Boss Coffee


Remember Tommy Lee Jones from Men in Black and No Country? The man can act. In Japan, for whatever reason, Mr. Jones is the slightly cross looking face of Suntory Boss Coffee. Suntory, a major mega corporation in the brewing and beverage industry produces a line of ready-to-drink canned coffees that are sold in vending machines around Japan. Boss is one of many brands vying for the 100-200 yen that the cans typically sell for, and each company has their own flavors, designs, and occasionally, vending machines.


Because of the aforementioned Tommy Lee Jones and the awesome name, I chose Boss Coffee to be my coffee of choice as we travelled the islands. Wherever we travelled I purchased a can (or two.. ) in each city, always going for the flavors I hadn’t yet tried. The Boss brand website seems to show a  20 types available today. It turns out I tried 15 of them, and remembered to take pictures of 11, so a pretty good sample. Here’s the rundown! None of this is scientific in any way, no conditions were controlled for – just my impressions of the various tastes.

Melting Ice Latte IMG_20170625_155605

This is one of my favorites – I know it as the red blue and green can thanks to its bright primary colors. It’s a latte, and high in sugar, so basically it tastes like a coffee-ish milk chocolate drink. Very drinkable, not a lot of the bitter coffee taste to it. Would definitely drink again!

Boss Premium – The Latte

I found this one to be watery. My impression was that it was less sweet than the Melting Ice Latte, with slightly less milk in the mix. It went down ok but had a water and milk taste that threw me off a bit. Would drink again, but not as a first choice. Boss Melting

Cafe au Lait IMG_20170624_165622
Breaking with vending-machine only tradition, this one caught my eye as similar to my favorite milk and sugar concoction, only different. It was indeed. Even more milk and sugar in its profile. Almost too sweet for me, and definitely too sweet for a daily drink. Many of these coffees are fairly high in sugar so they count almost as a soda – this one definitely was. Would.. probably not drink again.

Boss Roast Factory

This one was interesting. It had a really great start and a supremely bitter and soapy finish. I didn’t see it in Suntory’s catalog so maybe it’s discontinued? I found it Sendai up north. Would get it again except for the memory of that after-taste. At this point in time I wasn’t super into the dark, bitter, coffee flavor of coffee so maybe now I’d like it better. Great start, bad finish, not really for me.

Demitasse Grande IMG_20170622_110436

A big half-cup. One of my favorites and one that I sought out above others. Bitter, not particularly sweet or milky, not watery either. Very strong roasted coffee flavors without that harsh astringency that some of the other cans, like Roast Factory, had. High on caffeine too. I miss this one, would drink again.

Boss Master’s Coffee

I really wanted to like this one. It was a master’s brew after all. It went down well enough, but it’s petrol-like flavor which some people definitely go for in coffee was not my cup of tea. Would pass, but I really like the can.

Five Star Blend IMG_20170620_153859

The can was an amazing color. This coffee is definitely a strong, almost burnt roast. The taste was watery, I think coffee fans call it low in body. Not a repeat customer here, but I can recognize a good cup, even if it’s for someone else.

Ice Boss Coffee

The mid-sugar, low milk variant of ice coffee by Boss. It had a sweet, full start with a clear, slightly bitter finish. I didn’t look out for this one again, but I wouldn’t turn down a can.

Boss Special Nine Blend IMG_20170619_112813

I honestly forgot to take notes for this one and have forgotten the details of its flavor. I know that it was not particularly offensive in taste, nor too watery or sweet. I did not get a second can of it because it’s limited to Kyushu. Would try again.

Boss Ethiopia

I had several of these while we were in Hiroshima. It was a great medium roast, fairly high in sugar though. Neither milky nor water, I really enjoyed it. Luckily it seems they’re available all around though I only found them in Hiroshima.

Boss Premium Limited IMG_20170616_085803

A fan favorite – no bitterness here. High on the sugar and milk tastes, this is a sweet coffee that I frequently looked for. It usually cost 130 yen, but was sometimes on discount in certain machines for 100. A great deal if you can find it for the standard price.

