March 20, 2023

Everything everywhere all in my tummy day 10: Hello Kitty Shinkansen

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Our time in Kyoto has come to an end, and it was time to make our way back to Fukuoka. Another day of long rides on the Shinkansen, but this time there is a special train we are riding on. We checked out of The Thousand Kyoto and pushed our luggage across the street to Kyoto Station, then boarded the train. We were hurrying a little so we forgot to snap some pics with the Hello Kitty display at Kyoto Station.

We had a 40-minute layover at Shin-Osaka Station (新大阪駅), so I sent Foursheets to go shop for some ekiben (駅弁). This is one of the biggest stations in Japan so there were, naturally, plenty of choices. She came back with a couple of surprises.

The Special Makunouchi Bento (特製幕之内御膳) included specialties from the Kanto (関東), Tokai (東海), and Kansai (関西) regions - represented in the top, middle, and bottom rows, respectively. From Kanto we have Fukagawa meshi (深川めし) with the clams; Hida beef umani rice (飛騨牛うま煮ご飯), ebi-fry (海老フライ), misokatsu (みそかつ) from Tokai; and plum rice with baby sardines (梅ちりめんご飯), black beans (黒豆), and yuba (湯葉) from Kansai.

Most of my stomach space was taken up by the mackerel bozushi (鯖棒鮨) from Kakisen (柿千). This was not bad at all.

I also had a melon bread (メロンパン) together with - what else? - melon soda.

But the highlight of the day was undoubtedly our train journey from Shin-Osaka Station back to Hakata Station (博多駅). We were riding on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen (ハローキティ新幹線), which is a 500 Series Kodama (こだま) Express that has a special livery as well as interior decor.

The train only runs once a day in each direction, and makes a stop at every single station. This is why the term "express" is kinda oxymoron, as the entire journey takes more than 4 hours and 15 minutes. It's too bad I didn't plan our journey properly, otherwise we should have stopped at Okayama Station (岡山駅) to pick up this very cute ekiben where the box is the shape of this train.

Car No.1, named "Hello! Plaza", is essentially a gift shop where one can buy a range of goodies with the Hello Kitty Shinkansen motif, which has Hello Kitty dressed up in a train conductor uniform. You'd better believe that we spent a good chunk of money here, buying up stuff to bring back for friends - including a very cute stapler shaped like the train.

Car No.2 is named "Kawaii! Room", and is a car where the interior - including the floor, the seats, the luggage rack - are decked out in pink Hello Kitty motif.

There's even an area where passengers can take picture with a figure of Hello Kitty.

Even if one isn't in Cars No.1 or 2, the Hello Kitty motif can be seen throughout the train, and even the powder room is pink.

By the time we got off the train, the whole journey had taken more than 5 hours including our layover, so we were understandably a little tired when we checked back in at Miyako Hotel Hakata (都ホテル博多) and retrieved the luggage we had left behind. Nevertheless the two of us immediately went about repacking the three large suitcases to make sure most of our stuff could fit.

For dinner, I wanted to check out this place serving Hamburg steak that I found on social media. Hanbagu and Omurice Shop Ikura (はんばーぐとおむらいすのお店 いくら 博多店) serves up not only the Japanese Hamburg steak, but offers options to add a fluffy omelette on top and also rice underneath.

Just look at how quickly the omelette is done! Oh, they always brand the omelette on top with a paw print.

Hakata mentaiko cream Hamburg omurice (博多明太クリームハンバーグオムライス) - originally I would have been happy with just the fluffy omelette on top of the Hamburg steak, but I figured that since we're in Hakata I might as well make it into omurice (オムライス) and add the mentaiko (明太子) sauce to it. The mentaiko sauce wasn't too heavy, and they also put little diced bits of ham in the rice.

When I cut open the Hamburg steak, I was amazed at the amount of meat juice that seemed to just gush out. There were shredded bits of perilla leaves inside the steak, which was a nice touch. Anyway, I loved this one. And don't get me started on the egg!

Now that our bellies were full, it was time to get a drink or three! I had missed visiting Shuho (酒峰) on our first leg in Fukuoka, but I know that Tabaru-san would be in the house tonight.

We wanted to have some vegetables since there weren't any at dinner, so first up was marinated tsubomina (蕾菜). This is the bud of a Japanese variant of Chinese leafy mustard (榨菜), which would explain why they have similar tastes. This was initially served with dried bonito flakes (鰹節), but when we asked for a second serving, we requested to just get the buds themselves. That was much better.

We also got some fresh mushrooms (椎茸), cooked simply with some soy sauce.

Ikegame Daiginjo Shizuku Shibori Nakatori Selection (池亀 大吟醸雫搾り 中取り 選抜酒), R3BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 40%. Lots of banana and melon on the nose, a little sharp in terms of alcohol, and also got fermented rice lees on the nose. Palate was much more spicy than expected, and the dry after-palate led to a return of sweetness.

Kuncho Daiginjo Zuica Shiboritate Nama (薫長 大吟醸 瑞華 しぼりたて生原酒) - seimaibuai of 35%. Definitely on the dry side.

Sawanoi Premium Daiginjo Koh (澤乃井  大吟醸  凰 袋採り雫酒), R3BY - seimaibuai of 35%. Aged in tobin (斗瓶) at temperatures below freezing for 2 years. Dry on the palate but very elegant with a long finish. Afterwards leaves a lovely fragrance in the mouth, with some melon notes.

Kokuryu Hiirazu Junmai Daiginjo Nama (黒龍  ⽕いら寿  純⽶⼤吟醸 ⽣) - seimaibuai of 35%. Very fresh, very light and elegant, and very bright. Fruity and fragrant nose. Smooth on the palate with almost some lactic acid.

Azumaichi Junmai Daiginjo 100th Anniversary (東一  純米大吟醸  百周年記念酒), from isshobin - seimaibuai of 35%. Made with yeasts from the 1960s. Initially there was almost no nose due to the use of old yeast which suppresses the aromatics. Much better when drunk from a wine glass, and now alcohol comes out. Very elegant on the palate, and more on the dry side.

Amabuki Daiginjo 333 (天吹 大吟醸 創業三三三周年記念酒), from isshobin - seimaibuai of 40%. Uses abelia flower yest. Thick and viscous when poured, definitely rich on the palate. On the sweet side. More full-figured but not quite to the stage of being voluptuous. Showing some banana on the nose.

This was a fun way to end our very long day. So glad to see Tabaru-san again, and hope to come back to visit him soon.

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