“Oh my God! I can’t see!” “Jesus! It’s in my eyes! It burns!” “There’s mud in places I never even knew existed before!”
These were only the few of the many complaints and screams of anguish I heard yesterday during the annual Nakatsu Mud Volleyball tournament. We all gathered at the volleyball court, a flooded rice paddy, at 8:45 dressed to the nines in our home made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles outfits. Donatello made an appearance. Michaelangelo was present as well. Leonardo and Donatello were ready to go. Splinter was there to guide the turtles as always, and April O’Neil and Casey Jones wore their Sunday best. Indeed, the TMNT were well represented. As coach I had opted to wear my pimping Nakatsu’s finest. We were indeed a motley crew.
As soon as we got out of the car in the morning we were blasted with a nice amount of “oh right, we’re foreigners and this is going to be a huge spectacle” realization. A nice Japanese man of 25 or so was changing into his costume right beside us, and as he noticed us he decided it wouldn’t be at all inappropriate to take off his underwear and shake his junk at us. We simply thanked him and moved on. Everyone was staring as we made our way to the court, and we instantly had a gaggle of photographers following our every move, capturing our every motion. Striking a pose? Sure we’ll take a picture. Talking to a friend? Front page of the local newspaper. Eating a rice ball? OH MY GOD GAIJIN EAT JAPANESE FOOD? SEND THIS TO TOKYO!! I had previously been in contact with a photographer who had photographed us last year as well, a man named Mr. Kojo. He wanted to know if we were participating again this year, and asked us if he and his friends could come photograph us again. I agreed, having forgotten how invasive the experience really is. If you ever want to feel like a hollywood super star, come to Japan and participate in a mud volleyball contest dressed up as a ninja turtle. It’s a rather unpleasant experience which really changes your perspective on how privelaged the lives of hollywood stars are. The upshot of this is that we agreed he would send us all the photos they took of us, meaning that we’d have lots of semi-professional shots of us playing in the mud!
Our first game began right at 9:30, so after posing for a whole bunch of photos with various other teams we made our way to the court and got down and dirty! We were all a bit rusty since we hadn’t practiced our volleyball technique in 23-25 years, depending on the person. It showed too as we lost in spectacular fashion 32-10. We then had an hour or so wait until our next game (we were scheduled for only two) so we decided to toss a football around in the mud. As manager I had elected myself as the one to stay dry in case anyone needed something, so I tossed the football into the crowd of foreigners who then dove around and wrestled in the mud. Soon the entire bank was lined with Japanese photographers (literally, every single one of them) and we were having a great old time. Later we lamented taking so much of the attention away from the actual volleyball event, but it wasn’t like we asked those photographers to take pictures of us.
Our second game was fast approaching so the team got into a little huddle and sang the TMNT theme song to get pumped up. We then went out and lost equally as spectacularly, 35-20. No matter how many coaching instructions I yelled (“No, HIT the ball! Get the ball OVER the net! Serve it to where there’s NO ONE there!”) we just weren’t having much success. We did manage to score some more points though, which was welcome. With all of our games now over and with no chance of us moving on to the playoffs, we started a little impromptu mud rugby game. It started off as just our team and another team another JET (Brie) had set up. We were having so much fun, though, that slowly but surely the numbers grew as more and more Japanese folk wanted to come play rugby with us. I too could not resist and, taking off my pimp jacket, joined the scrum. Apparently this delighted a few of my fellow teammates who had been waiting for a while to take me out (since I was the only one not getting muddy and had been telling them how to do volleyball better all day…) and soon I was coughing up delicious brown water like the best of ‘em! Literally no part of our bodies were spared from the mud. It truly is a filthy, uncomfortable, amazing experience.
After rinsing off our mud caked bodies in the moat-like area next to the rice field we began packing up and heading back. To my apartment. Dragging mud everywhere. Actually everyone did an amazing job of being super careful and courteous about coming into my place and I was super thankful for that! Last year it was quite a bit worse! Most of the folks headed to one of Nakatsu’s best onsen to clean up, but Kimberley and I stayed behind and did some cleaning. We then headed to Pushkar for the traditional “when people come to Nakatsu we have to eat this” curry.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. In two years I’ve done and experienced a lot of things. I’ve climbed Mt. Fuji. I’ve hiked for 12 hours to one of the world’s oldest cedar trees. I’ve been to Korea. I’ve eaten raw blowfish, and whale, and horse. I’ve spent three days biking 300km around beautiful Oita and Miyazaki prefecture. I’ve organized a 3 day 250km charity bike ride which raised over $20,000 for earthquake and tsunami relief. But of all the things I’ve done, the most fun I’ve had in Japan is when I play mud volleyball. It brings together amazing people and bonds you through your blood, sweat and slippery mud caked bodies. It combines two of the greatest things to do in the world: sports and just getting eff-all filthy (which I firmly believe brings us back to our animal days.)
