Cold, Cold, Aa-choo!

We’ve all been there. I was there earlier this month. Whenever sudden symptoms crop up, we rush to the internet and research them. 99.9% of the time, it tells us we have some rare form of cancer when in actuality, it’s a cold. Next, we look up “easy ways to get over a cold” or “quick cold remedies.” I get a rhino in the room every year it seems, so I think I’ve got my routine down pat, but what about you?

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We all know that someone somewhere has got some whacky home cure to give you. You’re also probably feeling just bad enough that you’re willing to try it. In my case, I’ve gargled apple cider vinegar, drank a rancid lime and garlic tea, and have even taken shots of honey and lemon juice with a dash of pepper.

Crazy, right? But what does Japan have to offer?

First, the internet said (pages linked are in Japanese):

Probiotic foods
Found on Google that was linked to this page on probiotic health.

(Source #1): Dr. Mako

 

        • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep
        • Do a sinus rinse
        • Drink an herbal tea
        • Try some Chinese medicine
        • Gargle salt water
        • Don’t go nuts with OTC drugs
        • Suck on some throat drops
        • Take care of your gut with probiotics
          • For example, yogurt, kimchi, miso, etc. (A.K.A fermented foods)

(Source #2): Meiji Food Co.

        • Get some good rest
          • If you snore or can’t breathe, use a breathing strip so your sleep isn’t interrupted
        • Relax and quiet your body
        • Eat nutritious foods (high in vitamins, minerals, and protein)
          • Specifically easy to eat foods, like yogurt, fruit slices, and Jello, if your throat is hurting
          • Suggested Meal #1: Hot pot
              • Recommended because the nutrients from the vegetables and meat bleed into the broth. Eating hot pot ensures you’re getting all of it and not just some of it
          • Suggested Meal #2: Miso (instant or otherwise)
              • Recommended because it’s chalk-full of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals
          • Suggested Meal #3: Rice porridge
              • Recommended because it’s easy to swallow and is hot, helping you get some water (especially if you’ve got a fever)
        • Drink water along with a sports drink to get electrolytes

I went around and asked some of my friends and acquaintances, seeing if they could provide any novel advice. Here’s what they said:

  1. Drink sports drinks
  2. Sleep… a lot
  3. Drink Kakkonto*
  4. Drink Yunker**
  5. Gargle with green tea***
  6. Soak a long time in a hot bath
  7. Drink water
  8. Encourage sweating through hot foods like spicy curry with lots of garlic
  9. Drink warm milk and honey
  10. Eat vegetable soup with grated daikon root drizzled with ponzu

Basically… it’s all common sense.

As for my personal methods, I pound back black tea with lemon and honey, use my NetiPot religiously, gargle salt water whenever my throat starts feeling thick and sore, swallow way too much cold medicine, and take A LOT of hot baths. A phone call to the family telling them how miserable I am always seems to help, too.

What do you do when you get sick? Bye for now.

 

goodbye

 

*Kakkonto contains the following: (1) puerira root – improves antioxidant function, among other things, (2) ephedra herb – treats membrane inflammation, (3) jujube – packed with minerals and vitamins, it is used to relax the body, (4) cinnamon bark – a Chinese medicinal serve-all, (5) peony root – another medicinal favorite, this helps with inflammation and spasms, (6) glycyrrhiza (aka licorice) – acts as a biological adhesive helping other medicinal components get through the body more efficiently… plus it adds flavor for an unpalatable medicine!

**This English website provides drop-down boxes explaining what the herbs they use do. It’s very convenient.

***Rumor has it is that this is something only people in Shizuoka may do.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! …OK, so it’s not the first day of the year, but cut me some slack here. This blog has been quiet for some 6+ months. You should be patting me on the back for getting some kind of energy up enough to even post something.

Snarkiness aside, I have a question for you. Did you get your omikuji (御神籤、おみくじ) yet? How about your omamori (御守り、おまもり)? It’s a common enough custom in Japan that has little to no substance except that, with the new year, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

’tis the season the flock to a shrine or temple and get lucky!