Premium Boss Limited

A confusingly similar name to the previous entry, this variant is very similar, but with a stronger, more roasted coffee taste. A good can of coffee but I only saw it once. Boss

Rainbow Blend IMG_20170615_092455
The last of my regularly sought out cans. Bitter overtones, balanced milk and sugar, and a hint of burnt caramel flavor. Available everywhere and in a cheerfully colored can, what more can you ask for. Confusingly, this one also has monthly variants that are released in limited areas. I tried one and couldn’t really detect the difference, so maybe it’s just the can? Either way, would drink again in a heartbeat.

Of special mention, but without a picture : Boss Double Impact and its low sugar variant. They’re highly caffeinated and a great way to jumpstart a slow morning. I had two of these one morning and spent the rest of it bouncing around with mild tremors. Super fun, use with caution!


Food of Japan

IMG_20170620_192622 Japan was, in a word, delicious. We didn’t experience a street food culture like the other countries we visited in the region. Instead small specialty shops dominated the food scene. The Japanese reputation for perfection and quality extends to food – serving a delicious meal is considered a point of pride and for many of the smaller shops, perfection is worth pursuing. We paid more for food in Japan than we did in almost any other country. Meals ran about $10 a person, kitchens were not available in the hostels we stayed at, and rapid transit made it hard to stock up on travel type food. We could have saved money by eating mostly gyudon and 7-11 – which we did eat a lot of – but it just wouldn’t have been worth it missing out on so much good food. IMG_20170610_123653

Ramen : Perhaps the most famous of Japanese dishes, noodles are served in a bowl of perfectly made broth, covered with slices of meat, vegetables, seaweed, and usually a soft-boiled egg. Ramen is usually served in small-ish nook type restaurants where perfection is a virtue. The cost is $10-$15 a bowl depending on the shop, and cheap ramen under about $7 is generally worth avoiding. IMG_4230 IMG_3937IMG_20170610_115850 IMG_20170614_201732IMG_20170620_190726 IMG_20170620_190738

Gyudon diners : low priced, quick, and clean. The big three (Yoshinoya, Sukiya, and Matsuya) offer all day deliciously marinated beef and curry with rice or noodles. The selection is usually limited to various combinations of the above, but they taste great and are easy on the budget. IMG_3351 IMG_3352 IMG_5263 Not in exactly the same category, but close, are buffet tempura joints that offer noodles and a plethora of fried veggies as sides. IMG_20170619_131353

Curry : Japanese curry is thick and usually available in very mild, favoring rich earthy flavors over the sharp tang of southeast asian curries. Often served with fried cutlets, curry is available at chain stores like CoCo Ichibanya (a very tourist friendly chain) or at tiny hole in the wall diners, or pretty much anywhere quick food is served. Whether plain or fancy, it’s satisfying and delicious. IMG_20170624_195342 IMG_20170621_204830 IMG_20170619_201553 IMG_6115 IMG_7031 IMG_20170628_200217

Sandwiches and Burgers : Not available quite everywhere – noodles and rice are the staples – sandwiches and their kin make up a niche in Japanese cuisine. The attention to detail is there but I would rank them as acceptable. They’re still good by any standard, but if I had a choice between a sandwich and a ramen place I hadn’t tried – definitely would go for the ramen. The exception is the extremely random cajun restaurant we found in Miyajimaguchi.

