Lightning Crashes

The skies have been constantly illuminated with flashes of lightning, accompanied by rolling thunder, for the past four days. I rather enjoy the experience of seeing, hearing, feeling, and smelling lightning. On Saturday, we were on top of Mt. Aso, looking into the steam that was obscuring the view of the liquid hot magma when the air filled with static electricity (causing everyone’s hair to stand up, but not really changing mine at all), and a bolt struck very near by. The coppery tang of ozone filled the air, and we were ushered off the mountain by the staff. Everyone started to cough and wheeze and some were running down the peak to their cars. The air had filled with sulphuric acid particles, and it was not pleasant to breathe in. As far as I know, no one was injured (every year, a few people usually die on Mt. Aso due to inhaling poisonous gasses).
The thunder and lightning have been accopanied by heavy, heavy rain. The rain falls so heavily that it is dangerous to drive because visibility becomes nearly zero, and rivers instantly form in the street, collecting into small ponds that can cause engines to stall. Tsuyu didn’t skip this year after all, it just came a little late.
It’s amazing to see how hard everyone is working to make my old house super-clean. I’m not bitter about this, but it pisses me off when I’m cleaning next to someone, and they say “Your old supervisor forgot to do this for you. What a shame” or “I betcha wish you had this new (fill in the blank) when you first moved in, huh?”. By the way, the apartment was clean before everyone came over because Merin and I did it. They’re just polishing everything up, and I think Jane(my successor) will be pleased with the results.
I’m using this opportunity to try and improve the apartment as much as possible, and to get them to buy things that I would have liked to have had. They seem baffled that I am leaving stuff behind. Like I said, it’s hard enough just living in such a small, isolated community without having to worry about a shower that spouts only scalding hot water, a toilet that takes 10 minutes to fill up, a bathtub that spontaneously generates millipede spawn, a kitchen so cold that three inch long icicles form from the faucet, and going shopping for stuff that you need to maintain your comfort and sanity.
Thunder is booming in the distance, and the semi are buzzing in the forests as I am finishing this post. Tomorrow my successor will come to fill my vacancy, bringing my time here to an end. Merin is going home today, and most of my friends are leaving on separate paths into a future, each with their own tentative plans. Matt is going back to Huntington Beach, Joe is going to workin Colorado for a while, Jason is off to Spain, Joe Fingerhut and Michiyo are got married and moving back to the States, Yuka and Jorge also just recently tied the knot and will be in Guam for a year before moving to Texas, Kaori is now settled in Tosu, Kikuko is in Aso-machi, but some people will still be holding down the fort here (Mark, Dave, Jamie et al). After all of the recent goodbyes, I am ready to start up North in Kansai. I will be around in Ubuyama until the 5th of August, and in Kumamoto until the 9th. After that, it’s off to Osaka to find work and a new pad.
By the way, I never posted on this but the Mayor of Kumamoto’s speech is still fresh in my memory. Two weeks ago at the departing JET ceremony she gave a speech in Japanese, and the P.A. translated it into English. I was impressed by her stage presence and listened to her Japanese and the English interpretation, noticing the slight differences between the real and the translated versions. In the middle of the speech I was shocked to hear her say “Do you like Kumamoto? Have you had a good time here during your time on JET? I hope you have enjoyed your stay in Kumamoto, and that you will bring back the good memories that you have with you. You are all welcome to come back to Kumamoto whenever you like, and we will consider you as honorary members of Kumamoto-ken. However, if you didn’t have a good time and don’t have anything nice to say about Kumamoto, there is no need for you to ever come back here.”
The last sentence was changed to:
“However, if you didn’t have a good time in Kumamoto, I still hope that you had an interesting time over here.” (after hearing this butchered version, I barely was able to supress my “Wha!” so that only the people sitting next to me heard, thank goodness…).
This was ironic as Japanese people are stereotyped as always implying things instead of just saying what they mean, and the image of a gaijin is of a person who acts or speaks before fully considering the implications of their actions. A Japanese person spoke her mind, ignoring a subtle approach and cutting through the crap. The American was the one that filtered out the real meaning and interpreted it into a polite, superficial flowery piece of fluff. Kumamoto is lucky to have her.

