What have you been doing lately? (Part 2)

Aaa~nd we’re back! I’m wholly determined to get back into this blog. At least… I’m determined for as long as the fancy to write is instilled within me. I’m the kind of person who will drop things for years at a time before picking them back up again. A prime example: A quilt I started back around 2012. I still have it. In a Ziploc bag. Ready to be stitched together. I even brought it to Japan with me thinking I’d have all the free time in the world to finish it!

Mmhm.

…sure.

I focus when it interests me. How self-centered is that?

Whatever. #mood

Friends of a Feather

When I came to Japan, the very first piece of advice everyone around me told me was to make friends as soon as possible. “Find at least ONE PERSON who shares something in common with you. You’ll feel a lot more at ease here.” Sports groups, knitting circles, art get-togethers, park walkers… anything. Many of you will agree, yes?

BUT!

True to my character, I refused. I shunned the idea and thought, “Pfft, why do I need to go find people? They should come to me!” I mean, that’s what my family was always going on about whenever I’d have a falling out with love. Shouldn’t it work the same way with friends? God, what a pompous noodle butt I was… am?

Mr. Yearly the Groundskeeper

At one of my elementary schools, I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the groundskeeper. Let’s call him Mr. Yearly. An easy-going man, he was a comfort to me in my new environment when I was first put into that school. We became friendly and I was surprised when he asked me if I had any plans for the New Year.

“Well… no. Not exactly,” I told him. “Why?”

“Oh, I thought maybe you’d like to come over for dinner with me and my wife. By the way, what Japanese food do you like?”

“Um… I guess traditional foods? I really like nikku jyaga.” Truly, I was at a loss for ideas. I don’t do well when people come to me all of a sudden with questions that have too many possible answers.

Fast-forward a few months and I was back again at his house to enjoy some okonomiyaki. It’s a popular enough dish, even outside of Japan, but if you’re unfamiliar with it, all you need to know is that it’s to die for. Side note: I had the opportunity to try true Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki one year for Christmas. I might just have to go back!

His wife was graciously eager to help me out with some unit origami that I was attempting in order to settle my anxiety. But at that moment, I was about ready to scrap the whole project and throw it out the window. Who knew working with something so delicate could be so frustrating!

Oh. Speaking of delicate somethings.

Mrs. Yearly is an exceptionally skilled egg carver. Until now, I had only seen a single documentary about it. That’s where I learned that the dust from an eggshell is toxic. In truth, despite the risks that arts present to their makers, they are a look into the human experience. In the end, Mrs. Yearly was kind enough to remove some of her creations from their cabinet so I could take some photos.

Can you believe that she did all of these herself?!

The rest of that afternoon was spent watching a segment on TV about a teenage correctional program out of Oklahoma, of all things.

I’m starting to see more and more as I take ginger steps out of my uptight bubble that time with friends and loved ones is so incredibly important.

Blueberries for Days

Another outing I’ve had recently involved some down time at a local blueberry farm. Now, if this ain’t a first world problem, I don’t know what is. I was under the impression that blueberries came from bushes. Squat, dense, leafy things! Not these 6-foot-plus trees crowded into a hot greenhouse. No, certainly not.

My image of what a blueberry bu- no — tree — has effectively been shattered.

Anyway, I went with a coworker and her two children. It was funny because the youngest was so in love with them while the oldest didn’t want to have anything to do with them. She pulled a couple of sly ones on me — a few of the blueberries she gave me in an attempt to share were bitter!

We concluded our day with homemade blueberry ice cream (made by yours truly — I’ll share the recipe, along with some others, another time), a simple beef broth soup, and sandwiches. I’m embarrassed to say that the excitement of it all had me passed out on the floor, snoozing.

What have you been doing lately? (Part 1)

I must be honest with you, my sparse audience. I attempted to write an entry for you a couple of days ago, but for some unknown reason, it wasn’t saved. Out of frustration and disinterest, I gave up. I said, “ENOUGH!” As it’s now a brand new day and I’m feeling quite relaxed, I suppose I can give it another shot.

What have you been doing lately?

As I understand it, the world is a bit of a mess right now (when is it not?), and that’s keeping people inside; or at the very least, our activities have been severely limited or altered. Here in Hamamatsu (probably due to the 4-day weekend a week back), COVID cases have gone up significantly. As of yesterday, there are 129 total with 27 discharged/cleared of symptoms.

My reaction to dumb people.

It’s becoming more and more evident that, despite living out in the countryside, the virus will spread as long as people keep moving around, unaware they’re contaminated. And would you believe I STILL see people not wearing a mask?

ANYWAY.

As I look out the window now, I see the sky is brilliantly sunny and the air soupy and hot. This oppressively heavy heat signals the end of the rainy season here. And boy! was it a long one.

Are you the kind of person who enjoys the rain? While I appreciate the petrichor, being a captive in my own apartment for days on end is no fun. I’m a baby that way — I absolutely hate the process I have to go through in order to run my errands. But with the rain comes the beautiful hydrangea and that’s exactly what I had the chance to savor with the group from my part-time job.