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Omamori can be purchased throughout the year, depending on what you need one for. I only buy and keep one. Last year’s was for good relationships with people. This year’s is a standard safety one. Prices typically range from ¥300 to upwards of ¥2,000, so about $2.50-$18.

Omikuji are meant to be purchased ONCE and, if it’s a good one, it’s to be kept in your wallet or on your person at all times to better preserve the good luck. If it’s a “death will come to your door tomorrow” kind of fortune, you tie it some kind of sacred string the shrine keeps handy and hope for the best. At this point, you’re welcome to draw another lot. If that one is even a little bit lucky, cherish the heck outta it.

Just like last year, my fortune was average.

Most start out with a small Japanese poem. Mine was:

「雪にたえ風をしのぎて / 梅の花 / 世にめでらる、その香りかな」

This more or less translates to “The plum blossom that survives a snowy wind can be admired and smelled another day.” Romantic, ain’t it? Next comes the words of wisdom:

In the beginning, there will be a profoundly sad event, but if you can refrain [from drowning in it?], your mind will open. A confused and disordered heart is a calamity that needs to be calmed.

I’m sure there’s some kind of nuance that I’m missing here, but whatever. The last bit of the fortune talks about specific aspects of one’s life. Mine were as follows:

  1. 願望 (ねがいごと, negaigoto, hopeful wishes) – Late, but will come true. It’s good to try and speak simply (avoid manners of speech)
  2. 待人 (まちびと, machibito, awaiting person) – Will arrive late
  3. 失物 (うせもの, usemono, lost item) – High chance of appearing
  4. 旅行 (たびだち, tabidachi, travel) – Good to refrain from traveling, no benefit
  5. 商売 (あきない, akinai, business) – No risk in dealing with others
  6. 学問 (がくもん, gakumon, school) – Hurry and plan your objective
  7. 相場 (そうば, souba, stock market) – Good! Sell
  8. 争事 (あらそい, arasoi, quarrels) – Speak with your eyes
  9. 恋愛 (れんあい, rennai, love) – Can be enjoyed to a certain degree
  10. 転居 (やうつり, yautsuri, moving) – Good! But hurry
  11. 出産 (おさん, osan, pregnancy) – A safe delivery is favorable
  12. 病気 (びょうき, byouki, sickness) – No worries. Believe in the gods
  13. 縁談 (えんだん, endan, marriage) – Negotiations will be broken off, but after helping (the person? the people?), all will be well

What are some crazy things your family does to welcome in the new year? Do you have any interesting traditions or superstitions? Let me know! Bye for now.

A Weekend Diary: Summer Break (Part 2)

Being alone with my thoughts during this extensive summer vacation, of which ends in one more day (hooray!), has led me to wonder if I’m doing the right things in life. I suppose those are the kind of philosophical mysteries that I’ll never know the answers to. Even historians debate about the correctness of events long after they’ve happened.

Anyway.

In between gallivanting throughout shopping malls, playing PokemonGo, and cooking more food than I’ll actually eat, I participated in the English summer camp a local after-school club puts on every year. I wasn’t around last year to participate, but I hear there was a forest and tons of mosquitoes.

Have you ever gone to camp? I image it to be something like this.

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This particular camp is basically an escape from home that kids so desperately need once in a while to be something they don’t normally get to be. Instead of watching the girls this year, I was thrown in with the boys. Surprisingly, they were easy to entertain and keep happy if one remembered to give them space. I’m assuming we were all the same when we were preteens.

But… what actually happens at an English camp? Activities vary, to be sure, but this schools’ selection is pretty tame. It all begins with welcoming the kids into the school and making sure they’re rounded up, comfortable, and sorted into their groups. Name tags are then made (even though the wisdom of this is lost on me as the tags fall off after 5 minutes).