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Oddities : This is where we put the pictures of Italian food Japanese style, Okonimiyaki – fried cabbage and eggs – and the distinctive Japanese omelette, a semi-done omelette wrapped around itself into a pouch placed on top of rice. When punctured, the omelette falls down and covers the rice in gooey eggy goodness. IMG_20170618_192208
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7-11 : In the states, eating here is.. questionable. Sure they have the hot food near the front, and snacks, but the Japanese version blows ours out of the water. There is an entire refrigerated section dedicated to freshly made noodles, eggs, salads, sandwiches, rice balls, you name it. The hot-food section offers filled buns and other delicious snacks to go. While we were in Japan, we saw a documentary on 7-11’s food making process – the CEO and other execs taste samples of the food left on the shelf for several days and if they don’t want to eat it, the company doesn’t sell it. It’s cheap and good and very quick. Not the world’s best dining experience but it does well in a pinch and on a budget.
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Desserts and Omiyage : Japan has an obsession with French culture and food. Pastry and tea shops are found all over, and they are great. There is of course the unique Japanese spin on standard pastry, and the pictures speak for themselves. There are self-serve pastry shops in most train stations and all around most cities in Japan. Milk bread is a particular favorite. Similar as foods but entirely different in purpose are omiyage – gifts from traveling. Anytime a Japanese person goes away, they’re expected to come back with a representative gift from the place they visited. They’re usually edible and very often a type of pastry.

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Tokyo Banana
Hiroshima Lemon Tart
Momiji Manju from Miyajima
Apple tart from Aomori
Apple juice from Aomori



Breaded baked apple from Aomori

Apple tart from Aomori
Apple juice from Aomori

Sushi : Once a celebratory treat, Japan has apparently decided it likes sushi as much as the western world does. It’s available all over and in greatly varying price ranges. Most travelers are going to be visiting Jiro’s Sushi (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi and amazing sushi fame), but plenty of options exist to feast on fresh fish. We tried a computer ordered and rail delivered restaurant in downtown Tokyo and also a yell-out-your-order carousel sushi spot right near the station by our hostel. The automatically delivered sushi may have been a bit better, but nothing beats laughing with the chefs over the tourist’s odd fixation with salmon.

This isn’t anywhere near everything Japan has to offer – there’s plenty of restaurant types we didn’t visit and unique local delicacies we missed, but if you visit Japan most of the above should be on your radar. We’re certainly looking forward to going back.

Riding the JR


JR is Japan Rail, a group of companies providing intercity rail access in Japan, runs fantastically fast and on-schedule trains. We bought ourselves a JR pass for the entire island in one of the main stations in Tokyo. Was it worth it? The way we did it, yes it was. We rode up and down and all around the island, and looking back, we saved a few hundred dollars. The benefit of the pass was flexibility and unlimited rides during the pass period – we could jump on any train at any time in the unreserved section or, after a quick visit to the JR office in any station, we had reserved tickets for our whole journey for that day or the next. These passes can be bought at any of the larger JR offices and an ‘Exchange Order’ can be purchased abroad, which can be traded in for a pass.


The coolest thing though, is the trains. I’m not a train fanatic, but I like me some public transit. JR’s lines are fast, clean, stop on the correct spot to a t, and arrive – barring some actual incident – to the second as promised. We hear legends of JR issuing apologies for mere seconds delay, and indeed they do. This went viral just recently : JR sincerely apologized for being 20 seconds early out the gate.

We were waiting for our train at an outer station when the announcer came on to tell us a train was passing through and to be careful to move behind the line. I never stray past that line anyway, but I remember sort of smiling at the announcement, waiting for this train to .. and then with a tremendous wind and a whooshing noise, the train was gone. They are blink of an eye fast.

So how fast does their 300 km/h speed feel? Here’s a video I took from the window of one of our trains.

Like many other things in Japan, the trains have an associated collection – pins! Luckily there were only five – one for each color line on the main island. We ran around like mad the last few days of the pass, seeing random towns along the way and collecting the whole set of pins. Sightseeing incentive, effective!


Bugs of Japan

It’s summer here in Japan, and that means bugs! Really big, really cool bugs! So to celebrate, here are some of our best bug pictures:

Jumping spiders:

Shinjuku Garden in Tokyo:


May actually be a lynx spider, not a jumping spider. Hard to tell from this angle.
This one may also be a lynx spider.

Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto:

Possibly Phintella abnormalis?

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Probably Plexippus paykulli, now found all over the world.



Unknown salticid.



