Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Japanese Food Adventure Chapter 2 - Day 6. Satsuki and Mei's House, arriving in Nagasaki and the incredible Hanbey

Today we should've been travelling on to Nagasaki first thing as it would take over six hours to get there. Our plan had changed a few weeks back though when our booking for Satsuki and Mei's House was changed from yesterday to today. It wasn't a huge problem as we could travel to Nagasaki later in the day but it meant we had to travel East of Nagoya to Morikoro Park and be there by 10.30am. This involved taking a train and a monorail to the park, once there we had to find the ticket office to the house (the pin on the map) inside the massive park. It looked like quite a nightmare to find so we left much earlier than we needed too in case we got lost.  

When using trains in Japan the Hyperdia app does all the work for you and is always correct. It's free to use for 30 days and is an essential tool when travelling by train in Japan.

Our journey to Morikoro Park went smoothly and we arrived really early. In our rush to get there though we forgot to buy any food and were both really hungry.

We found a drinks vending machine, I had an iced coffee.

My wife chose a milk tea.

We didn't need to worry about getting lost in the park as there were signs everywhere.

 These two chaps were the only other people about.

All the cafes in the park were closed but we did find an ice cream vending machine.

These signs were slightly worrying!

As we got closer to Satsuki and Mei's house the landscape felt quite fairytale like.

Once at the ticket office we were given our tickets and a leaflet, also as we were early we were allowed to join the 10am tour. Each tour was limited to about 12 people, this made it much more special as hoards of visitors would make the tour feel crowded and hectic. We sat and listened to a talk by the tour leader in Japanese for what seemed like an eternity, both me and my wife kept nodding to be polite but had no idea what was being said. He did come over at the end though to tell us in English that we could touch anything inside the house but not take any photos inside. It was ok to take photos outside and through the windows though.

My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. It's one of my wife's favourite films, I watched it for the first time earlier this year, loved it! We were about to visit a full scale replica of Satsuki and Mei's house from the film, we would have just 30 minutes to look around.

The house was stunning and the attention to detail was breathtaking.

We wondered if Catbus would be along soon.

 The staff encouraged visitors to try the working water pump, nearby was a bucket with a hole in the bottom just like in the film.

Visitors are invited to look inside every cupboard and drawer, there are so many different things to look at and touch each time you open one. You really feel like you've snuck into the house whilst Satsuki and Mei are out for the day.

The bike from the film stands outside the house.

This is their father's study, the calender Satsuki made for her father hangs on the wall and is changed every month, only in Japan would you get such attention to detail.

 We didn't spot any soot sprites but when we opened the door that lead upstairs there was an acorn on one of the stairs just like in the film.

The 30 minutes flies by so quickly, the fact you can't take photos inside ends up being a good thing as it means you can fully focus on everything. Afterwards you are lead to a viewing platform where you can see the house down below. You have to pre-book tickets to come here well in advance, we booked through Govoyagin, our tickets cost £9 each.

We left Moricoro Park on the Linimo line, it's the first commercial maglev in Japan to use the High Speed Surface Transport (HSST) type technology.

For the journey my wife chose a cake from a vending machine and I chose and old favourite, a fish sausage. The fish sausage is a nightmare to open but well worth the effort, a tasty fish paste flavoured sausage, possibly not to everyones taste though.

The linemo line is raised giving great views from the front of the train.

We called back into the hotel to collect our cases, all the hotels we stayed at in Japan were happy to look after left luggage which came in really handy. Whilst briefly at the hotel I checked online and noticed a limited edition record I was desperate to get had just been released. I managed to secure my copy, very lucky timing as next time I checked it had sold out. Our time in Nagoya had come to an end, next stop Nagasaki!

We found a basement food hall in a department store to buy some lunch today, they are an excellent option if you're looking for some amazing food at a great price.  On the train journey I enjoyed this chicken in a sweet sauce with vegetable rice and a selection of vegetables. It tasted superb and cost under ¥600 (about £4)

The potato salad in Japan is really creamy and so much nicer than at home. We couldn't resist buying some in the department store to eat with our bento boxes.

