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<Trip to Shizuoka> Get Off Shinkansen in the Middle of your Journey: Aoba Yokocho

You got on Shinkansen at Tokyo Station and enjoyed a lunch box in your seat. When you are done, you may find your train passing by Atami Station and going into long tunnels. Soon after, you are certainly going to doze off in the comfortable vibration of the carriage and are totally oblivious to what's going on until it arrives at Nagoya Station. What's happening in between? Actually, it is going on 100 miles of non-stop journey passing through Shizuoka Prefecture.

SHIZUOKA is known for Mt Fuji, but this is not the only spot worth visiting. For your next trip, how about ditching the super-express Nozomi and jumping on an intercity hopping HIKARI train to get off at Shizuoka Station, the prefectural capital located midway through the journey.

Shizuoka is a rich region with vast cultivated land producing many foods including tea, lettuce and oranges. It also faces the Pacific Ocean which brings tuna, bonito and other seafood.

Visitors can try local products at any Izakaya around the station. While enjoying your dinner, you will notice a sweet and slightly fishy smell from the back of the shop. This is the smell of Oden, a signature local food in Shizuoka.

ODEN is a variety of fish paste or vegetables skewered and boiled in soy sauce-based dashi broth. The longer it is boiled, while the ingredients absorb dashi well, the darker and tastier it gets. Among all the items on the list, the best seller is KURO HANPEN or black fish paste, made from mackerel or herring, both make the skin very dark.

Oden is so much loved by locals that it is served even at street vendors for kids as a snack. For visitors who want to eat nothing but Oden but have no idea where to go, I recommend visiting AOBA YOKOCHO, a narrow street along which a dozen Oden shops are lined up. Those shops are used to receiving newcomers and will tell you which skewers to order first and how to eat them.

You are also advised to sprinkle BROWN POWDER each item. This is DASHI-KO or broth powder, made from dried and shredded bonito or sardine. Don’t sprinkle too much, because it's very fishy, but a pinch of it effectively adds a richer taste.

Speaking of which, when you pop into an Izakaya or Oden shop, you may notice every guest holding a pint glass filled with green liquid on a table.

That's another must-have item simply branded "SHIZUOKA WARI". How is it made? Taking advantage of its location as the biggest tea leaves producer in Japan, abundant green tea is served as the base, mixed with Shochu or grain distilled spirits to make the ORIGINAL COCKTAIL favoured by locals.

There is concrete evidence that GREEN TEA is GOOD for your HEALTH, which encourages those who are almost drunk to excuse themselves to get fully drunk.

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