After this year I just can’t wait to do it again. Which isn’t much of a wait since my Taiko team will be doing it July 17th!! Once I get the pictures from Kelsey’s camera and the CD from the gaggle of photographers I’ll be sure to share them on here!
Until next time!
This Sunday is Nakatsu’s annual Mud Volleyball tournament. You may remember it from last year when I posted about it as well.
This year I am organizing the team, which I have dubbed “Muddy and Fantastic.” I’m not participating, but I will be there watching and coaching my team to victory! Though we did not enter into the costume portion of the competion, we will be dressing up as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We’ve left it up to the individual members as to what to do for their costumes, so I’m quite excited to see what everyone will come up with. I will be representing with my snake skin suit, an annual tradition.
The weather has been odd lately. I recall last year on the day of the tournament it was scalding hot, but it hasn’t even reached 30 degrees this year, and it’s been less than sunny the past week! Hopefully the weather gets its act together and we can have a good, hot, sweaty, muddy and non-bloody Sunday.
Pictures to follow after the tournament!
But unlike Mrs. Hillary Clinton, mine has the correct phrase printed on the front! (Who gets the reference? Huh? huh? Remember that?)
I now have my own personal computer at my biggest school!! Sure, it’s the computer all my teachers just had replaced by something better, but I’m not complaining! I can now use the internet (block-free, mind you!) plan my lessons and, more importantly to all of you, write blog posts!
This should excite you for a few reasons. Let me list them.
1) A life without Dash blogging is seriously lacking in parenthetical side bars. Thus, empty and devoid of meaning.
2) It prevents me from forgetting how to write in English, which is a surprisingly big problem lately. This has repercussions for the future when we will eventually meet again. We’d like to be able to communicate flawlessly, I can feel this. My blogging will make this a possibility.
3) Who else is going to blog about the crazy things Japan has going on? You know, besides all the rest of the foreign population in Japan.
There are many more reasons for why this is exciting, but I didn’t want to bore you with the all inclusive list…
So yeah! Dash is back, at least on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And sometimes other days too, if I’m feeling ambitious.
And there was much rejoicing.
It’s interesting how some things just pop up when you’ve been thinking about them. For a few months now I’ve been quite interested in this pilgrimage called the “henro” (遍路) which spans 88 temples and over 1200km in the Shikoku area of Japan. I first heard about this pilgrimage as early as last year during one of my lunch time conversations with my former principal, who was as wise as he was detail oriented. (Extremely.) I don’t remember why the conversation turned to this particular subject, but we spent the remainder of lunch talking about the henro and what it was all about. He lectured me on Kubo Daishi, formerly named Kukai, the story behind why the pilgrimage got started, and many many other facts about the pilgrimage. Here’s the story of the pilgrimage, courtesy of wikipedia, which sums it up far more succinct than I ever could:
A mendicant (beggar) visited the house of Emon Saburō, richest man in Shikoku, seeking alms. Emon refused, broke the pilgrim’s begging bowl, and chased him away. After his eight sons fell ill and died, Emon realized that Kūkai was the affronted pilgrim and set out to seek his forgiveness. Having travelled round the island twenty times clockwise in vain, he undertook the route in reverse. Finally he collapsed exhausted and on his deathbed Kūkai appeared to grant absolution. Emon requested that he be reborn into a wealthy family in Matsuyama so that he might restore a neglected temple. Dying, he clasped a stone. Shortly afterwards a baby was born with his hand grasped tightly around a stone inscribed ‘Emon Saburō is reborn’. When the baby grew up, he used his wealth to restore the Ishite-ji (石手寺?) or ‘stone-hand temple’, in which there is an inscription of 1567 recounting the tale.”
Just as a point of reference, the pilgrimage I mentioned earlier is 1200km long. Emon Saburo traveled this 20 times, a grand total of 24,000km. Impressive! Of course this is myth, not fact, in case you were in doubt. Since that fascinating talk I’ve always kind of kept the henro in the back of my mind and continued along my merry way.
