11/07/2010 (Mon) -> Grandma’s place -> You-Me town (Oomuta) -> Kagoshima
We got up around 7:30, and started our day early. After eating the breakfast my mom made, we decided to go to the shrine on the top of a big hill by my home.
My dad dropped us off by the foot of the hill and we walked up to Yotsuyama Shrine.
It was Monday morning so of course we were the only ones at the shrine. My hometown is very countryside, and it’s hard to get to the shrine, so no one really visits there unless it’s for an event like new year’s eve.
It was a cloudy day but quiet and peaceful. We washed our hands before walking into the shrine. No matter how empty the shrine is, they always have their lucky charm store open. There’s a button to push when you want to buy something, someone comes out, and you give them money. We bought lucky charms of our Chinese zodiac animals.
After the visit to the shrine, we walked back home. A lot has changed around there since I was little. The streets and a lot of houses looked really new. There were still some houses that looked just like I remembered. I was also surprised to see how short those houses were.
On the way back, we stopped by at an “ishi yaki-imo” (means “rock baked potato”) stand and got ourselves an ishi yaki-imo. “Imo” means potato in Japanese, and they usually use Satsuma-imo for ishi yaki-imo. The skin is red on the outside and it’s as sweet as a yam. My grandma used to make them too. Basically you put round stones (not sure if you need a specific kind of stone) in a huge heavy duty metal pot, heat up the stone and cook a sweet potato on it. It’s one of the best foods to eat in the Fall in Japan. The vendors usually pull the yaki-imo cart around town playing the “yaki-imo” call. It’s kind of like a very slow-moving ice cream truck. The one we found was on a rickshaw, but they usually have an oven set up on the back of small pickup truck.
By the way, if you are an anime fan, you might have seen people cooking potatoes on a stick on burning leaves. This is just called “yaki-imo.” Leaves in Fall are dry and easy to burn, and Satsuma-imo is very sweet in Fall, so that makes yaki-imo a very popular food in Japan.
We had to leave home and head to Kagoshima later that evening, so my parents decided to take us to go pay respects to my grandma first. But before that, we stopped by at my elementary school.
Afterward we got to my grandma’s place which was the top of a small mountain. Because both of my parents worked, I grew up in my grandma’s place with my grandma and my aunt. I cannot thank my grandma and aunt enough for taking care of me. I’d wake up at my parents’ home, eat breakfast, and my parents would drop me off at my grandma’s. Then I’d leave for school, come back to my grandma’s, eat dinner, take a bath, then my parents would come pick me up at night and I’d sleep at my home.
My grandma passed away about a year ago but I couldn’t go back to Japan for her funeral. She was such a cute lady. When she got a cellphone, I emailed her on her cellphone. She was so happy to see an email from me, she was showing it to everyone but she’d never let them touch the phone because she was worried that they’d accidentally delete them.
My grandma’s place felt really small, but everything was pretty much exactly the way it was. Also my grandma’s place is like a museum dedicated to me. She kept pretty much everything I made when I was little.
My grandma was the arts & crafty one in the family. I definitely got my craftiness from her. (My parents may cut hair, but they weren’t crafty at all.) She used to make soooo many different things out of household products, it was really cool to watch her make things. I miss her a lot, but whenever I think of her I can make my grandma’s Japanese style hamburg I used to love.
After a short visit to my grandma’s place, we went to the nearby mall called “You-Me Town.” (It’s pronounced “Yume” as in “dream”, but it’s spelled “You-me” as in, well, “You and me” because Japanese people LOVE playing with words, especially if it’s English.) This huge mall was built several years ago and every time I go back to my hometown my family wants to take me there, saying that it’s the coolest place. It’s just like a big mall in the suburbs of the U.S. It was more like my parents wanted to go so they took us with them. In fact, my mom wanted to shop at Uniqlo, so we kind of left my parents there and walked around.
We hadn’t eaten lunch yet so we went to a ramen restaurant on the way back home.
Tanpopo ramen, Arao city, Kumamoto
We ate: Ramen, gyoza, fried chicken, curry, salad and pickles (500 yen)
They had only one kind of ramen, which isn’t that unusual for a ramen place. They also had curry, rice, gyoza, fried chicken, salad and all sorts of pickles for FREE. Yes, they charge you 500 yen for ramen, but they also have an all-you-can-eat buffet.
There was no limit for the buffet so we sampled everything. We were even more surprised that all the free food were actually very good. Too bad that I can’t really recommend this to tourists though. It’s on a main street but you have to have a car to get there, and my hometown is so not worth visiting just for the restaurant.
When we got home, we quickly packed the hiking gear my dad had prepared for us. We needed a set of hiking gear for Yakushima, and fortunately my dad hikes and climbs mountains as a hobby. I didn’t really care how I’d look but boy, we looked like our parents wearing my dad’s hiking clothes. They dropped us at Oomuta station and we took a train to Kagoshima.
We got to Kagoshima station in less than two hours. We took a trolley train from Kagoshima station to the station where our hotel was.
This was where Derek first encountered the “tiniest hotel room” in Japan. He was excited to see how tiny the room was. We only had to sleep there in order to get an early ferry to Yakushima, so I booked the business hotel closest to the ferry port. “Business hotel” in Japan means it’s a hotel room suited for a man on a business trip. They have a bed, TV and internet access, but the room is usually very tiny and the bathroom and toilet aren’t in separate rooms. It’s not shady or anything. The staffs there were very nice and the room was hi-tech and super clean.
Anyway, after we dropped our stuff off we went out to eat dinner.
Ichi Ni San Tei (black pork shabu shabu), Tenmonkan, Kagoshima
I ate: Shabu shabu (2300 yen)
Derek ate: Shabu shabu course (3200 yen)
The meat was so fresh and so soft. They also gave us soba noodles so we could cook soba in the hot shabu shabu water. I’ve made made soup with the hot water from shabu shabu before but never soba noodles, but this was really awesome!
We were really full but in a very pleasant way. It was a shame we couldn’t spend more time in Kagoshima. Kagoshima has tons of historical stuff to see and so much good food to eat! We walked back to the hotel and went to sleep early to prepare for the early start the next day.
We have over 4000 photos from this trip and there’s no way I can post them all on my blog. So I’m uploading photos from our trip to flickr as I write a post for each day. If you’d like to check out random photos from Japan or us goofing around in Japan, check out my flickr collection by clicking the link below!
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