Board games and funsies came later as we waited for lunch to be made. If there was time, we worked on some kind of performance to put on on the second day. Two groups chose a song and dance, the third did only a song and mine did… a weird variety of things. I believe in letting them make up their own things while I monitor because creativity in this structured Japanese society is so important.

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Taking a quick break to check my phone.

After copious amounts of soda and juice were consumed, it was finally time to pack up to go to the pool. I can’t remember the last time I had bothered to go swimming and I still suck at it as much as I did before. While the latest pop hits were blaring on the radio, we all splish-splashed about, getting ridiculously tired and sun-BURNT. I’m still trying to figure out to this day why only one foot got crispy while the other made it out unscathed. As an added bonus, it was funny as shit watching all the boys run away from the wasps that remained determined to terrorize them on the train platforms.

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Gotta love everyone’s impression what a BBQ should be.

Oh! On the first day, we were permitted to wash up in the spa/hot springs area in the neighboring hotel. Man, I don’t think heaven could get any sweeter. Do you ever get the impression you belong somewhere else other than where you are currently? For example, you might feel you have an old soul and don’t groove with today’s lifestyle, etc. Well! Hot springs were made for this girl and the eucalyptus-scented waters were hard to give up. The ice cream at the end of it was nice, though.

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Strawberry-flavored shaved ice with frozen berry topping.

After going back to the school and having a lovely BBQ dinner, we gathered up the chil’ens to watch a movie. The choices were Lion King, Toy Story or Frozen. Even though Frozen was on the agenda to be watched, the kids unanimously chose Toy Story. Thank you, Pixar. The power you hold to manipulate childrens’ emotions extends across oceans. I suppose it’s a good thing to get the international attention because 100% of the girls and boys under my partial watch weren’t born yet when the first installment to the series came out (1995 to be extact!).

I had forgotten how cool the first movie was. As I got older, I developed a kind of… complex (?) against Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. Their brand of comedy and gimmicky behavior wasn’t my cup of tea, but perhaps it simply wasn’t flavored with the things I prefer. What was even cooler was that two of the ALTs who were attending the camp alongside me had never seen it before. To see them touched just as the kids were was something special to experience. When I go back home, I’ll have to make sure to get the 2nd movie to complete my set and that’s only if the VHS for the first one is still up and running. Man… I’ve still gotta turn all those tapes into DVDs but I digress.

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A mixed sandwich and Coke for lunch. The fried pork cutlet was fresh this time and oh-so good!

Even though I won’t see most of those boys and girls ever again, their faces will blur into the fun and fine memory soup that I’m sure all of my experiences in Japan will culminate into. Sitting here, it’s hard not to become proud, sentimental, and content with the hand I may or may not have had in their lives. I guess I can only hope that their continued encounters with people of other cultures and backgrounds will convince them that the world isn’t as scary as the main Japanese cultural mindset wants them to be.

A Weekend Diary: Summer Break (Part 1)

Do you have those kinds of days? Those kinds of days where you’re sat in your chair or aimlessly walk around the house, staring into space? Since summer break started, that’s ALL I’ve been doing. That’s not saying I don’t have things to do – I have plenty – I just don’t have the interest to do any of it.

Ha! My boredom is my own fault, isn’t it? That’s OK though because I wouldn’t be here trying to focus on my writing if I was engaged elsewhere.

Because I chose not to travel this summer (a.k.a I didn’t have any money), I’ve been putzing around doing a variety of activities. Some were relaxing and others, not so much. When you wake up with no plans to do anything, the day kind of unfolds on its own. Like Marie Kondo finds joy in the smallest of things, I’ve managed to do the same.

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Riding the train, on my way to Nagoya!
My first incident of joy was going to my first-ever concert in Nagoya on August 2nd. I bet you weren’t preparing yourself to hear that it was a classical concert, were you? While many others would be over the moon to go and see their favorite band or singer live, it’s not my cup of tea.  I kid you not. It was such a treat to be able to sit in a music hall and listen to THE MAN, Joe Hisaishi. In my mind, him, John Williams, Alan Menken, and Hans Zimmer are the best. They are the musical geniuses behind Ghibli, Harry Potter, Disney, and Pirates of the Caribbean, respectively, among others.