Then a few months ago I read a book which made mention of the henro, which re-ignited that little spark. Finally, during my bike trip down the Shimanami Kaido (see blog post below) I biked right along part of the pilgrimage and saw many “o-henro san” as they are called, people who are walking the pilgrimage. They’re easily noticed by their white shirts, pointy hats and walking sticks. Walking the henro can take from 30-60 days and as with much in Japan is mostly done by the elderly, who have lots of time on their hands! Traditionally the pilgrimage was of course done by foot, but with the advent of technology there are people doing it through various modes of transportation. Bicycle, taxi, bus…in true Japanese fashion it’s not so much the outcome that’s the issue, just how you’re dressed while you do it. Japan loves its uniforms, so if you go golfing you wear golfing clothes. If you go play baseball you put on your baseball pants and jersey, your cleats and special baseball socks. If you go do the henro (which regardless of how it sounds is not a cool new dance,) regardless of whether you walk, peddle, paddle or cruise, you wear the white shirt, the pointy hat and the walking stick. It’s really the sense of belonging to a group that’s the point here, I think.
Anyway, I’m getting side tracked. While biking down the Shikoku coast I saw lots of henro-san’s walking along, and I suddenly felt that “fire in my belly,” just like Sarah Palin. Except I don’t want to run for President, or ruin America. I want to do that pilgrimage, one way or another. I don’t think I could really respect myself if I took a taxi or bus, which leaves the bicycle or my feet. Either one is a daunting challenge and there’s really only one time I can complete it, which would be at the end of my contract. This is one of those things that I’d really like to accomplish, mainly because it’s not one of those “oh, everyone does that when going to Japan” things like going in a hot spring, or even “climbing Mt. Fuji.” Whether I will have the chance to actually do so is another question all together! Only time will tell…
Warning: This is a long blog post. Also, because my computer is currently out of service it lacks photos. Hopefully I can correct that soon!
The Shimanami Kaido is a 70km route beginning in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture and leading you through a series of islands into Ehime Prefecture into the town of Imabari. Ehime Prefecture is located in Shikoku, one of the four main islands of Japan (Honshu, Kyushu, Hokkaido and Shikoku.)
One of the folks who participated in our Oita JET Charity Cycling trip in March, Evan, set up this ride and invited a bunch of us along. We ended up being a group of six from Oita. There was Patrick, whom I’d never properly met but known about since the first day I arrived in Oita, (he gave a flute performance at our orientation) Nichole, who arrived last year, Kimberley, who participated in the bike trip as well and a couple, Daniel and Katie from Australia whom I had not met before. Evan’s plan was to bike from Onomichi to Imabari on Saturday, then bike back the same way on Sunday. Most of the participants were from Okayama, quite close to Hiroshima, which is why it made sense for them to bike back the same way. We Oita folk planned to bike down the first day and then make our way further south to the southern part of Ehime where we could catch a two hour ferry back to Beppu!
I met up with the rest of the Oita folk on the train in Nakatsu on Friday after work. We had three mostly assembled bikes wrapped up in bike bags (you must wrap up your bike to be able to ride the train with it here in Japan) and it was quite a sight. We took up most of the space in between the cars. Since I came in later (the rest had started off from Oita city which is farther up the line) I had to rest my bike against the wall blocking the door and baby-sit it. Of course I wouldn’t be let off easy for this transgression (God is swift here in Japan…) so as it came time for all of us to detrain, the first person to come through the compartment door ready to get off was a blind man, who then headed straight for the door (he thought) but in reality my bike. Some quick damage control and hasty Japanese explanation later I salvaged the situation and all was saved, but it was a tense moment.
We arrived at our evening destination (a ryokan, Japanese inn, close to Onomichi station) without much more incident, although since I did not buy my tickets before hand I ended up missing my train and having to take another one seven minutes later. Oddly enough I actually beat the other guys to Onomichi, though only by two minutes or so. We spent the evening getting better acquainted, then headed to bed early to get some decent rest before beginning our first day’s journey.
Waking up at 8 and out of the ryokan by 9am we had some time to get breakfast before the rest of the riders came at 9:40. As we wandered around figuring out a good place to get some food an old Japanese man wandered up to us and, without pausing, as if he had been planning this for many days, pointed at us and said: “Present. Come! Present. 3rd floor. Present.” In any other country this might trigger a few varied responses. 1) Call the police. 2) Swift fist to the face. 3) Run away. But, this being Japan and (let’s face it) we were six large foreigners and he was one old Japanese man, we followed him up to the 3rd floor to receive our present. Which turned out to be breakfast at a café for all of us! He sat us down at two tables, pointed at the menus and said “Present!” We politely thanked him numerous times, glancing at each other on occasion to make sure everyone recognized how odd this really was. Our aged beneficiary then promptly opened up a newspaper and ignored us. Even attempts to begin a conversation were met with one or two word answers and a return to blistering silence. So we ate our present in peace. Halfway through the meal our new friend got up, his coffee barely touched, shook our hands, took away the bill, paid and left. It was indeed a mysterious morning.
