Originally written two weeks ago. Sorry for the delay. 🙂
Today was a seriously good day. We had a brief rain in the morning and cloud cover all day, so even with the extra humidity, it was still nice and cool.
50 points if you know why I didn’t wait for the red car to get out of the way before I took this photo. 🙂
While making my shopping list this morning, I got a wild hair and decided I wanted to learn how to cook tempura. So I rode my bicycle down to the co-op, stopping to put on my shoes and grab my unbleached cotton bag on the way out the door. My aunt Julia would be proud. And yes, I’m totally serious; I have a reusable cotton bag that I use when I shop at えひめコープ (literally “Ehime Co-pu,” but they chose their own weirdness and write it “Coop Ehime”), whose 20th use will net me a coupon of indiscernible benefit.
I figured I would find the ingredients while doing my regular semi-daily shopping, but it took me a bit of dedicated searching to find the tempura batter and oil. Then I had to look at the backs of all the bags for the ones that had pictures, and try to piece together the process for making the batter and frying the food from there. That was my hope, anyway.
Here’s my now full refrigerator.
I got back to the house, put away the groceries, and decided to turn right back around and get back on my bike, destination unknown, just to explore while the weather was beautiful. Mindful of the recent adventure I had trying to find my way home, I chose one major road and decided to take it as far as I dared. I took Iyotetsu Road southeast near my place, and just kept riding. Along the way, I passed an indoor ice skating rink with an outdoor waterslide and pool complex, a Mazda dealership, a Nissan Red Stage dealership with a new GT-R in the showroom, and saw a lot of local flavor. The road started petering out after a while, and eventually became what turned out to be a secondary inter-city road. I took it about 13km out of town, to the outskirts of the next town, passing through increasingly light commercial and residential areas which became solitary homes, gardens, rice fields, and streams, and was surprised to see that it intersected with another major road that also runs (relatively) near my place.
There’s a pedestrian crossing bridge over the intersection of Iyotetsu Road and Route 11, about twenty feet above the road surface. I paused with my bike to soak in as much as I could. I really wish I’d had my camera with me, because there’s no way I can describe the beauty of what I saw. I love overcast days with a slight chill in the air, and I may be romanticizing a bit because of it, but the countryside I could see took my breath away. The rice fields are newly sprouting bright green right now, and the sky was this mottled pattern of steel grey and dark backlit blue. I had an interesting vantage of the surrounding fields, organically arranged against the hills and streams, all cut with the rigid lines of the highway, and the businesses popping in single file to line the road and catch traffic as it passed from one town to the other.
Reasonably certain it would get me where I wanted, I took Route 11 back to Matsuyama. Along the way, I found something that made me happy- a Subaru dealership. They were closed because of the string of national holidays called Golden Week, but that just gave me license to wander the lot unmolested. They had a number of interesting models, some modified with aftermarket parts, which you don’t normally see dealers selling in the US. Next door to the Subaru dealership, I discovered something else that got my heart going- a used performance car lot. Absolutely astounded at my luck, I wandered around looking at the Nissan Skylines, Mitsubishi Evolutions, Subaru STIs, Nissan Fairlady Zs, and many other high performance vehicles that have never been sold in the states. Some even had aftermarket parts that looked to be straight off the track, but not in a trashy, “body by Bondo” sort of way- the Japanese know class, and these cars were all put together really well. And I really need to start carrying my camera.
As I got closer to my part of town, I recognized a section of road I traveled while I was lost and had a silent chuckle at myself. I also passed a second Mazda dealership, as well as Daihatsu, Alfa Romeo, and Suzuki (automobiles, not motorcycles) dealerships. I guess Route 11 is something of an automall.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, but when I got back to my apartment, I decided to not even go in this time- I just stayed on my bike and headed off to find a sembe (rice cracker) shop my manager told me about. I didn’t know exactly where it was, but I remembered the general directions she gave me. Her directions put me back on Iyotetsu Road of all places, but I still didn’t find the shop. This time I decided to follow Iyotetsu back to my neighborhood and call it a day.
Now I just had to tackle my dinner project. I won’t make a long story even longer by giving you the play-by-play, but let me say that making tempura is surprisingly easy. It turned out quite well, and here’s a picture to prove it. You can see the shrimp I peeled and deveined myself, with the red and yellow peppers and the asparagus (which I wouldn’t have thought to get but for the picture on the package). It all turned out really well (and with the mixing, prepping, frying, and eating, made a mess that positively consumed the kitchen), but I’ll probably wait a while to make it again. It’s a lot of work, and as light as tempura-fried food is in comparison to say, KFC, it’s still food that sits heavily in the stomach.
All in all, it was an exceedingly satisfying day. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a food coma to sit out while I try to understand the evening news.