Sitting there in the second row, surrounded by the razzle and dazzle of lights, crystal fixtures and the gleaming instruments is a moment in my life I wouldn’t… couldn’t trade for anything on this green earth. Even now, I can recall how the music lifted and swelled my soul to popping as tears of emotion rolled down my cheeks. The smile I had on my face would’ve cracked my head in two if it were possible.

Joe himself was such a humble man, thoroughly enjoying the audience’s energy. I can only imagine the immense honor it was to play for him. At the end of the concert, he was free to select the scores he wanted to play as a surprise for us. I was absolutely ecstatic to be able to listen to Merry Go Round of Life from Howl’s Moving Castle, one of my favorite Ghibli movies.

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The Aichi Prefectural Art Theater.
If you ever have the opportunity in your life to see something classical, whether it’s a ballet, opera, or musical, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so. It puts you in touch with emotions and memories you thought were gone forever. You are literally transported to another plane of existence.

Stayed tuned for the next installment of my summer shenanigans, coming soon!

Oyster Sauce and Eggs: Versatility!

Before becoming accustomed to un-American foods, you could never have convinced me to eat something like oyster sauce. Even though I believed myself a consumer of just about anything, my scope was rather limited when I think about it.

Brussels sprouts? Sure! Asparagus? No problem. Poached eggs? As long as they didn’t have Hollandaise sauce, great!

Pickled duck eggs? Nope. Headcheese? I’ll slice it for you, but don’t expect me to eat it. Vegemite? It’s black. Are humans even supposed to eat black things? Entrails? Nah, I’m good.

So, why oyster sauce? It’s versatile! And you can enjoy its handiness in the recipe below from one of my most used books.  It comes from one of Japan’s popular food networks, Orange Page (Japanese only).

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Pork and Eggplant with Garlic Oyster Sauce
(豚肉となすのにんにくオイスター炒め)

150g thinly sliced pork / 豚こま切れ肉 150g
3 (or about 300g) eggplant, thickly cut /  なす(大) 3個、大きく切れ
2 green bell peppers, chopped / ピーマン 2個、短く切れ
1 clove of grated garlic / にんにく 1かけ、おろし

Sauce
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce /  オイスターソース 2 大さじ
1 tsp. sugar, rice vinegar /   砂糖、酢 1名小さじ

Serving size: 2

Coat your frying pan with sesame seed oil and fry up the pork first. When it’s about half-way done, throw in your fixings, adding the sauce after it’s all done. Once coated, cook for another minute or two until you’re satisfied. I added napa cabbage to mine for a bigger veggie boost.

Another versatile food item is the humble egg. Many countries have egg-based dishes and when you’re looking to have a change in your breakfast menu, I recommend scrambles. I like to think they’re wholesomely American as they can be catered to just about any taste. I even remember an ex-boyfriend making french toast flavored eggs for his son!

Here’s my take:

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Scrambled Eggs with Vegetables

2 eggs / 卵 2個
1 Tbsp. milk / 牛乳 1大さじ
2 slices of onion, chopped / 玉ねぎスライス 2枚、短く切れ
1 green bell pepper, chopped / ピーマン 1個、短く切れ
Large chunks of bacon / ベーコン、大きく切れ
3 white mushrooms, sliced / マッシュルーム 3個、スライスで

Serving size: 1-2

Warm up some oil in your frying pan. While it’s heating up, whip up the eggs and milk. When your pan is hot, start cooking the vegetables and bacon up. **NOTE: If you’re using raw bacon, cook that first!** When they’re just about al dente, pour in the eggs and scramble away!

Seasoning is optional. I used salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin.

