Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Whole Lotta Beef

There was so much beef eaten this weekend that we pretty much got our protein for the month.

Saturday was kind of a down day for us. Ian went and played some games. I did a shift at the Antiques & Crafts store where it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Literally the Christmas merchandise is coming in. I don't really want to think about that yet. But Saturday night we went out on the town with the rest of his squadron to have a little going away celebration. Lucky dog is moving on to Kadena in Okinawa...just in time to miss the snow.  We were lead down some very unlit back streets to this hibachi restaurant where we had the entire upstairs floor rented. It was pretty hilarious because there was a shoe holder at the bottom of the stairs and no one took off their shoes until they were at the top of the stairs and were getting reprimanded by the waitress. So there was like this hold up in the line - while us at the bottom of the stairs changed out of our shoes and then squeezed up the stairs past the others. Having to remove shoes creates problems for Americans.

So we get into the party room and there are two low tables with cushions for chairs. Each section of the table has a hibachi grill in the center of it. The server brought out huge plates of beef, veggies, and even a plate of whole prawns. These weren't eaten by anyone but me really. You had to cook them on the grill and then eat them with their little heads and armor on. I thought they were crunchy and delicious. The food just kept coming. We had rice, yakisoba, gyoza, and pizza - It was pretty much all you could eat. And then came the beer.

I should mention that our group was about 15 people strong and consisted mostly of single men, though there were a few spouses. Airmen drink a lot, period. The beer pitchers just started appearing and then disappearing and then reappearing. But what most people didn't realize was that they were $22 pitchers. Towards the end of the meal when everyone was singing Karaoke and talking I started to get a little concerned so I asked the sergeant and then told the waitress to cut people off. There was probably only one other sober person beside me. Our group of 15 people had a $750 bill at the end of the night - granted we paid in yen. Without the beer we would have paid like $20 per person anyways because it was basically all you can eat Japanese beef. Then there were the drunken singing as we walked back to base. It was an awesome night!

Sunday we went to Takko for the garlic and beef festival. We went on the bus this year but I think that next year we'll probably drive. It's a little far from Misawa - about two hours. We passed through Nanbu where they have all the orchards and vineyards along the side of the road. The rice fields have all turned golden and some of them have been threshed and  turned into little Teepees so the rice can dry.  It's so beautiful because the rice is yellow, the trees are still mostly green and then you have the blue of the mountains in the back ground. I can't find any pictures on line to show you and we didn't stop for pictures in the bus. Sorry.

When we got there we immediately got in line to get our food. They handed us a bag already put together with everything in it. We got meat, veggies, garlic sauce, a plate, chopsticks, and a clove of garlic. Then we went out to this huge grilling area outside. There were just grills set up in lines with tons of people milling around. We happened upon a vacant grill and the nice teenage attendant girls got everything going for us by rubbing some beef fat on the already hot grill so that our meat wouldn't stick. So we just got down to cooking. It was so delicious. The meat is so well marbled it melts in your mouth. Ian put his garlic clove on the grill and that was a delight at the end of the meal.
Just as Ian and I are finishing up grilling and are ready to have a look around at the different booths and what not it starts raining. A cold driving rain, and we are severly under prepared. We didn't have the ponchos or the umbrellas because when we left Misawa everything looked fine. We were freezing our nubs off, hiding from one sheltered spot to another looking things for the next two hours before we needed to be on the bus.  Rule #1 of traveling in Japan: always bring and umbrella.

There was a huge building with a dirt floor. In it there was grills set up and people were grilling away. It was so smoky in there that everything was a grey haze. It was making me queasy so we stayed near the doors. This was the warmest building, obviously, but the most noxious. That didn't stop half the people from the fest in cramming in the building to get out of the rain. At one end of the building there was also the rotisserie beef. They had an entire side of beef turning over coals that they would cut chunks off and sell to people. The festival is only two days and this side of beef only lasted till about 1pm on the second day so next year we will have to come on Saturday. It was kind of fun watching the guys in lab coats cut away at this huge carcass, it's hard to believe it's real. Or that it used to walk around and eat grass.
There weren't a huge amount of vendors because it wasn't a terribly large festival. Most of them sold garlic related products, fresh produce, or festival foods. We tried tofu and glutinous rice (I think) on a stick. They are both dipped in a very salty soysauce like sauce and then grilled over charcoal like the fish on the stick. they were very yummy and cheap. Only 80 yen, you could practically take one bit of it and throw it away for that much money. Ian and I bought some bowls of soup, mostly to keep our hands warm. It was really delicious with cabbage, carrots, leeks and meat in what I guess is a miso like broth. But then I started to look at the meat and a lot of it seemed to  be organ meat and of course we can't read the sign to figure out what it is. The meat was all thin and wrinkly - maybe heart, maybe intestine? Then I found a piece that had veins still on it and my stomach turned. My stomach never fails! and it tasted really good...sigh, it was probably all the other things we had eaten. We didn't end up finishing.

There was a stage set up with a tent over it so we went over there a little bit to huddle and watch the shows. We saw some amazing traditional Japanese dancing and the music was really fun to listen to. There was an old man without any teeth some some sing talking and we wished we knew what he was saying because it sounded a bit like a story. There some fun videos in the web album. We also caught some kids having a rock paper scissors contest and some girls showing off their hulu skills.  The only problem is that the rain was coming down really hard and as we were standing there watching the performances the water was slowly creeping up the grass and into our shoes. I thought "Why are my feet cold all of a sudden?" I looked down and I'm standing in an inch of water that wasn't there twenty minutes ago. I shared a laugh with the flag guy about that and then tried to creep up only solid ground.
The Garlic King
We did end up buying things though. We got some eggs with a strange greenish color to them and tamago (Japanese Omelet ) Sauce from these really nice middle schoolers that were trying to practice their English on us. It sounds silly but I'm slightly more tempted to buy from sellers that try and use their English on me, maybe it's just that I know what I'm getting. Then we went to another stand and got some of the amazing garlic sauce that we had with our meat. We actually found and bought garlic sake. Garlic Sake! and believe it or not when we opened it up it smelled like garlic. It was not a sake for the week of heart, it was very rough to drink. It also had the curious potential to make your breathe smell like garlic - There was a lot of teeth brushing in our household that night.
Here's the album link - Takko Beef and Garlic Festival

1 comment:

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