Hydrangea Temple

Truly, I love the delicate variety you can experience with a flower only available when the angels weep. Naturally, it was hu-mug-ity and uncomfortable, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the atmosphere of our very own Hydrangea Temple. 

There are many “hydrangea temples” around Japan. This particular one is Mitaniyama Gokuraji Temple and it’s been in service since around 712 AD. We don’t have anything remotely this old back in the United States. So, anything that can give me a peek into an ancient past is exciting. It certainly juices up my imagination picturing what the people may have looked like as they ambled along similar paths I was walking. (You can read more about the region I live in here and here.)

Afterwards, we all partook of a late lunch of cold soba noodles. It was my first time eating at this kind of restaurant and, I must admit, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

Soba noodles, seasonal tempura, tempura dipping soup, toppings for the noodle soup, pickles, and a fried chicken cutlet bowl. Can you believe me if I told you that I had ice cream after all this, too?

There’s a lot more I can talk about, but for now, I hope you find this small bit interesting. See you next time!

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.

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.

I’ll be back, Japan.

All (good) things must come to an end.
Good things come to those who wait.

What do you think about when you’re reminded of these words? For me, they put what it feels like to be standing on the precipice of change into context. Lo’ how the mind can so easily waver.

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Flashback to 2016: Entering Japan. The weather was quite foggy.

Who knew emotions could be so damning? Who knew that deciding to adult at 28-years-old would result in mental turmoil? Much has happened to me mentally in the past month or two and unfortunately, I can’t attribute the frenzy to that one crazy aunt.

In order to clear my head of all of its thoughts, I sat down to making a web chart. It had been so long since creating one, I was stumped on how to start for the first few minutes. Technicalities aside, my pen eventually went flying across the paper. What started the mess in the first place? What triggered me to get so wrapped up in my own mind that it has convinced me to set aside my dream, if only for a little while?

Let’s take a gander at the gist of it all:

On the Japan side

  • more travel opportunities
  • more time off than in the US
  • job security as an ALT but no career advancement
  • get certified in as many things possible
  • BECOME FLUENT
  • not being close to family -> failure to complete self-imposed duty -> going through belongings after death = panic -> fear of going home for too long would result in job termination
  • fear of responsibility?
  • high demand for skilled labor (i.e. nurses, engineers, scientists)

On the US side

  • family is nearby
  • easier lifestyle
  • not being tied to family frees me -> the fear of being alone is stifling
  • can work towards becoming skilled

Even now, I’m thinking to myself that if wanting to be free to do as I please with no responsibility, why is it that I go looking for it? Certainly, I would be saving myself a lot of trouble by staying in Japan, right? Why drop the reputation I’ve started here and make a new one back home? Anxiety, probably. I’m a full-fledged worrywart, after all.

The optimistic side of me says that it’s never too late to buckle down and be serious for awhile before taking off again. Hell, there’s people out there who make such a thing a career. Most of the advice I’ve received is “You can always go back.”

The pessimistic side is saying that it would be impossible for me to do so permanently. There’s sex discrimination, age discrimination, pressure to retire at 60 because most older folks can’t be arsed enough to keep pushing for a bit of financial freedom, higher tuition rates (should I decide to go back to school), and a damned point system for qualifying as an HSP (Highly Skilled Professional).

Again, why think about going back home in the first place? The biggest reason is because my parents are aging and I feel it’s my responsibility to be there for them. I can’t explain this duty properly because it’s unclear when it got started.

Friends have accused me of living my life for the two of them, though, when that isn’t the complete truth. My original plan was to come to Japan, satisfy my curiosity and then leave. The only dependent factor was how long would it take for me to be satisfied? I always believed there was a Higher Purpose for me in this country.

Should I go home, the best-case scenario in coming back would be to land a decent job using the Japanese I’ve accumulated. A glance at Indeed.com showed me that speaking another language will be invaluable to businesses downtown, especially hotels.

Second, being an ALT and skating by on minimum wage is not the greatest way to live. For those curious, I make about $22,000/year. Because I was a dummy and didn’t listen to those same friends regarding Japanese study and saving, I’m paying for it now. I have nothing to show for the sweat, blood and tears I’ve poured into this whole endeavor other than gray hair and a sad bank account.we got a dollar

I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I just wish I hadn’t been so corrupted by the freedom having a decent job and an actual paycheck afforded me.

I’m scrambling.

A few pieces of advice to anyone wanting to do this ALT thing: save up as much money as you can in your first year because you’ll basically be tax-free. The next piece lies in the realm of qualifications. Have them before you come or work your ass off towards them while you’re here in that precious virgin year because Japan doesn’t want you long-term otherwise. Do you want to remain in education? Get a TESOL/TEFL. Not too interested in education? Go back to school and get your Master’s or PhD in the field of your choice – and make sure it has a job outlook and it’s not something fancy to decorate your wall or bookshelf with.marriage

You can relax if marriage is your goal, though. Most of the red tape disappears if it’s to a Japanese national. Also, too if you’re that golden HSP, you’ve got the digs coming to you on a silver platter.

