Voices from Tokyo (East) and Shiga (West)

Posted March 17th, 2011 in Japan | No Comments »

“Some medical supplies doesn’t arrive due to the earthquake.”

“Try to go grocery shopping after work, but all the foods were sold-out at the supermarkets.  No rice, bread, noodle.  I decided to go to parents’ house to get some food, but they couldn’t buy much food either.”

“Only 2 rolls of toilet paper left…  Are we going to use newspapers after finishing these 2 rolls?!!”

“Controlled Black Out to save energy.  Including traffic lights.  People are recommended to take public transport or bicycle.”

“Big demand on blood donation”

“Manufactures and factories shut down due to the black out.  It affects other businesses and things are very quiet…  I work at a factory for Seven Eleven’s bento boxes and onigiri, but we don’t get much ingredients from suppliers now.”

“Batteries are all gone in Shiga too.  Some people think about themselves only!”

People in Japan seem to be in panic and rushing to the supermarkets to buy as many things as they can for themselves… even in the areas which aren’t affected by the earthquake.  Why?  Some people say that they can’t believe what government and the leader of Fukushima nuclear plant say on tv.  “it is safe…” “nothing to worry about…”  Some people are frustrated by others who buy food more than they need.  Please think about others, it’s not only you who are anxious and scared…


Biggest Damage Ever, Possibly

Posted March 14th, 2011 in Japan | 5 Comments »

As I mentioned before, this is the biggest earthquake happened in Japan and I can’t imagine the damage on eastern coast of Japan.  I saw video of huge tsunami swallowing houses, cars, and people who were running away from the wave.  Thinking about people who lost their family in this disaster, I just can’t think it to be the other people’s affairs.

The earthquake is still happening right now over there.  Many people have lost their houses .. and everything.  I could finally contact my friend who lives in Hokkaido – she said that all the mail delivery service has been stopped, and all the transportation, including freeway, ferry and train, are disconnected between Hokkaido island and Honshu (main) island.  People are afraid that they may run out of provisions.  My friends in Tokyo also told me that on the day earthquake hit Tokyo, they couldn’t go back home until midnight.

Two days ago, my mum told me that she had lost contact with her friend who went back to Fukushima to see his family one day before the earthquake.  As you know, Fukushima has the nuclear plant and is one of the most affected area.  My mum thought he was involved in this disaster, but he contacted her yesterday saying that he is ok as well as his family.

I hear that Japanese government had asked residents in Tohoku area (東北地方)to evacuate from the house, but most of the people who couldn’t make it or were still in their houses were elderlies.  Watching the news of rescuing elderlies from the crushed houses is devastating…

Yes, Japan is one of the richest and highly industrialised country, but this earthquake has caused a huge financial cost to the Japanese government, businesses and individuals.  And, Japan had sent earthquake experts to New Zealand to help victims over there few weeks ago.  I hope those experts were already in Japan or on the way back there.

If someone would like to make a donation, here are some websites :

The World Vision Japan Disaster Appeal

Save the Children Australia Japan Earthquake Appeal

Redcross Australia

(photos from CNN News & GlobalGiving)


The Biggest Earthquake in Japan

Posted March 11th, 2011 in Japan | 2 Comments »

Today, just 2 hours ago, huge earthquakes hit northern Japan island.  The magnitude is 8.8 – which is much bigger than Kobe Hanshin Earthquake in 1995.

As soon as I heard the news from D, I contacted my families to check if they are ok.  They all live in Shiga (some of my relatives live in the prefectures near Nagano), so they said the damage is not that big.  Luckily there is no ocean around Shiga (just a big lake) so no tsunami will attack there.  My grandma said it was shaking for quite long time though.

I have friends who live in Hokkaido and eastern side of Japan.  I hope they and their families are ok too…

There are so many natural disasters happened around the world lately…  Brisbane’s flood and cyclone, earthquake in New Zealand, and now Japan is the victim.  What’s going on?   Tsunami, fire, flood and landslide…  There’ll be so many side effects.  I hope the damage of this earthquake to be as minimum as possible.


Yukidaruma

Posted February 4th, 2011 in Japan | No Comments »

Here is a chilling photo of yukidaruma – snow man – from Hokkaido, Japan.  This tiny yukidaruma was showing its face from a snow house (kamakura) in front of a Spanish restaurant – my friend said.  As you can see, snow man in Japan has two body parts, not three.  In Australia, America, and some other countries, snow man has three body parts and I always thought it was strange.  Two-ball body looks much cuter than three–ball, don’t you think?

QLD is having another trouble again by Yasi cyclone this time.  Right after the terrible flood, I hope things will go better for QLD residents soon.  Japan seems to be having a big snow at the moment, and my friend who lives in Fukui (above Shiga) said that snow had piled up 2M!  Yeah, February is the coldest month in Japan, and I remember lots of snow storm around this time of the year.

Last night dinner at Hans Palace in East Perth (website) took 4 hours… and some of the food was still in my stomach when I woke up this morning!  We (my in-laws : 13 people) all had Chinese New Year banquet, which included New Year salad, Shark Fin and Crab Meat Soup, Singapore Style Chili Lobster with buns, Braised Pork, Roasted Chicken, Sweet & Sour Fish, Stir-fried Fish, Fried Rice, Deep-fried Crab Rolls, Sea Cucumber with Oyster Sauce, Mango Pudding and Fruits Platter.