Attack Of The Venemous Caterpillars

Merin was holding the ladder for me, when she brushed up against these caterpillars and noticed that the little bastards had envenomated her.
So I did what any responsible older brother would do. I cut off the three leaves that held 50 of the evil creatures, put them on top of a pile of kerosene-soaked paper towels, and we sent them back to the sulphorous pits from whence they came. It was a Viking style pyre, honoring these worthy adversaries as they burned.
(taken with Merin’s A1304AT).
I remember watching a program on the Discovery Channel about these critters, and the effects of their toxins on humans. The lady on the program who got stung went into anaphylactic shock, and her pulmonary system shut down causing her to go into cardiac arrest. Merin just got a nasty rash with a burning sensation, probably because she took Benadryl right after getting stung (Thanks Mika!).
Was it wrong to kill these caterpillars? I don’t think so because my neighbor regularly brushes up against those leaves when she tends her garden, and there are plenty more of them in the upper canopy that are doing quite fine. I think she’ll be happy that they’re gone. Was it really necessary to burn them? Yes, yes it was. They inflicted a burning sensation, so it was only fair for them to feel the burn for themselves.

The Souring Of A Bittersweet Goodbye

I am frustruated with my Board of Education and with a principal with whom I work with, as they are putting me in the worst sort of position. I feel an obligation to help prepare my successor for her new life in Ubuyama-mura and to prepare the village for her. Everyone is very concerned about having a female ALT (all three previous JETs have been male), and so there is a flurry of last minute preparations being made in order to make sure that she will not be scared away by the living conditions in Ubuyama.
I understand and support their decision to fix everything that has been broken in my apartment for these two years, and feel good for the next JET. I initially felt jealous for the great efforts they are making to renovate this place, but I am glad they are doing it, because it is hard enough acclimating to living deep in the inaka as it is.
Lately, the BOE and principal have been making many demands of me to meet the hastily devised renovation plans in my apartment, including giving me short notice to get my stuff out and to clean the apartment. I was irritated, but I understood their concerns, and so have gone along with it as best as I could. However, I find myself feeling angry, disappointed, and regretful at a time where I should be enjoying the rich pains of leaving behind the kids who I have come to love, and other good friends.
The principal and the BOE have shoved me into a corner regarding my car. As I am trying to help out in any capacity that I can, I have been providing any information that they ask for without hesitataion. Last night at the farewell enkai, the principal asked me what I planned on doing with my car. I explained that I was going to sell it, and had notified my successor of the cost, condition, and improvements made to the car. He told me that she should not have to buy my car, and so I explained that I recently paid the vehicle tax and inspection tax (shakken) to the tune of 40,000 yen and 130,000 yen respectively, and was asking a fair price considering the money that I put into the car. After all, the shakken is good for 1 and a half more years! In addition, I have spent money on improving and keeping the car well maintained, so that it is running better than when I first got it. He argued that no one drives cars that old in Japan, and I pointed out that almost all of the JETs drive cars that old. I told him that my intention was not to take advantage of my successor, and that I was open to suggestions, and he replied that a friend could give her a car for free. When I said “Thats great, what type of car will he give her?” he replied “That was just an example (there is no free car).”. I asked what the cheapest price that my successor could hope to buy a used car for is, and he replied 200,000 yen. I pointed out that the price that I was asking for (70,000 yen) was less that the other JETs had offered their old cars for, but this didn’t make much of an impression on him. I ended the conversation by suggesting that we further discuss the matter.
This afternoon, I got called into the BOE by the new supervisor, a man whom I get along with rather well. It became aparent that the principal had taken the liberty of going behind my back, and telling my supervisor to talk to me. He offered me two options: junking my car (at most likely a loss of income- cost of junking the car but getting a partial refund for the car tax) or handing over ownership to my successor with a suggestion that asking for any money would be an unacceptable course of action. Because of this, I may have to sell the car to a friend instead of selling it for a reasonable price to my successor (who will need a car to stay sane in this village. now, she will probably just have to pay three times as much to get one.).
Let me say this: I understand the BOE’s and principal’s recent actions are the result of their deep-seeded concerns about the impression that they cast on the first female ALT to come to Ubuyama. I support their efforts, and wish her the best of luck, and I am staying for about 10 days past my contract VOLUNTARILY WITHOUT PAY to help show her around and to help the BOE get things settled. I don’t think it’s too much to expect the professional courtesy of receiving sufficient notice about when they want me out of my apartment, about letting me know when I am to give farewell speeches and when the ceremonies are (considering that I am the obstensibly the one for whom the ceremonies are being held), and I surely expect that I would be treated with the professional courtesy of DISCUSSING points of disagreement instead of talking behind my back and not trying to see things from my perspective. They wouldn’t do this to a Japanese person, so what makes them think it is acceptable to do this to a gaijin (oh, wait… I think I answered my own question)?
I feel that I have worked my hardest to fulfill my duties as a JET, as both a representative of the United States (I don’t fancy myself as an ambassador, but realize that I am one of only two Americans that these kids have met and know that they associate me with the whole of America in some ways) in Japan and as a teacher. I have gone out of my way to make myself useful, and have done things like setting up an English club run out of my house free of charge to my students. I have taken an active interest in studying about teaching methods during my free time and implementing them in class, often staying after working hours to do a good job. I have made a point of learning the customs and studying Japanese to bridge the language gap between us. Is it really too much to ask for a little consideration, professionalism, and consideration of ethical behavior in the workplace in return? As much as I will miss the students, I most definetely will not miss the treachery, insincerety, or the incompetence I have witnessed during my two years. The speeches made about how much I am appreciated for my efforts have lost all meaning, as dishonest actions have revealed the words to contain little integrety. I would have had more respect had the principal called me a worthless gaijin in front of the whole village and revealed how I was truly regarded.
These qualities are not held by the majority of those with whom I work, only by a few individuals. On the contrary, I was quite shocked by this behavior because it greatly contrasts the values held by almost all of the teachers, faculty, and others working in Ubuyama-mura.
To end on a positive note, I believe that the JET Programme is a great program that has a positive net effect both on the Japanese society in which it works as a part of the educational system and on its participants. I belive that negative attitudes and widely held false beliefs of Japanese people about foreign languages, cultures, and peoples are slowly changing. I do not regret my time on JET, as I feel that I have made a difference.
I have noticed a marked improvement on the confidence and abilities of my students. They have learned about different cultures (not just in my class, as I work with many good teachers), and have a genuine interest about people that are different from themselves. Watching the students grow and mature into the curious, enthusiastic learners that they are today has made me feel really good about investing two years into this community. The students are the ones who are greatful for my efforts, paying me back with their rapt attention. It is them, along with some of the other wonderful people I have had the honor of meeting in this small community, that I will miss. Goodbye and farewell, but I fear I shall never return Ubuyama, except for the Ubuyama in my mind.

