Hi guys! We’ve been behind on catching up with the blog, so this is installment is one in a whirlwind of months to bring us to recent present.
After coming back from Hakone, February itself wasn’t a particularly busy month. We kept things fairly low key overall. We visited some markets, and museums, but mostly stayed indoors. I mean yikes things are cold during the winter here. There was some light snow one day, which was pretty, but it all melted fairly quick.
March, we took a weekend trip to Nagoya. Nagoya is kind of an interesting mix of college town (the downtown area was completely empty in afternoon, and then light up and stayed active late into the night) and what felt like blue collar industrial town (Toyota and manufacturing are very big there). We visited the Tokugawa museum and family gardens, and of Nagoya castle itself. It was pretty nice overall, but the best part of the trip was dinner! We waited in line for maybe 20 minutes before being led up the narrow steps to the third floor of the eatery, but it was all worth it. Miso Tonkatsu. Oh, my, god. The miso itself was appropriately rich without being over bearing, and the katsu was excellently sliced with a thin but satisfyingly crunchy breading. All together, a filling delight for $9. Needless to say, we took home some boxes of the Miso sauce!
On a related note, me and Libby have become an excellent Tonkatsu pair. She prepares the meat and bread, and I handle the frying in oil. I gotta say, even having eaten a lot of different kinds of Tonkatsu, the stuff that me and her make is still some of the best. It’s great to make a few in a batch and freeze, since it makes a quick and easy meal anytime.
Anyways, as April approached, we were faced with our next challenge — Taxes. Doing them from abroad is quiet stressful, as it turns out. Handling our exemption from the Healthcare Mandate required us reading the relevant laws and referencing the IRS and other websites multiple times. It also required tricking HR Block software into finally being convinced that we did not owe for non coverage. And by tricking, I mean, trying several poorly worded answers to related questions until the software decided to give us the submenu that we could select the right answer which led the software to realize we were exempt. The other fun part was having to pay AMT tax from abroad. But we did manage to get square with Uncle Sam in the end, so all is good.
We did a lot of derping around during winter. There was the Setagaya Boroichi market, which is a 436 year old flea market, the low key Peach Blossom Festival (we hear this is the senior citizens’ version of the more youthful Cherry Blossom Festival), hot pot, and neighborhood exploration. We found a local bath house near us that is mostly vending machine operated, an introvert’s dream! I started two new hobbies, playing crane game toys, and collecting stamps at train stations (each train station has their own rubber stamp, and you can collect them, almost like a mini passport book for where you’ve been).
Nagoya was a low-key city. While we were walking toward the Tokugawa museum, I could feel the grid-pattern of the city. Not as many random shops to bump into. We would be on the street and people were in more regular clothes, like jeans or puffy pants and t-shirts. It was refreshing to not run into salarymen posses. I think Nagoya is one of those places that reveal themselves the more you are around it. And yeah, the katsu was very good, probably on my top 3 varieties of tonkatsu! The line wrapped around the building and on the awkwardly narrow stairs and people ate quietly, enjoying their meals. Sigh, so many katsu, so little time!
The next day we went hiking on a famous trail about one hour out from Nagoya on the very old Nakasendo Highway. It was between two old post towns, Magome-juku and Tsumago-juku, that people would take to get to Tokyo. It was actually my idea to hike this area, though Zach didn’t tell me until a lot later that he had already hiked this thing! We walked maybe 11 kilometers (? 6.8 miles), and I was really done by kilometer 10 (this was the part of walking from the post town to the station). Even though it felt yucky to hike at times, we saw a lot of cool things, like old houses along the road, fish ponds and gardens, and old message boards. I even made up a song on the way about snow only being on the mountain- ♫Snow on the Mountainnn/Not over hereee ♪ Snow on the Mountainnnn/over theeerrrree ♫ etc.
We’ll catch up next time on April!