Basically, after all is said and done, I want job security (because I feel guilty) with the chance to safeguard my parents (because I feel guilty) and the way I’m choosing to do that is to do a total 180 and wrestle my way into the hotel industry. Lord knows Vegas is full of them. That way, I can continue to use Japanese (because I’ll feel guilty) and get a nice benefits package. Not to mention I can pay off my pesky credit card in the blink of an eye (because I feel guilty). Let’s just hope that whatever company I double-down on has transfer capabilities. With Japan wanting to build casinos, I’ll be on the first plane to spearhead the project.

The local community college has certifications related to the hotel industry, too. When I hit the ground running, everyone better watch out. I’m determined to make it back to Japan in any capacity possible… even if that means I’ve got to once more don the ALT guise.

I’ll be back, Japan. Just sit tight.

School Lunch, Ep. 7

I’m a week behind in getting the school lunches to you, the adoring public. This post will be abbreviated and not detail my reactions and opinions. It’s not like you need them anyway, lol.

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April 15, 2019

  • たけのこご飯 (takenoko gohan, rice with bamboo root and peas)
  • さばじゃがメンチコロッケ (saba jyaga menchi korokke, ground and fried mackerel patty)
  • さやえんどうの和え物 (sayaendo no aemono, vegetables with bonito flakes)
  • 玉ねぎのみそ汁 (tamanegi no miso shiru, onion miso soup)

 

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April 16, 2019

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • 白身魚の甘辛だれ (shiromi zakana no amakara dare, white fish with sweet and sour sauce)
  • 大豆とひじきの炒め煮 (daizu to hijiki no itameni, white beans stir fried with seaweed)
  • 若竹汁 (waka take shiru, young bamboo miso soup)

 

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April 17, 2019

  • 食パン (shoku pan, sliced bread)
  • イチゴジャム (ichigo jamu, strawberry jelly)
  • タンドリーチキン (tandorii chikin, tandori chicken)
  • ポテトサラダ (poteto sarada, potato salad)
  • 野菜スープ (yasai suupu, vegetable soup)

 

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April 18, 2019

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • サーモンフライ (saamon furai, fried salmon)
  • たけのことあらめの煮物 (takenoko to arame no nimono, simmered bamboo with vegetables)
  • かきたま汁 (kakitama shiru, egg flour soup)

 

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April 19, 2019

  • うどん (udon, udon noodles)
  • 山菜汁 (sansan shiru, mountain vegetable soup)
  • 揚げ出し豆腐の野菜あんかけ (agedashi tofu no yasai ankake, fried tofu with vegetable sauce)
  • さくら蒸しパン (sakura mushi pan, steamed bread with sweet potatoes inside)

 

**If you haven’t read the previous episodes on school lunch, please be sure to check out Episode 1 and work your way forward!** See you next time!

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 8

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April 22, 2019

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • ポークカレー (pohku kare, pork curry)
  • 大豆のコロッケ (daizu no korokke, bean corquette)
  • 青じそサラダ (aojiso sarada, vegetable salad with Japanese basil dressing)

 

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April 23, 2019

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • きびなごのごまフライ(kibinago no goma furai, fried herring)
  • たけのことあらめの煮物 (takenoko to arameno nimono, simmered bamboo with vegetables)
  • かきたま汁 (kakitama shiru, egg flower soup)
  • あまなつ (amanatsu, Japanese grapefruit)

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April 24, 2019

  • 丸パン (maru pan, bread roll)
  • 鶏肉のトマト煮 (toribiku no tomatoni, simmered chicken with tomato sauce)
  • コールスローサラダ (kohrusuroh sarada, coleslaw salad)
  • かぼちゃのミルクスープ (kabocha no miruku suupu, creamy kabocha soup)

 

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April 25, 2019 (Elementary School Day, no menu information)

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • ししゃも揚げ (shishamo age, fried smelt)
  • 親子丼 (oyakodon, chicken and eggs simmered together with potatoes)
  • きゅうり (kyuuri, pickled cucumbers)
  • みそ汁 (miso shiru, miso soup)

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April 26, 2019

  • さけちらし (sakechirashi, rice mixed with salmon and edamame)
  • 鶏肉のお茶揚げ (toriniku no ocha age, green tea battered fried chicken)
  • すまし汁 (sumashi shiru, a traditional clear-brothed soup)
  • お茶プリン (ocha purin, green tea flavored pudding)
  • Fun fact: There was so much rice left over from the teachers’ table that I took it upon myself to make rice balls and stash them in the office fridge. I hope they got eaten.

**If you haven’t read the previous episodes on school lunch, please be sure to check out Episode 1 and work your way forward!** See you next time!

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

america
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