The Shogakkos of Ubuyama-mura

I translated this from Japanese last year, and just found it as I was looking through old documents. These are the elementary schools where I have worked for these past two years.
Our Village
Yamaga Elementary School is located in the northern region of Ubuyama-mura, at an altitude of 640 meters. The school was constructed in Showa 45 (1970), and the gymnasium was rebuilt in Heisei 8 (1996). Northern Ubuyama covers a large area, so it is necessary for the children, who live in the southern part of the village, to ride on the bus to and from school.
Yamaga Elementary School is nestled among the scenic mountains. A forest sprawls out to the East, South, and West. Moreover, the mountains of Kuju (Oita Prefecture) can be seen to the North, off in the distance. To the West of the school, steps made of stone descend the mountain, leading to a large road. If you follow this road to the right, you will pass many points of interest. At the bottom of the slope (after passing through the tunnel), on the left hand side you will see (in this order) Ubuyama Junior High School, The Agricultural Cooperative Association(JAA), A-Mart, the Ubuyama Public Office, the Health Clinic, and a couple of gas stations. Across the street from the public office is a JA Bank, and the Post office.
Sweet Potato Digging
Each year the children of Yamaga Elementary School, and their parents, go hiking in the local mountains. Another interesting event is the rabbit hunt, after which the rabbits are used as the main ingredient in a rice dish, and also in a stew. In back of the school building, children enjoy using the playground for all sorts of outdoor activities.
A charcoal kiln is set up beside the playground where students are taught how to make charcoal.
Hokubu (Northern Ubuyama) Elementary School
Located in Northern Ubuyama is Hokubu Elementary School. A prefectural road stretches along the front of the school. On their way home, the children often pass through the cedar forests surrounding the school. The people of Hokubu look forward to attending various school events, such as the Harvest festival and the Source music festival.