Beach in Uraga, near Tokyo:

This one’s an ant mimic (Myrmarachne), possibly Myrmarachne japonica.


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Everything else:

Caterpillars mimicking things!

Caterpillar that mimics bird poop, probably a giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)
Spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus), whose back end mimics a snake.
A cute little moth.
A skipper butterfly (Hesperiidae)
A  land snail (Euhadra amaliae) crawls along a wall
A small praying mantis.
Carpenter ants (Camponotus japonicus) carry the remains of a worm.
The husk of a cicada.

Beachside jade collecting

Stoytcho searches for jade on the beach.

Japan is crazy about collecting things, but we haven’t collected much here in Japan beyond a handful gacha toys and fountain pen ink so it’s time to fix that. For our last stop in Japan, we head to a beach in Itoigawa, Niigata Prefecture in search of jade (ヒスイ). While the beach in this whole region is known for jade, Itoigawa is the closest stop to us via the Shinkansen, so using our JR pass we set out one last time.

The highway just outside of Itoigawa.

Itoigawa itself is quiet when we arrive, the streets devoid of people and cars during a work day. We pick up a map and some advice from the mini-museum/visitor’s center behind the train station, then walk toward the beach. There’s a highway between us and the shoreline, so we have to go about half a mile north before we find an underpass with beach access. Nearby, we find a 7-11 and grab lunch.

The underpass entrance, leading to the beach on the other side of the highway.

The beach is a pebbly stretch dotted here and there with piles of concrete tetrapods to prevent erosion. It doesn’t look like much until you’re standing on the pebbles and look down to find the stones glisten with a rainbow of colors. There are green, purple, red, white, brown, and black stones of all shapes and sizes. To find jade, we know we should be looking for stones that feel heavy for their weight and are smooth and cool to the touch, but the color can range from white to green to purple to black. Time to start collecting.

The stones on the shoreline; perhaps there’s jade in here?

Though it’s a work day, we’re not the only ones on the beach. Other folks on holiday are here too, combing the beach for jade and other treasures and dodging the surf that occasionally rushes past the bowl-shape of the water’s edge.

A larger than usual wave breaches the bowl-shaped edge of the beach.
The aftermath of being a second too slow to escape the wave.

At the end of two hours, we’ve collected more than a kilo of stones and it’s time to decide what we want to keep. We try to be picky, because everything we take we either have to carry in our packs or have to send through the mail. We pick out the pieces most likely to be jade, then add in pieces we like for their color or shape. Our favorites are a tan colored stone etched with red and brown impurities, forming the patterns of hills or lakes or planets. We’ve found only five of them in our hours of collecting, so we keep them all.

Our stone collection, with our favorites in the upper right corner.

After we finish up, we walk the beach and watch the other collectors with their bags slung over their shoulders, crouched down with hands sifting through the pebbles. The sound is unique, more treble than the ocean’s movement of stones, and reminds me of the sound candy-coated almonds make when you shake a box. The clinking of dozens of stones continues, as does the craze of collecting things.

Holiday-makers and visitors collecting on the beach.

Onsen and Ryokan


As one of our last stops in Japan we decided to spend a little more than usual and try out a traditional bathhouse-inn experience. We found a good deal online and with our JR pass made our way to the city of Nagano, then by local metro to the even smaller town of Yudanaka and finally, after a confusing nighttime walk around the town center, to the Ryokan Hotel Tsubakino.


Before visiting Japan I’d had vague awareness of their bath culture, but only in the yes-they-have-nice-baths sense. It turns out to be so much more, and much more prevalent in society than I thought.


An onsen is a public bath. The entrance fee is a few dollars and you can stay for as long as you like. There’s one in nearly every town, usually one in every neighborhood. People go there to relax after work and on the weekends, even during the summer. In fact, they’re so prevalent one of the hotels we stayed at – a traveller’s hotel that was really intended for driving – had one available to guests.


