Akita, Japan: Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate

For Thanksgiving weekend we headed to Akita!  It's about a 4 hour drive from where we live and on the complete opposite coast.  We decided that with less than a year left in Japan we should take advantage and get out and sightsee as much as possible.
Although we stayed in the Akita City, we took a side trip to visit Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate, both within Akita prefecture and about an hour west of Akita City.

First up we stopped at Lake Tazawa, which is the deepest lake in Japan.  This is a crater lake and has very clear water.  Surprisingly not many people were around and it was like having the place to ourselves.  The lake is absolutely beautiful and I could have stayed there all day looking at the mirror like surface of the lake.
At the point of the lake where we started there was this little shrine.
In the distance you can see the famous statue of Tatsuko.  She is the lady of the famous legend about this lake.  She was a princess and prayed to be preserved forever as a beautiful young woman.  Instead she was turned into a dragon and sent to live in the bottom of the lake.  She is forever remembered by this statue.
Here I am with Ryan at the lake.  Beautiful scenery!
More shots of the very still lake and the impressive reflection on the surface.

Here is a close up of the Tatsuko statue.  In many pictures I have seen online she is more underwater. The base of the statue and the rocks surrounding this are usually covered.
I love the way the clouds are pictured on the surface of the lake!
A little further around the lake was a large shrine with a torii gate overlooking the lake.
It's a slightly different view and the water at this end wasn't quite as still.
A little back from the road was the actual shrine associated with the torii gate.

After we finished at Lake Tazawa we headed to nearby Kakunodate, which is known for being a well preserved samurai village.  This is the map that shows which buildings are open for tourists/which are museums.
Our first stop was for lunch.  I had cold soba noodles and Ryan had curry.

After lunch we checked out one of the museums.  These pictures show what homes and life looked like during this time period.

This was the well.  It was covered over for safety reasons.
Here is the bucket that goes along with the well.
This is a kitchen.  You can see where the pit is in the food for building a fire and the rope is where the pot could be hung for heating.
Then we went to another museum.  This was a very large house with multiple structures that was owned by one a well known family.  The houses on this street that weren't turned into museums were still being lived in.  From what I understand many of the current residents are descendants of the original samurais that lived there.
This is the door into main house.

Inside the armory section of this house was a collection of weapons and traditional samurai dress.

There were also some kimonos on display.

And of course there was some art work displayed.

After leaving the armory we followed the path around to the outside courtyard area.

Another museum we entered had some anatomy books and other interesting things to look at.
This was a collection of old cameras.

This was on display in one of the courtyards along the main street.  Definitely interesting to look at!
Here are some shots from along the street.  Those trees will bloom with cherry blossoms on the spring and line the streets in this old samurai village.

After we walked around Kakunodate for a little bit we headed back to Akita City to grab some dinner and walk around the main shopping area.  I am definitely glad we went ahead and planned a visit to Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate!

QUESTIONS:  Have you heard of Akita (my guess is that you have heard of the dog breed)?  Does your town have any local legends?  Do you live near a lake?  Have you ever visited a samurai village?  

Good Eats While Home in the States

I know I have said this before, but I assure you eating was not the only thing I did while home in the States for a visit back in October.  Food just happens to be the only thing of interest that I took pictures of while I was home.  Hanging out with friends, doing homework, and shopping are not really photo-worthy events.  Well the friends part maybe and I did get a few shots with friends, but I spent most of my time chatting and catching up.

My first stop during my 3 weeks home was to visit my grandparents in Florida.  I decided that a long visit was overdue and Florida served as a great spot to relax while adjusting to the change in time zones before heading to a conference in Atlanta.  I was right!