***

Both of these recipes are useful for amateur cooks (like myself) and don’t take any time at all. Try them out for yourself and let me know down in the comments below what you think!

goodbye

A Trip Back in Time: The Hime-sama Parade

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Princess Ayako in traditional clothing via Google Search Images; compare that to the modern day British royalty

What do you think of when you hear “princess?” For most people, that means DISNEY DISNEY DISNEY! For others, expanses of rolling green hills, cramped forests and intimidating castles are called to mind. While these “western” influences do permeate the Japanese imagination, the term “princess” possesses something more unique.

Like with most countries, Japanese princesses were associated with the finest of the fine. They embodied grace, were cultured, and often provided a focal point for the latest beauty trends and literature. Have you ever had the chance to behold such a mythical person? I have.

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The British princesses: Diana, Kate, and Meghan

In my town, a tradition has been held every year, rain or shine, since 1952. That may not be a long time, but it’s still impressive to me that a community can come together 67 times to make this event happen. What’s the event, you say? Why, it’s the Hime-sama Douchu (姫様道中)! 姫様 (hime-sama) means princess while 道中 (douchu) is hard to translate beautifully into English, as it is an old word, but in today’s world, it can mean parade. Broken down, it refers to being on the road or en route.

Long ago, during the Edo Period (1603-1868), when the Way of the Samurai was in full throttle, there was a princess. As with all local legends, her identity remains a mystery and is left to flights of fancies. She often passed through the area with her royal entourage on her way to wherever and most definitely travelled in style. According to the information blurb on the event flyer, up to 90 attendants, retainers, and soldiers walked in her wake.

 

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Let’s put on our Geoffrey Chaucer hat and join them.

  1. 露払い侍 (tsuyu harai zamurai) – Heralder or Outrider, he clears the path of people
  2. 毛槍奴 (keyari yakko) – Bannerman; literally “the feathered [or furred] spear-bearing servant”
  3. 箱護侍 (hako gozamurai) – Box Bearer; “the box-holding servant”
  4. 警護侍 (keigo zamurai) – Bodyguard; while Japanese learners might be familiar with the word keigo (敬語), meaning “respectful language,” this kei refers to keisatsu (警察) meaning “police”
  5. 腰元 (koshi moto) – Chambermaid*
  6. 家老 (karou) – Chief Retainer; lit. “old, professional man,” he was the Major Domo
  7. 姫様 (hime-sama) – Princess
  8. 大傘持奴 (oo-gasa mochi yakko) – Umbrella Bearer; “the honorary umbrella holder,” he was also the closest protector of the princess in times of danger
  9. 上臈 (jyourou) – Noblewoman; “experienced woman,” her position in Japanese is described as being attached to the side of the princess
  10. 小情 (ko-jyou) – Female Page; “little woman,” she was the princess’s toilette attendant
  11. 典医 (ten-i) – Doctor, no explanation needed here
  12. 茶坊主 (cha bozu) – Master of Tea; “master priest of the tea,” he received guests and made them comfortable
  13. 駕籠持奴 (kago mochi yakko) – Palanquin Bearer; “the wagon servant,” they were in charge of carrying the princess in her royal litter
  14. 腰元 (koshi moto) – Chambermaid
  15. 長持奴 (nagamochi yakko) – Tenured Servant; “long thing bearing servant,” these guys carried the chest full of the princess’s belongings, the “long” coming from the fact the box was borne on long-poles
  16. 共侍 (tomo zamurai) – Retainer; “companion samurai,” see 17
  17. 槍持侍 (yarimochi zamurai) – Retainer; “spear-bearing samurai,” along with the tomo zamurai, they acted as bodyguards, keeping the rear of the group protected
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The princess with her entourage in the background via Google Images Search

 

The parade is a sight to see for those interested in experiencing Japanese culture. The folks in charge of the whole thing remained as true as possible to the costumes worn during those tumultuous times. While the wigs and make-up might be fake, they do their best to bring a bit of history to the modern day.

