Sengan-en

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, JapanAside from Sakurajima, Sengan-en is one of those things that comes up a bunch when you’re looking for things to do in Kagoshima.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s a former residence dating back to the 1600s that’s been turned into a pretty amazing garden.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It costs 1000 yen to get in (about 11 bucks Canadian), but it’s totally worth it.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

Just getting there is pretty spectacular.  It’s about two kilometres from the city, and you could take a bus, but the walk is impressively scenic; it’s clearly the way to go.  I mean, I think this video speaks for itself.

Then you get there and it’s enormous and seriously impressive.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

That’s not to mention the hiking trail that leads to a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s pretty much just endless steps going up, so it’s crazy exhausting, but once you get up there it’s totally worth it.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

That’s not a bad view at all.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

Italy + Japan = Delicious

Tmtrmnstr in Kagoshima, JapanThere’s a place in Kagoshima called Tmtrmnstr that sells tomato ramen, which is basically like a bizarre amalgam between a standard bowl of ramen, and spaghetti with tomato sauce.

I really did not have high hopes for this — I tried it more out of a morbid curiosity than anything else.  I just assumed it wasn’t going to be very good.

Tmtrmnstr in Kagoshima, Japan

But surprisingly enough?  It was delicious.  It was creamy and rich like a standard bowl of ramen, but with a garlicky, tomato sauce flavour.  I guess it was essentially like a tomato soup — but way better than any tomato soup I’ve had before.

Tmtrmnstr in Kagoshima, Japan

You choose from various add-ons; they recommend parmegiano regiano cheese.

Sure, parmesan on ramen — why not?

Tmtrmnstr in Kagoshima, Japan

The cheese really enhances it, melting and merging with the noodles in a gooey, cheesy mess.  It’s shockingly great.

Volcano Walk

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, JapanOne of the things Kagoshima is best known for is its proximity to Sakurajima, an active volcano on a nearby island (or what used to be an island — the lava from a 1914 eruption actually connected it to the mainland).

There’s a ferry that goes from Kagoshima to the island every ten minutes or so.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s a quick, but scenic, boat ride.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

Once you get to the island, there’s a path that goes along the shore where you can see some volcanic rocks, and a pretty great view of the volcano.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

There’s also a surprising number of cats, for some reason.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

But mostly, some amazing views.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

I mean, come on.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

A Face-Punch of Flavour

Hanamaruken in Osaka, JapanOne of the many (many many) things I love about ramen is how much variety you get from bowl to bowl.  There are so many different styles and types and varieties of ramen that what seems like it should be a simple dish (it’s just noodles and soup) has so much to offer.

Hanamaruken in Osaka, Japan

There are some bowls of ramen that are subtle and light; on the other end of the spectrum is the bowl of slow-cooked pork rib ramen I just had from Hanamaruken in Osaka.

Hanamaruken in Osaka, Japan

The broth here is unctuously, mouth-coatingly rich (though it thankfully never crosses the line into gravy soup territory).  It’s also intensely flavoured, with a seafoody punch rounding out the in-your-face porkiness.  There’s absolutely nothing subtle here; the flavour grabs you by the collar and screams in your face.  And yet it’s not overbearing or one-note.

But what really makes this ramen noteworthy is the slow-cooked pork rib on top, subbing in for the typical chashu.  It’s a big old hunk of deboned ribs that’s been slow-cooked until it’s so tender you can just pull chunks off with your chopsticks.  It’s also browned on the griddle to give it some additional flavour/texture.

Hanamaruken in Osaka, Japan

It’s so incredibly tender that even the cartilage has rendered down into a delicious, porky goo.  And yet the meat itself still has texture — it’s not mushy at all, which can sometimes happen with slow-cooked meat like this.

McDonald’s Around the World: Japan Edition

McDonald's in JapanAfter my shockingly great Korean McDonald’s experience — and considering how good all of the food in Japan is — I had high hopes for a similar experience here.

Yeah, no.  This was a pretty standard McDonald’s experience, sadly.  Not the best, and not the worst.

First up is the Mature Gracoro Beef Stew Burger, which is a crispy fried croquette with cheese and chili on top.  Oh, and the croquette is filled with macaroni and shrimp.

McDonald's in Japan

There’s a lot going on here — between the chili, the cheese, the mayonnaisey sauce, the shrimp, the soft macaroni, the crispy exterior of the croquette, and the creamy interior, it’s a very random hodge-podge of tastes and textures.  It’s not bad, but it never quite coheres.

McDonald's in Japan

I also tried the Teriyaki McBurger, which was very similar to the Bulgogi Burger that I tried in South Korea.  In fact, I think the pork patty is identical — but when I had it in Korea, it was fresh and tasty.  This one had clearly been sitting out for a while, and had a much dryer texture and a vaguely leftovery flavour.  The teriyaki sauce was about what you’d expect, and it wasn’t quite strong enough to wipe out that patty’s iffy flavour.

McDonald's in Japan

Finally, there’s the Sankaku pie — a triangular chocolate pie with a puff pastry exterior.  This wasn’t bad.  The chocolate filling was nice and gooey, but the pastry shell was a bit tough and chewy.