Join me in my wanderings around the globe via these online ramblings in far off places....

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Global Food Review; Candy Cafe Bar, Cairns




Spending so much of each year travelling I rarely get time to spend exploring what’s new and changed in my home town of Cairns. So during my regular “Rusty’s Ritual” that I manage to do whenever I am home over a weekend I decided to explore the Grafton Street Cafe precinct to grab a lazy breakfast.

The Grafton Street block opposite Rusty’s is the closest Cairns gets to a funky food strip, cafe’s have come and gone in many shapes and forms over the years, and the area itself has ebbed and flowed over time going through it’s hippie and feral stages to now being a sort of backpackerish cross local coffee hang out. So Saturday morning, the busiest time for the cafe strip, I stuck my head in a couple of places that weren’t there last time I looked to find they were full, then I struck Candy Cafe Bar that had an empty table just for me.


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You are immediately struck by the decor, it’s kind of funky and kind of hard to describe. A sort of false plastic hedge covers the front counter and strange paintings on the wall. The decor doesn’t do it for me but it really makes no difference. Upon being seated I immediately receive a glass of water and the two menus, one for drinks and one for food. Immediately upon reading the menu In knew I was on a winner. Each dish had it’s own quirky name and the ingredients and descriptions were really tasty sounding and vey innovative. Wagyu mince, various egg styles with groovy accompaniments, all kinds of funky combinations this sounded great!


Candy Cafe Bar on Urbanspoon


I chose an ensemble entitled “Duck Duck Goose” which is shredded duck leg confit, zucchini fritters, a poached egg and beetroot jam. I can’t say I have ever seen that combination on a breakfast menu before but it sounded good. Whilst waiting for the meal I sipped on a perfect ice coffee and browsed reviews by others on Urbanspoon and Trip Advisor on my smart phone. The other reviews were highly positive, a couple of negatives on the service I read, but I certainly couldn’t fault the service, especially since Cairns is notorious for terrible service and there was no sign of that here!


565057_10151176212386118_593995588_nDuck Duck Goose! Breakfast Delight….


The two thick zucchini fritters on the bottom were perfect, the ample quantity of shredded duck was not dry like duck can be and had a couple of pieces of crispy skin hidden in there to add effect, and the poached egg on top was poached perfectly with just the right amount of runny yolk a poached egg should have! The beetroot jam was just sweet enough to enhance the duck and bind it all together without taking over the flavour.


Brunch Menu Examples



Candy Cafe Bar on Urbanspoon

In these days of smart phone aps if you aren’t using URBANSPOON yet you should be! This neat little app will suggest where to eat and more. The “shake” function lets you select from some variable such as location, price and style of food then hit “shake” and get a random suggestion to try out. With reviews and other handy tips, for a traveller looking for good food options in an unknown place, you can’t go wrong with URBANSPOON.


Candy Cafe Bar, Cairns





Thursday, 17 May 2012

Japan: Krazy Kit Kats!


japan heading


This is a topic that has reached many blogs in recent years, the crazy funky flavours of Japanese Kit Kats. The greatest blog effort I have come across is “Jen Ken’s Kit Kat Blog”, not just a page but an entire blog dedicated to those “out there” Japanese Kit Kats (a blog which after several years of going strong seems to have waned??). But as I, like many visitors to Japan, have been intrigued by the odd assortment of flavours, it would be remiss of me not to cover it in my blog.


Nestle Kit Kat LogoKit-Kats were introduced by the Rowntree company and are now made by Nestle, everywhere except the USA, because they are always different in the USA…


Kit Kat’s have a great history.  The original four-finger bar was apparently developed after a worker at Rowntree's York Factory put a suggestion in a recommendation box for a snack that "a man could take to work in his pack". The bar launched on 29 August 1935, under the title of "Rowntree's Chocolate Crisp" (priced at 2d), and was sold in London and throughout Southern England. The name Kit Kat originated in the late 17th century in London. A literary & political club frequently met at a pie shop, owned by pastry chef Christopher Catling. The group called itself the Kit Kat club, using an abbreviated version of the owner's name.
In the 18th century the group met in different locations but were regulars on The Strand, a street in central London which is now occupied by the famous restaurant, Simpsons-in-the-Strand. For reasons that have been lost in time, the Rowntree company trademarked the name “Kit Kat” around 1911, but did not use the name until the 1930’s.
