Towards the end of our present we received word that Evan and his fellow riders from Okayama had arrived, so we went to meet them at the bike rental place. From there we hopped a ten minute ferry to the start of the ride and we were off! The morning was a bit dreary and it was still drizzling a bit, but the ride was beautiful! It was extremely reminiscent of the Oita bike ride from last year when we rode along the Eastern coast of Miyazaki and Oita prefectures. We had turquoise water and small little islands on one side, mountains on the other, one of those views so special to Japan.
The draw of this ride, besides riding right along the sea-side, was that it crossed over five islands into Shikoku. These islands are all connected by long suspension bridges. They did not disappoint. I’m not sure why bridges are always so nice to see and photograph, but they are always so striking! The first bridge had a bicycle specific lower half, much like the George Washington bridge in NYC has a top floor for cars and a bottom floor for pedestrians. At yet another bridge the long supports holding up the bridge were built in such a way (I am unsure whether it was by design or per chance) that it produced an echo while underneath it. The sound bounced off the supports above and came back down quite loudly!
We were making extremely good progress throughout the day, keeping a decently speedy 20km/h average. We stopped at a local ice cream shop for some delicious Italian ice cream and some citrus, which the region is famous for. (Side-bar: I don’t know this for a fact, but just from personal observation I think Japan has the most varied kinds of citrus in the world. Every single region in Japan has its own special citrus fruit which is similar yet still slightly different. For example, Oita prefecture is well known for a citrus fruit called the “Kabosu,” a fruit with a green outside just like a lime, but more similar in taste to a lemon. The region we were biking in was famous for its “Haruka” citrus fruit, a smallish orange (it was sweet in taste) which looked exactly like a lemon. Did I ever mention that Japan also has citrus fruits the size of your face?!) Indeed, the day was progressing so nicely we were almost beginning to think the whole day would go off without a hitch, and we’d actually win the Shimanami Kaido (we were the lead group and I don’t know about you, but arriving first to things, even if they aren’t races is extremely satisfying.)
Alas, ‘twas not to be. Nichole’s bike, a hot little roady number, sprung a flat about three quarters of the way through the race. Having learned from my experience on the Oita bike trip I had my tools with me but did not bring a pump, especially one for road bikes, which tires are slightly different. Luckily the flat happened right in front of a local gas station we pulled in there. We would soon come to understand that the people living along the Shimanami Kaido are by far the nicest people in Japan. We took off the tire, removed the tube and found our puncture culprit, a half inch bent staple which had somehow managed to actually get inside the tire. I whipped out my tools and the puncture was soon fixed, thanks to the help of the two eager gas attendants. They even managed to pump air into Nichole’s newly fixed tire by brute forcing air in with their compressor, a tool which was clearly made not to put air into bicycle tires. By this time we had lost precious time and our front position, however. On top of that, it began to drizzle again. After departing the gas station with many thanks and bows and then flagging down a group of Japanese riders who had real road bike pumps which we used to further inflate Nichole’s tires we were on our way again!
Arriving at the last bridge (a four kilometer beast stretching three separate islands) the drizzle turned into a rain, which then turned into pellets. I’ve been in quite a lot of rain in my life time, but it’s very rare that rain (remember, it’s a liquid) comes down so hard that it actually hurts. We were being pelted by hail-like rain drops as we climbed the slope up to the bridge and decided to take cover in an overhang with a few other Japanese riders we had caught up with. As we dripped our way under the overhang there was a flash up above followed instantaneously by the loudest crack of thunder I have ever heard (though Nichole, being from Florida counted it her second loudest.) The lightning must have struck one of the lightning rods on the bridge, and it was powerful. After that first strike the rain slowed down (still fairly strong) so we decided to push on over the bridge. Our finish was just across the bridge and we were ready to finish up. Meanwhile my shoes had become buckets of water, my pants were about 20 lbs heavier and my breaks were squeaky due to the rain. Yet we pushed on and finally made it to the finish at about 5:30. We had to wait for about an hour for all the other bikers to show up before we could make our way to the hotel, which was another 7km from where we stopped. Luckily the rain had stopped and there were no further problems. Dinner was had, and after a long and interesting discussion ranging from school to linguistics to neuro-linguistics to Chomsky to Einstein to particle physics and ending ( as all discussions do) with American politics, we went to bed.
