Hello foodies! Welcome to the second instalment of the DadBod in Japan. If you haven’t read the first one yet, then go check it out! This time we’re going to visit Shodoshima. This wonderful island had some hidden gems and beautiful scenery, so come with me, and escape to Japan for a few minutes! I promise you it’ll capture your imagination and more importantly your stomachs!
After escaping the love hotel and taking an amazing, scenic ferry ride, we made it to Shodo Island – famous for olive oil and soy sauce. On arrival, this was a slightly more industrial affair than we expected but we quickly escaped the rather unattractive docks and made our way to the more peaceful and beautiful side of the island, where the town of Shodoshima is. We stopped off to get a bite to eat in a bizarre restaurant that was very out the way of, well, anything. I’m not sure quite why we went in, except that Mark and I are both greedy (me more than him), and we were hungry. It was a big, strangely laid out place with seating on one side of the room and then most of the owners’ possessions cluttering the other. Communication was often a problem in Japan, and this was no different. We ended up with fried chicken and rice which wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for, but it was filling and pretty tasty. Fried Chicken is yet another thing that the Japanese seem to do really well. Made better by dipping it in soy sauce! This was just a quick fill, so we ate the decent but not amazing meal, and went on to our hostel.
As we checked in, we rented some bikes so we could go on a bit of an adventure. We stopped off to pick up some more sushi triangles, other exciting snacks and a few beers (sadly not Asahi because it’s a lot more expensive). We set off inland and quickly realised that our bikes were in pretty bad condition… I was in even worse condition. Shodo Island is not flat. In fact, it is mountainous as soon as you leave the coastline. So, breathing heavily, we slowly ascended the mountain roads, getting into beautiful jungle and looking back out to sea. Between the heavy sweating and breathing, I occasionally managed to enjoy myself. Although, I did have a small sense of humour failure when we realised that we had arrived too late to take the mountain gondola which was part of the reason for our bike ride. Luckily this wasn’t a disaster because we now only had to go downhill. As we hurtled down the mountain, wondering if our breaks would work properly, Mark spotted something and told me to come look. It was a small Pit Viper, right in the middle of the road… we thought it might have been run over so we approached cautiously. It turned out that it was very much alive. When we were a couple of feet away (Mark was trying to take a photo), it suddenly jerked its head around and all of a sudden it was in a position to strike. I don’t think we have ever moved quicker! We got well away before rethinking. It was now in the perfect position for a very scary photo shoot. I found a stick to defend us, and Mark edged closer with his camera. After what seemed like ages, Mark got a couple of good shots and we left the snake in peace. I am just very happy that I didn’t go over it on my bike, because I would never have noticed it unless it went for me! Anyway, enough of the snakes and back to the snacks. After descending a bit further, we found a platform which overlooked the town and sea. It was the perfect place for a romantic sunset drink!
We settled ourselves with a selection of tuna and salmon sushi triangles and some Kirin Lagers. We also had some seaweed flavoured crisps. These were really tasty! Such a nice balance of saltiness with a hint of sweetness at the end! Kirin is also pretty good beer. Much cheaper than Asahi but still a great drop! Plus, beer and snacks with a view can never be a bad thing! Just as it was getting dark, loud music started coming out of the town below. It seemed to come from some kind of Tannoy system and made for a beautiful but slightly eery effect! While this was going on, I got my first introduction to Chuhai. This is a kind of Japanese Hooch – not something I drink very often! It’s basically alcoholic lemonade, well the lemon version is… Other flavours are available, but the lemon one is the nicest. It’s one of those drinks that is both bitter and sickly sweet at the same time, so it needs to be ice cold to be pleasant. Now, this isn’t my favourite drink in the world, but it’s much cheaper than beer, and tends to be quite strong. It’s like the Japanese are encouraging sour alcoholism! Being classic British tourists, we found that this was a good way to get a bit tipsy on a slightly tighter budget. The flavour is better if it follows a beer or two and then it becomes a nice refreshing, fruity beverage. After watching this beautiful sunset with the strange music and our hooligans’ picnic, we had to navigate the rest of the way down. Luckily, our bikes had half decent lights attached, because it became very dark, very quickly. We made it back to the hostel in one piece and started thinking about where we were going to eat. Unbelievably, a combination of jetlag, adventure and physical exertion made us so tired that we fell asleep before eating and didn’t stir again until early the following morning.