While you’re waiting for the parade to start, you can also enjoy common festival treats like fried chicken, sugared rice cakes on a stick, takoyaki (balls of batter with bits of octopus and vegetables), okonomiyaki (like takoyaki but in pancake form and much heavier on the stomach, usually comes with sauce and mayonnaise), and french fries. This year was a surprise for me because there was ramen and coffee. My girlfriend swears that a tapioca (i.e. boba tea) stand would bring in a lot money if we decided to invest (lol).

Local bands, performers, and dance groups are also available to entertain you. I was happy to see some of my former students strutting their stuff as they wowed the locals and visitors. My neighbor (and friend) informed me, too, that her toddler daughter would also be performing a hula dance number! Talk about adorable~!

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After the parade, some of the members move to the stage to show guests traditional dance. Unfortunately, I don’t stick around long enough to see this. I can only handle the festive atmosphere for so long. I’m such a square, I know.

If you’re ever in the Hamamatsu area in the spring and looking for something to do, please check out the Hime-sama Douchu! It’s always held on the first weekend in April. See you then!

School Lunch, Ep. 6

Hello, again! It’s me with your school lunch update. You’ll have to excuse my tardiness. On Fridays, I want to ignore everything I’m meant to be doing. Unfortunately, that means remaining in a stale state, staring dumbly off into the distance.

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Thursday’s Lunch

It’s Monday again and I need to shake off the funk. I present to you Thursday’s and Friday’s lunches! Let’s kickstart today’s entry with Thursday. That day, I was at one of my elementary schools and was once again, greeted with sekihan (see here). Can you guess at the other items on my tray?

Fried Fish
It’s fried fish. What more can I say about it? Can one even cook it poorly? I suppose, if I recollect hard enough, I have overcooked fish before. But that’s for another time and is an incident I hope to never repeat.

Anyway, the fish is always nice and tender in the school lunches. This time around, there were no bones to unpleasantly poke my gums, either. Ashley Rating: 7/10shake it off

Clear Vegetable Soup
The joys of not having the menu in front of me means I get to come up with some Original Titles and Names for these foods. Is “clear vegetable soup” catching on yet? No? Well, maybe some day.

 

This soup had seaweed (wakame), carrots, enoki mushrooms, fish cakes, and… a kind of green. I think it’s 小松菜 (komatsuna), Japanese mustard greens. The broth must have been fish-based as well. If I ignore the fact that my lunch was cold by the time students were done dishing themselves up, it was quite good. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Cherry Blossom Goodness
This dessert is among my favorites that appear in kyushoku. It’s a very simple affair, really. Frozen, cut up strawberries mixed into a strawberry Jell-O and topped with a precious dollop of whipped cream. You can guarantee I hoard that cream until the last possible moment so it’s the only flavor lingering on my tongue. Need I mention that, among the students, the Rock-Scissors-Paper competition is fierce when there are some cups left over? Ashley Rating: 9/10

Overall rating: 7.8/10

Thank you for sticking with me up to this point! Are you ready for Friday’s lunch?

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Friday’s Lunch

That soup looks rather unpleasant, doesn’t it? I wasn’t too offput because it had pork in it and my Southern upbringing can’t refuse anything pig-related. This time, I DO have the menu description with me.

  • 小松菜ご飯 (komatsuna gohan, rice mixed with mustard greens and carrot)
  • 花形和風ハンバーグ (hana-gatachi wah-fuu hanbaagu, flower-shaped Japanese-style hamburger)
  • キャベツのみそ汁 (kyabetsu miso shiru, miso soup with cabbage and pork)
  • 桜ぜリー (sakura zehrii, cherry blossom Jell-O)

Rice with Mustard Greens and Carrot
I enjoy mixed-up rice. Takes the boredom with plain rice away. I also feel the rice becomes a little bit healthier for me when there’s goodies in it. Ashley Rating: 7/10

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OK, so Stephen isn’t holding a hamburger, but a hot dog is close enough.