We lost most of the group the next morning. Evan and his group were either busing or biking back up the way they came, as were Daniel and Katie. Kimberley was off the meet a friend who lived in Shikoku and would meet us at the ferry port. So it was Patrick, Nichole and I who set off at 8:45am to head down to the ferry. Our original idea had been to take the train to Matsuyama, a large city in Ehime prefecture about 40km down the road and then bike the remaining 70-80km down, but instead we decided to test ourselves and just begin biking from Imabari where we stayed. The road ran parallel to the train tracks, which allowed us to hop a train at any time if we wanted to stop or if we were running low on time (we had to catch the 5pm ferry back to Beppu to make sure we arrived home at a decent hour for school the next day.) It was quite sunny in the morning and we were feeling good about our chances, albeit quite tired from the day before. We soon realized, however, that this day would not be entirely favorable.
It started off well enough! After we dropped off Kimberley at Imabari Station to go meet her friend we started off and were soon stopped at a red light. An old man (no, he wasn’t the same one from Onomichi) then yelled out at us from a perpendicular street. “Hey!” he said, reaching into his bag. In any other country this would result in a few varied responses. 1) Call the police. 2) Swift fist to the groin. 3) Run away. But this is Japan, so we waited to see what he’d pull out of his bag. “Ganbatte! (Good luck!)” he told us as he handed us two chocolate bars. Thoroughly amused we pocketed the chocolate bars, thanked the man and went on our way. Present number 2, and by now the umpteenth time we were re-assured that people along the Shimanami Kaido are the nicest people in the world.
Unfortunately most of our fortunes ended there. The wind was extremely strong on Sunday, and though we did our best (and still maintained a decent 20km/h average) we knew quite quickly we were not going to be able to ride the whole 120km (which always was a long shot) and in fact were going to have trouble even making it to Matsuyama, 50km away. As we biked along the coast we saw many people walking, all wearing the same large hat and with walking sticks. I soon realized who they were. They were pilgrims walking the “Henro,” a pilgrimage of 1200km around Shikoku passing 88 temples in a big circle. I’ll go further into depth about this in a later post.
20km in it was my turn to get a flat. Having just passed a fire station on the way down a hill we walked back up there and asked if they had a bike pump. I had brought a spare tube so all that was required was to change the tube and pump it up, but I still didn’t have a pump. “We have a compressor…” they said, but it didn’t fit. “Not to worry!” they continued. “Hey” they yelled into the fire station house, beaconing forth another fire fighter. “Go down the road and grab a bike pump for these foreigners!” Yet again we thanked them profusely and began the process of taking off my back wheel, a feat which took one Dash and two firefighters to complete. My tools are cheap and crappy and the bolts holding my back wheel on were tight and being obstructed by my kick-stand. As we were taking the wheel off the 3rd firefighter returned with not one, but two bike pumps! “I’m not sure which one was OK, so I brought them both.” he said. Again, with much help from these incredible firefighters (who, by the way, confessed to us that this was their first time meeting and talking to any sort of foreigners) we changed my tire, reset it and were ready to get on our way. We tried to give them some chocolate for their troubles, but they politely refused. I guess present giving only goes one way in this country…
After some photos (they wanted photos of us, we wanted photos of them) we got back on the road, but at this point time was beginning to go against us, as were our muscles and the continuously strong headwind. We caught a train about 25km in and trained to Matsuyama where we had lunch (Subway!!) Checking the clock after lunch we discussed continuing on, but at 1:30pm and without regular running trains (about one every hour) we didn’t feel comfortable continuing and chancing missing the 5pm ferry. So we headed back to the station to catch a train down to the ferry port where we could walk or bike around a bit. And who did we meet at Matsuyama station but Kimberley! Having been unable to meet her friend she too was making her way to the ferry port. Reunited again! We packed our bikes back up into our bags and went to buy some cookies before the train. Since coming to Matsuyama we had yet to receive a present, something I was quite upset about. We had received presents in Onomichi and Imabari, but what, Matsuyama was just too good to give us presents?! I found this to be unacceptable. But just as I was beginning to sour on all of Japan and its people thanks to the unbelievable rudeness of Matsuyama city we received a free cookie at the cookie shop! (I don’t think it’s important to explain further that it wasn’t just us who got free cookies, but everyone because it was the shop’s birthday.) Matsuyama, and Japan by proxy was spared my ever-lasting scorn.