I was so hungry … well. we all were, and when the entree was brought to the table everyone was just enjoying the food without talking.  After the Chili Lobster, the Dragon Dance began….  Everyone left their tables and enjoyed watching/feeding the dragons.  I was still hungry, but the wait staff didn’t bring up the main meal until the dance finished.  I understand that no one would eat the main meal while the dance was on, and the food would go cold if they served during the dance.  But, it was almost 8:30 PM when the dance finished.  It’d been 2.5 hours since we arrived the restaurant!  I think they should have served the main before the dance began.  It looked like all other tables were the same –  they didn’t get main meal until the dance finished.  By the time the dance finished, we started to feel full (even though we didn’t eat much food) and couldn’t finish all the main meal and desserts.  Some people were complaining about it and saying that restaurant is doing it on purpose, but we all took the leftover back home so I guess it’s ok…

By the way, today was my last day at work, and I’m going on 1 year parental leave from Monday.  It didn’t feel like it was my last day – but I enjoyed the platters of sushi and karaage that they bought from Sundays Everyday (in Myaree).  The food was delicious – I enjoyed the karaage very much.  I didn’t know my body was wanting meat so much!

From next week I don’t need to wake up to go to work anymore, but I have so many things on my to-do list.  I’m still asking my mum to fly here (she is afraid of flying) sometime around August this year.  I hope my sister cousin can escort my mum …


Bijin Tokei Ver. Shiga

Posted January 21st, 2011 in Japan, Ume's Interests | No Comments »

Bijin Tokei, meaning “beautiful woman clock”, is a website that showcases different young ladies telling you the time every minute, and has been a big success since it started.  Now they have few different versions of bijin-tokei such as circuit-tokei (where all the girls are race queens) and Ver. Night, and also local versions of bijin-tokei in Kobe, South Korea Ver. 1 Ver. 2, Taiwan, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Thai, etc etc…

I wrote about this bijin-tokei here, here and here before in Umeboss.  Why I’m writing about it again here is because I found a Shiga version of bijin-tokei in app store!

Bijin-tokei Ver. Shiga was released in August last year.  As you know (?), I’m from Shiga and wonder that there may be one or two of my friends in the 360 girls picturing the clock on the app!  The photo shoot was carried out in the malls, universities and train stations from May in Shiga.  If I knew about it and was in Japan I might be in the queue for the candidates! hehe..

I’m somehow proud of it, because not all the cities/prefectures in Japan are used for bijin-tokei.  So far there’re only 9 cities across Japan : Shibuya, Osaka, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Kobe, Nagoya, Sendai, and Shiga.  I’m proud of it as a Shiga person (kind of), but also curious… why Shiga??  There are many other nice and famous cities across Japan.  Some Japanese people don’t even know where Shiga locates in the map.  I’m also curious about the bijin-tokei ver. Sendai.  … Why Sendai??


Hello 2011

Posted January 1st, 2011 in Japan, Perth WA | No Comments »

2011年、明けましておめでとうございます(^0^)

Happy New Year!!

It seems that Japan is getting lots of snow since yesterday.  My mum said it started to snow yesterday morning in her city in Shiga, and in the evening she couldn’t move her car because of the snow which had been built up.  My friends also said that it’s snow storming outside.  Regardless of whether they are enjoying the snow or not, I do miss snow and wish I was there!

Perth is, on the other hand, in middle of summer.  I had Nachos and watermelon for dinner yesterday.  Oh yes, I didn’t forget to eat toshikoshi-soba 年越しそば this year too.  It’s just one of Japanese tradition I don’t want to miss.  I remember eating soba on the New Year’s eve two years ago at my house with my family, while watching a countdown to 2009 on tv.

In the morning of New Year’s Day, we eat special food called osechi, and zenzai or ozoni in Japan.  Zenzai is a sweet red bean soup with mochi (rice cake), and ozoni is sweet miso soup with mochi.  I had delicious osechi food and ozoni in Perth last year at my friend’s house (I wrote about it here), but this family has gone back to Japan for good and I can’t experience it anymore.

I was actually going to make zenzai at home, but just couldn’t find time.  It’s too hot to make hot azuki soup here anyway…  So, instead, I made mitarashi-dango.  (rice flour dumpling with caramelised sauce)

The process of making dango was fun.  But, after eating just a couple of these I became so full!

Well, at least I started this new year with some Japanese traditional food.

My family is going to visit a shrine for hatsu-moude 初詣 to pray for a new year tomorrow.  My mum said she will pray for me, D and my baby, and buy an amulets and send it to me.  I really wish I was there too.

Today is a start of new year.  My New Year’s resolution is to be honest.  I want to be honest to my feelings and try to share it with other people.  I hope this year will be one of the wonderful year of my life.

a


Planning a Homecoming Trip

Posted December 21st, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

 

Planning a trip is always a fun thing to me – especially when the destination is my home country!  Imagining what I could do there makes me daydream 🙂

Well, I should be thinking about the birth plan or something related to my baby (I do though) but part of my head is already planning what to do in Japan next year.  As the trip will be a whole new experience to me (first time with a Jr) I know what I can do there is limited.  But, it’s just a plan, and planning is always a good thing to prepare for the trip.

 

This time, I’m thinking to go driving around Biwa Lake in Shiga.  I always drive Kei-truck (you can read about it here, or my Japan Trip posts here) when I go back, but there are only two seats in the car and three of us (me, D and Jr) won’t be able to fit there.  It’s also very uncomfortable to drive for long distance.  So, I’m planning to hire a car for few days and go driving around the Biwa Lake side road.  

My grand-parents’ house is 50 km away from my house and D and I normally take a train to visit them, but the road between our houses has such beautiful views.  I love driving to their house because I could stop at convenience stores or shopping malls to get a cold drink and snack on the way, and get off the car and walk around the lake shore if I want to.  

Having your own car is very essential in Shiga (same as Perth).  If you go shopping you will need a car to put all the stuff you bought.  We are going to buy many things in Japan for sure, so renting a car is one “must” thing to do.