US Kit Kat Logo





Japanese Kit Kats
Back in the early 2000’s a Japanese work colleague returned from a trip home with several individual Kit Kat packets as gifts. I was given the Orange flavoured Kit Kat.
image The first Japanese Kit Kat I was introduced to 10+ odd years ago



Lemon Kit Kat (Valentine’s Day Edition)


The next time I came across a funky Japanese Kit Kat was several years later in a Japanese grocery store in Sydney. IT was a Lemon Kit Kat released for Valentines day and on the back of the box of four fingers there was space to write your Valentines message to the intended recipient of the chocolate gift.


Apple Kit Kat



Golden Citrus Blend Kit Kat (Shikoku Regional Edition)




Chilli Kit Kat






Kit Kat Size variations - Public Domain image released by Wikipedia user Evan-Amos



Sakura Matcha Kit Kat




Yawata Five Spice Kit Kat (Nagano Regional Edition)




Strawberry Cheesecake (Yokohama Regional Edition)




Soy Sauce Kit Kat

A regional variety, this is actually one of my favourites. Soy Sauce can of course be sweet – think Indonesian style Kecap Manis – a thick sweet soy sauce. To me, the Soy Sauce Kit Kat tasted very much like Kecap Manis. It was a pleasant surprise and much nicer then you would probably imagine.



Royal Milk Tea Kit Kat

Good ol’ Royal Milk Tea, complete with a Scottish Tartan pattern on the box! The flavour of this one was also surprising, surprisingly pleasant. It was almost Earl Grey-ish but not quite. Definitely a milky tea flavour and o the list as another of my favourites.



Ginger Ale Kit Kat

Once again the flavour surprised me. It almost felt like it was fizzing in your mouth and was unmistakably Ginger Ale. Another one for the favourite list.




Hokkaido Melon Kit Kat (Hokkaido Regional Edition)




Strawberry Kit Kat





Blueberry Cheese Cake Kit Kat




Wasabi Kit Kat







Ultimate list of Far Out Funky Flavours
Far from complete, in fact I doubt there is even a complete list out there, this is probably closest there is to date of a list of all of the Japanese funky flavour Kit Kats there are



Tiramasu and Green Tea

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Framboise (Milk & Raspberry Cheesecake)

Lemon Cheesecake

Blueberry Cheescake **

Caramel Pudding

Custard Pudding

Mango Pudding

Annin Dofu (Almond Tofu Dessert)


Salt and Caramel

Black Sugar
Brown Sugar
Black Honey (Molasses?)


Caramel Macchiato

Cafe Latte


Milk Coffee



Cookies and Cream

Cookies and Milk

Cookie Plus (Cookie Crumbs)

Cookies and Chocolate
Dark Chocolate with Cookies


Strawberry **

Strawberry Hazelnut

Bitter Strawberry

Sparkling Strawberry

Strawberry Tart

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry & Cranberry
Triple Berry (Strawberry, Blueberry, Cranberry)
Strawberry and Nuts
Strawberry and Chocolate
Strawberry and Potato
Strawberry and Milk
Smooth Strawberry
Tsubeu Strawberry (freeze dried strawberry bits


Baked Potato

Yellow Potato

Daigaku imo (Candied Sweet Potato)

Kawagoe Baked Sweet Potato

Yakiimo Grilled Sweet Potato

Purple Sweet Potato

Roasted Sweet Potato



Muscat of Alexandria Grapes


Watermelon and Salt
Hokkaido Ubari Melon ** (+ Canteloupe + Ubari Chocolate)


Apple **
Creamy Apple
Apple and Carrot


Golden Peach
White Peach




Le Lectier (a pear variety)



Raspberry & Passionfruit

Pickled Plum

Hascapp (Japanese Berry)

Mixed Juice

Fruit Parfait
Exotic Tokyo (Mixed Fruit)
Exotic Kansai (lemon, passionfruit, sour orange, ginger)


