Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県)

Cheap Bentos and Croquettes at Matsuzaka-ya「肉は松坂屋」

This eatery was recommended on the Kawasaki Tourism website (in Japanese only) for its croquettes and I had actually tried to do a little more research before my trip to find out more about the food available at this place, but my findings seemed to imply that it was some kind of meat shop, so I was a little skeptical!

To satisfy my curiosity, I actually did go and check it out! ^_^

It turned out to be a butcher’s shop and also a deli! Apparently their goriyaki bento「ごりやく弁当」 and goriyaku sauce「ごりやくソース」 are very popular and Japanese people buy the sauce as a souvenir item.

Most people do takeaways as there is limited seating at this place, with some counter seats indoors and two tables and some benches found outside the shop.

At one end of the shop is the fresh meat section, where you can purchase various cuts of meat (beef, pork and chicken).

Cooked food can be found at the other end and there were just too many choices of fried food available, including croquettes, but some were already sold out by the time I got there (about 1:30pm and on a rainy Sunday)!

A recommended item is their Daruma Croquette「だるまコロッケ」 – I’m not sure of the history behind its naming but there are several shrines in this area, so perhaps it’s targetted at shrine worshippers. Apparently the original recipe is still being used to make this croquette and thus according to the shop’s website, its taste hasn’t changed since 1975!

Bento meals are also available and you can make your selection from the menu which is plastered across the wall (Japanese only).

The prices for the bentos were unbelievably low and the word wagyu「和牛」 immediately caught my eye, thus I ended up ordering the Wagyu Sukiyaki Bento「和牛すき焼き弁当」 for only ¥800!! It was very tasty and the slices of beef were very tender!

My hubby went for something more traditional and had the Tonkatsu Bento「とんかつ弁当」 which costs ¥650.

The side dishes provided in both bentos were similar – they were simple and yet tasty.

Bought one Daruma croquette and one Beef croquette to try and they were very crunchy on the outside with a nice potato mash on the inside! The batter used seemed to be different from the croquettes which I’ve bought from other eateries in Japan as it was more fragrant and crunchier.

Overall, this was a surprise find with good quality food at low prices. I totally forgot about the recommended bento and sauce as wagyu overruled everything else! :p

This is one eatery that we will definitely patronise again if we’re in this area!


肉は松坂屋(川崎大師すぐのコロッケ茶屋)
〒210-0802 神奈川県川崎市川崎区大師駅前1-3-9

Telephone: 044-288-5865

Opening Hours: 10:00~19:30
Closed on Thursdays.

Getting There: It’s a short walk from the Kawasaki Daishi station「川崎大師」on the Keikyu Daishi Line「京急大師線」. Cross the road in front of the station, walk down Goriyaku Street「ごりやく通り」and turn right at the 3rd street.

Map:

It’s a bit troublesome to get here from Tokyo, so to make the journey worthwhile, you can check out the Kanamara Shrine or time your visit so that you can attend the Kanamara Festival, after which you can have lunch at this cheap and good eatery. ^_^

Categories: Japan, Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県), Kawasaki (川崎) | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kanamara Matsuri「かなまら祭り」- the Festival of the Steel Phallus

Japanese festivals are fascinating and some can be rather strange! I had first heard about the Kanamara Matsuri「かなまら祭り」 several years ago and finally had the opportunity to go check it out this year!

This Shinto festival is centred around the male reproductive organ and is also known as the “Festival of the Steel Phallus”.

According to legend, a sharp-toothed demon hid inside the vagina of a young woman and castrated her husbands when they tried to have sex with her on their wedding nights (i.e. these were on two separate occasions). As a result, the young woman sought help from a blacksmith, who created a steel phallus to break the demon’s teeth when it bit down on the steel penis and thus saved her future husband(s) from suffering a similar fate as the first two.

The Kanayama Shrine「金山神社」 was popular among prostitutes who wished to pray for protection from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) but these days, most people visit the shrine to pray for prosperity in their businesses, marriage, fertility and smooth delivery.

Over time, the festival has become somewhat of a tourist attraction and is now used to bring awareness to STDs in general and raise funds for HIV research.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side and even though it was a cold and wet day, the crowds still thronged the festival venue. Wow! That really tells how much drawing power this festival has!