Words About Teaching

During my two years serving as the ALT for Ubuyama-mura, I have written some essays on teaching and compiled other resources. I took an extra interest in learning more about educational theory and how it could be applied to our work, constantly thinking about how English classes could be improved. Below are some of the materials that I was able to find(in MS Word format). I will continue to add others as I find them (I have been working on no less than 4 computers on a regular basis). Unfortunately, I can’t post most of my lessons because the files are too large…
Essays and Presentation Material
Death To Engrish!!! Approaches To Improving English Education
Midyear Seminar Presentation: JTE and ALT Relations
Improving your relationship with your ALT/JTE
Things that you need to discuss with your JTE
Interactive Classroom Games And Other Resources
Explanation of Halloween in Japanese and English (used for NHK special, 2002)
Lesson Plans and Materials
Recommended Plan For the 2003-2004 School Year(Yamaga Shogakko)
Directions: How To Get From Here To There (a lesson plan)
Lesson: Family Tree
Cooking (料理をする) French Toast
Emergency English: How To Escape From A Sinking Car
Emergency English: How To Survive An Alligator Attack
Some simple English phrases
Chillin’ with Snoop and Parappa
Sports worksheet (the katakana reflects a more genuine pronunciation of English, rather than correct Japanese)
Other Information
Video Games and Education (from Wired)

Last Lesson Finished

It is 9:30 and I just finished teaching in Ubuyama for the last time. All of my classes are done, and although I still have until the 26th of this month on my contract, my real work here is finished. I spent my last lesson with my 3 nensei chugakkusei students providing guidance on how to translate Japanese sentences into English, and I was impressed by how far they have progressed. There are many bright students in this batch, and I will miss having the chance to chat, share lunch, and to dominate them at ping-pong (sometimes).
The educational system in Ubuyama is something special, as at shogakko and hoikuen I had creative license to create and modify the curriculum as I saw fit. My main priority when teaching at shogakko was to cultivate an interest for foreign cultures and languages in the children, in the hopes that the interests that they have now will kindle a desire to continue learning and to become students unimpeded by geographical or ideological barriers. Mostly I just wanted to show them that learning was fun and to pass out bags and bags of candy and stickers. My classes were designed using tried and true Pavlovian methods and implementing a student centered learning environment whenever possible.
There is a great problem with keeping students enthusiasm about learning English, especially in Junior High School and into higher education. Part of the problem stems from the pressure to focus on technical English to pass tests instead of practical English that can be used to communicate and facilitate the sharing of ideas and common interests. The Japanese educational system is improving, though. Recently, more and more ALTs have been stationed at elementary schools, where they are encouraged to play and teach about culture.
This is a big step towards improving English education in Japan, and it should be recognized that Ubuyama provides their ALT with the opportunity to interact and to influence the children to a very high extent, starting from when they first enter the system in hoikuen (nursery school). No other ALT that I know gets to teach at the same hoikuen four times a month, or for that matter at shogakko four times a month, and some only visit their shogakkos once every two months. I sincerely hope that one day, shogakkusei will have the opportunity to learn English every day, like they do in other countries, in a stimulating environment with lots of support. The children are so smart, and learn so much in the small amount of time that we spend together. I can only imagine how skilled they would become with regular lessons scheduled every day, and hope that this becomes the case in the near future.
Now, I’m off to Osaka in search of another teaching position, in the right school. I have two years under my belt teaching everything from nursery school to high school to adult conversation classes, but I know that I still have much to learn about teaching. All I can say is that I welcome the challenge, and look forward to experiencing a completely different part of Japan and Japanese culture in Kansai from the lens of a person who has lived in the Higo region for two years. Yokka bai, ikko.