I don’t think we will be traveling around much this time.  Just within Shiga, I think.  We can do so many things already just in Shiga and I don’t want to take a tiring train trip to other prefectures with Jr.  (Of course I can’t drive there, driving to Kyoto and Osaka is much more stressful than taking a train!)  It’s ok.  D hasn’t explored entire Shiga yet.  There are so many things he has missed out on his last visits!  

If we go there in summer we can enjoy fireworks and summer festivals wearing yukata.  If in autumn we can enjoy the scenery and delicious food.  If in winter we can play with snow!  Still thinking when is the best…

a


What is Booming in Japan Now?

Posted October 26th, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

It’s almost the end of October…  If you don’t carefully watch the calender every day, you’ll be surprised how fast the time flies.  

October –  November is middle of Autumn in Japan.  What comes to your head when you hear the words “Autumn” and “Japan”?   Beautiful trees dressed in red, orange and yellow leaves?  Cold air that you feel on your cheeks? In my case, it is food that comes first to my head.

There are so many Autumn food in Japan to list, but the king of Autumn food would be this: Matsutake mushroom.  Matsutake mushroom are harvested between the end of September and the end of October, and they are quite pricy.  (especially the ones harvested within Japan)

The Matsutake harvested within Japan costs around 5000 yen each.  Others (those imported from China or Korea) costs around 1000 yen each. Why are they so expensive compared with other mushrooms?  It’s because they are difficult to be cultivated by human hands.  How Matsutake grows (how they get the nutrition) is different from other mushrooms.

Autumns is called “eating season” in Japan.  You will see many fliers and advertisements of foods at train stations, streets, on tv etc.  People head to grape, nashi pear, chestnut and sweet potato farms to get all-you-can eat harvesting experience (customer pays around $2000 per head and harvest the fruits from the farm as much as you can, and eat them at the farm), and travel around Japan to enjoy the remote area’s speciality food.  Short trip and day trip are the boom around this season. The purpose of the trip is, of course, to eat delicious food at ryokan (Japanese style hotel) or restaurants.

The most popular food people seek is a course menu of Matsutake mushroom.

Grilled, row (as sashimi), deep-fried (tempura), steamed (with rice as Matsutake rice), and poached (in chawan-muchi) are the common dishes in a course menu.  My dad emailed me the other day saying that he went to Shigaraki (a town in Shiga, famous for Shigaraki Ware) to eat all-you-can-eat Matsutake food!!  All-you-can-eat….  I’m sure I can eat at least 50 Matsutake!  (I’ve never eaten Matsutake before, I think) Dad said the place does the all-you-can-eat Matsutake each year around this time.  It’s another reason to go back to Japan next Autumn!  😀


Sento – Japan’s Public Bath

Posted October 18th, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

What I really missed this weekend was sento and onsen. I’d been wanting to wash my car (as it was already dusty when I picked it up from the dealer) and I finally had the chance to do it on Sunday.  I didn’t have any plan going out, so stayed home doing some cooking and cleaning.  Then, I spent my whole afternoon washing my car (and in-law’s car) in the yard.

It was pretty hot day and the sun beam was strong.  After washing and waxing the two cars, I was exhausted and sweating – all I could think of was taking a bath!

If I was in Japan, I would fill up the bath tub in the house and enjoy the early bath time, or head to the nearest sento. I used to go to sento often with my friends and stay there for hours.  (Read my last sento experience in Japan → sento)

Usually sento has several types of baths, including indoor and outdoor, jet bath, separated bath with different types of water, and also a bath of cold water to refresh.  My friend and I usually start with normal baths, then go outside to cool down a bit, enjoy the bath outside, then go back inside and enjoy another bath, then go to sauna room to sweat out, and take another bath before leaving.

After drying the body and getting dressed, we normally proceed to either relaxing room or dining room.

Most sento has massage chairs, and possibly napping room.  The floor of the room is tatami-matted, and people can just lye down and relax, cool down the body after taking hot baths.

The dining place inside sento is usually like izakaya.  It’s because people normally want to drink alcohol after taking bath.  The place is cozy, and anyone including family with kids can enjoy the food there.

It’s the best if your house is very close to the sento, as you will feel so sleepy after taking hot bath and eating the delicious food.

I do miss Yufuin onsen…  I wish I could go back to the quiet ryokan surrounded by only the nature.

(Read my trip to Yufuin in Kyushu Island, Japan in 2009 → 1, 2, 3, 4)

a


Photos from Shiga -2-

Posted October 12th, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

I received some delicious photos from Shiga, Japan again.  I know there are millions of restaurants across Japan, and some people may wonder why I bother posting those photos from such a small restaurant in Shiga.  I just had to show these photos here, as I love this type of small individual restaurants serving natural, delicious, home-cooking style of food.  The restaurant is located in the hill, in Northern Shiga around the mountains.  During winter people from other prefectures gather around to this area for skiing.

A small “pit-stop” looking restaurant (shokudo).

The curry is made from various fruits and vegetables, and it has a distinct sweetness with spiciness from the hidden spices.  The rice is a blend of black rice, red rice, green rice and some other ancient rice which are locally harvested each year in Shiga.  It has the different texture and taste from those in normal white rice.  A set of curry, rice and salad is 700 yen.

Nishin Soba – soba noodle in hearty warm soup with nishin (a kind of fish).  Is this a Shiga’s speciality food?  I see this dish everywhere in Shiga.

A set of soba noodle (cold) with dipping sauce and crispy tempura.