The idea of an onsen is that you shower off very thoroughly, sitting on a small stool and using a bucket to wash off. You then clean the stool and bucket and join the other patrons in the main attraction, a large hot pool. Often it will be an actual hotspring, or even be located outside. There you soak for as long as you like, then leave.


A ryokan is the onsen experience taken to a higher level of hospitality. The rooms are warm and comfortable, tatami mats lining the floor. Slippers are provided for indoor wear, along with a yukata – a traditional robe garment.


At our ryokan there was an option for a private bath on a balcony. Use of the public bath is included with the room, but we went for the fancier option.


No regrets. It was a chilly night up in the mountains so we soaked and cooled alternately. In the picture you can see one of the tubs, the water spout feeding it, and the washing stool provided in the corner. Our camera is really not up to taking good pictures in the super-low light of the bath.


But it does turn out some good shots.


There’s also a traditional breakfast included with the stay. Seating was at floor level, with the table set into a space in the ground. They offered a traditional Japanese style menu and a more familiar Continental.


Both were excellent, though for a traveller expecting a standard breakfast the Continental is a better bet.


We’re lucky we got both types, because the almond jelly at the end was delicious.


A quick view of the table just as we were leaving – you can see how the seating is arranged.

We left thoroughly satisfied and very refreshed. It was a far cry from our standard of hostel and street food travel, and we wouldn’t want it very often, but once in a while it’s fantastic.


Finally it was time to go. Back on the local metro we went, in a train that looked to be from an older generation which was super cool. From there, back to the JR hub, and back on the road.

Aomori Lanterns

IMG_6657 We visited Aomori at a quiet time in the year. It was still summer, but well past the cherry blossom season that sees a huge influx of visitors to the region. We came to the city with the goal of seeing the huge floats that are used in the Nebuta Festival every year. IMG_6881

The festival takes place at the start of August and we were there way too early for that. Fortunately, there’s a museum open year round that showcases the floats themselves. It doesn’t have the same atmosphere as thousands of people chanting and dancing but the visuals were stunning.


The tradition of Nebuta runs murkily into the past, where legend and hearsay mix, focused on military tactics and victories. If there is a factual origin story it’s likely long gone by now and all that remains are the floats themselves. The combat-related story is fairly clear in the statues : grimaced-faced men and gods with wild hair point fierce, decorated weaponry at beasts and demons and other foes. Fire erupts where they clash, the fingers of the sea rush in to take their toll, nature in its most violent forms is represented.

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They’re giant, nine by eight meter platforms with a five meter statue mounted on top. Some of them weigh as much as four tons. This is incredible because, when you look at how the statues are constructed you realize exactly how many pieces of art there are in any of the large displays.


The lantern statues were traditionally made of bamboo frames with painted paper panels and actual burning lanterns illuminating the artwork. This was cause for the floats going up in flames at an alarming rate, so the introduction of wire frames and modern lightbulbs was a huge improvement.


The wires are bent into shape and tied together, the paper panels are glued on and painted, and the internal lighting is hooked up. Making these floats is a task for many people, usually volunteers and amateur painters from the area.



Along with the fury and elements present in many of the floats, there are minor, whimsical aspects that – if I knew more about the symbols involved – might add a layer of depth to the stunning display.


In recent times there seems to have been a movement towards master makers, professional float crafters who study and master this as a craft. It was heartening to see that there were several women represented in the group. Their photos and workshops were on display, along with an example of each artist’s work. The theme to this display was the face – fierce, expressive, and imposing.

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ōhashi dō fountain pens (大橋堂 万年筆)

Ebonite pens by Uehara Yūichi

Today’s mission will test the limits of my Japanese skills, dragging me from the comfort of casual conversation into unknown waters. For today, we are looking for a specific store that has eluded many. The man that runs it, Uehara Yūichi (植原友一), is one of the few students of the late fountain pen maker Uehara Eiichi. Online rumor is that Yūichi*, who still makes all of his pens by hand from Ebonite, is somewhere here in Sendai, at a store called ōhashi dō.