Orange **

Bitter Orange

Sour Orange

Yozu Koshu (Citrus & Chilli)

Orange Creme
Brandy and Orange
Mikan (Mandarin)
Lemon **
Marugoto Lemon


Grilled Corn


Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera Yoghurt
Itoen Juu-jitsu Yasai (Enriched Vegetable Flavour)

Vegetable Juice


Apple Vinegar

Lemon Vinegar



White Maple

Cherry Blossom

Winter Cherry Blossom




Five Spice **

English Mustard



Petit Cheese

European Cheese




Bitter Almond

Hazelnut Cream


Jasmine Tea

Roasted Tea

Green Tea

Green Tea with Milk

Green Tea with Milk & Red Bean

Green Tea & Kinako (Toasted Soy Flour)

“Air In” Green Tea (Aero Bar Style)

Creamy Green Tea

Earl Grey

Black Tea
Ice Tea


Azuki Bean (Red Bean)

Red Bean Soup

Vanilla Bean


Endamame Zunda (Mashed Endamame Bean)

Kinako (Toasted Soy Flour)

Black Sugar and Kinako (Toasted Soy Flour)

Kinako & Ohagi (Toasted Soy Flour /Rice Puff)




Relaxing Chocolate (Semi-Dark Chocolate)

Adult Chocolate (Dark Chocolate)

White Chocolate

Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Mild-Bitter Chocolate

Melt-in-your-Mouth Chocolate

Chocolate Fudge

“Air In” White (Aero Bar Style)
Bitter and White Chocolate (Alternate Bitter and White)
Midnight Eagle (White)
61% Cocoa
72% Cocoa
Soy Milk Chocolate
Creamier Chocolate
Exotic Hokkaido (Creamy Milk)



Soda (Lemonade/Ramune)

Umeshu Soda (Plum Liqueur & Soda)

Cola & Lemon Squash

Sports Drink

Calpis (a Lemon Soft Drink)

Ginger Ale **
Chocolatier Wine



Whole Wheat

Hot Cakes
French Rock Salt
French Bretagne Milk flavor
Nasu Highland Milk



So you want to buy some Japanese Kit Kats?

Well of course the simplest way to buy these funky Kit Kats is to travel to Japan! At major airport and JR train stations there are stores selling the biggest variety of variants, however there is no central location selling every single available variety, especially as some of the minor regional variants are restricted to that specific variation.

Probably the most well known Japanese pop culture e-commerce site is J-Box ( J-Box is part of the larger J-List site, J-List has adult content, where as J-Box is safe for all. .This is the site I have used to purchase some varieties when I was not able to travel to Japan

JBox "You have a friend in Japan"

A fairly comprehensive Asian grocery/food site, also mentioned on my recent Kaya post is They seem to have a fairly good range of Japanese Kit Kats available on line.

Buy Japanese Kit Kats - US


Then of Course there is Nestle Japan’s own site. There is an “e-shop” but it’s all Japanese and for the non-Japanese speaker its difficult to navigate

Nestle Japan 












My Flickr – Japan Photos


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Got to Have Kaya Now!

MAlaysia Header Banner

I recently had a morning stopover in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which was made more pleasant by the fact I could indulge in my favourite Malay breakfast of Kaya Toast and Teh Tarik!

Kaya or Kaya? Kaya Album Cover copyright Tuff Gong/Island Records

The late great Robert Nesta Marley I once wrote that he must have Kaya now! Like many of Robert Nesta’s compositions, his words were riddles and puzzles, with deeper meanings to be found by the enlightened. What exactly Marley was singing about is open to debate, and probably it comes as no surprise to those who know of Marley’s Rastafarian beliefs, many speculate he is talking about Ganja, Cannabis, the sacred sacrament of Rastafari followers. In today’s “modern” internet connected world put “Kaya + Marley” into any search  engine and the top answers will boldly announce that Kaya means Marijuana! One website states Kaya is Jamaican for Marijuana – really? I challenge anyone to come up with a pre-Marley reference where Kaya means Marijuana. Marley himself is on record stating that Kaya means a time to reflect and meditate. Mind you the simple lyrics of Marley’s Kaya certainly indicate a certain mind altered state (?).

