemon Juice was a lovely welcome drink
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Diamond Rush cocktail curated by Bull In China with Clear Creek Apple Brandy, Honey Syrup, and Lemon Juice Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Diamond Rush cocktail curated by Bull In China with Clear Creek Apple Brandy, Honey Syrup, and Lemon Juice Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Diamond Rush cocktail curated by Bull In China with Clear Creek Apple Brandy, Honey Syrup, and Lemon Juice

The Forest Old Fashioned cocktail created by Merit Badge with Trails End Bourbon, Clear Creek Eau De Vie Douglas Fir, Simple Syrup, and The Bitter Housewife Aromatic Bitters
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Forest Old Fashioned cocktail curated by Merit Badge with Trails End Bourbon, Clear Creek Eau De Vie Douglas Fir, Simple Syrup, and The Bitter Housewife Aromatic Bitters Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Forest Old Fashioned cocktail curated by Merit Badge with Trails End Bourbon, Clear Creek Eau De Vie Douglas Fir, Simple Syrup, and The Bitter Housewife Aromatic Bitters

The Destined For Sun cocktail created by Becca June of Altabira City Tavern with Clear Creek Apple Brandy, Cocchi Americano, Creme Yvette, Bittered Sling Moondog Loup-Garou Bitters was my favorite of the evening.
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Destined For Sun cocktail curated by Becca June of Altabira with Clear Creek Apple Brandy, Cocchi Americano, Creme Yvette, Bittered Sling Moondog Loup-Garou Bitters

The Pear Collins cocktail created by Jeffrey Morganthaler of Clyde Commons with Clear Creek Pear Brandy, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, and Water was super refreshing.
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Pear Collins cocktail curated by Jeffrey Morganthaler of Clyde Commons with Clear Creek Pear Brandy, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, and Water

The Pear Brandy Sidecar cocktail created by Kevin Ludwig of Park Kitchen with Clear Creek Pear Brandy, Cointreau, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, and Simple Syrup
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Pear Brandy Sidecar cocktail curated by Kevin Ludwig of Park Kitchen with Clear Creek Pear Brandy, Cointreau, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, and Simple Syrup Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! The Pear Brandy Sidecar cocktail curated by Kevin Ludwig of Park Kitchen with Clear Creek Pear Brandy, Cointreau, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, and Simple Syrup

Some of the food spread for the anniversary party was courtesy of Tournant and featured local cheese and charcuterie with olives, nuts, pickles and crackers, seasonal crudites with roasted shallot dip, salt boiled potatoes with romesco sauce, and Blue Cheese Tart with Williams Pear Brandy Poached Pears and Oregon Hazelnuts.
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Some of the food spread courtesy of Tournant featuring local cheese and charcuterie with olives, nuts, pickles and crackers, seasonal crudites with roasted shallot dip, salt boiled potatoes with romesco sauce, and Blue Cheese Tart with Williams Pear Brandy Poached Pears and Oregon Hazelnuts Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Some of the food spread courtesy of Tournant featuring local cheese and charcuterie with olives, nuts, pickles and crackers, seasonal crudites with roasted shallot dip, salt boiled potatoes with romesco sauce, and Blue Cheese Tart with Williams Pear Brandy Poached Pears and Oregon Hazelnuts Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Some of the food spread courtesy of Tournant featuring local cheese and charcuterie with olives, nuts, pickles and crackers, seasonal crudites with roasted shallot dip, salt boiled potatoes with romesco sauce, and Blue Cheese Tart with Williams Pear Brandy Poached Pears and Oregon Hazelnuts

If you haven’t heard of Tournant, they are the new branch of old friend PDX Oyster Social and rebrand of Foster’s Craft Cooking. They are expanding from their always spectacular traveling raw bar so that instead of being nomadic gypsies roaming event spaces of Portland, they can also offer their own space.