If you ask Google Maps for “ōhashi dō, Sendai” (which is大橋堂, 仙台), it will direct you to 3 Chome-8-5-Chuo, a nondescript gray building just southwest of Sendai Station that houses a fish market. We knew from prior reports online that we would need to do more work if we actually wanted to find Yūichi. We tried the phone number on Google Maps, but got no answer. Hoping that the fountain pen community would know his whereabouts, we continued our search at on the pen floor of Sendai’s Marzuen, where we soon had three employees dutifully trying to help us reach Yūichi. They tried called him (but again got no answer), looked ōhashi dō up online, and eventually printed the Google Maps directions out for us. But the most valuable information they provided was that ōhashi dō as a storefront no longer existed, gone with the late Uehara-san’s death. His apprentices mostly sold pens at pen shows while traveling around the country, meaning that Yūichi may not be in town. Darn.

We head to the market at 3 Chome-8-5 Chuo

Still, nothing ventured and nothing gained: we walked over to 3 Chome-8-5 Chuo in hopes of finding Yūichi. When we arrived the local fish market was bustling with midday shoppers and the lunch crowd. We walked through, hoping to find some sign of fountain pens through the seafood smell, but no luck. I finally approached the employee of one of the fish stalls and asked “Do you know where Ohashi-Do is?” The woman gave me a smile and said “Well, since you asked so sweetly!” and disappeared for a few seconds. Then she returned and handed me a pair of chopsticks.

The employee who handed me a pair of chopsticks, kindly posing for a photo.

For those of you who speak Japanese, I hope you’re laughing. For those that don’t, “O-hashi” would be an honorific way to refer to chopsticks, so the fish market employee thought I had asked her *very politely* where I could find some chopsticks. At the time, I was confused for a second, then laughed with embarrassment. “No, no,” I told her. “I’m sorry, I meant ōhashi dō. It’s a store that sells fountain pens.” The market employee began to laugh, too. “Ah, I’m sorry! I thought you asked for chopsticks. I don’t know where the store is, but I can ask.” In minutes she helped us find a guy who knew where Yūichi was, and directed us to a room number three or four floors up.

Heading around to the elevator. This looks more like a residential complex than a place for stores.

We went around to the back of the building and took the elevator up to what seemed like apartments. In a few minutes we found the right room, with the door ajar. We knocked, and a friendly-looking man appeared at the door. It was Uehara Yūichi! He was indeed in Sendai and happy to show us his current pens for sale, with the usual Japanese-style apologies for the messy state of the workshop. Stoytcho sat down to try them and was in heaven. I, meanwhile, attempted to translate as Yūichi half-described, half-pantomimed the creation process here in his workshop. A bit of a difficult process, given that I didn’t know technical words like nib, slider ring, and lathe. I could hardly keep the word 万年筆 in my head, and cannot thank Yūichi enough for his patience while I stumbled through translating for him and Stoytcho.

Stoytcho tries some of Uehara Yūichi’s pens.

Pen aficionados talk about the simple and elegant beauty of the handmade ōhashi dō pens, but it’s hard to appreciate their magic until you’ve held one. I know little about pens, but even I can feel the precise art and painstaking labor given to the pen as I hold it. Even though we’ve spent the last two weeks visiting every fountain pen store we’ve found in Japan, where Stoytcho has tried countless Pilots, Pelicans, Sailors, and Mont Blancs, he marveled at the feel of the Ebonite pen body and the flawless fit and finish of each ōhashi dō pen he tried. For those of you that love fountain pens, the ōhashi dō pens aren’t flashy, but they feel like the essence, the Platonic ideal of a fountain pen**, worth feeling at least once in a lifetime. Brush up on your Japanese and find Uehara Yūichi.

* I hope Uehara Yūichi can forgive me for using his first name frequently in this post. It’s not common to use first names in Japan unless you’re very close with the person, but is common in English and I didn’t want anyone to confuse him with the late Uehara Eiichi.

