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10 Mar

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Japan’s Weird Food: Natto

10 Mar

Natto. A word that would send shivers down the spine of many who know of it’s existence. A deeply devisive food, along the lines of olives or tomatoes. The first Japanese food I have tried that I really disliked. Eugh. Natto

Natto is fermented soy beans. Yes, fermented soy beans. These beans can be eaten plain, or mixed with rice or wrapped in seaweed. When eaten plain you mix it with a sauce until, according to a natto loving friend of mine, ‘it becomes frothy’. The grossest words ever spoken about a food.

I had my first experience with Natto last night. Immediately after opening the package I noticed a distinct smell of feet. This is always a sign you should stay away from a food, I think, when it’s smell reminds you of your stinky sweaty feet. After you get some on your chopsticks/fork, you have to spin them like you are eating spaghetti to get rid of the strings of who knows what that connects the beans. Eugh. Natto.

There is a lot of weird food here, but I would contend that Natto is the weirdest, and most foul and should be avoided.

Japan’s Weird Food: Uni

3 Mar

My sister would not like me for eating uni. Not only is she a vegetarian, I think uni comes from her favourite animal – the sea urchin. Uni is the sea urchin’s roe and is eaten as sushi here, usually on top of rice and wrapped in nori.

Uni - in the middle, wrapped in seaweed. Yummy!

The first time I tried it, I was not a fan. But it showed up in my lunch box today and it was delicious! I am a convert. Anthony Bourdain would be proud.

How not to use your Mama-Chari: Bicycling in Japan

1 Mar

When I arrived at my apartment in August, there were three abandoned bikes lying in the yard. It turns out there are a lot of abandoned bikes in Japan, because they are so cheap. A decent bike is only about $80 at our local store. Of course, these bikes are pretty basic, with no gears, but they come with a light, a lock and a sweet basket. It’s the basket that gives them their name, Mama-Chari, or Grandma’s bicycle.

Mama - Chari

I, at one time, owned three bikes, one I purchased, one from the yard and one from my school. However, it seems that bikes are the only thing people in Japan will steal, and my school bike was stolen from the train station that I had one described as ‘so remote, you don’t need to lock your bike’.

My major bike mishap was a little more serious though. The mama-charis come with a light attached to the front wheel that uses the wheels motion to power the light. You can flick it off during the day to reduce resistance. A month ago, I was riding to the station in the dark when I decided to flick on the light, with my foot. Whoops.

Of course, my shoe immediately got stuck in the spokes and I had one of those transcendental, slow-moving time moments where I knew what was going to happen and I couldn’t stop it. Up over the handle bars I went, as I did a face plant on the ground and my bike landed on top of me. In a little shock, I tried to get up and I noticed a small child staring at me from his parents lawn. His eyes were gigantic and he ran away as soon as I said hi. Picking up my stuff, I decided I could still make it to the train station on time. I was obviously delusional. My bike was barely functional, having lost the light, the bell, some spokes, and most of the basket to the fall. I made the train but after getting on I looked in the mirror and noticed a huge bruise already forming on my face and then at my hand to see that it was covered in blood. I got off at the next station and turned around.

A week after the incident!

Scott met me, and as soon as we made it home I discovered massive bruises on my thighs from the handlebars, the beginnings of a black eye, and a killer headache. I spent the rest of the weekend in bed catching up on Mad Men, so at least one positive thing came out of my idiocy. And I’ll definitely never stick my foot in the spokes again.

Work Humor

25 Feb

These magnets are on the cupboard in the staff room. The photocopy lady says she put them there because Japanese teachers “never have time for smiling.”

Japan’s Weird Food: Mini Kiwi

24 Feb

I love the food in Japan. LOVE IT. Usually it is delicious and healthy and interesting. Of course, there are some things missing like cheese (CHEESE!) and healthy breads and ethnic foods such as Italian, Greek and Mexican, but over all it is fabulous.

That said, there is some weird stuff available here. Some delicious, some not. Hopefully I can share some of these things with you!

First up: Mini Kiwis – these may not be so weird, but I’ve never seen them before, so there’s that!

These are delicious and if they weren’t so expensive. ($4 for a box) I would be purchasing them all the time to eat. Excellent both plain and mixed in yoghurt! The other thing about food in Japan, especially fruit, is that it is often available for a limited time only… so I’ll be eating as much as I can before it disappears off the shelf.

Learning Ikebana

22 Feb

We found a place in Chikugo where we can go and learn Ikebana, the art of flower arrangement. It’s a traditional art that has been around for 500 years and although we don’t understand most of what the teacher says, it’s quite relaxing and interesting!

Here’s my first attempt.