Kumamoto Hash House Harriers Tribute

For the past three years, many people came out on a free day, no matter what the weather was like, in order to run the hash in Kumamoto Prefecture. It became a ritual and was something that many of us looked forward to doing each month. Running through all sorts of dangerous environments, stalking the hares and scrutinizing their spoor. The best hashes were the absolute worst. I ran my first hash in the city (City Hash #2).
We started out on the roof of the Parco Building, getting sprayed with beer and then plunged into the longest and most frustruating hashes I have ever run. We ran all over the city following the hash marks marked with chalk and flour, and worked as a team to get to the end. Unfortunately, there was a hitch. The trail died off half way through, and like Scooby Doo and the gang, we all split up and got into all sorts of trouble. After much time spent searching, some of us were lucky enough to finally stumble upon the true trail, and we made it to the finish about a half an hour past dawn. But there was a problem. No one was there, and worse yet the bastards didn’t leave any beer! We were stranded in a park next to the railroad tracks in the middle of the city, and we were getting cranky.
Finally, we all met downtown and got the explanation. Mark, Joe, and Austin all went to go look for us because they inferred that we got lost (they finished the course about two or three hours before us), and finally found us when they came back. It took about another hour to fully straighten things out and to round up those who had strayed from the path, but we finally did it. We headed off to the onsen to make our gaijin-selves less offensive to the locals, and proceeded to have a signature crazy night out. Blurred memories from that night include Austin doing a cannonball on the hood of some poor, scared out of her wits Japanese woman and the usual debauchery in the Sharps and Sanctuary. Everyone was pissed about the hash, but it brought us all close together and cemented social ties within the group.
The hash has been a great place to meet people who think the same way, have the same interests, or are complimentary to us. I feel sorry for all of those people who were scared away by the stories of near death experiences, exaggerated explanations of fraternity-like rituals, or just an aversion to being outdoors and getting some exercise. You’ll never know what you missed, and maybe it’s better that way.
Some of my favorite perils during the hash include:
wading through liquid shit in Kiyokushi, exposing ourselves to unknown pathogens and a really horrible smell.
jaywalking across really busy streets, Frogger style.
getting plastered with cobwebs in the forests.
watching bamboo fall and impale itself into the ground a few feet away from another hasher.
climbing across/up/down very high and dangerous places where if you fall, you will either be seriously injured or killed.
swimming through jellyfish infested waters.
getting caught in a forest with different colored path markers mixed with the markers used by the local farmers, which were put on almost every other tree!
driving a hare to the emergency room because he cut his hand by leaning on his glass door and sliced the thumb tendon, leaving him in a thumbs up cast for a couple of months (pure gold, that incident).
going far down a steep hill, only to find the initials “YBF”.
having to rescue some grumpy OC girls climbing over wet, jagged rocks.
running in the dark through the cold rain, trying not to catch pneumonia.
Generally, the best stories come from the most painful, embarrasing, and tiring hashes. I had an awesome two years running with you fools, and I will miss meeting with you all on every month to run, party, and recover from injuries and hangovers the next day in the onsen. Thanks to everybody who helped to organize and run these good times.
Below is a list compiled by Mark Fingerhut otherwise known as Disco Ass. I have taken the liberty to make a few changes, but if you want the original version, click here
for the Excel file. Please enjoy, and feel free to send me updates or corrections.
Thanks to Shige for the photo.
Kumamoto Hash House Harriers
Hash Name//Hash Date//Location
Immortalization(s) (denoted with italics, mortal name first followed by immortal name)
Hares (“+”)
First Finisher(*)(*), oh, wait I put in one too many (*)s…
Hash, Year 3
City Hash 5, 6/26/04, Kumamoto City
Monica Alborg- Proctortoise
Kate Gardner- Princess Dive
Ed Snook- DJ Chu-Hi
Muppet/Disco Ass+
The Dam Hash, 6/19/04, Ryumon Dam, Kikuchi
Derek- Stiffulis Hige
Shitfuck/Professor Q+
City Hash 4/YBF, 3/13/04, Kumamoto City
Paul Steele- Cherry Bandit
Muppet/Disco Ass+
Ashikita Hash, 2/21/04, Ashikita
Jamie Mackay- Sliced Bush
Asshole Kool-Aid+
Kyokushi Hash 2, 2003/12/6, Kyokushi, Kikuchi
Suzanne Strom- Asshole Kool-Aid
Danny Stapp- Dis Nut
Val- re-christened Shitheel
Professor Q/Shitfuck+
Kinpo/Quarry Hash, 10/2/03, Mt. Kinpo/City
Froilan Vispo- Nuck-a-nuts
Muppet/Disco Ass+
Waterwheel Hash, 2003/9/6, Takahama Beach, Amakusa
Dave Seabeck- Shitfuck
Matt Durish/Con+
Muppet/Disco Ass*
Aso Hash, 2003/8/30, Aso/Kugino
Adam Yoshida- Sonic-san
Hash, Year 2
City Hash 3 (4人), 2002/6/14, Kumamoto City
3 participants- all immortals
Muppet/Disco Ass+
Mashiki Hash, 5/?/03 Mashiki
Mike “Steak” Russel- Sex Wax
Fracas/Professor Q+
Tatsuda Hash, 3/15/03, Kumamoto City/Tatsuda
Kelvin Chatman- Tinkerbell
Kyokushi Hash 1- No Joy, 2003/2/22, Kyokushi, Kikuchi
Rob Baldwin- Tailbone
Professor Q/Fracas+
City Hash 2 – No Joy, 2002/12/7, Kumamoto City
Joe Debiec- Professor Quintana
Disco Ass/Sakuraba/Muppet+
City Hash 1, 10/?/02, Kumamoto City
Elise Coleman- Chihuahua
Muppet/Disco Ass+
Kikka Hash, 9/?/02, Kikka, Kikuchi
Mark Fingerhut- Pepper
Disco Ass*
Hash, Year 1
Aso Tri-Hash, 6/29/02
Kate- Kid
Skip – No Joy
Muppet, Lettuce, SuperDesu+
Adrian- Bookbag
Ringworm, Sakuraba+
Tiki- Frogskin
Ringworm, Sakuraba+
Ben Colbridge- Lettuce
Ringworm, Sakuraba+
Who was immortalized? Maybe we will never know…
Ringworm, Sakuraba+
Ringworm caught by Will and Testicles
12/3/01 Monday
Treve Brinkman- Super Desu
Joe Fingerhut- Muppet
Ringworm, Sakuraba+
Stopped by police due to threat of anthrax (bonus points)
Kelly- Pipes
Ringworm, Sakuraba+
Muppet came within 10 feet of catching Sakuraba
Will- Sir Will and Testicle
Ringworm (James), Sakuraba (Austin Philbin)–immortalized by default
police called by alarmed country folk because they thought we were terrorists
Note: I notice that the race where Jason was immortalized is not included, or it is not mentioned when but the name Fracas puts the hash some time after the night where he was misbehaving at the Sharps. I think it must have been some time before the end of the 2nd year…