This cold chocolate milk from a vending machine gets the thumbs up from me.

On our first train to Kobe we were amazed at how comfy the seats were, once reclined they were easy to fall asleep in.

Nearly all Shinkansen have small smoking rooms, the ventilation is so good in these they never get smoky.

My wife spent some time trying to sketch Japanese buildings, not so easy when the train is travelling up to 186mph but she managed it when the train slowed down near stations.

There are even vending machines on trains in Japan, I decided to go old sckool with a full fat coke.

Our final train from Hakata to Nagasaki took nearly 2 hours. It wasn't a shinkansen but still had comfy seats and plenty of legroom. The train followed the coastline most of the way and was a great place to watch the sun slowly setting in the distance.

For the final leg of the journey we bought a pair of boiled eggs.

Japanese eggs are the best eggs I've ever tasted, so full of flavour and with deep yellow yolks.

I kept seeing these in the distance and finally realised they were golf driving ranges.  When I didn't have my glasses on I initially thought I'd spotted a large rollercoaster.

 It was about 8.30pm when we arrived at our hotel (this pic was taken the following day)
The APA Hotel Nagasaki-Ekiminami was close to the port area and cost us ¥7600 (about £50) per night for a double room with en suite bathroom.

Folded paper cranes and Yukatas laid on top of the bed.

We were pretty hungry but couldn't decide where to eat, in the end we chose this place. In doing so we discovered something amazing, an excellent and cheap izakaya restaurant called Hanbey. What we didn't realise at the time is that Hanbey are a chain and have lots of these places all over Japan.

As soon as you enter you're surrounded by masks, toys and retro posters, music from 1950's Japan plays in the background.

Astro boy is surrounded by many sweets and snacks, all of which are are available to buy. 

You can watch all the food being prepared and cooked.

The beer here like everything else were really cheap, a large glass of beer cost just ¥450 (about £3)

In Hanbey you are aloocated a time slot of 2 hours and can order food and drinks for 90 minutes of that time.

Many places in Japan charge a cover charge in restaurants and bars, here it costs ¥380 per person. You are however given unlimited cabbage as an appetizer.

The prospect of raw cabbage may not fill you with joy, dip it in the accompanying sauce though and you just can't get enough, it's really delicious!

Everything on the menu is incredibly cheap and some things listed are not for the faint hearted.

I kept saying I was going to try the octopus sausage but never got round to ordering it.

I started with some gyoza, a bit different to what I was used to as these had a crispier edge, very good though and just ¥200 (about £1.35)

For the same price I also ordered okonomiyaki, an old favourite I'd tried on my last trip to Japan.  It's a Japanese savoury pancake containing noodles, fish, meat and vegetables, coated in sauce and topped with fish flakes. I'll be delving deeper into okonomiyaki later in the trip, this was the first of many I enjoyed during my time in Japan.

There are a selection of sauces and powders to add to your food when it arrives.

The drinks menu here was as big as the food menu making it difficult to decide what to chose. We were up for trying new things though so we ordered Sally the Witch having no idea what it was.

I still have no idea what was in it, one things for sure though, it tasted great and had plenty of alcohol in it.

Before leaving we ordered a Mighty Atom, this drink arrives with a song from the person serving you. After hearing the song we necked it, the popping candy in this one was a bit of a surprise!

Hanbey has lots of little booths tucked away in different places, this one was like a small bar area designed to seat a party of four.

Even the toilet was filled to the brim with retro toys and posters.

At the end the bill worked out at about £33, not bad at all considering we'd eaten plenty and ordered at least 8 drinks between us.

Once again my wife captured the day beautifully in a sketch. The items above the house were what we'd remembered spotting in Satsuki and Mei's drawers and cupboards.

Click here for Day 7
Visiting Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)

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