Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ichigo wa oishikatta!

The strawberries were delicious!

Yesterday, Ashley and I went with Ahki and Kazu to the Nouhime Strawberry greenhouses. They picked us up from our house at 11:30 and we went to a local coffee shop and had lunch. It was pretty good, I had an egg salad sandwich with pizza sauce and cheese on the top slice (like pizza bread) and Ashley had a small pizza. We had a mixed fruit drink which the coffee shop is famous for and it was really good.

After lunch we drove for an hour to Gifu where the greenhouses were located. Basically it was a bunch of greenhouses located on some land, nothing fancy or anything and something you definitely would have passed had you not known what was inside. When we walked in, the first half of the first greenhouse was cherry tomato plants, lots of them! We went to the desk and paid for our visit. Basically it is 1500 yen ($13.00) to pick and eat strawberries for 1/2 (or more). Basically all-you-can-eat strawberries! To get an idea of how much strawberries are in grocery stores ... we saw 6 yesterday in the grocery packaged together for $10.00! They were slightly smaller than the one pictured below.

Once we paid we got our containers with condensed milk to dip our strawberries in, we were taken to an area in one of the green houses (each green house had 88 rows of strawberries) and were shown the 4 rows of strawberries we could pick from. The lady showed us how to pick the strawberries and then we were let loose! The first one I ate was unbelievably delicious! They were all so perfect, red, and just super juicy and sweet when you bit into them.

We ate and ate and ate and finally finished! This picture shows us all with our last strawberries of the day. I, Jonathan, ate 51, Ashley ate 23, Ahki at 41, and Kazu ate around 27 I think. We were all very full from strawberries! There are more pictures here.

Once we were finished we left and headed back to our house where we would have dinner. Friday night I prepared everything for white chili and put the pot in the refrigerator to cook once we returned from strawberry eating! After they looked around our house and at our wedding pictures we started to play cards ... Hand-and-Foot. Once we explained it all to them and had several examples and a practice hand, then we started to play a real game. We ate between the 2nd and 3rd hand. Everyone said the soup was really good and Ahki and Kazu both really enjoyed it, it was their first American home cooked meal per se. Ashley and Kazu won the first game 8750 to 6930. Ashley made some brownies and we had them between the 1st and 2nd game and as Ahki and Kazu said, they were American sweet! Ahki and I won the 2nd game 9590 to 4250 and actually before the 4th hand the score was 8535 to 1055, of course I didn't rub it in any to Ashley!

We had a great day with our friends and look forward to doing something with them again. Our next outing will be yakisoba and okonomiyaki at their place and playing Hand-and-Foot, they both really liked the game.

Gifu Freshwater Aquarium and Shabu-shabu

February 24th, Ashley and I spent some time with Tominaga-san and his wife. Tominaga-san is one of my co-workers at Kamigo, he is in charge of a portion of the Assembly line on the new engine that we are working on. He has been very helpful to me at work and just making sure I am OK. Tominaga picked Ashley and I up at our house around 1:30 p.m. and then we drove to Gifu prefecture to pick up his wife at her parents house. We were invited in to have tea, coffee, and a couple snacks. His wife is a high school English teacher and her English is good. Actually, Tominaga's English is pretty good as well so conversation is not difficult. His wife's mother brought us out the tea and proceeded to sit down and began talking in nearly perfect English ... it was really remarkable. Apparently she studied English in school, like all Japanese do, and has studied ever since. Anyways, she was very nice and invited us back any time.

After tea and coffee we left and went to the Gifu Freshwater Aquarium, Japan's largest freshwater aquarium. We had a very nice time and as always, we enjoy any aquarium!

After the aquarium we went to eat dinner. We had reservations and enjoyed shabu-shabu. Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ), is a Japanese variant of hot pot. The dish is related to sukiyaki in style, where both use thinly sliced meat and vegetables, and usually served with dipping sauces. It is considered a winter dish but is eaten year-round. The dish is traditionally made with thinly sliced beef, is usually served with tofu and vegetables, including Chinese cabbage, chrysanthemum leaves, nori (seaweed), onions, carrots, shittake mushrooms and enokitake mushrooms. In some places, udon and/or harusame noodles may also be served. The dish is prepared by submerging a very thin slice of meat or a piece of vegetable in a pot of boiling water or dashi (broth) made with kombu (kelp) and swishing it back and forth several times. (The familiar swishing sound is where the dish gets its name. Shabu-shabu roughly translates to "swish-swish".) Cooked meat and vegetables are usually dipped in ponzu (citrus based) or "goma" (sesame seed) sauce before eating with a bowl of steamed white rice.

We had a really great time and enjoyed spending time with our friends.