Saturday, September 15, 2007

Delightful Saturday

Well, the typhoon really sputtered, it veered off away from us and we barely caught the fringe. So no biggie.

Today we went to Kokusai Street - a bustling long street FULL of tchotchkies galore, restaurants, shops, great jewelry and pottery stores, and all that great stuff. Craig insisted I leave the big camera at home for a change, but I snuk the little one in my bag.

A very nice Starbucks among the craziness.

Plastic food. Thank heavens it's in every window. If we had to rely on menus, we'd never know what the heck places served. This display was particularly good- and detailed.

In the center of this display is a dish of Goya Champuru- Champuru is stir fry - Goya is a bitter melon with bumps all over it, it's REALLY bitter. It's used in Okinawan cuisine to stimulate the appetite during the hot summer months. I'm not much for it yet, but maybe that'll change.

Hey cool - the Jamiroquai guy....

A hotel in the middle of it all.

Mia found an Okinawa Ukelele at the market.This t-shirt was one of MILLIONS - wow, it makes some other tourist trap places look lame.

So two stories about our day. Story 1, parking. We hadn't been to Kokusai Street before, and it's a really crazy busy street with no parking. We turned off onto a side street, and I spotted a space. It had a number painted on it, so I figured that the machine nearby would have to be fed, and off we go. I saw another family park there and just walk away, but we are not about to break any rules, so we backed in, and after locking up we walked to the machine. I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of it, but picture a number pad, a few other buttons, a slot for coins and a slot to put paper yen in, and loads of Japanese writing - and a LCD with more flashing Japanese characters. Um.... yeah.

So we were parked in space #4, we pressed "4". Something started flashing and we matched it to a button. Nothing was happening. We were prepared to just park elsewhere, and then a man came over and paused, noticing the Americans who were clueless. He started pushing the same red button we were, and then as we were going to give up and move, he said, "Ah! Look!" and it said "100¥". Sweet! We put in a coin, and just as we were about to leave, Craig noticed this on a nearby car:
Ok, wait a minute - 100¥ seems cheap for parking, something isn't right. When Craig looked at our car, the thing underneath had come down, allowing us to move. Then it clicked for me - you park, and the sensor sees your car, and puts up this barrier underneath it. You go, have your fun, and when you come BACK, you push the button for your spot number and it calculates what you owe based upon how long you've been parked there. BRILLIANT! You're not getting away with a thing, and I bet they sure save on meter maids. This is the kind of technology that just impresses me.

Another thing that impressed me was our lunch! YUM!

We went to Bambohe for lunch today on Kokusai. (Apparently there's a Bambohe over near Futenma too.)

Their deal is that they have a buffet - it's all you can eat for 1 1/2 hours from when you arrive. Lunch is 1300¥ per adult, 370¥ for Mia (weekends is a bit more expensive, weekdays it's like 1080. Dinner would be 1860¥ per adult and 550¥ for the kid.

You're given a booth, and told to go for it. There's a big round grill in the middle of the table. Maybe I'm a novice, but I haven't been to any restaurants like that yet and it was super cool. Then you walk to the buffet line and get a set of tongs to cook with, a tray and some plates, there are smaller plastic ones for the kids too.

The array of raw marinated beef, pork and chicken was fantastic (and the meat was all so tender and tasty), and they also had some squid to cook. There were onions, mushrooms, cabbage, squash, hot dogs, some kind of small burger patties (I think they might've been veggie burgers) and at the end of that line some soy, horseradish and hot sauce. There were a few kinds of soup (Okinawa soba, miso and squid ink something-or-other), fried rice, some kind of fried chicken, kim chi, tempura, steamed rice, mixed veggies, and a full salad bar with 3 kinds of dressing. Also there was jell-o, nice cold fruit, and azuki beans with those little white rice cake ball thingies. There was soft serve ice cream, plain yogurt, and a soda/juice bar with which to fill your cups as often as you liked.

On the table there was a delicious miso-based dipping sauce, so after you grilled your meat you could dip it in there and eat it over your rice to make it all so tasty.

EVEN Mia got into it! Next time she wants to cook!

So yeah - YUM on the cheap! It was a good day.

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