Epic Finds in Okayama: Okonomiyaki Serving Robots & Dinosaur Parks (Japan)

Over the weekend I traveled to Hiroshima Prefecture for the Pasocom Ongaku Club Nightflow Tour at two locations in rural Japan.  The events touched my heart so I will be writing a detailed report about their music in a future post, but first I wanted to point out two amazing places I found along the way while backpacking!

Next to Hiroshima Prefecture lies Okayama Prefecture, which is less than an hour away by shinkansen (bullet train).  I have traveled here before to explore Kurashiki, a famous canal town that attracts a lot of tourists, but here are some other off the beaten path recommendations I have for those who are visiting the area:

Shinju: The Okonomiyaki Serving Robot Restaurant

In this area of Japan, okonomiyaki–a pancake usually served with bacon, fried noodles, and vegetables–is an extremely popular dish.  The name “okonomiyaki” literally means “to one’s liking” so you can usually customize your order with other ingredients (such as seafood) or ask for a vegetarian version as well.

At Shinju, the extremely hardworking “NUMBER-ONE-ROBOT” will serve the ingredients you order directly to your table so you can cook the okonomiyaki yourself!  Wearing an adorable Disney hat and greeting you in a friendly tone, this robot does everything it can to make you feel welcome:

I decided to order the seafood okonomiyaki set with noodles.  I’ve had this dish before, but it’s been a long time since I prepared it on a hotplate myself.  The kind staff taught me the correct way to flip the pancake batter on the noodles to create the perfect okonomiyaki.  If you are unsure of how to do this, they will be sure to assist you (it’s actually quite easy once you get the hang of it):

After about 10-15 minutes of cooking, we ended up with this delicious result:

img_1784
The perfect seafood okonomiyaki with fried noodles, shrimp, octopus, and squid.

Not only is okonomiyaki delicious, but it’s also the perfect hangover food.  Overall the service here was above average and the staff even sat down and talked to me for a while.  I told them all about the event and how much I enjoy backpacking in Asia because it’s generally very safe to travel here.

The joke of the day was how the robot here resembled the robot on the Pasocom Ongaku Club Promotional flyer (drawn by Satoshi Kurosaki):

This was the best okonomiyaki restaurant I have ever been to, so I recommend it to literally everyone!

Shinju Address:

真珠
87 Higashihirajima, Higashi Ward, Okayama, 709-0631

Kasaoka Dinosaur Park

img_1800

Remember when the dinosaurs invaded rural Japan?  I remember, because I was there!

On the way back to Hiroshima for the 2nd event I was going to, I decided to stop by Kasaoka, Okayama, because it is the closest major city near the border.  Here I was elated to find a park full of dinosaurs outside of the Horseshoe Crab Museum!  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go inside the museum, but I had a ton of fun photographing the dinosaurs in the park (which is free to visit).

I really find it odd that someone decided to put these dinosaurs all the way out here in rural Japan.  What inspired this park, and are there deeper secrets buried here in Kasaoka that are waiting to be discovered?  I will be searching for more places to visit like this in the future because I simply find them fascinating.  There’s so much more to discover in Japan than simply Tokyo–epic finds are literally everywhere.

Kasaoka Horseshoe Crab Museum Address:

Kabutogani Horseshoe Crab Museum
1946-2 Yokoshima, Kasaoka, Okayama 714-0043

Please look forward to the rest of my Hiroshima blog series!  I will be publishing it both this and next week~

Eating Live Octopus in Seoul

image1
Sannakji (산낙지): Live octopus from a local shop in Sinsa, Seoul.

Since I’m staying in Seoul for the next few days, I decided to be adventurous and try some wriggling live octopus (called sannakji).  I’ve eaten octopus sashimi in Japan many times and enjoy pairing it with soy sauce and wasabi, but the experience in South Korea is a bit different.  Instead of thinly slicing the octopus like in Japan, here they carefully cut the tentacles into smaller bite-sized pieces and give you special spicy sauce to eat it with.  Taste-wise I prefer spicy seafood, but texture-wise I prefer my octopus to be thinly cut so it’s easy to chew.  Though the tentacles were slippery and difficult to pick up with chopsticks, I managed to almost finish the entire plate!

The octopus is selected from a tank outside and takes about 10 minutes to prepare depending on how busy the restaurant is.  This dish is safe to eat when it is served to you, but due to the complex system of neurons in each tentacle, they still wriggle a bit even when they have been severed from the octopus’s body.  If you really enjoy seafood (especially in Asia), then this is something you should try!

Pro Soy Crab is a popular restaurant where people in Seoul go to eat crab and octopus, but I chose to eat at a local shop nearby that had a Japanese menu.  Sannakji is called “生きているテナガダコ” in Japanese, so you can also try looking that up (I cannot read hangal, so I rely on my Japanese skills here).  Earlier this year I ate Dancing Squid in Hakodate, so if you are interested in other seafood adventures, please look at my post here!

Tentacle Bento at Awajiya

There’s nothing quite like a jar of tentacles and rice to start your day!  This ひっぱりだこ飯  (Hipparidako Rice) is available for 1,080 yen at bento stands found in Japan Railway stations called Awajiya.  They contain octopus tentacles in addition to vegetables, conger eel, and seasoning.  The best part is you get to keep the jar when you finish it.  Please try it if you get the chance, because the texture and freshness of the tentacles is unrivaled!