I’m still thinking about their raw bar from this night. For Clear Creek’s 30th, they brought a Dill Chilled Brined Mussels with Doug Fir Eau De Vie Aioli, Fresh Pacific NW Oysters on the half shell with ginger shallot mignonette, and how chubby and enticing are those fat Grappa Moscato Poached Shrimp with Pickled Mustard Seeds?
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Some of the raw bar by Tournant / PDX Oyster Social Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Some of the raw bar by Tournant / PDX Oyster Social, these are Chilled Brined Mussels with Doug Fir Eau De Vie Aioli Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Some of the raw bar by Tournant / PDX Oyster Social, these are Fresh Pacific NW Oysters on the half shell with ginger shallot mignonette Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Some of the raw bar by Tournant / PDX Oyster Social, these are Grappa Moscato Poached Shrimp with Pickled Mustard Seeds and Dill Chilled Brined Mussels with Doug Fir Eau De Vie Aioli

And Ruby Jewel offered a Douglas Fir Brandy Ice Cream Sandwich with Clear Creek Eau De Vie Douglas Fir and Lemon Cookies
Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Ruby Jewel offered a Douglas Fir Brandy Ice Cream Sandwich with and and Lemon Cookies Clear Creek Distillery Turns 30! Ruby Jewel offered a Douglas Fir Brandy Ice Cream Sandwich with and and Lemon Cookies

Which of these cocktails sounds most interesting to you? Did you know about Clear Creek Distilling and they have a tasting room in Slabtown?

Clear Creek Distilery is open daily for tastings (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) and is located at 2389 NW Wilson Street, Portland, Oregon.

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary Clear Creek Distillery!

Signature

Japan Travel: Famous Signs of Osaka

When I think of Osaka, the first thing I think of is how it’s known as a food city. The other thing I think of is all the big giant food signs of Osaka and bright lights by the canal. So those were my targets when we traveled from Kyoto to Osaka: to eat a few specialty foods and see the famous signs of Osaka.

We only spent one day in Osaka because I had a feeling that F wouldn’t like it. And, I was right. Osaka is a bit more aggressive than Tokyo, and things he liked about Japan – how patient people would be, no one crossed the street except at intersections, everyone formed orderly lines while waiting for trains, everything is clean – is not so in Osaka. If anything, you could say Osaka feels a bit more Western in that regard, more casual than normal Japanese formality, maybe even a bit grittier. It’s the equivalent of Manhattan (Tokyo) vs the Bronx (Osaka) I think in the feel of the cities.

Amerikamura

This neighborhood of Amerikamura is maybe a 10 minute walk from Namba, which is where our AirBnB was located. I think Namba is the most happening area to stay if you visit Osaka. Everything in this post is on walking distance of Namba.

We stored our luggage until check-in at one of the many luggage lockers in the Namba train station – though it took us probably an hour to find a large luggage locker that could fit our 2 carry on bags and 2 backpacks. Just as we were going to give up and take the train to Kyoto Station (where I know they have a luggage room with an attendant), we ran into a group of Japanese late teens/early 20s who were removing their luggage. Huge sigh of relief. If you plan to store luggage you can find a map online as there are multiple luggage locker areas in the station.

Walking into Amerikamura, we were then fully surrounded by many people in their late teens and early 20s. This area is full of trendy stores, especially of clothing, that reflect a love for American influence and American street fashion generally leaning towards sporty (Nike and Adidas like), hip hop (hoodies, printed graphic T-shirts, caps) or punk (black with metallic details or crazy prints or bright colors). It honestly did remind me of the East Village of New York the way the stores were narrow and packed with merchandise. At one point we even spotted Amerikamura’s own version of the Statue of Liberty overseeing this trendy youthful neighborhood (atop New American Plaza, established 1984!).
Amerikamura's own version of the Statue of Liberty looks down upon this American influenced trendy neighborhood of Osaka