Wo-wo-oh! Yea-ea-ea-eah!
I feel so high, I even touch the sky
Above the fallin' rain, we-e-ell!
I feel so good in my neighbourhood, so:
Here I come again!
I've got to have kaya now!

So what has all this got to do with Malaysia and my breakfast? Nothing!….except the name Kaya that is. I am recent convert to this form of Kaya, I discovered it probably around 2007 quite by accident whilst looking for breakfast in Kuala Lumpur and on this most recent occasion knowing I had a stop over in Kuala Lumpur was accompanied by comfort in the knowledge I would be able to indulge in some Kaya. Kaya, in this context is probably best described as coconut-egg jam. In Malay language, Bahasa Melayu, its called Seri Kaya, Srikaya or just Kaya. Srikaya in Bahasa Melayu loosely translates as “rich”, a reference to both the rich golden colour and rich flavour that Kaya imparts.

 Kaya Toast and Teh Tarik ( 2012 CC BY-NC-ND GlobalCitizen01 )The picture does not really do the Kaya Toast justice as you can not see the Kaya. The Teh Tarik shows off it’s frothy head nicely though

Basically Kaya is coconut milk, eggs (duck or chicken), sugar and pandan. Some versions have a lot more pandan which can dominate the flavour and give a much more green rather then golden appearance. It is generally eaten on toast, with a large amount of butter. You would usually find thick sliced toasted bread, with equal amounts of thickly spread kaya and butter. Breakfast is the preferred meal for Kaya Toast but in reality it can be consumed anytime.

 Golden Kaya on Toast ( CC BY-NC-ND GlobalCitizen01 )A golden version of Kaya with no or minimal pandan added

Pandanus amaryllifolius, the leaves of which give us Pandan flavouring.Pandan/Wikipedia user - dekoelie /Creative Commons attributionPandanus amaryllifolius, which gives us Pandan flavour

Kaya is a great addition to toast. There is a large variation in flavour out there, the versions with some Pandan are my favourite, although some definately overpower the coconut with too much pandan. If you are not in Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia, you will probably find your local Asian grocery store sells Kaya. Philippines and Thailand have their own versions, the Thai version in particular is almost like a custard more so then a jam.

Kaya Recipe

It’s fairly easy to make your own, here is a version adapted from Malaysia’s famous Madam Kwan’s Kitchen;
Madam Kwan's Kitchen - awesome restaurants in Malaysia
  • 5 large eggs
  • 7 ounces/ 200 grams white sugar
  • 10½ ounces/ 300 grams freshly squeezed coconut milk (if using canned milk, stir it well and pour it through a fine-mesh sieve before using to break up any lumps)
  • 2 pandan leaves, washed
  1. Into a large heat-proof bowl, whisk the eggs gently, whilst adding the sugar and coconut milk together, stirring until all the egg whites have broken down and you have a smooth, consistently yellow liquid
  2. Knot each pandan leaf and tear the ends of each leaf into strips to release the aromas. Place the leaves in the bowl.
  3. Set the bowl on top of a pot of water over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes. You will start to see little lumps form around the 25-minute mark, keep stirring, scraping the bottom of the bowl so that the custard doesn’t turn into scrambled eggs. The mixture is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon in a thick layer.
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat and remove and discard the pandan leaves. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl and leave to cool before storing in sterilized jars. .

Purchase Kaya Online? Try…….
 Buy Kaya - the Asian Cookshop UK

Buy Kaya - US 

Ya Kun Kaya Toast

If you are lucky enough to live in Asia you might find yourself near the great Kaya Franchise branded outler “Ya Kun Kaya Toast”. Great quality Kaya Toast with Teh Tarik and they also have jars oif Kaya available for purchase.
Ya Kun Kaya Toast

Teh Tarik

The perfect accompaniment to kaya toast is Teh Tarik. Tarik in Bahasa Melayu literally means “pulled”, and refers to the way the tea (teh) is poured from one container to another with the pourer “pulling” the top container away from the bottom container, aerating the tea and giving it a light and frothy consistency. Sweetened Condensed Milk helps to give Teh Tarik it’s distinctive flavour.
Teh Tarik, whilst recognised as Malay/Indonesian drink has it’s roots in Indian Milk Tea. Like many aspects of Malay culture the Indian presence reinforced during the time of the Great British Empire has made a significant impact.