The five kinds of rice they use for their menu contain more vitamins and minerals than white rice or brown rice.  I would like to try it out someday 🙂

aa


Ghost Street, Kyoto Japan

Posted October 7th, 2010 in Japan, Ume's Interests | 2 Comments »

This is one of my favorite Japanese old story.  In Heian era, there were many reports of ghost appearances, especially in Kyoto.  (Kyoto used to be the capital city of Japan that time)  

Some people saw ghosts and monsters walking on the street at night, and there are many drawing of these scenes still remain in Japan.  So, in Heian era, people were scared to walk outside at night, especially on this day called “yakou-bi 夜行日”.  This day is considered to be the day ghosts comes out from their world.  When people had to travel at night, they talked to On-myoji 陰陽師 (person with gift) to get advice and a protection (a piece of paper filled with spell written by On-myoji 陰陽師).  There are few Japanese films about On-myoji 陰陽師, if you are interested in.  They are very interesting.

Why I’m writing this is because, there is a street called “Ghost Street” in Kyoto.  

In 2005, a small shopping square in Kyoto started this project to get more customers to this area, and named ichijo-dori street as “Ghost Street”.  This area of Kyoto still remains its historical image of ancient Japan, and the Japanese ghost stories and this area are a great match, I think.  In fact, this area really used to be capital area in Heian era.

This street is now a famous tourist attraction.  There’re not only those scary (and interesting) events all year around, but also many shops selling Japanese ghosts-related products.  

Food, clothes, accessories, and fashion goods…

This Yokai Croquette (ghost croquette) looks like ugly monster or ghost, but is made from Maccha green tea for the inside and bamboo charcoal powder for the coating – very healthy.  Yokai ramen also looks interesting too.  Purple noodle and black soup!!

If you have the guts, or like this type of things, or even, just have a plan to travel to Kyoto sometime soon, why not step into this ” “Japanese ghost” town in Kyoto?  

I’m sure you will enjoy the experience…

a


All I Can Think of Is…

Posted October 6th, 2010 in Japan | 6 Comments »

Food….  I really really can’t wait going back to Japan next year! (><)

My friend (mother of my former student) from Hokkaido sent me some photos.

Wow, look at the size of soft serve placed on top of the Hokkaido melon…  

On her email she said that she traveled to Furano and Sapporo (cities in Hokkaido) during summer (She lives in Hakodate, Hokkaido), and told me that she enjoyed sanma (saury) sashimi and buta-don (teriyaki-style pork donburi).

As I can’t eat sushi and sashimi now (or any raw food) now, and it makes me want to eat even more!  Especially after hearing her story…  I really miss sushi and sashimi in Japan.  

I wonder if pregnant women eat raw fish in Japan.  My doctor says what you can/can’t eat during pregnancy just relates to the risk of food poisoning – if the food is fresh enough (and your immunity level is ok enough) you can basically eat anything.  I wouldn’t eat raw fish in Perth as I can’t trust the freshness.  And, I think it’s best to avoid some seafood due to the Mercury content.  But, I don’t think my mum avoided eating sushi and sashimi while she was pregnant with me…

Anyway, I’m thinking going back around Autumn next year.  It’s just because the food is so delicious in Autumn in Japan and I want to enjoy it 😀

Umm… to think about it, it’s another 1 year away! (it’s Autumn in Japan now)   Hayaku~…

 

a


Lawson Obento

Posted October 2nd, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

My favorite convenience store was Seven Eleven, but I often go to Lawson while I’m in Japan as the closest convenience store to my house is Lawson.

I was browsing the list of “websites of good design” online, and Lawson’s website was on the list.  I was looking through it and all the foods made me hungry!

When I go to convenience stores, I normally buy onigiri (rice balls), sushi, bread, or just drink.  I didn’t normally buy bento (which I don’t know why now) or pasta dishes from there.  When I was a high school student, I used to stop at a convenience store on the way to school and grabbed just a drink, or some snack which was easy to eat in the car while driving.  On the other hand, my brothers loved buying hot snack foods such as karaage and nikuman from convenience stores.

      

  

  

etc etc….   Everything looks so good.

But, my favorites are the very simple ones.

Mini Snack Sandwiches.  The fillings are normally just strawberry jam, peanut butter, or chocolate cream.  I loved the soft bread since I was a kid.

Simple flavored onigiri.  I love maze-gohan (seasoned rice).

Ummmm….  I’m so hungry now.

a


Hikone Castle Road

Posted September 22nd, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

These are the photos I took while I was in Japan.  (I think it’s last year)

This city is Hikone, just next to my city in Shiga.  There are many historical buildings remain across Japan and you will find many temples and other buildings everywhere.  Hikone is one of the city which tries to remain the historical parts.

There is a road called “castle road” near the Hikone Castle, and all the buildings, including police station, and lights around the road are designed “old-looking”.  White wall and black roof.  Very famous tourist attraction place.

There are many shops including restaurants (where you can enjoy Ohmi wagu beef and other Shiga food), souvenir shops, cafes, and art shops on the Castle Road.  I heard that there is a new shop opened just recently – called “Mask Elementary School”.

What interests me is that the second floor of this shop is a cafe where they serve kyushoku-like food.  (I wrote about kyushoku here)  I love this type of places (>v<)!

  

  

 

The bread (above photo) is age-kinako-pan.  It’s a deep-fried bun, coated with kinako (sweet soy powder).  I know how high calorie it is, but It was my favorite kyushoku item. 🙂  They seem to have different coatings (including maccha and cocoa), and there are menu for age-kinako-pan parfait for 350 yen.  I will definitely try this place out on my next homecoming!


Baby Cosplay

Posted September 3rd, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

Are you familiar with Japanese cartoon characters?  Bandai, a Japanese toy making and video game company as well as the producer of a large number of plastic model kits, is selling character featured baby rompers.

