Prologue for Japan Trip
Starting 2013, Princess Cruises introduced new all around Japan itineraries, mainly to attract Japanese travelers. For 2014, three new, round-trip Yokohama, 9-days each, Japan itineraries were offered. We already had plans for 2013, but did not waste a minute booking all three for 2014. Especially since most of the ports-of-call were places I had not been to. And the ones that I had been to were destinations worth visiting again and again. If you notice, there is one non-Japan stop in each itinerary, in Korea or Russia. This is to be able to sell duty-free products on-board, per international taxation rules*.
Princess dedicated one of their ships, Diamond Princess to Japan itineraries (which also has an identical sister ship, Sapphire Princess with capacity for 2,670 passengers plus 1,100 crew, both of which were built in Nagasaki/Japan). Diamond Princess was remodeled to accommodate needs of the Japanese guests such as, open-air ‘onsen’ (Japanese hot bath) on the top floor, all boutiques into high-scale shops including Burrberry, Ferrgamo, Coach, and some fabulous brands I didn’t know. There were bilingual Japanese staff at every service. One side of the dinner menu was Japanese cuisine, as well as a Japanese food corner at the buffet court. We even had Japanese entertainment. I was in heaven.
On the 17th day of the cruising, with news of typhoon Phanfone, the rest of our cruising schedule completely changed. Typhoon Vongfong followed typhoon Phanfone. For the last leg of the cruising, all guests were offered credits (those who wanted to disembark and the new guests embarking) either if they stayed or disembarked, including train fare to Tokyo or the Japanese, to their hometown. We stayed. We had continuing plans for after the cruise, including an 11-day hotel reservation in Tokyo to visit with friends. For the last leg, about 1700 of us were complementary guests of Princess.
To avoid the typhoons, the ship sailed in calm/safe oceans. The ship managed to dock at Kobe a day later than scheduled and stayed overnight. A~~nd, next morning, a couple of hours sailing to Osaka, a surprise docking not included in the itinerary, the city I grew-up in!!! Not stopping at any of the other 4 ports-of-call of the 3rd itinerary, the ship cruised for 5 days straight (*seizing the opportunity of calm sea, the ship poked its nose into Korean waters, a necessary business move) and returned to Yokohama a day later than scheduled, giving us an extra day on the ship. We had one less day in Tokyo, but no complaints.
In the next several posts, I will share some photos and foods we experienced during our 40-day visit in Japan.
Spring for cherry blossoms and autumn for its foliage are the best times to travel in Japan. It was my husband’s second trip to Japan and this time, we picked autumn, a season known for delicious foods, specifically, seafood, autumn vegetables/fruits such as persimmons, Aomori apples, plump chestnuts, all kinds of sweet potatoes and squashes, and I can go on. Souvenir, confectionery, and restaurant shops showcase the seasonal displays. At the first port-of-call, the first display of sweets which caught our attention was the the sweet potato cakes. They come in every shape. The traditional ones are formed in petite, sweet potato shape. But of course, we are talking about Japan, ‘creative’ being her middle name, we had this delight in every form it can possibly come, including in ice-cream flavor!
This sweet potato recipe has a soft consistency with very little baking time needed. Traditionally, it is shaped in a two-bite-sized sweet potato shape. However, it can be baked as is (or in cupcake shells), filled in a large tart shell (or in small tartettes), stuffed in horizontally cut and hollowed in its own skin, or I personally prefer it piped in vertically cut and hollowed skin as shown in the first top photo.
Sweet Potato Delight | スイートポテト
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com)
• 700g / ½ lb = 2 ~ 3 sweet potatoes[¹][²], medium-sized at least 6cm / 2½” dia.
. – This recipe ratio is for 350g / ¾ lb already boiled/steamed, hollowed-out and mashed potatoes.
• 30g / 2 Tbsp sugar
• 30g / 1½ Tbsp butter, at room temperature
• 1~2 Tbsp heavy cream or whole milk (start with 1 Tbsp and add more if needed for processing/piping consistency)
• 2 egg-yolks, at room temperature (one for egg-wash/glaze before baking)
• a few drops of vanilla (optional)
[¹] Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier. The many varieties of sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. The skin color can range from white to yellow, red, purple or brown. The flesh also ranges in color from white to yellow, orange, orange-red or purple.
[²] For more variety, sweet potato may be substituted with yam, pumpkins, squashes (butternut would be a great one)
◊ Wash the potatoes well and cut them (with skin on) vertically no less than 15mm / 5/8″ thick. Only peel the ends. Soak them in water for 10 minutes.
◊ Drain and rinse the potatoes and boil them covered in plenty of water for 10 minutes or until bamboo skewer goes through (do not over boil or skins will come off). Gently drain in a colander and let it cool completely.
◊ Put all the pieces flat on a cutting board and very carefully hollow the pieces with tip of a table teaspoon and leave the skin with no less than 5mm / 1/8″ thick all around. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
◊ Put the hollowed part/center of potatoes and the peeled ends in a large sieve (uragoshi
[³] is used in Japan) and force through the mesh by pressing with a wooden spoon. (This process is highly recommended if planning to pipe the filling. Otherwise, mashing in the food processor works.)
◊ In a food processor, add the (mashed) potatoes, sugar and pulse until well puréed. Add butter, cream, one egg-yolk, (vanilla if using) and pulse a few more times, until fully mixed and with consistency for piping.
◊ Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 190°C / 375°F.
◊ Empty the mixed filling into a piping bag (used Wilton 2D) and pipe into the hollowed skin-circles. Beat the second egg-yolk and gently brush on the top of the fillings. (Note: if the consistency is too soft, put it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to take its shape before the egg-wash.)
◊ Bake for 15 ~ 20 minutes or until a little golden on the top. Let them cool completely before serving.
[³] Traditional uragoshi (umagebari uragoshi) is a fine net-mesh, stretched over a round, wooden frame, made of horse-hair and should be dampened with water before each use. Ones made of metal are more common now. It is used to mash/puree food. It is placed over a bowl and foods are placed on top and forced through the mesh by pressing with a flat wooden spoon/shamoji.
~ どうぞめしあがれ • Douzo Meshiagare ~
So, what’s cooking in your kitchen?