There was a long queue snaking from the shrine towards direction of the train station and we learnt that it would take about 1.5 hours to enter (or so many people thought) – it wasn’t until much later that we realised this queue was actually for one of the candy stalls at the festival! (you can see one of the confectionery items which a lady in the crowd was eating in the picture below)

I decided to find an alternative way to enter the festival venue and did a walk around the block to the other side of the shrine and found many people entering and exiting from there! Human traffic was also being controlled (or re-directed) around the area.

It took about 15min before I managed to step into the festival grounds but it was a tight squeeze to try to look around as many people had congregated in the area, thus this meant more people were entering the premises instead of exiting! The publicity of this Japanese festival over the recent years has also resulted in many curious foreign tourists making a trip here to witness the unusual ceremonial rites.

Upon entering, I noticed many people queuing at a side building and was wondering if it was a prayer spot and so I went to have a look. Hmm…at the front were 2 wooden phalluses decorated with some bells and people were actually touching/holding them for good luck! There was also a Shinto priest busy at work and oblivious to the crowds.

Located next to the little building was this black statue, which many people were queuing to get a picture with it and so I decided to take one too. It was raining quite a bit, thus I couldn’t do without my umbrella.

Nearby, I stumbled upon an elderly lady with a display of carved radishes – look closely and you will see what the “shapes” depict.

A little further down were two huge wooden phalluses and many westerners (especially the men!) seemed to be exceptionally thrilled when they straddled them and striked various poses for their photos! At that moment, if the expression on my face could be depicted by an emoticon, it would be the one with the raised eyebrow! LOL…

There was a stage area where performances were held at various times of the day. I made my way through the crowd and was slightly startled when I saw these two men standing right in front of me and thought to myself – “what a couple of d**kheads!!” (apologies, I don’t normally use profanities but that was literally what I saw!)

As with most Japanese festivals, there were various stalls selling food and other merchandise, but the ones here were all geared towards a particular theme (if you get my drift)…

Phallic-shaped candles for sale.

There were also several foodstalls and my eyes were drawn to this one which sold grilled fishcakes, octopus, squid and prawns…

Was it my imagination or were some of the food items arranged to resemble phalluses?

There was a second candy queue which was slightly shorter than the earlier one and I decided to join the line, but it still took me about 45 mins before I made a successful purchase!

Picture taken whilst in the queue!

I had actually entered the queue without knowing what were the types/colours/designs of candy that were available at the front of the queue – the human jam was terrible (worse than sardines packed in a can!), so there was no way for me to get to the front to check them out except by joining the line (this eventually ended up being multiple lines, which added to the chaos!!) and the crowds kept being pushed towards the left or right by people trying to find their way out from the madness!

Took a quick photo of the available merchandise when I finally made it to the front! (it was too crowded and I didn’t have enough elbow room to be able to compose a better picture)

This was what I ended up buying (just for the novelty) and three of them were given to friends.

Posing with my omiyage and quick snack (octopus) before lunch.

As I had been stuck in the candy queue for the longest time, I had missed the mikoshi procession when it left the shrine, but thankfully I managed to catch them on their way back.

The procession was headed by several young children…

…and followed by some masked characters.

At the very end of the procession were 3 mikoshis which were paraded through the streets on the shoulders of the people who were carrying them.

The first mikoshi was a black one and it was carried by men.

The second one was a bright pink one and initially I thought it was being carried by women, but upon taking a closer look, it apparently wasn’t so! This particular mikoshi is supposed to help increase the awareness of HIV and people who lead alternative lifestyles. I saw many cross-dressers at the festival and this also seemed to be a popular place for the Japanese LGBT community to congregate!

The last mikoshi in the procession.

This festival was an eye-opener for me and I concluded that the goings-on were still the strangest celebration practices that I’ve ever seen!


Festival Venue:

Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine「若宮八幡宮」
神奈川県川﨑市川崎区大師駅前2-13-16

Festival Date:
Held annually on the first Sunday in April.

Access: 2 min walk from the Kawasaki Daishi Station「川崎大師駅」.

Categories: Festivals (Matsuri), Japan, Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Spring Theme Park: Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (箱根小涌園ユネッサン)

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (箱根小涌園ユネッサン) is a hot springs spa resort and water amusement park located in the spectacular scenic surroundings of Hakone (箱根), Japan.