This is definitely an area where you can find lots of funny uses of English, be it store names or on clothing. This one particular store, Baked Magic, cracked me up every time we walked by – they really did sell an interesting variety of pastry puffs of some sort but seemed to have overly complicated origins where it baked, but also is a result of wizard magic but also grows off a giant vine/beanstalk?
Punk teens co exist with hip hop style or sporty - think Nike and Adidas like - in Amerikamura, a trendy neighborhood in Osaka. This was taken at Sankaku Koen, a famous intersection. this one store, Baked Magic, cracked me up every time we walked by - they really did only sell a pastry puff of some sort but seemed to have overly complicated origins where it is a result of wizard magic but also grows off a giant vine/beanstalk

The main goal in Amerikamura was a famous intersection called Sankaku Koen, also known as Triangle Park because of the way the streets cross forms a triangular area in the middle where people hang out. Also, I had read from Matcha Japan Travel magazine that this street also has multiple takoyaki stands that flank the triangle park all within a couple blocks, all facing the park. Takoyaki are octopus dumplings, a street food representative of Osaka.
Sights of Osaka - Amerikamura and one of the takoyaki stands I considered, one of the famous 3 stands right around Mitsu Park, a little park by an intersection that is like a triangle so it's also nicknamed Sankaku Koen for Triangle Park. This is Kogaryu’s(甲賀流) that is known for its mayo sauce Sights of Osaka - Amerikamura, here you see the other two takoyaki stands on the same street by Mitsu Park, a little park by an intersection that is like a triangle so it's also nicknamed Sankaku Koen for Triangle Park Sights of Osaka - Amerikamura and Takoyaki Stand Shiranngana! (知らんがな!) that I considered is known more for its jokes (for instance, instead of yen it lists prices as ten thousand yen increments but really it's still regular yen- it just means you hear someone say it's 4 million yen but really it's 400). It's specialty is apparently salt flavored takoyaki Sights of Osaka - Amerikamura and Takoyaki Stand Ganso Donaiya that I considered... and then I saw the balls on top rotated. And the lady taking orders is wearing a hat. And there are photos from articles and a Tripadvisor sticker on it. I also liked that this one they spotlight the cooking right in the front and side so you can watch your takoyaki being made fresh in front of you.

I went for the takoyaki stand Ganso Donaiya with the famous rotating takoyaki sign almost like a slow-mo slot machine, but with the takoyaki balls instead.
I went for the takoyaki stand Ganso Donaiya with the famous rotating takoyaki sign almost like a slow-mo slot machine, but with the takoyaki balls instead. I went for the takoyaki stand Ganso Donaiya with the famous rotating takoyaki sign almost like a slow-mo slot machine, but with the takoyaki balls instead.

And the lady taking orders is wearing a hat. And there are photos from articles and a Tripadvisor sticker on it. And there’s a line and I see them making the food fresh (those two are key in eating foreign street food). Must be good right?
I went for the takoyaki stand Ganso Donaiya with the famous rotating takoyaki sign. And the lady taking orders is wearing a hat. And there are photos from articles and a Tripadvisor sticker on it. Must be good! I went for the takoyaki stand Ganso-Donaiya with the famous rotating takoyaki sign. And the lady taking orders is wearing a hat. And there are photos from articles and a Tripadvisor sticker on it. Must be good!

I also liked that this one they spotlight the cooking right in the front and side so you can watch your takoyaki being made fresh in front of you. The line also reinforced that it would be fresh, and must be tasty right? First you pour in a batter into special takoyaki pans, and then add the seasoning and the little bits of octopus.
Sights of Osaka - Amerikamura - while waiting in line for takoyaki you can watch them being made fresh. Here as the ones on the right finish cooking, he pours batter to start a new batch in the other takoyaki pan Sights of Osaka - Amerikamura - while waiting in line for takoyaki you can watch them being made fresh. First you pour in a batter into special takoyaki pans, and then add the seasoning and the little bits of octopus.

