Niigata

Niigata was freaken awesome.  Well at first it wasn't so shit hot.  It was kinda lame and boring.  I'd have kept travelling except I'd organised to stay with someone through the couchsurfers web site and she was expecting me.  I've never used couchsurfers before and have to say my first experience was tops.

I had kind of run out of fun things to do and was absolutely buggered from having to catch the train at 5 am so had a couple of bad hours, just walking willy-nilly to stay awake.

Met up with the girl that was hosting me and she asked if I wanted to go to a place to sample local foods and sake.  Of course!  I'm all about the local foods and sakes.

She'd never been to this place before and wanted to try it.  We started by having to squeese through a tiny door.  Inside was all ye olde Edo period decor.  Or maybe it was real Edo who knows.
 

The aim of the place was to have the feel of street vendors in a market.  Just a general feel, not in a theatre restuarant type of way.  The freebie starter *I love that about Japan was a plate with some pork and leek.  The waiter bought some square stone lanterns over to our table and lit them then cooked the plates on top.  It was magically delicious.

Next we had to order drinks.  There were 94 local sakes to pick from... 94!  How do you even decide?  My host didn't drink but she told me one was from her home town so I tried that.  They served it with the glass in the wooden box with the saucer underneath - I'm sure there is a name for that.  Super yum.

Food included the most delicious edamame ever.  Again, they set up the lantern cooker and boiled it at the table then brought out a big chunk of rock salt and grated it over the top.

Trying to cook sembai

Trying to cook sembai

We also had cook yourself sembai.  We failed miserably at the sembai cooking... our fire kept going out.  Also, a local hotpot with vegetables and fish eggs.  And shrimp.  I never ate shrimp before I came here.  They carried the basket of shrimp to the table in one of those square baskets you carry on your back - well you did if you lived in the Edo period - then weighed out the amount we wanted on the scales.  Then threw in a heap more as "service". 

We had the shrimps sashimi style ie. raw.  I didn't even say "don't come the raw prawn with me..." then they deep fried the shrimp heads .... again service!  I tried one... didn't like it.  But I tried it.

It was maybe one of the most delicious meals I've had in Japan, maybe ever.  Everything was so fresh and just perfect.  My friend was so lovely too.  We finished off with free miso and had our photo taken which they presented to us.

I seriously want to go back to Niigata just to eat there again. 

Today I spend most of my time on the train to Akita.  I had a 2.5 hour stopover in Sakata which doesn't have much, not even a cafe to buy lunch.  I ended up getting an onigiri and a beer and sitting in the park... was going to go to the beach but couldn't really find it.  They had some temples and giant buddha.  Also an old house which I think was a geisha house you could tour but I was on my way back to the train and didn't want to be late so I skipped that.  Got caught in the rain and got a bit soaked.

Am about to explore the wonders of Akita tonight.  I'm staying in a business hotel... super cheap deal with breakfast thrown in.  I'm not sure what there is in Akita since the hotel is joined to the station so I've seen nothing.

Anyways, my ipod should be charged now so I will go buy dinner and have adventures.