Frothy Foamy Teh Tarik mmmmmm ( CC BY-NC-ND GlobalCitizen01 ) Malays have taken Indian Milk Tea and turned it into this frothy delight

Roti! ( CC BY-NC-ND GlobalCitizen01 ) It’s not just tea the Malays took from the Indians and improved, Malay Roti is to die for! And of course you can put Kaya on Rotu for a double win!

Youtube user rasamalaysia posted this simple video to Youtube clearly showing the “pulling” movement in making Teh Tarik


Singapore food blogger “ I eat I shoot I post”, has this great video showing how to make Teh Tarik

Apam Balik

Not so much for breakfast, but if you find yourself out on the street and come across these, you have to get stuck into them!
Apam Balik, a kind of sweet Martabak, commonly known as Malaysian Sweet Peanut Pancakes. Do yourself a favour and buy some if you are on the streets of Malaysia!

malaysia8534_147546326117_522021117_2617296_3684684_n Apam Balik, sweet peanut pancakes – good stuff!


Map picture


The image of the Kaya album and the lyrics of the Kaya song are used for identification in the context of critical commentary of the work. They make a significant contribution to the user's understanding of the article, which could not practically be conveyed without either the original cover art or original lyrics. The cover art image is placed in the article discussing the work, to show the primary visual image associated with the work, and to help the user quickly identify the work and know they have found what they are looking for. Use for this purpose does not compete with the purposes of the original artwork, namely the artist's providing graphic design services to music concerns and in turn marketing music to the public. The use of an excerpt of lyrics is used in the same manner as that of the cover art. Copyright remains with Tuff Gong Records, Island Records, Bob Marley and associated entities. Use of the cover art and sample of lyrics in this article complies with fair use under United States copyright law.


Friday, 29 July 2011

Russian Far East: Cold War Kurils

kuril  banner

In my previous blog post, I discussed the wilderness and wildlife of the remote Kuril Islands, but alluded, to in that previous post, the Cold War history, and to a lesser extent these days, World War II History. The abandoned military bases of the Kuril Islands give an amazing insight into our recent past. To be able to visit once top secret and extremely strategic bases in one of the remotest parts of the world is truly a fascinating experience.

Soviet Propaganda, SimushirSoviet propaganda featuring Comrade Lenin in the abandoned Kraternyy Naval base on Simushir

Three of the islands I was lucky enough to visit had remnants of the Cold War militarisation of the Kurils. The first and least significant was the border guards post on Urup. Next was the one time Japanese WWII Airbase, then converted by the Soviets on Matua. But by far the most dramatic and fascinating visit was to the abandoned and once top secret Naval base on Simushir, inside the crater of a volcano. Reportedly construction of this naval base started in 1978 and with the end of the cold war the base was abandoned in 1993. When the Cold War ended these bases were totally abandoned, simply walked away from. So much equipment and infrastructure was just left behind.


Compared to the following two islands, the Cold War remnants on Urup, or at least those I was able to see, were limited to a former border guards outpost.

There was a lot of rusting communications equipment decaying in the grass, large watch towers, and significantly reinforced buildings, some of which are being “recycled” by Salmon fishermen, using them as a base during the warmer times for their fishing expeditions.

Urup is the next island in line to the disputed Japanese territories, so I can imagine the strategic significance of a surveillance post on Urup in the Cold War era.

Radio Mast, UrupRadio mast at the old Border Guards outpost on Urup

Guard Tower, UrupSunrise over a distant watch tower on Urup

Border Guard Post, UrupDecaying buildings at the old Border Guard post on Urup

Border Guard Post, UrupThe former Border Guards outpost on Urup

Border Guard Post, UrupThe former Border Guards outpost on Urup

Border Guard Post, UrupElectronics simply rusting in the grass on Urup


Matua not only held Cold War relics of significance, but also significant WWII history as well. Several large concrete bunkers from the WWII era can still be found around the island, and the significant runway was constructed by the Japanese originally for use during WWII.