Then you turn them over to cook the other side, and when the balls are fully formed, expertly place them 2 at a time into containers before adding the sauces and whatever are the famous toppings of that takoyaki stand.
Sights of Osaka - Amerikamura - while waiting in line for takoyaki you can watch them being made fresh. First you pour in a batter into special takoyaki pans, and then add the seasoning and the little bits of octopus. Then you turn them over to cook the other side, and when the balls are fully formed, expertly place them 2 at a time into containers before adding the sauces and whatever are the famous toppings of that takoyaki stand Sights of Osaka - Amerikamura - while waiting in line for takoyaki you can watch them being made fresh. First you pour in a batter into special takoyaki pans, and then add the seasoning and the little bits of octopus. Then you turn them over to cook the other side, and when the balls are fully formed, expertly place them 2 at a time into containers before adding the sauces and whatever are the famous toppings of that takoyaki stand

I selected one with the takoyaki sauce, mayo, egg and green onion.
Takoyaki from takoyaki stand Ganso Donaiya in Amerikamura by Sankaku Koen with takoyaki sauce, mayo, egg and green onion Takoyaki from takoyaki stand Ganso Donaiya in Amerikamura by Sankaku Koen with takoyaki sauce, mayo, egg and green onion

Dotonbori

The most famous area of Osaka is beyond a question Dotonbori. This is both the name of a street and a canal, and is known for being a huge food destination full of gigantic signs, including mechanized signs.
Sights of Osaka - one street down from the Ebisu-bashi bridge, which is the closest crossing to the Glico man and Asahi beer sign and is always packed, day or night. Sights of Osaka - one street down from the Ebisu-bashi bridge, which is the closest crossing to the Glico Running man and Asahi beer sign and is always packed, day or night.

At night, Dotonbori is glittering with bright lights. Here you see the famous giant neon Glico Running Man, and along the street there is a smaller version with the time that you can pose with.
'Sights Sights of Osaka - giant neon Glico Running Man Sights of Osaka - giant neon Glico Running Man Sights of Osaka - giant neon Glico Running Man

If you’re wondering why a running man is the symbol of a Glico candy company, it’s because he is running a 300 meter race, and it so happens that a 300 meter run burns the same amount of calories as eating one piece of Glico caramel.
If you're running why a running man is the symbol of a Glico candy company, it's because he is running a 300 meter race, and it so happens that a 300 meter run burns the same amount of calories as eating one piece of Glico caramel. If you're running why a running man is the symbol of a Glico candy company, it's because he is running a 300 meter race, and it so happens that a 300 meter run burns the same amount of calories as eating one piece of Glico caramel.

You’ve probably seen the famous Kani Doraku crab sign with its mechanized legs slowly moving since the 60s, beckoning patrons to eat at this crab restaurant chain (there are a few other branches, but this is the original flagship restaurant with the iconic moving crab) right before the Dotonbori Bridge.
Sights of Osaka - the view down Dotonbori, including to the left the crab restaurant Kani Doraku that erected their giant mechanized crab sign back in 1960 and kicked off a craze of giant animated seafood signs Sights of Osaka - the view down Dotonbori, including to the the crab restaurant Kani Doraku that erected their giant mechanized crab sign back in 1960 and kicked off a craze of giant animated seafood signs

For instance, here’s another branch with the crab above its sign, though this one didn’t move. Next to it is another famous icon, Kushikatsu Daruma a kushikatsu restaurant (deep fried skewer restaurant) whose mascot is an angry looking Asian chef.
Sights of Osaka - Left, Kushikatsu Daruma a kushikatsu restaurant (deep fried skewer restaurant) whose mascot is an angry looking Asian chef with a fu manchu. And, to the right another location of crab restaurant Kani Doraku that erected their giant mechanized crab sign back in 1960 and kicked off a craze of giant animated seafood signs 'Sights

Kushikatsu is also known kushiage. It is battered meat and veggies which are deep fried skewered that you then you dip into a Worchester-like tonkatsu sauce. The sauce is in a communal container for every 2 people or so, and you better NOT double-dip. You can order your skewer one at a time, or purchase a set that has an assortment like the one I had.