 ©石森プロ・東映 ©円谷プロ ©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK   ©ダイナミック企画 ©バードスタジオ/集英社・フジテレビ・東映アニメーション

©石森プロ・東映 ©円谷プロ ©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK   ©ダイナミック企画 ©バードスタジオ/集英社・フジテレビ・東映アニメーション

From top left: Devil Man, Dorami chan, Doraemon, Ultra Seven, Ultra Man.  From bottom left: Dragon Ball, shocker, Kamen Rider, Go-ranger (red), and Go-ranger (pink).

They also sell baby bibs in Japanese characters.

©石森プロ・東映 ©円谷プロ ©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK

©石森プロ・東映 ©円谷プロ ©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK

So cute..!  I personally like Doraemon (>v<)


Obon

Posted August 24th, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

 

I had a very relaxing morning today.  
It was just a normal day – get up early and get ready for work-, but somehow I felt so relaxed on the way to the office.  Maybe it’s because of the song my husband was listening to from his iPod, or the cloudy weather with white sky; as if it was just about to rain.  
aa
To tell the truth, I was kind of having struggling 6 months since the beginning of this year.  I knew the reason, but I didn’t know what to do.  But, one day, I realised – what is the most important thing in my life?  It’s certainly not the money.  SInce I was little, I’ve always wanted to do something which I liked, I wanted to get a job which I enjoy – not for money.  I actually wanted to go to Africa by myself to live with wildlife by looking after them!  
I think I was losing myself while this 6 months.  Now, I’m so glad that I’m Ume again.  I always loved my unique and weird personality.
aa
I read many books during this 6 months, and I leant that the most important thing to lead a happy life is “be a happy person”.  If you are not happy, you can’t be nice to others.  You won’t even have a minutes to worry and care about people.  But, when you are happy, you can do all of them.  You’ll have a big heart and can share it with others.  
  aa
I am now thankful that all my family is fine and healthy.  That’s all the matters, I don’t really care about other stuff!
aa
Oh, last weekend I talked to my mum, dad and bro on skype.  We’re all not phone-type of people and couldn’t talk too long, but it was really nice that we did.  My mum lives bit far away from my house and she doesn’t usually come to the house, so it’s great that I could talk to three of them at the same time.  I wish I was there!
Image of Jizo-bon

© Librairie Seizan of KYOTO

This time of the year in Japan is Obon : a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one’s ancestors.  They wanted to go to the Jizo-bon festival – a festival for children held in especially Western Japan – near my house, but it’s customary to have the Jizo-bon on both August 23 and 24 to coincide with the Jizo Bosatsu fair.  This year, 23 and 24 are Monday and Tuesday, so they couldn’t.  On Sunday they went to the place anyway, but the festival wasn’t started yet, and mum couldn’t go to the alter of many jizo statues to light the candles.  Mum asked the monks to light three candles for bro, me and one more once the festival starts.  
aa
I love the festival.. When I was little, I didn’t know much of the meaning of the festival – just enjoying the stall food such as takoyaki, snow cones, Hiroshima-yaki and crapes.  It’s a long way to the jizo alter, and on the way there’re many stalls selling food and toys, and also people enjoying karaoke on the stage.  We all head to the alter, and inside we light on the candle and come out, then return back the way we came.  
aa
I hope I can be there next year.  I’m really starting to think that I should be flying to Japan during summer next time.

Mini Stop

Posted August 20th, 2010 in Japan | 2 Comments »

When I was searching about soft serve online, I came across with Mini Stop’s website and I thought I want to list the photos of their fast food menu here. (Convenience stores are really convenient.  There’s ATM,  you can order bento boxes, send parcels national/international, etc, and also drop off/pick up dry cleaning too.)  I miss that.


Photo Shots from Shiga

Posted August 11th, 2010 in Japan | 2 Comments »

Nagashi Somen

A summer festival in Shiga.  The end of summer is already just around the corner…  

The photo above shows Nagashi Somen : people gather around the long bamboo slide, and there is water running from the top to the bottom.  People at the top drop bunches of somen noodle, and people scoop it and eat with their own dipping sauce.  People at the bottom hardly get somen, as people standing around the middle eat most of them.  But, it’s the fun part.

  

  

  

  

They all look so fun…  I miss summer festival in Japan!  In Shiga there are around 40 festivals during summer.  Other prefectures also have their own.  I remember I went to this summer festival near a river once when I was little, and I caught a fish by hand!  Then, we grilled the fish with salt at the bank and ate it straight away.  It was so delicious!  😀


Car, Storm and Summer

Posted July 17th, 2010 in Japan | 4 Comments »
It’s been a rather stressful three weeks…  I was trying to sell my car privately, and all the games between buyers and me were… crazy (><)  I mean, I understand that they want to buy the car cheaper, but I want to sell it more expensive.
Although my car had no major problem I had to accept the negotiation and reduce the price, but I think it’s fare.   If I were looking to buy an used car, I would also want to make sure if nothing is wrong with the car.
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And, there is something else happened around me recently.  I will write about it some other time 🙂
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The storm has gone, and I feel the sunny days are back.  The forecast says that we are having another cold morning starting from this Sunday, but I always thought the mornings are always cold in winter. My hometown, Shiga had a strong rain for the last few days, and I contacted my dad to see if everything was ok.
It must be hot and humid over there.  Normally the rainy season in Japan is around June, but this year things started slower than usual.
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While staying in Perth I sometimes forget that summer is the rainy season in Japan.  In Perth, we hardly get any rain in summer.
I haven’t been back to Japan in summer for 7 years now.  It’s because I’ve been avoiding this season, as I don’t like the humid climate.  Almost every shops and buildings are air conditioned, but because of the temperature difference on outside and inside the buildings many people get summer cold in Japan this time of the year.
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There are things that I miss about Japan’s summer, such as fireworks, summer festivals, summer food and dessert, going swimming (well, I can do it here in Perth)…  Fireworks is the biggest event in summer.
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Many people wear yukata on this day and gather around the shore to enjoy the beautiful sky entertainment and the delicious food from the stalls.
Summer festivals are held at many places across Japan, almost at every suburb.  In my town, we have a small festival at the beginning of August every year, and we enjoy the food, games (eg: kingyo-sukui = goldfish scooping), and bon fire and dancing!  I have a friend who is learning Yosakoi dance, and she is always excited about this festival each year.  Just let you know, Yosakoi is not like other dancing you see on tv (hip-hop, jazz, etc)  The style of Yosakoi dance is highly energetic, combining traditional Japanese dance movements with modern music.
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I used to go to the festivals in the neighboring towns (just 10 minutes by bicycle) too, and they have different theme and sometimes karaoke.  But, there are always delicious food (I love stall food) and that’s the biggest reason I enjoy the festivals so much.
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Kit Kat in Japan 3