Japanese-style Hamburger
Japanese-styled anything American-related is fun for me. I still crave the 100% beefy wonderland that is one of the symbols of the US, but Japan does try. This hamburger patty, though filled with nourishment, was not one of my favorites flavor-wise. I wonder if the recipe changed?

Anyway, you can put money down that it had tofu in it. Ground chicken, bean flour, onion, carrots, and ginger were also mixed in. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Going off on a tangent here, but there is a young celebrity named Mr. Shachihoko (Maeda Teruyoshi) whose wife, Miharu, fiercely enjoys cooking on a budget. I kid you not when this woman made a whole appetizer, entree, and side menu deal with daikon as the main ingredient. It’s kind of insane when you make something mimic something else. Did I mention she’s 23 years older than him? That still blows my mind, but love is love, right? Moving on.

Cabbage-pork Miso
The disturbing color is from the miso that was used. Don’t let it upset you too much. The taste was pretty basic, albeit a little sweet. The sweetness was surely from the cabbage. With the pork thrown in, it was rather hearty. For me personally, I prefer something palette-ly refreshing to wash out the starch of the rice and the thickness of the burger. Overall, it wasn’t my favorite miso to date. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Cherry Blossom Jell-O
Please don’t confuse this with the Cherry Blossom Goodness. This had no whipped cream, but was truer to the flavor. All this was was cherry blossom-flavored Jell-O with small bits of cherry in it. It was a light and revitalizing way to finish off the lunch. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Overall rating: 8.3/10

Please be sure to catch up on the latest School Lunch episodes by cruising Cuisine of the Middle Class. and either searching for “school lunch” or looking at Most Recent on the right.

See you next time!

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 5

Good afternoon, everyone! We’re finally getting a bit of those April showers here in Japan. The downside to that is that it’s chilly. Soon we’ll be wishing it back when summer beats down on us.blerf

Anyway, I hope your lunch hour went well. What did you eat? I remember eating fried chicken and potato salad the majority of the time when I was working my previous job. Remembering that grease fest makes my stomach churn.

The meal I ate today was relatively vegetarian friendly. Let’s take a closer look!

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Today’s lunch:

  • White bread
  • Tofu nuggets (mashed tofu mixed with various vegetables)
  • Pickled cabbage
  • Minestrone soup
  • Banana

White Bread
I have yet to see anything but white bread step up to the lunch plate. Sometimes, we’ll get rolls with raisins or chunks of apple inside, but that’s about as classy as a student lunch gets. Since I’ve been trying to eat healthily for the past month (or thereabouts), I really wasn’t looking forward to choking the processed wheat down. Ashley Rating: 5/10

Tofu Nuggets
It’s certainly not unusual to see tofu-based products be served. In fact, I really enjoy the tofu hamburger my school makes. The combo today was carrots, ground chicken, hijiki (a kind of black seaweed), and leek. They were dipped in an egg-flour wash to be fried up and topped with ketchup. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Pickled Cabbage
Pickles are pickles. I briefly researched pickling methods in Japan and one of the favorite ways to do it via salt, but today’s menu says only sugar was used. My belief system is sketchy. (You can learn more about the common Japanese pickles here.) While some might appreciate the sour crunch, I couldn’t handle the squeak on my teeth. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Minestrone Soup
I’m an amateur soup eater. If I’m hungry, just about anything will taste good. Compared to most professional soups, the school’s soup is very plain. The flavor that greeted my tongue was lackluster and basic. Perhaps the bacon was its only redeeming factor. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Have you read the latest episode? Be sure to follow me or check back every day for a new lunch! See you next time and happy eating!

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 4

Before we get started, have you read my other entries on school lunch? Please be sure to catch up by reading Episodes One, Two, and Three.

And awa~y we go~!

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School lunch is back! And bo~y am I grateful. Just because a new school year starts doesn’t mean school lunches are immediately in effect. When they do kick into gear, the first lunch of the year is typically a kind of Good Luck fiesta. All of the best dishes come into play.

And, just between you and I, I don’t like being responsible for bringing my lunch to school. ¥281 (about $3.00) for a full meal is very convincing and, not to mention, cheap!