When I ate at Kushikatsu Daruma, I selected the Shinsekai set menu that includes a side I could choose as well as skewers of classic kushikatsu (beef), all natural shrimp, quail egg, asparagus, rice cake, pork cutlet, pumpkin, cheese, and tomato. I picked Takowasa as the side included for the set I ordered, which is cold octopus with rice vinegar, sugar, and wasabi. Having as a side the chilled raw octopus (almost like a ceviche) with bit of acid and bite of spiciness was I thought a good counter for the deep fried fattiness of the skewers. You will also get a side of cabbage leaves to go with your skewers. There will be a container to use for disposal of your skewers each time – just watch the others along the counter with you.
Kushikatsu, is essentially deep fried food on a stick—or more specifically, battered meat and veggies which are deep fried skewered that you then you dip into a Worchester-like tonkatsu sauce. I ate at an outpost of the famous chain Daruma. Look at all the example kushikatsu on the boards! Kushikatsu lunch for me at Kushikutsu Daruma - I picked the Takowasa, which is cold octopus with rice vinegar, sugar, and wasabi as the included side for the set. Having as a side the chilled raw octopus (almost like a ceviche) with bit of acid and bite of spiciness was I thought a good counter for the deep fried fattiness of the skewers. This is part of the Shinsekai set menu that includes classic kushikatsu (beef), all natural shrimp, quail egg, asparagus, rice cake, pork cutlet, pumpkin, cheese, and tomato. The glass is NOT water - it's Kushikutsu Daruma barley shochu Kushikatsu lunch for me at Daruma - I picked the Takowasa, which is cold octopus with rice vinegar, sugar, and wasabi Having as a side the chilled raw octopus (almost like a ceviche) with bit of acid and bite of spiciness was I thought a good counter for the deep fried fattiness of the skewers Kushikatsu lunch for me at Daruma - I picked the Takowasa, which is cold octopus with rice vinegar, sugar, and wasabi Having as a side the chilled raw octopus (almost like a ceviche) with bit of acid and bite of spiciness was I thought a good counter for the deep fried fattiness of the skewers. This is part of the Shinsekai set menu that includes classic kushikatsu (beef), all natural shrimp, quail egg, asparagus, rice cake, pork cutlet, pumpkin, cheese, and tomato. Since they bring you the skewers while they are freshly fried, I got some on one tray, and then a second tray appeared with the rest.

As you walk up and down the street, you will encounter many other giant foods, which I visited both during the day and night.
Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori - here potstickers/gyoza Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori - here potstickers/gyoza Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori include an octopus cooking itself into takoyaki? Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori include an octopus cooking itself into takoyaki? Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori, including a giant sushi in a Big Hand that symbolizes Genroku Zushi and Zuboraya's fugu blowfish Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori, including a giant sushi in a Big Hand that symbolizes Genroku Zushi and Zuboraya's fugu blowfish Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori

Here, a huge blowfish lantern adorns Zuboraya, a fugu (deadly poison blowfish) restaurant.
Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori. Here, a huge blowfish lantern adorns Zubora-ya, a fugu (deadly poison blowfish) restaurant Sights of Osaka - the giant food signs of Dotonbori. Here, a huge blowfish lantern adorns Zubora-ya, a fugu (deadly poison blowfish) restaurant

Then there’s this Kuidaore Taro, the famous drumming clown. Kuidaore Taro a life sized mechanized doll of a young teen in a clown costume playing a drum and symbol that originated around 1950. You can see there is a sign that is pretty large with him in the first photo on the left… and then I found a shop dedicated to him that included the drumming statue and a whole bunch of stuff with his likeness.
Sights of Osaka - including to the left in this photo Kuidaore Taro, the famous drumming clown. Sights of Osaka - Kuidaore Taro, the famous drumming clown. Sights of Osaka - Kuidaore Taro, the famous drumming clown.