Posted May 31st, 2010 in Japan, Ume's Interests | No Comments »

Beauty + chocolate?  It’s like… every girl’s dream coming true! I

Kit Kat in Japan is now selling special collaborative items – with TBC : one of the most popular beauty salons in Japan.

The flavors of the “Kit Kat x TBC” are Aloe Yoghurt and Bitter Almond.  Sounds delicious!

And, there are new flavors in Japan’s Kit Kat in addition to my previous posts Kit Kat in Japan and Kit Kat in Japan 2.

Strawberry Cheese Cake

Wasabi


Okinawan Food

Posted May 25th, 2010 in Japan | 4 Comments »

While I was in Japan few months ago, there was a tv show featuring the healthy diet taken by Miss Universe candidates.  Erica Angyal, who is from Sydney Australia, is a nutritionist who works for Miss Universe Japan as a health consultant, and on the tv show she flew to Okinawa to discover what is so good about Okinawan food and why people in Okinawa live longer than anyone else in the world.

Okinawa is one of Japan’s southern prefectures, and consists of hundreds of islands in a chain over 1,000 km long.

It was only 100 years ago that the kingdom of Okinawa was incorporated into Japan, and the southern islands still maintain their own distinctive culture, language and cuisine. Okinawan cooking tends toward stronger and spicier flavors than Japanese food, and is more heavily influenced by Chinese cooking styles.

I’d say Okinawa has the strongest accent in their language as Japanese among all the prefectures in Japan.  Osaka people speak Osaka dialect, and Fukuoka people speak Fukuoka dialect.  Some of them are very difficult to listen to, but still understandable.  But, Okinawan language is very different!  That’s what makes this place to be a popular tourist destination for other Japanese people.  Different culture, different life style, and different food.  But, still the same country.

The food you see in Okinawa often contain pork and seafood.  Pork is a very important ingredient there, and every part of the pig is used: including feet, ears to tripes.  And, because Okinawa has a tropical climate and is surrounded by ocean, many local seafoods and seaweeds are used in cooking, and some of them are not available in Japan’s main island.

Other foods that are commonly used in Okinawan cuisine are black sugar, tropical fruits and vegetables, brawn rice, and awamori, which is an Okinawan brandy-like liquor made from rice.  Okinawan people are known as big drinkers! (awamori is very strong alcohol drink)

The reason why Okinawan people are the most long-lived on earth is not only these food.  It’s because of HOW people eat them everyday.  Their everyday meal contains rice, soup, and few side dishes.  There are many vegetables, seaweed and seafood used, and the common cooking method is stir-frying.  They use olive oil very often too.  Eating many kinds of food everyday is very ideal thing in order to take different nutritions.  Besides, most of the food they eat are very healthy – seaweeds are good for skin and hair, brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, and seafood gives you Omega-3 which can help to lower the amount of cholesterol in the body.

I’ve been to Okinawa twice in my life:  the first time was to join the home-stay program at American family in Okinawa vase.  I was 17 years old, and I organised everything by myself …  all  my family was so worried, but I wasn’t.  I had a big interest in foreign country (English) and wanted to experience something unique.  The second time was to get scuba diving licence in Okinawa.  I organised this by myself too, I even bought some equipments for the trip including dry suit and an under-water camera. :p

While in Okinawa, I enjoyed Okinawan food everyday.  There are few small restaurants around the hotel I stayed, and these restaurants served home-style Okinawan food.   Very delicious!   Typical Okinawan food such as chanpuru dishes including tofu chanpuru and go-ya chanpuru, and rafuti (pork stewed in miso, soy sauce, sugar and awamori).

If you get a chance to visit this “health paradise”, here are the list of Okinawan food I recommend! :

Tofu chanpuru – stir-fried tofu dish

Go-ya chanpuru – stir-fried go-ya (bitter melon) dish

Rafuti – slow cooked, stewed pork

Taco rice – basically a taco that uses rice instead of a taco shell.

Mimigaa – pig’s ear in vinegar

Saataa andagi – Okinawan doughnuts


(photos from Kinki Tourist and Okinawa Council websites)


Eating Bread Everyday

Posted March 31st, 2010 in Eat out in Japan, Japan | No Comments »

I do eat rice too, of course, but, I’ve been hunting on bakeries here.  I love bread ( well, I love any food :p ) especially Japanese bread ♪

A photo from a cafe.  Going to a cafe with dad for breakfast on weekend is my routine 🙂

Normally Japanese bread loaves are sold thickly cut.  I love thick cut toast.  And, Japanese bread sold at supermarkets are somehow much tastier than those here… (to me)  There are many kinds, such as “chewy”, “double aged dough” etc  I love the chewy one (もっちり) 🙂

Here is my another favorite bread “melon-pan”.  You can buy it at most bakeries, supermarkets, convenience stores and other shops that sell bread in Japan.  You can guess how popular this bread is.