** This is Stoytcho’s statement, not mine, which lends it much more credence since this is his obsessive hobby.

7-11 will take your dirty foreigner ATM card


No seriously, 7-11 the convenience store, also known here as “7 and i Holdings” is the only place we found that would consistently take our non-Japanese Visa-based ATM card and let us withdraw money. This is a pretty regular problem in Japan; even if an ATM says on the side that it takes Visa or MasterCard, it’s usually restricted to Japanese-only cards and will reject an ATM card from outside the country. We found that this happened even at ATMs in train stations, banks, or at shopping malls. And it was a huge pain to run around looking for an ATM only to find it rejected our card. So now YOU know how to avoid it, plus it gives you a chance to visit one of the few places where you can get cheap, good food as a backpacker.

…like these always-perfect soft-boiled eggs…


…or this whole curry potato croquette meal for 700 yen.




Specialty dish : Yaki Curry

Kokura’s cool shopping center.

Next in our Japan tour we visited Kokura, city of anime, a snazzy castle, strange pasta-headed statues, and, supposedly, one of the best nighttime harbor views in Japan. This last was not true, at least not in any way we could discern. Yes, it’s a harbor, and yes, it has cool flames from off gassing. But it’s dark and quiet with a very industrial feel. Maybe the locals dig it more than we did.

A claw machine with Neko Atsume cats! Yes, we tried it.

The anime related things were fun. There’s a manga museum and a toy/books/everything-else mega store. There’s statues of anime characters dotting the train station, and statues of figures with pasta for heads on the city bridge.


The castle is a restoration of an older building, and now it houses a museum on how the city was founded and what life was like before. It seems like every castle-turned-museum in Japan has the same theme, but it’s still interesting to see. The moving diorama is pretty unique.


The real draw to Kokura (for us) is actually the tiny seaside town of Mojiko. It’s less than half an hour by local train and it is the home of fried Japanese curry. It also has a charming dock-side promenade and interesting drawings of squid by the station, but the curry is what we came for.


Japanese curry is fairly well known around the world. It’s about as thick as some of the Indian curries, thicker than the south-east asian curries, and it is usually not anywhere near as spicy. It’s very commonly served with breaded fried chicken or pork – katsu kare or cutlet curry.

Kid’s drawings of squid decorate the outside wall of the station.

In Mojiko they have what they call “fried curry” as their regional specialty. A dozen shops near the station – the center of town – serve it, and from what we could tell they all smelled great. We tried two of the restaurants and they were both amazing.


The basic idea of fried curry is to take a small dish, chop up vegetables, meats, and whatever other additions you want, cover it in a deep layer of curry sauce, cover that with cheese, and then broil the whole thing until the ingredients cook and the cheese starts bubbling and crisping.


It’s a great idea. We love the taste of Japanese curry dishes, and this style is right up there with the best of them. It becomes a more varied dish with different flavors and textures mixing and melting together. Sort of like the difference between pasta and lasagna – the same ingredients, but the preparation style changes everything.

You can find recipes for this style of curry online by searching for ‘yaki curry’ or ‘yaki kare’ recipes. This one looks good, but different from what we tried.

If I were to try and recreate what we had that night, I’d go for the vegetarian version. Get together :

2 potatoes
1 eggplant
2 carrots
1 pepper
1 large onion (yellow or white)

Prepare a box of Golden Curry, whichever spicy level you prefer. This is super simple, just follow the instructions on the box. Dice the vegetables and cook them with the curry as the box says.

Take the cooked curry and pour it into a 8×12 ovensafe dish. Some people will put a layer of steamed rice under the vegetables, but ours came with rice on the side, so it’s entirely optional.

Cover the curry with a few oz of shredded mozzarella (and/or cheddar).

Set the oven to broil and put the pan in for five minutes. This will give the cheese a chance to bubble and brown a bit.

Remove from the oven before the cheese starts turning black, let cool for just a minute, then serve frighteningly hot. Our curries came out bubbling and trying to eat them without burning ourselves was part of the experience.

Happy cooking!