You are likely to see Kinryuu Ramen, which has a large dragon eating a bowl of ramen. It is a somewhat large chain of ramen shops, so you’ll see this a couple times. Kinryuu is a combination of the words “gold” and “dragon”, so it can easily be translated to be “Golden Dragon”.
Kinryuu Ramen, which has a large dragon eating a bowl of ramen as its mascot. Kinryuu Ramen, which has a large dragon eating a bowl of ramen as its mascot.

You will probably also run into Billikin, the god of ‘things as they ought to be’. Rubbing his feet brings luck, and oddly he is a charm character imported from St Louis but adopted into Japanese culture – he is still Saint Louis University’s mascot.
Billiken is the defining symbol of the area around Tsutenkaku but can be found in various places in Osaka and is the god of 'things as they ought to be'. Rubbing his feet brings luck, and oddly he is a charm character imported from St Louis but adopted into Japanese culture Billiken is the defining symbol of the area around Tsutenkaku but can be found in various places in Osaka and is the god of 'things as they ought to be'. Rubbing his feet brings luck, and oddly he is a charm character imported from St Louis but adopted into Japanese culture

There are lots of stands of takoyaki and other grilled meats throughout the streets – something F complained about because the aromas of the grills also added to our attire so much that F insisted we do laundry once we got back to the AirBnB.
Takoyaki and grilled meats at one of the stands in Dotonbori filling the air with their aromas

Although, to be fair, we also ate okonomiyaki at Ajinoya for dinner. Okonomiyaki is a kind of griddled Japanese pancake that includes batter, shredded cabbage, and other ingredients and toppings which vary but generally include okonomiyaki sauce, mayo, bonito flakes, and seaweed flakes. You usually have it prepared either by the chef or you make it yourself at the table. At Ajinoya it is made by the chef and if you sit at a booth they then bring it to your own grill.
our dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya - you usually have it prepared either by the chef or you make it yourself at the table. At Ajinoya it is made by the chef and if you sit at a booth they then bring it to your own grill where you can top it as you wish our dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya - you usually have it prepared either by the chef or you make it yourself at the table. At Ajinoya it is made by the chef and if you sit at a booth they then bring it to your own grill where you can top it as you wish

You get little spatulas at your seating to then cut the okonomiyaki into slices almost like pizza.
Our booth for two for a dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya. Our booth for two for a dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya. You get little spatulas at your seating to then cut the okonomiyaki into slices almost like pizza.

I chose Ajinoya because it had a great review on the blog Migrationology’s Osaka Food Guide: 11 Must Eat Foods (and Where To Try Them) post. Also, I had found out that they have a tomato and cheese okonomiyaki and you also top your own bonito flakes and amount of sauce at your table, so this seemed like a good choice for vegetarian F since he normally would not be able to eat okonomiyaki as it usually would include seafood,  and I could go crazy with the flakes and sauce here.
Dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya. He had the okonomiyaki with fresh tomatoes and cheese Dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya. He had the okonomiyaki with fresh tomatoes and cheese

Here’s my version – which was Hiroshima style as instead of mixing all the ingredients together it was layered with the batter being on top and bottom, and also included yakisoba noodles.
Dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya. This is the Hiroshima styled okonomiyaki which you can then top with as much additional sauce and bonito flakes as you want from containers on the table Dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya. This is the Hiroshima styled okonomiyaki which you can then top with as much additional sauce and bonito flakes as you want from containers on the table Dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya. This is the Hiroshima styled okonomiyaki which you can then top with as much additional sauce and bonito flakes as you want from containers on the table Dinner of okonomiyaki in Namba, Osaka at Ajinoya. This is the Hiroshima styled okonomiyaki which you can then top with as much additional sauce and bonito flakes as you want from containers on the table

How many of the famous signs of Osaka have you heard about or seen before? Which is the one you find most interesting? Have you heard of or tried the Osaka food specialties like takoyaki, kushikatsu, or okonomiyaki before?

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