Dinner my first night (or the night of my first full day) was at a new restaurant my grandparents had recently come across called Aladdin's Eatery.  They know I love Middle Eastern food so I was happy to go give it a try.  It is a Lebanese restaurant with lots of my favorites on the menu.
They had a lot of good information on their beliefs on healthy foods and I liked that they had many vegetarian options.
I started off with some foul.  It's one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes and I used to eat it at the Egyptian restaurant I worked at while in high school and college.  The last time I had it was in Chiang Mai.  It was really good!
For my entree I had a falafel sandwich.  I can never resist falafel!
It's in there.  I promise!
For dessert my grandma and I shared a piece of coconut cake.  Overall this was an excellent meal and I would definitely recommend this restaurant.
The next day we ate lunch at First Watch.  It's a chain and I have eaten at other locations.  They serve excellent breakfast and lunch.  My grandma had this nice salad.
I went with the smoked salmon benedict, which is one of my favorite dishes.
Dinner was at one of my grandparents favorite restaurants.  I love this place too!  It's called Greek Islands Taverna.  I think I always get the same thing.  My grandpa always orders for me and this is what I get.  The fish is delicious!
It came with a side of greens.
It had been a really long time since I had rice pudding so I got some to share with my grandmother.
Although I ate a ton more, that does it for the pictures I took with my camera.  I think I spent more time just enjoying the time with my grandparents and hanging out.  I took more pictures on my phone but they aren't on the computer I am using right now.

After Florida I headed to Atlanta for the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo.  It's the largest food and nutrition conference held annually and is put together by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  I was really excited for the conference because I would get to see a lot of people that I only see once a year.  I had a roommate this year but it was a different person than who I normally room with.  This year I roomed with my friend and classmate Kim, whom I also roomed with back in last January when I was in Newark for class.
The first night I went to dinner with two of my most favorite dietitians.  Aurora is a former intern of mine from back in Las Vegas and Vicky is the current president elect of the American Overseas Dietetic Association.  Together we have so much fun!  I had a great time at dinner.  We went to Legal Seafood, which was just a short walk from the hotel we were staying in.

We started off with calamari.  Delicious!
This was Aurora's dinner.  All kinds of stuff!
I ended up with a seafood platter.
And Vicky had a fish dish, which appears to be buried underneath cheese!
Later that night I headed to the Hard Rock to buy a shirt.
On the way back Aurora and I found this cute bar and stopped in.  It was set up like you were sitting on a southern porch and they had really cute rocking chairs.  Plus the drinks were just too cute to pass up!
I ended up trying out the peach cobbler.  Hey, I was in Atlanta, I couldn't pass this traditional dish up!
The next day I grabbed lunch at the hotel.  I was really impressed with their build your own burger option.  I went with grilled fish and topped with with a fried egg.  The sweet potato fries were an excellent compliment!
After lunch I headed over to the CNN center which was connected to my hotel.
The conference was excellent and I had a great time with all of my friends from AODA and other RDs I know from back home.  I don't have a whole lot to write about the conference.  It was a few months ago and I know so many RDs already provided excellent reviews of the conference and what they liked and didn't like.  I didn't get to attend a lot of presentations this year because I was helping with the sessions that were put on by AODA or our members were speakers at.  I was covering the Twitter account and Facebook account for AODA and so I was busy posting from those sessions.  The rest of the time I was catching up with friends and spending time in the Expo checking out products that I have missed out on because I live overseas.

After Atlanta I headed up to Baltimore to see my family.  My father took me out to a restaurant called Pappas.  We went to their new location.  They are actually very well known for amazing crab cakes in Baltimore.
The food was amazing!  Absolutely amazing!  The only downside was that they were recently open and still getting things figured out so the service was a bit slow.  The restaurant was busy and I really can't blame them for the slow service.  It was only a problem when I was cutting it close to teach that night online.
I guess it wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't really want to try their dessert!  Thankfully my dad and step mom shared with me.
The next day I took my sister to brunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Food Market, in Hampden. As always, this was an amazing meal.

We started off with the pretzels and beer cheese fondue.  Yum!
My sister had the Army breakfast and instead of the meat she got a bruleed grapefruit.
I had the smoked salmon benedict...I told you it's one of my favorites!
The last picture I have is from a dinner I went to with my family and some of my mom's friends.  We went to Suburban House for some good old fashioned Jewish eats.  Along with everything we ordered we also ended up with a platter of latkes brought over to the table on the house!  So much food, but so good!
Like I said, it was mostly pictures of food and not even everything I had to eat while we were away.  I was so busy that I didn't take many pictures of other things, especially not with my camera.  I enjoyed my time with family and friends.  I even managed to get up to New York City for a day.  So much fun!  I doubt I will be back to the States until we move in August so I am thankful that I got to spend this time with everyone.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever had Lebanese food?  What is your favorite brunch dish?