Melon-pan contains two different dough – the base is normal bread dough (sweetened) and the top is cookie dough.  It’s sweet bread and it tastes different depending on the bakery/brand.  Personally I like the cookie-part to be very crusty.  Some of them are pretty soft.

The reason why it’s called “melon-pan” is that the bread has patterns and it looks similar to a melon.  There is a character in Japanese cartoon called “melon-pan-na chan” too .


Japan is “sugoi”

Posted March 28th, 2010 in Japan | 3 Comments »

There are so many thing I feel “sugoi” about Japan.  “Sugoi” means … well, “unbelievable” “great” “wow” “very” etc etc.  We use this word quite often.

One of them is the service in Japan.  Someone who’s been to Japan should know how good the hospitality service in Japan is.  Even at the plat home in train station, people who work there greet every passenger by bowing and saying “itterashaimase” “arigato-gozaimasu”.

The other day I went to a bakery shop by car.  As it was Saturday and the shop is located in a famous tourist place, there’re so many people walking around.  Luckily there were three traffic officers at the entrance and the exit in the bakery car park.  After finishing my shopping, I proceeded to the exit, then a traffic officer was giving me a sign “please wait” with body language.  As I waited, the officer suddenly walked towards the road and stop all cars coming, then waved his hands to me while bowing and screaming “arigato-gozaimashita!”.   It was only for me.

By the way,

Yesterday was my dad’s 60th birthday.  We had dinner at a sushi bar near the house, and had birthday cake together at home. It was a good day 🙂


Trying to Enjoy This Moment…

Posted March 26th, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

This morning, I made breakfast for Pooh (my cat) and left home to go to an electric shop to have a browse.  I wanted to buy something (enough shopping? I know! ><) but couldn’t find anything good.  On the way back I went to a shopping mall to buy something for my grandma, then ended up buying something for myself too :p  At home, I woke my brother up and had lunch together (with grandma too).  Now I’m relaxing near the window typing this.

I love the moment like this.  Just relaxing, watching Pooh…  I don’t want to go back to Perth!

… well, I have to.

I had a bite on baumkuchen that I got from my friend’s wedding. This baumkuchen is coated with white chocolate..  yum!

I love baumkuchen.  There is a famous shop near my house Club Harie and its baumkuchen is available at department stores such as Takashimaya, Hankyu and Daimaru.

Tomorrow is my dad’s 60th birthday, so we are celebrating with a big birthday cake 🙂


If you go to Japan…

Posted March 24th, 2010 in Japan | 2 Comments »

If you get a chance to come to Japan, there is a thing I want to say to you…  Don’t buy anything at the first glance!  Once you arrive Japan you will see so many things that you want to buy… but, you shouldn’t buy them yet!  You may find nicer / cheaper things later somewhere else.  This is my lesson :p

Yes.  I bought so many things in the beginning, and now I regret it.  After I bought a thing, I found a similar thing at cheaper price in another shop.  Sometimes better quality!  Hmmm 🙁

Now I’m in panic, to tell the truth…  I have no idea how I’m going to bring everything I bought back to Perth. (>0<)  I went to the post office today to send some of them, but they’re too heavy.  I will go to the post office again tomorrow.

I couldn’t help but shop …!  Things are much cheaper and better quality here.  I’ve been telling my friends that I’m doing shopping here so that I won’t need to buy anything in Perth for the next one year :p

… It’s been raining everyday here, and the forecast says that Friday is snowing in Shiga.  The dark weather, cold, and the news from Perth, etc etc…  bit depressing (>c<)

I will try enjoy the rest few days in Japan!


Friend’s Wedding in Kobe

Posted March 22nd, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

It was a really really windy day.  Not only in Kobe, a huge storm hit Japan island yesterday.

I went to Kobe to attend my friend’s wedding.  She is a friend from Osaka collage.  The ceremony and the party was held at Partire Kobe Wedding Village (near Kobe Mosaic), just few minutes walk from JR Kobe station.

Although it was cloudy in the morning, the sun started to show when the ceremony began.  She looked sooo beautiful !!! I was so happy to be there to cerebrate her special day together 😀

The whole ceremony was well organised – both groom and bride cried a lot (with happiness), so did other guests.  And, there were funny parts as well, such as groom threw a bouquet of broccoli to male guests (to compete with bride’s bouquet toss), and whoever caught the broccoli had to eat it with Japanese mayonnaise. :p  And, when the groom and bride fed wedding cake to each other, bride was holding a huge spoon and groom had to eat a huge block of cake.  (the spoon groom was holding was a normal size)  Anyway, with lots of lough and tears, the ceremony ended with outdoor dessert buffet.  There’re so many mouth-watering-looking sweets.  My friends and I took a piece of wedding cake (sponge and cream with strawberries and fruits) first then went back to get some more, but most of the sweets were gone by then :p  Everyone run to the buffet counter and took as much as they could put on a plate.  … I realized that everyone had two stomachs…

After the wedding, groom, bride and their friends normally move to another place to have another party without their parents and families.  (called “nijikai”)  I didn’t go to the “nijikai”, but had a cup of coffee with my friends at a cafe in Kobe Mosaic.  Just wanted to catch up.

It was a good night.


Date with Dad

Posted March 21st, 2010 in Japan | 2 Comments »

It is 6 AM here but the sun is already out.  Spring must be around the corner.  Usually I don’t wake up so early, but today my dad left home early to go to Vietnam with his friends.  He looked excited 🙂  I hope he has a good time and be safe.

