scoping the surf in Kamakura and the soup in Yokohama

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March 27th 2012
Published: March 28th 2012
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This past Monday I decided to take the train to Kamakura to check out the surf breaks along the beach. The waves tend to be on the small side unless they score some swell from a typhoon, much like the U.S. east coast and hurricane season. It was a calm, slightly drizzly day, but there were a few spots breaking in the ankle to knee range, surfable, but I imagine fun really only on a longboard, which is fine by me. I began my beach walk at Shichirigahama station where I stopped in any surf shop I came across to inquire on board rental fees. It was amusing to see that much of the retail items such as t-shirts in the shops had surf spots in California printed all over them. I saw more English in this surf town than most any other area I've been yet. There were more than a few 'California style' cafes and eateries lining the road advertising hamburgers and tacos. However, half the time I attempted to ask the shop employees questions I got shrugs, they didn't speak English. The few that I was able to partially converse with gave me some quotes, looks like it'll be around $36 to rent a surfboard for a day. Hopefully I'll make some friends in the water that would want to loan me a board so that I can surf more than once. I wish the value of the dollar wasn't so lame right now. I continued my scouting along the coast towards the east and noticed that it seems to be a pretty wide open beach break, very clean on a North wind, I was ready to get in! I'll be back someday soon though, wetsuit in hand.

On Tuesday I journeyed to Yokohama for the first time. Yokohama is the 2nd most populated city in Japan next to Tokyo. It is only about 30 minutes from where I am staying. I decided to visit the Ramen Museum, which contains some historical exhibits about the introduction of ramen from the Chinese in the port cities of Japan back in 1859. As the popularity of the ramen soup dish disseminated throughout Japan, each city or region became known for their own particular styles of ramen, particularly the type of broth, meat, seasoning, and noodle thickness. At the Ramen Museum you have the opportunity to taste each of these ramen styles all in one building! There are nine small restaurants inside the ramen village, each specializing in their own style. I walked through, noticing the different smells emanating from each doorway. My first stop was Toride, originating in Tokyo, this style is known for using pork and tonkotsu broth. In front of each restaurant is a kiosk where you feed money into, choose your selection with the appropriate button, and receive a ticket. A waitress then welcomes you inside, guides you to a spot at the bar and sets down your complimentary green tea or ice water. I wish you could've heard the wonderful cacophony of steamy bowls being prepared in the open kitchen and the chorus of hungrily slurping customers! I observed the many condiments set out, some identifiable, some not. There was a pepper grinder, pickled ginger, a spicy sesame mixture with some sort of green vegetable, whole garlic cloves with press, jalapeno flavored Tabasco sauce, and sesame seeds. I attempted to use my peripheral vision to spy on the Japanese patrons sitting next to me so I could steal a crash course on how to eat the correct way. My soup arrived minutes later, with a tomato floating amidst freshly grated parmesan cheese and flakes of basil. The broth was opaque and the noodles skinny, almost like angel hair pasta and cooked al dente. As I dug in, the tomato began to disintegrate and distribute itself amongst the noodles. It was downright tasty and hard to leave some behind as I knew I wanted to try at least one other restaurant before leaving. I decided to enjoy my second bowl at Nidaimegenkotsuya, also Tokyo, where their broth is shio style and incorporate different types of meat with ginger. I am a vegetable lover so I chose the button with the ramen picture that appeared to have the most green on it. When the bowl was set down in front of me, I swear to you, it truly sparkled in the bar lights. This time the broth was clearer and tasted chicken-based. The noodles were a bit thicker and definitely stickier. Before I decimated it, succulent snap peas, cabbage leaves, mutated lima bean looking legumes, a soy-marinated hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, slivers of carrot, freshly ground pepper, and bits of salty pork reminiscient of bacon floated amidst the confines of the bowl. By the end, I felt drunk with comfort. I'll never look at the traditional American chicken noodle soup the same again, it pales in comparison. Thankfully, two of my good friends have recently started serving Japanese-style ramen at their parent's restaurant in my hometown of Norfolk, Virginia called Chin's Cafe, you can catch it at Norfolk Ramen on Sundays only. It's good to know I'll still be able to get my fix after returning home, but right then I felt I had died and gone to ramen heaven, thanks to Yokohama and a food museum.

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