The runway had some quite unique engineering features, built in by the Japanese, such as geothermal vents running under the length of the runway heating the runway to allow it to be ice free through out the year. This feature would have been equally as significant in WWII as it would have ben during the Cold War.

Matua also held dozens of military helmets, most Soviet era, but possibly some from the Japanese in WWII. One of the most interesting finds was a 44 gallon (200 litre) drum with the inscription “Wehrmacht” and the date 1943. One could assume this was a remnant of WWII supply from Germany to their Japanese allies.

The amount of vehicles left on Matua was mind blowing. Tracked vehicles, armoured vehicles, trucks, trailers, electronics filled vehicles, dozens and dozens of them. And the number of empty 44 gallon drums would have been into the thousands., scattered around the island.

Also wandering around Matua it was easy to notice many underground tunnels. The state of them did not really invite deep exploration, but one got the impression there was significant underground installations on the island.

Soviet uniform, Matua A Soviet tunic button complete with torn fabric oxidised to a piece of concrete, Matua

Tracked Vehicle, Matua A decaying tracked utility vehicle, still housed in it’s garage on Matua

WWII Japanese Gun, Matua A Japanese WWII Era Anti-Aircraft Gun remains to this day at the base on Matua

Vehicle Graveyard, MatuaThe vehicle graveyard on Matua was significant

Vehicle Graveyard, Matua Numerous command and control type trailers, filled with decaying electrical and electronic equipment filled the vehicle graveyard

Vehicle Graveyard, Matua Numerous command and control type trailers, filled with decaying electrical and electronic equipment filled the vehicle graveyard

MatuaAs seen on Urup, there was plenty of electronics equipment strewn around Matua as well

Matua RadarSignificant Radar stations and associated equipment sit abandoned across the island

Matua 44  Gal DrumsEmpty 44 Gallon Drums numbered in the thousands

MatuaOne of the many “solid” buildings on the island

Matua HelmetsMany military helmets were scattered around the island. I would argue they were all Soviet era, however others speculate there were some WWII Japanese helmets amongst them

Matua Wehrmacht Drum 1943This 44 Gallon Drum was particularly interesting, containing the inscription Wehrmacht and the date 1943. One could assume that it was left over from WWII supplies from Germany to their Japanese allies.

MatuaAnother heavily reinforced concrete building, which was connected to significant underground tunnels

Matua Helmets 2Many military helmets were scattered around the island. I would argue they were all Soviet era, however others speculate there were some WWII Japanese helmets amongst them

Japanese bunkers MatuaJapanese WWII era concrete defence bunkers still line the foreshore of Matua

Japanese bunkers MatuaJapanese WWII era concrete defence bunkers still line the foreshore of Matua


Out of three Cold War islands I was able to visit, SImushir was by far the most dramatic, interesting and fascinating. The island is essentially a series of four volcanic cones, with the northern one being a flooded caldera. In a situation reminiscent of the best Cold War James Bond movie, the soviets blasted an entrance channel into the caldera so Submarines and other vessels could access the base. And in a sign of the modern digital age we live in I was able to locate a picture of the actual blasting to make the entrance taking place (see below © All Rights Reserved by Sergey Nogovitsyn ).

© All Rights Reserved by Sergey Nogovitsyn In a sign of the times of this age of modern digital communication, I came across an original photo of the construction of the secret base, including this shot of the blasting of the entrance into the caldera  © All Rights Reserved by Sergey Nogovitsyn

NASA SimushirThis NASA pic of Simushir, shows the four volcanic peaks in a line, with the final northern most caldera being the home of the Kraternyy Naval Base (NASA/Wikipedia)

Broutana Bay Map (Wayne Brown)A topographic map showing the northern Caldera and Broutana Bay (Map from my friend Wayne Brown at Ocean Adventures)

Construction of the base started in 1978, and went on to eventually house over 3000 people in the base town of Kraternyy. It’s no doubt given the era, and the fact it was constructed inside a volcanic caldera on an extremely remote island, that the base was “top secret”. However it’s quite ironic that abandoned as it is today, there is a sign on the hill naming the base and listing the units that were based there. Reminds me sort of like the bat cave, secret but everything labelled!