Yesterday my dad and I went to Otsu city, which is the capital city of Shiga prefecture.  He suggested to go to Bunka Hall first then go to Otsu Prince Hotel to have a cup of coffee, and browse model houses built around the hotel.  My dad is thinking to build another house…

Bunka Hall (culture hall) is a place where Shiga museum, library and big park are gathered.   The park was beautiful!  Many people were exercising around the pond and families were sitting on the glass enjoying their time.  I took so many pictures of trees and koke (Mosses and Liverworts).

We had a quick browse at Museum, and had lunch at a cafe inside the library.  I had omu-rice set, and my dad had ebi fry teishoku (prawn katsu set)

After lunch, we went to a tea room inside the park.  We had freshly made maccha green tea and wa-gashi (Japanese sweet).

… so full! We left there and headed to Otsu Prince Hotel.  After a cup of coffee, we walked around the model houses and had a chat with sales staff.  Talking with the staff made me realized how much Japanese houses are focusing on the durability for the earthquakes, fire, and also eco.

Modern houses are now all operated with electricity (such as bath room, kitchen, floor and also air conditioning system) yet monthly electric fee is pretty cheap.  For example, you can set the water in the bathtub at the same temperature and enjoy hot bath anytime, you can add hot water, talk from bathroom to anyone in the kitchen, keep the bathroom floor warm, set air-con in the bathroom, automatic toilet sheet, air condition for the whole house, temperature controlled flooring etc etc.  There things are common nowadays.

The layout of Japanese houses are so unique and I wish I could have such house in Perth.  Modern Japanese houses are wooden floored, but have at least one wa-shitsu (tatami matted room).  It’s nice, but I know it’s very difficult to do it to houses in Perth :p


Yamashiro Onsen Trip 2

Posted March 20th, 2010 in Eat Out in Perth - Japanese Food -, Japan | 2 Comments »

Dinner was crab full-course (>v<).

Started with beer, we had crab sashimi, crab steamed board, crab chawan-mushi, frame-grilled crab, crab sushi, crab tempura, crab salad, crab soup, and crab flavored rice with crab meat.  You gotta be crab-lover to eat this dinner…

Crab season is winter, and the areas near Japan Sea, like Ishikawa prefecture, is famous for crabbing.  My family used to come to Fukui prefecture (next to Ishikawa) every winter to enjoy crab when I was a kid.

The food was delish!  We were so full and couldn’t move our bodies after eating these crabs…

In the morning, we were woken up with these breakfast.

A typical Japanese breakfast – rice, miso soup, some condiments and grilled fish…

We grilled our fish on charcoals..  There was squid sashimi, some cooked vegetables with dashi broth, pickles and Onsen Tamago.  Onsen Tamago is half-cooked egg by been immersed in natural, hot Onsen water.  It’s eaten with soy sauce and mirin based sauce.  Those 6 condiments are mentaiko, nori (seaweed paste), grilled salmon flakes, chirimen-jako (seasoned tiny fishes), walnut miso, and seasoned dry shellfish meat.

My dad and I finished the meal with Onsen coffee (brewed with Onsen water).

You can imagine how full we were!  So many seafood in 2 days….  I wonder how come Australian people don’t eat seafood as much as we (Japanese) do, we both live in island county.


Yamashiro Onsen Trip 1

Posted March 19th, 2010 in Japan | No Comments »

My parents, brother and I went to Yamashiro Onsen in Ishikawa prefecture as 18th was my mum’s birthday, and my dad is turning to 60 (kanreki) on 27th.  We stayed there one night.

This area, Kaga, is very historical place and also famous for its natural onsen.  My family stayed in a room with private onsen. 🙂

Ryokan means traditional Japanese style inn/hotel.  The room is usually tatami-matted, and guests were expected to sleep on futon on the floor.

It was also a cold day and little raining.  We arrived this Ryokan around 2pm, and just relaxed until 6 pm – dinner time.  There’re also few more spas (onsen) inside of the Ryokan (non private) , so I went out of the room to enjoy bigger Roten-buro (outdoor onsen) at the ground floor.  Although those spas are not private, there’s no one there. 🙂  I was alone and enjoying 4 different Roten-buro by myself. ♪

The dinner and breakfast was gorgeous!!!!  I will post about the food later 🙂

This are is just 2 hours drive away from my house. The onsen (natural water) was so good, and I could feel my skin was so smooth after taking bath.  Everyone changed to Yukata (light cotton kimono) and played card game until dinner…


Public Spa (sentou)

Posted March 17th, 2010 in Japan | 2 Comments »

Today at 11 AM my friend picked me up from my house, and we headed to a public spa located in North Shiga.  This place is like a recreation centre: it got few spas, saunas, shops and restaurants inside.

We decided to enjoy spa first then have lunch buffet.  I think it is really weird and hard thing to imagine for foreign people that Japanese people get naked in front of strangers and friends and share a bath in public.  At the changing room, people take off their clothes and become totally naked.  (no photos, of course!)  Before taking bath, you need to wash your body first as a manner, then enjoy few different types of spas and saunas.  We enjoyed ‘massaging spa’ (water jet massages your body), roten-buro (outdoor spa) and misty sauna.  The misty sauna was really nice!  Super humid and hot.  A cool air felt so nice afterwords.

We felt it was enough, so we got out from the spa and started to get dressed in the changing room.  Then suddenly my friend said ” I don’t feel good….” and a second later she was laying on the floor!  She fainted!  I guess the hot water made her dizzy.

I let her rest for a while.  Luckily there’s a “women only” relaxing room with massage chairs and a tatami flooring room upstairs.  We stayed there for about half an hour, getting massaged and laying on tatami, then moved to a buffet restaurant.

This restaurant is famous for its Ebi Fry (deep-fried prawn katsu).  😀

It was nice ♪ I enjoyed other Japanese food as well, such as kiridashi-daikon, nanohana pasta with bamboo shoots etc.

Gochiso-sama-deshita!  🙂