Aso Restaraunt Review (along with other restaraunt recommendations outside of Aso)

I know that this is really late to start, but I am going to start posting about places where I enjoy eating in my corner of Aso, near the Aso/Oita border, and maybe some other joints in Kumamoto that I like.
Tashiroya- for the bombass Okonomiyaki
Let’s start off with a place that my friend and predecessor, Mr. Harvey Haynes, first took me to when I first arrived in Ubuyama two years ago. Located to the left of Aso Jinja (if you are facing the temple) is the small, unpretentious okinomiyakiya known as “Tashiroya”. This place makes the best okonomiyaki in Aso hands down, and is my personal favorite in Kumamoto.
You can see Mr. Tashiro in the window and who I assume is his wife in the background.
It can be hard to get a seat, and sometimes they run out of ingredients on busy days. My favorite combination is pork and cheese (butaniku and cheese)okonomiyaki.jpg. If you like taiyaki, then this place is definetely for you. Many children drop by this store after work.
*note, and this is true: The best okonomiyaki restaraunts always are a little, or maybe more than a little, dingy and tend to attract cockroaches. This is just a fact of life. The grease from the skillet atomizes and works its way into the enviroment of the shop at a molecular level, so these places become more and more sticky with time. Eating at a clean okonomiyaki joint doesn’t necessarily mean that their okonomiyaki is going to suck, but then again it probably does.
Santouka- The Favorite of Many Aso JETs
Located near Tashiroya, just 50 feet away is the famous Santouka (the kanji reading “mountain” “head” and “fire”). This izakaya makes wonderful food, but it is not my favorite because I think it’s too expensive (they don’t list prices on the menu) and its hard to drink and to find a way home. If I lived close by Santouka, I think that it might just be my favorite restaraunt. If you are here, try the college potatoes, nasu-age, and just point to a random kanji that you don’t know and take a chance. That’s my favorite way to learn kanji.
Yokayoka Tei- The Best Restaraunt In Northern Aso
Ascending Takimurozaka (from Ichinomiya in the direction of Oita) on the 57, you will come upon a yellow building near the base of the mountain on your right. This is my favorite restaraunt, Yokayokatei (maybe I put one too many yoka’s in there…). Everything that they do is spectacular, including yakiniku, bibimba, steaks, hamburgs,
*note: the difference between hamburg and hamburgers is this: hamburg is generally served by itself and eaten with rice, whereas hamburgers are nestled in between a bun. Clearly stated, a hamburg is the Japanese term for “cooked hamburger patty”. Hope that clears things up.
curry, tonkatsu, katsudon, and other dishes as well. My favorite night to go to Yokatei is on Wednesday because you can eat Viking
*note: Viking in Japan refers to “all you can eat” or “buffet”. I think that this word lends itself to some interested imagery, such as a horned barbarian feasting on double-fisted legs of lamb or something.
yakiniku for 1,500 yen. Included in the deal are the drink bar
*note: drink bar = all you can drink access to the soda fountain/ beverage bar.
and the following are all you can eat:
curry (beef)
spare ribs
chorizo (spicy and good, but not the type of chorizo from back in SoCal. this stuff ain’t runny)
mild sausage
assorted cuts of beef including tongue, hormone, rose cut, calbee, and others
assorted cuts of pork
assorted cuts of chicken
vegetables including cabbage, carrots, and onions
The staff here are extremely friendly, and they have the capacity to seat large parties. I only wish I could have set up a party there once before I left…