So back on the train we went for the 45 minute ride to the ferry port! We hung out a bit near the port and then when 5pm came we got on the ferry and headed back to Oita.
Though the trip only really lasted two and a half days, I felt as if I had been biking for weeks and weeks, carrying all of my belongings on my back like some crazy cross country bicyclist. I loved every minute of the experience and after not being able to bike the Oita trip this year it was wonderful to get on the saddle and just go. The Shimanami Kaido is one of the nicest rides in Japan and I’m extremely glad I was able to experience it while in Japan. I had a great time, met some wonderful new people and am thoroughly exhausted the day after, exactly how a good weekend should make you feel.
Living alone changes you. It changes you for the better, and for the worse as well. You just have to hope that the “for the better” parts outweigh the “for the worse” parts. I am not sure which category the following glimpse falls into. Perhaps I’ll let you all decide.
Today I finally ran out of hand soap. I’ve had the same bottle of hand soap for oh, four months now, because I live alone and though I wash my hands like a regular person, I just don’t use all that much of it. Now to some (or all) of you this may be a pretty mundane occurrence. “You just buy new hand soap and get on with it!” I hear you mumble. And for you sane, non alone living folks that’s probably the most predictable thought. However, when I finally squeezed the last drop of hand soap out of my pump thingy attached to the hand soap bottle, I did a little dance. And not a little dance in my head. I did it for realsies. Because who’s watching besides the vanity (that judgemental bastard…good thing it doesn’t speak, it just stares at you with its lightbulb eyes.)
Those of you who know me well (or even a little bit, so basically everyone) knows that I have a limited number of dance moves. Three to be exact, though recently I’ve been working on my Michael Jackson moonwalk and the leg kick. Again, in front of the vanity. So I did my little white boy spasm dance move. I did a little robot. I even grabbed my crotch and squeeled while pointing to the stars. Apparently I get a lot of my inspiration from Michael Jackson…but I digress. The important thing in this paragraph is that I did a little dance because my hand soap was finished. And why?! Because I bought a new hand soap! The kind that turns from a liquid into a foam straight out of the pump!!!
I love me some scientific mysteries, so excuse me if I get just a little giddy every time I shake the new hand soap bottle to make sure it’s liquid-y inside, then squeeze the pump and get foam in my hand! And that’s basically my independent life in a nutshell. I buy my own stuff now, and that includes cleaning products, soap, etc., and that’s exciting! It might not be to you, but it is to me. It might not be looking forward to something huge like a new bed or a piano, but it’s those tiny little things that can really lift your spirits after you’ve had a bad day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a lonely shut in or anything. I’m not a hermit and have a perfectly fine social life. But coming home to your own apartment and feeling giddy about changing to an awesome new foamy hand soap is something I’ve only come to appreciate since I began living on my own.
The way I see it, if you can’t get excited about the little things, life gets a whole lot harder over all.
This is the first installment of my newest segment: “How to insult an entire nation.”
As you may know, there are basically two types of cultures out there. There are bread cultures and there are rice cultures. Japan just so happens to be of the rice culture. They eat rice. They beat rice. They stretch it, they ferment it, they drink it. Heck, they’d smoke it if they could figure out a way. And as much as I enjoy rice, I’ll always be a bread guy myself. There’s a simple reason why I’m always happiest on Mondays and Wednesdays. Those are the days where I get bread for lunch instead of rice. Now bread is certainly sold in Japan. Some of the bread is quite tasty even, but you have to look hard to find it. Solution? Make your own! So I finally went out and got two 2kg bags of bread flour and it’s off to the races!
I made bagels last year, and those came out already, but I’m gonna try and put out a concerted effort to bake some bread. I’ve always loved the idea of rising the bread at night, then waking up in the morning, popping it in the oven and having fresh bread in the morning before work! I made my first one at night, but hey! Gotta start somewhere! I don’t know what this bread is called necessarily, but it’s the simplest of the simple. About 2 cups of flour, 1 1/4 cups of water with 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (the equivalent of one yeast packet in the states) and a teaspoon of salt. The four basic building blocks of bread.
The taste is a little yeasty and I’m sure I’ll work on that in the future, but the crust is crusty (I brushed some egg on top like you would with pastry) and added some sesame seeds!