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Today’s lunch was:

  • Sekihan (赤飯, sweet red sticky rice with adzuki beans)
  • Teriyaki chicken
  • Isobe-ae (磯辺和え, pickled vegetables with roasted seaweed)
  • Sumashi jiru (すまし汁, a clear broth soup)
  • Strawberry stick cake

Sekihan
Red sticky rice is a fun upgrade from the every day white sticky rice. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s even healthy to eat. To bring out the sweetness, salt and black sesame seeds are added. Hefty, textured, complemented the soup nicely. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Teriyaki Chicken
I wish I could say that I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like teriyaki chicken, bu~t you should never count your chickens before they hatch. I watched a boy sitting next to me at the lunch table struggle to eat his. He’s not the first I’ve seen to shy away from The Original White Meat. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Isobe-ae
Either these vegetables were cooked in vinegar water or they weren’t pickled for very long. Any vegetables can be used, but today’s lunch included lotus root, cabbage, and carrots. I honestly felt today’s salad was more of a boiled vegetable medley more than anything. Ashley Rating: 5/10

Sumashi-jiru
For me personally, clear broth soups are a pain for me to achieve. I’m sure there’s a trick that only being raised in Japan can give you. The soup itself is normally very deep tasting and takes on the ingredients’ personalities. Today’s was very earthy as it used mushrooms and onions. Unfortunately, mine tasted… interesting. There was a lingering something that remained on my tongue. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Strawberry Stick Cake
The texture was good — nice and spongy. My only complaint is that it was too sweet. Because I don’t think it has appeared in school lunch up to this point, for now, I’m not a fan. Ashley Rating: 4/10

What kind of things did you look forward to when you ate school lunch? Did you even eat school lunch or did you bring your mom’s homemade goodness? In my case, it was my dad’s slap-it-together fun boxes. I’ll have to introduce you to the PBB&J sandwich.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next update!

If you’d like to stay more on top of what’s going on, please follow me on Instagram @ashleyinjapan and on Facebook Page Ashley in Japan: From Sin City

goodbye

May your hair be cured! (short ver.)

Dove

Damaged hair. Why are women (and men) subconsciously obsessed with it? And why are they obsessed with it looking good? The anthropologist in everyone would tell you, “It’s because good looks reflect the health of the individual. Health was coveted; therefore, valuable to have in a mate.”

Health meant attractive and attractiveness meant one would be able to pass those features down to future generations in the hopes of survival. But does survival mean so much now as it did back then?

Probably not.

And what does all of this have to do with me? Nothing, except to soothe my insecure vanity, I finally purchased Japanese shampoo and conditioner (plus hair mask!). Yes, they’re Dove products but I double-checked and they ARE made in Japan.

Now, I have researched time and again harmful products in cosmetics in the hopes of finding a more wholesome product without having to break out my chemistry set and concoct homemade goods. The biggest culprits were substances that irritated an already dried out scalp. If you’d like to know more information on what’s lurking in your shampoo and conditioner, I believe these websites will help you:

Dove has a well-known reputation and is considered to be top-of-the-line by the Everyday Consumer. Having had a bad experience with Pantene, I have been leery since about purchasing drugstore cosmetics. I was easily sucked into believing that salon brands were what my hair needed. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not true ANYMORE!

As for what Dove did for my hair, I’m already noticing a difference in the amount of dry flake coming off my head. Itching has greatly decreased. It’s even easier to brush whereas the “natural” products I was using from The Body Shop seemed to make the damage stand out more, thus creating a nest of tangles.

No one wants to be caught mid-stroke.

I also feel like I’m not using as much on my hair. Both the conditioner and shampoo goop on with ease and rinse off without feeling like I’m skidding on Windex-ed glass. Or chewing on cold, uncooked broccoli… whichever gives you that squeaky clean sensation.

While these websites recommend other products for us, you can rest assured that Dove is still dependable in Japan.