They have a unique combination of traditional Japanese onsen (hot springs) and water recreation services and activities.

I’ve always wanted to visit this hot spring theme park but didn’t really get a chance to until now!  There are 2 hot spring theme parks housed in this complex – Yunessun (ユネッサン) and Mori no Yu (森の湯).

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We were travelling with our friends and their 2 young sons so we bought tickets to Yunessun which comprises of 2 zones:


Yutopia (湯~とぴあ) is an open-air bath area in a valley. Surrounded by woods, the area has unique outdoor baths such as sake bath, wine bath and green tea bath.


Yunessun (ユネッサン) is themed Aegean Sea and has eight kinds of Jacuzzi, floating bath, doctor fish foot bath, rodeo mountain slide, wood deck bath, Roman bath, inside and outside pool recreation for children and more.


Most onsens in Japan require you to “bare all” before you can take a dip in the hot spring but if you find it too embarrassing to show your privates to complete strangers, you may want to consider visiting Yunessun as this hot spring theme park requires you to wear swimsuits! This is one of the rare few places which allow you to wear swimsuits in the onsen (which also means you can take pictures!). If you’ve forgotten to bring your swimsuit, you can buy or rent one here.
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Went to check out Yutopia (湯~とぴあ) first as this outdoor area sounded more interesting…


本格コーヒー風呂 Coffee Bath – WOW… you can really smell the aroma of the coffee especially when you soak in this hot spring. Although the water in this bath looked like coffee, when you try to scoop the water with both hands, it actually looked quite clear and clean!  There were warning signs everywhere telling you that the water is not suitable for drinking!!  Haha… wonder if anyone actually tried to drink it previously?


露天ワイン風呂 Wine Bath – The water was so red that I was worried it would stain the white trimming on my swimsuit but thankfully it didn’t! Couldn’t really smell the red wine though…


緑茶風呂 Green Tea Bath – Now this bath was really HOT!!  Think it was about 42°C?  Definitely a much higher (almost scalding) temperature than the rest that we had tried so far and you’ll need to be careful and gradually lower yourself into the bath.  There was a very nice fragrance of green tea all around but the colour of the water looked so artificially GREEN!  A must-try for green tea lovers! ^_^


Here’s another picture of the Green Tea Bath and the giant teapot behind is another section of the Green Tea Bath as well. However, that giant bucket on the right with the word 酒 is actually the 酒風呂 Sake Bath which really smelled like sake.


This was the “October 2010 Special” bath which featured Kanagawa Beer! However, I couldn’t really smell any beer in the bath…

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Next, we headed over to the Yunessun (ユネッサン) section of the theme park which was housed indoors…


ドクターフィッシュの足湯 Doctor Fish Bath – Hmm…. this had fixed timings for admission so you’ll have to time it right and queue accordingly. Admission was divided into batches and each group is only allowed to spend 10mins getting the “doctor fish therapy”.

At the Turkish Hamam – We had to disinfect our feet here before we could step into the Doctor Fish Bath.

Ready… set… put your feet in! Be careful not to step on the fish! Ohh…..and when they start feeding on your dead skin, it may be quite ticklish! (^o^)

The Japanese do emphasize on hygiene and each person is given a towel to wipe your feet dry. When you return the towel upon exiting from the doctor fish bath, they will dispense a small amount of hand sanitizer to every individual (you can decline if you think you don’t need it).

古代ローマ風呂 Ancient Roman Bath – a section of this bath had rather milky-looking water but we weren’t sure what was actually contained in it.


LOL….Trying to be part of the Thermae Romae manga at the Ancient Roman Bath.


神々のエーゲ海 The God’s Aegean Sea – This one had a section with jacuzzi. As the park was almost closing, we didn’t have time to try it and just snapped a picture before we left.


To fully enjoy all the facilities at this hot spring theme park, I would recommend spending a full day there (2 days if you intend to visit both Yunessun and Mori no Yu). We only spent half a day at Yunessun and felt it wasn’t long enough as we couldn’t complete everything in the indoor area.


Will definitely go back and stay longer if I’m visiting Hakone again!!…

Categories: Hakone (箱根), Japan, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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