After waking up with our stomachs grumbling, Mark found a really cool looking café. We thought we were in a bit of a rush because we had a ferry to catch, so we took our bikes and raced across town. We eventually found the Morikuni Bakery which really is the definition of a hidden gem! A tiny little shop down a backstreet with a really cool, rustic look. Rusty corrugated iron walls and chalk signs welcome you, somehow looking classier than they should. Then, the inside is very Scandi-chic and minimalist. Sadly, our ferry time was getting closer, so we couldn’t hang about too much. We ordered iced coffee, a donut and a baguette kind of thing (pretty sure that’s the technical term), thinking it would be savoury. It was pretty expensive, and the portions were petit, but it looked amazing. It was a hipster price tag for a hipster place, so it all made sense. We rushed off towards the hostel and the ferry, carrying our prized breakfast as carefully as we could. After cycling madly, we had made up some time, so we stopped off by the sea to sit on the rocks and enjoy our brekky.
To start with, the coffee was a different gravy to most iced coffees I’ve had. It was full of real coffee flavour, with a beautiful smoothness to it. Unlike many places, they let you add your own sugar syrup, so you could adjust the sweetness exactly to your own taste. This was very welcome because iced coffee is so often too sickly. The quality of this meant that you didn’t need much sugar at all, because the nutty beans gave it a less bitter taste to start. To accompany the coffee, we were sharing the fresh donut and the baguette thing. We started on the baguette because we thought it was going to be savoury… it wasn’t. We had managed to rediscover sweet bean paste! This time, it was not too unpleasant. It was still slightly cloying though and not my favourite thing to eat. But we were saved by the donut! It had a dusting of cinnamon sugar covering it, and it was still slightly warm. Now, I should say that I am not usually a massive donut fan, but this thing got me excited. Sitting on a rock, looking out over the sea, Mark and I tried the donut. It was without doubt the best donut I have ever tasted. It was so light and airy inside that it almost melted in the mouth. Then the sugar gave it just the right amount of sweetness, especially when married with the lovely coffee. Finally, the cinnamon added a bit of depth and lasting flavour in your mouth, which again complemented the coffee. I hope this isn’t making you crave donuts too much, but they were just so bloody good! The only issue is, I haven’t had anything like it before or since, so maybe donuts won’t ever be able to live up to the ones from Morikuni Bakery. If this is the case, there is only one solution… I will have to go back!
After all the hurry and hustle to get our breakfast before the ferry, we finally got to the ferry terminal just in time for our boat, so we went to buy a ticket. It turned out, we had somehow been looking at an online timetable which didn’t seem to exist in real life, so we had to wait for a few hours. At first, we were a bit annoyed about this, but we were lucky again. There happened to be an outdoor art exhibition right next to the terminal. It was by a Chinese artist called Xiang Yang and contained stunning sculptures made from recycled furniture. Anyone who knows me well will know I am slightly obsessed with art featuring boats, and this exhibition definitely ticked that box. Yang’s works were all beautiful and provided some great cultural entertainment to while away the time before the ferry came. I would go into more detail, but I am no art buff, so it would be fraudulent for me to attempt to further explain the astonishing work of Yang. However, I will include a photograph for you to get the idea!
Right, back to what I know best… food! After all this culture, we decided we needed a bit of grub before we took our next ferry. We went to a charming little place, right next to the port called Kushikatsu. They specialised in fried stuff. We got a sharing plate of various tempura dishes and a delicious Katsu sandwich. The mixed plate was a bit hit and miss. The batter wasn’t the lightest, and personally, I am not a massive fan of battered root-veg. But the classics were good – always love a good tempura prawn! However, the Katsu sandwich was definitely the highlight! The chicken was moist, and the sauce was rich and a little spicy. It was lovely! After our healthy deep-fried snack, we went back to the ferry and prepared to make our way to Oita! This is where the Quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup were taking place, and where we will resume in the next edition of ‘DadBodEatsUK goes to Japan’!
Thank you for reading this travel/food combo blog! I hope you are enjoying the trip and that some of the essence of this wonderful country is coming through in my words! If it’s not then I am sure that it will be in the incredible photos that my travelling companion, Mark Weaver, took! Until next time, stay safe, keep cooking, and read through my other flogs to keep your mind hungry!
Yours in food,
Another massive thank you to the Philip and Sophia Weaver for taking me with them on this incredible trip! And thank you to Mark Weaver for all the great photos featured in this flog (he took the good ones; I took the bad ones). He is a brilliant photographer and designer so go take a look at his awesome website: https://markweaver.myportfolio.com/