Home > Japan, School > Odds and Ends again

Odds and Ends again


I have a few odds and ends to write about today, just some observations and random occurrences. I’m deciding whether to do them in bullet form for easy reading. My paragraphs tend to run long.

  • I have begun to notice a trend in Japanese cooking. They have a very DIY attitude towards cooking.

Yakiniku: Literally: “Grilled Meat.” You order the meat you want, it comes out raw on a plate, and you transfer it from the plate to your own personal hot coal fire pit installed in your table.

Okonomiyaki: Literally: “Grilled to your taste.” This is the Japanese version of a pancake. It mixes cabbage, mayonnaise, a few other ingredients, and a type of meat of your choosing. It arrives raw, and you mix it together, and slop it on the flat grill which is, once again, installed in your table. You cook it, you flip it, you top it with more mayonnaise (the Japanese love mayonnaise!) and you eat it.

Shabu-Shabu: Some of you may be familiar with this form of food, as it has gained some popularity in recent years in the U.S. Basically, you get a hot boiling pot of water or broth. You order what you want, vegetables, meat, mushrooms, whatever. It comes raw, and you drop it into your pot o’ water/broth. You let it cook for a while, and as the water/broth takes in the flavors of whatever you’re cooking in it, the meal gets more and more delicious as the day goes on. Traditionally, the food is then dipped in raw egg and consumed. Not to worry though, the eggs here in Japan are of extremely good quality, and don’t contain any salmonella or whatever disease is contained in consuming raw egg.

Kaitenzushi: Literally: Revolving sushi. This is the famous conveyor belt sushi which has become so popular everywhere in the world. While you don’t technically make the suchi yourself, instead of ordering off a menu, you just grab what looks good off the belt as it comes along. In recent years, sushi has had to share its place on the conveyor belt with other delectable items such as french fries, ice cream, and pudding.

I’m sure there are more than just these three, but these are the most popular. I have also heard legend of restaurants where you fish your own udon out of a stream of hot water running by your table. Now THAT sounds awesome.

  • Natalie and I joined a gym in town. They have various lessons at night, and they have a pool, track, weight room, cardio room, and a RACKETBALL COURT!!! Now there really is no reason for Stu and Becca not to come and visit me. There are already two people who have expressed interest in playing, so that should keep me nice and busy. Along with the hour or so I inevitably bike during the day, I should be pretty fit by the time I get back to the U.S.
  • Perhaps it’s because I am working at elementary schools, but it seems to me the details of Japanese strictness and conservative-ism in the workplace have been greatly exaggerated. As I type this, I am staring (though not creepily…) at a 22 year old administrative worker at my school who has most of her ears pierced, and is wearing a strange sweater type shirt, but with short sleeves, and some half capris. Maybe they are shorts, but they’re tight like pants. Japanese fashion is incredibly strange to me, even now. I have also been able to keep my beard, and have been told to wear T-shirts to work, because it’s hot. Sure, there are still places which require you to dress very conservatively, but isn’t that the same in America?
  • I may come back to America addicted to coffee. I’m sure there are whoops of joy being heard all around the world at that one. Being me, I refuse to refuse anything people give me when it comes to food and drink. So when they offer me coffee, I take it. I never hated the taste, so it’s not such a big deal. Also, I am finally beginning to differentiate between the coffee I like and the coffee I don’t like. For example, the coffee I am drinking right now, I don’t like. It’s very bitter.
  • Running into other foreigners is an incredibly weird experience in Japan. I have now met every established foreigner in the city (there are about 10 in total), and you can see them from miles away because we really do stick out like a sore thumb. It’s not that we’re being rude or loud or anything like that, you just know! And when you see a foreigner you don’t know, it’s almost as if you’re already friends. We saw a foreigner in a shop getting her hair done in a yukata the other day as we were walking to the lantern festival in town. Our entire group literally stopped and started for a second, trying to figure out if we knew this gaijin or not. Then we debated amongst ourselves whether we should go in and introduce ourselves. Meanwhile we are getting stares from everyone around us because here’s this group of gaijin, around six in total, standing in the middle of the sidewalk staring into a shop. We had no idea whether she spoke English, whether she lived here or was just visiting, etc. But seeing a foreigner you don’t know in Japan is such a rare experience, it just throws everything into whack. Yet another example occurred later at the festival. There was a RIDICULOUSLY tall foreigner walking around the festival. He must have been 6’7” 6’8” easy. Perhaps in America that is not so extreme, but believe me, I am 6’2” and I’m like a giant here. We saw each other walking around, and ended up talking, just because he was a foreigner and we were too. He was french, and he and his Japanese wife live in Kyoto, they were just visiting family in Nakatsu. In any other circumstance we would have just walked on, but in this case a conversation is almost obligatory, at least because you are both interested in why there are other foreigners in town.
  • The A4 paper size, in centimeters, is: 21 cm / 29.7 cm. What a bizarre size! I wonder if it works out better in inches? Or millimeters? How did they come up with this random size?
  • I think my introductory lesson is going to kick ass! I’m spending so much time working on it because there is nothing else to do, it may just be the most well prepared lesson I will ever teach. I’m going to have pictures, and everything!
  • I am never ever letting anyone else buy lunch for me. It’s like they think I have the stomach of a cow or something. (Meaning that I have seven stomachs, and regurgitate often, of course. But seriously, cows eat a lot.) Today I was going to bike down to the convenience story to get a bento. As I’m leaving, the Vice Principal (henceforth known as Kyoto-sensei, meaning Mr. Vice Principal basically, but it’s quicker to type) says: “What are you doing for lunch?” So I say: “I was planning on biking to the convenience store to get something.” “Nah! I’ll get it, I’m getting food anyway, and besides, I have a car!” “OK…thanks!” (There was more protesting involved on my part, but I find that it gets a bit tired to type all the time, so let’s just pretend that whenever I write that I accepted something willfully, I actually groveled on the floor for a good 20 minutes before begrudgingly accepting whatever gift Japanese people are bestowing on me today. He comes back 20 minutes later with like six plastic bags full of food. He begins unpacking all the stuff, and then hands me my share. It is literally a TOWER of food. There’s rice, there’s salad, there’s karaage (fried chicken), which comes aptly named in a チキンバスケット“chicken basket”, there’s 天ぷら(tempura)… He says we’re going to share the fried chicken but, being Japanese, they all take one piece and leave like 15 for me. It being bad manners to refuse, I am stuck eating this massive meal, which takes me well over 40 minutes to eat. I still haven’t finished all of my rice and one piece of chicken. I’ll either save it for later, or find a place to dump the evidence without them noticing. It shouldn’t be too difficult, there is only one other person here at the office other than the Principal, (校長先生(kouchou-sensei), meaning Mr. or in this case Mrs. Principal) and 教頭先生(Kyoto-sensei.)
  • My tummy hurts.
Categories: Japan, School Tags: , ,
  1. Stu
    August 17, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Racquetball!! I am infinitely jealous.

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