Sakura Matsuri

The Cherry Blossom Festival, May 5th was beautiful! Nigh on four months later I am posting this… however vicarious living has been known to dissapoint. The festival was basically hundreds upon hundreds if not thousands of picnics in beautiful Hirosaki park. There were tons of booths and vendors selling everything from knicks to knacks. The trees were in full bloom and their beauty was luminescent.

One of my schools invited me to a picturesque picnic in the park. There was so much food and drink as to excite the must mundane of palettes and the kids were chasing each other around the trees as the cherry blossoms rained down in the gusting breeze. The food and drink were delicious! I tried to consume everything but after a while one gets too full to eat without serious gastronomic repercussions.

The entire experience was lovely.

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Japanese Coins

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1円 to 500円! (yen) Bottom to top left to right. 80円 roughly equals $1. My favorite is the shiny gold one.

You’re Not Supposed to Eat Paste

So there is a type of “sweets” in Japan known as ampan (ahm-pan). These are various types of bread filled with anko (red bean paste). Now on first seeing them they look delicious! Bright colored rolls and soft sweet breads with colorful centers…full of paste. I think for me its the texture that gets me more than the flavor. They come in all sorts of flavors from classic red bean paste flavor to strawberry or melon. But in the end they all taste like mashed up flavored lima beans.

I hate lima beans…

Even when they look so good.

I can think of some people that would like this lightly sweetened bean paste bread.

These are alright, ive had a few that weren't bad...

Look! Anko pancake thingies!

I’m pretty sure that the beans in anko are naturally sweetened but not sure if they add any more I think its just the beans. Some Japanese people think ampan is too sweet but I think its not sweet enough…among other things. However these attractive confections smell really good fresh and every now and then I try one hoping that this time, they will make my mouth happy.

Some Snow

So I thought i’d post something today and this is what it is. This is around the end of February, early March and the snow was still impressively high. It had actually begun to melt at this point but at its highest the sidewalk was easily elevated 4 or 5 feet off the ground. Only very important walk ways were shoveled during the snow season and this was not one of them.

A bowl of noodles

Bamboo shoots
Shrimp
Sprouts
Onion
Soba
Sesame seed oil
Garlic
Soy sauce
いただきます!

It’s Been a While

So, it’s been a long time. But, don’t dwell on the time between post but rather the fruitiful time you spent wondering what I was up to. Japan is…more than I can summarize in a single word. There has been amazing food, strange social constructs, and a myriad of people with a similar variance of interesting encounters.

For those people who have traveled abroad you may have an idea of what I’m experiencing as far as new types of food and living in a new culture.

For example, I ordered pizza with tuna and shrimp. It had cheese. It was interesting. It seemed softer with a lighter creamier taste. Whatever that says about cheese. All in all, it was on the tastier side of average. I’d say it was comprapable with dominoes or Papa Johns. Pizza hut being my favorite.

Among the slightly more exotic dining experiences I’ve had. I guess would be the yaki (grilled) options. So far, I’ve had yakitori and yakniku lit: (grilled bird and grilled meat. The yakitori restraunts deliver food in kabob form. There are a lot different options from chicken tail and onion kabobs to chicken skin and shittake mushrooms, with different sauces thrown in to…spice things up.

The yakiniku is sort of cool too. Think of it as an indoor do-it-yourself BBQ. In this case most yakiniku’s i’ve been to include chicken but some don’t instead only offering red meat. In the yakiniku establishments it’s a neat, little, do-it-yourself, grill in the middle of your table. They deliver your meat orders in raw form and you get to grill it over the hot fire. I’ve only gone to one yakiniku that wasn’t delicious and I think it was because it was all you can eat. It was still really cool, and there was a ton of decent food there.

Food aside, The fury of the white sands has been waging war against the backs of the people, as everyone is out shoveling everyday to prevent the incessant snow-fall from burying their world. The snow is around 130cm and it really is incessant, it just keeps coming down. It’s nothing short of impressive.

Karaoke has been a lot of fun. In japan it’s a fairly common activity. It’s a little different than in the US though. Instead of being in front of a crowd you have a “karaoke box” a room for your party of people and you sing together in the karaoke room.

For Christmas I spent time with friends, Kyoko Kida, (You rock.) my friend, tour guide, caretaker and barber, along with her friends (now mine as well) and we ate dinner at this new Taiwanese restaurant. Twas great.

New years was great as well. I stayed with a friend of mine and his family (same family from the previous post. I can’t thank them enough for their generosity and hospitality) for 3 days including New years eve and New years. We had a load of good food and a lot of fun conversation. New Years was a good time.

And there are little Japanese people from elementary school that live on my street and they take pictures of me with their Nintendo 3DSes.  And, one of the guys  I’ve sung karaoke with once or twice said I should sing with his band. And my Japanese is…developing…and…and… And….Pictures!  (Click the images for a better view.)

Did I mention there’s a lot of snow? There’s a lot of snow…

Dinner w/ Japanese Family

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This was an amazing spread of food for dinner with a good friend and his family that I met here in Japan. There was baked mackerel, chicken onion kabobs, ikura (salmon eggs), salad, freshly grated daikon (a radish), freshly picked fungi, (some sort of mushroom they picked from the mountains nearby!) and of course shinmai (newly harvested rice from our prefecture) it was まいゆう! <ー delicious. I think there may have been a few other things present but those were they main things!

The First Snow

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Taken about two weeks ago…

Ashi Yuu

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Hot springs foot bath! 10•c and the water was at about 40•c! Too hot to be cool.

Maple Mountain

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Twas absolutely gorgeous.