Yokatei gets bonus points for having a 100 yen soft drink vending machine in the parking lot- the only other one that I know of is next to the 100 yen store in the Ozu Jusco and that one sells tall boys of Mountain Dew, but now I’m getting off topic. The vending machine is worth a stop alone on the way up.
To sum up, Yokayoka Tei gets my top spot because the management is nice, they are quick, they are very reasonably priced, they make great food, and they are open relatively late. Prices are equivalent to Joyfull prices, so you will feel stupid if you forget about this place and go to the Ichinomiya Joyfull instead.
Small restaraunt towards the top of Takimurozaka- I forget the name
When ascending Takimurozaka on the 57, you should get on the right hand side of the passing lane (you should do this anyways to pass those drivers that insist on going 30- there’s always at least one of them!) and turn right when you see the first restaraunt past Yokayokatei. This place sells katsucurry, all sorts of ramen, gyouza, assorted Japanese food, and chahan. My favorite ramen here is the stamina (the term for garlic) ramen. They put so much garlic in the broth that it is spicy. As a courtesy to other patrons, they also bring out a stick of strong mint gum after you finish the bowl.
Kaguraen Sobaya- For Everything Soba Flavored
This place makes good soba, and has standard Japanese fare, including oyakodon, tempura, and many soba dishes and combinations. You can also make your own soba, but I prefer mine to be professionally crafted. I was forced to eat soba that some shogakkusei made, and tried to ignore the pockets of hidden dry clumps of flour hidden in the jaggedly cut, sorry excuse for noodles. I recommend the tempura/soba set, along with the complimentary soba-cha (soba tea). Afterwards treat yourself to soba flavored soft cream outside at the parking lot stand. This place is in Namino, just before Ubuyama on the 57.
Big Rest Stop in Oita
About 10 minutes into Oita on the 57, you will see a big rest stop with a parking lot that can accomodate an entire convoy of kanko busses on the left. This place serves good chicken tempura (different from karage), but if you are strapped for cash I would go for the chahan. This fried rice is cheap, filling, and pretty good.
In the city I recommend the following places:
American Food- Masa’s
*note: this place has gotten expensive, but is the only place outside of Fukuoka that makes a good, big burger.
Indian Food- Nanak (weekdays are the cheapest time to eat here)
Mexican Food- Plaza Del Sol
Just to use the abundance of hot sauces- Freshness Burger
Okonomiyaki- The restaraunt (2nd story) on the corner of the Shimotori.
(as pointed to by Mark Fingerhut, with Matt sprinkling the aonori)
German food and a nice catalogue of beers- Oden
Chinese- the restaraunt on the 7th floor of Old Tsuruya, in the food court. I recommend the fried chicken.
Fukuoka Chain Restaraunts
Food in Fukuoka is outstanding, and luckily two chains are spreading throughout Kyushu. One is a yakiniku/ramen shop called Gofu (the kanji for “5” and “wind”). Their ramen is excellent, especially with the fried garlic topping (their tonkotsu broth is awesome), and the yakiniku is also good.
Pictured here is the Charsiu Ramen Set, complete with Charsiu Rice. It was outstanding. This picture was from Oita, but I know of two locations in Kumamoto. One is at the Higashi Bypass, near Super Autobacs, and the other is In Yamaga.
My other favorite chain from Fukuoka is called Ichiban Doori (Number One Chicken). This izakaya style restaraunt specializes in, you guessed it, chicken and it does chicken very very well. I recommend any of the kushiyaki (skewered food), the chicken karage with green onion sauce, and the potato mochi. Find a designated driver, because you will definetely want to drink beer if you go. Located on the oppposite side of the McDonalds in Ozu (but more towards the direction of Kumamoto City on the 57).