A declassified US Navy report I located on line described the base as having the role of using its submarines to lay sea mines across the lines of supply in Northern Japan and around the Kurils in the event of outbreak of hostilities. There was also reportedly radar and electronic reconnaissance equipment for surveillance on the island as well.

The following report was disseminated by the Reuters news agency in 1982, when the presence of this base became public knowledge.

Russians Said to Have Built Submarine Base Near Japan


Published: October 24, 1982

TOKYO, Oct. 23— The Soviet Union has deployed attack type conventional submarines at a new base in the Kurile Islands in the north western Pacific, a Japanese newspaper reported today.
The mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun quoted Japanese and American Government sources as saying that the submarine base had been built at the northern tip of Simushir Island, about 250 miles northeast of Japan's main northern island of Hokkaido.
33276054 Early days of the base under construction © All Rights Reserved by Sergey Nogovitsyn

One could spend days or weeks wandering around this former town base. With numerous buildings, installations and facilities all pretty much left as they were at the end of the cold war. Nuclear Chemical and Biological warfare suits lay tossed around rooms. Once secret code rooms lay open to those who can get to the island. Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, gun racks, sleeping quarters, sports rooms, lecture halls, movie theatres, all just left to decay in time. Charts lay on tables, maps line walls, book shelves filled with once relevant military information lie exposed to the elements through broken windows and rotting infrastructure.

Exploring deep enough you can find secret stair cases to hidden rooms, some accessed through narrow passages with gun ports either side, that in its operational time would have allowed only authorised entry through threat of instant death to those who should not enter. In one such area I found an interesting curiosity, in one cupboard I chose to open, out of many that I could have, was a CIA sticker! A kind of tourist sticker from CIA headquarters in Virginia. Whilst it looked like it had been there a long time, it could also have ben placed there more recently as a kind of joke. It did make me think it had ben there since the Soviet days as there were several other “western” stickers located nearby including a Mars Bar sticker. Being this was in the secret part of the building through hidden entrances, one could speculate this was a KGB or Military Intelligence (GRU) area of the complex.

Kraternyy Base, SimushirKraternyy Naval Base, Simushir

Kraternyy Base, Simushir Kraternyy Base, Simushir

Kraternyy Base, Simushir  Electronics inside on the buildings

Kraternyy Base, Simushir Equipment inside the base

Kraternyy Base, Simushir  An old Soviet Naval gun mount stands as a monument at Kraternyy Base

Kraternyy Base, SimushirNBC Warfare suits lay scattered everywhere

Kraternyy Base, SimushirA former Soviet Submarine Tender that didn’t quite make it through the narrow entrance to the caldera during bad weather

Kraternyy Base, SimushirSoviet propaganda covered many of the walls

Kraternyy Base, SimushirI found this CIA sticker inside a cupboard on the base!

Kraternyy Base, SimushirInside the base

Kraternyy Base, SimushirMaps and charts were hung on walls and scattered on tables

Kraternyy Base, SimushirSeveral rooms were filled with gun racks

Kraternyy Base, SimushirA sign shows 1978, the year construction began on the base

Kraternyy Base, SimushirThe irony of a top secret base, with a large sign on the hill declaring it’s name

Kraternyy Base, SimushirAnd a further sign listing the units that were stationed there!

Kraternyy Base, SimushirThe Soviet Naval Ensign, overlapping the then former Russian Naval Ensign, which since the fall of the Soviet Union is once again the flag of the Russian Fleet

To be able to wander freely through this once great military base, to see the significant infrastructure abandoned, to see the equipment left behind was an amazing experience. Knowing the strategic significance of this area still today, it would not surprise me if one day in the future we once again see the militarisation of the Kurils.

As my comrade Huckorivitch would say; nazdarovya!

 PART ONE: Russian Far East: Kuril Island Wilderness

How Do I Get There Banner

So you want to visit the Kurils?

- being so remote and without airfields on al but the disputed islands next to Japan, the only way in is by ship.

- several expedition cruise companies offer expeditions through the Kurils in the warmer ice free months of the year, departing either from Kamchatka or Hokkaido normally.

- other than that its very difficult and expensive to get to these remote and unique islands


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