Feb 28, 2008

Plathora of Pan: a list of Japanese breads

Okazu pan: any pan with a savory filling

Curry pan: this is in the Okazu category. Curry pan is filled with a thick, paste like version of Japanese style curry and is fried.

Croquette pan: filled with deep fried mashed potato.

Yakisoba pan: a long roll filled with fried noodles and pickled ginger.

Spaghetti pan: similar to yakisoba pan, except with spaghetti!

Mentaiko pan: filled with marinated pollock roe and mayonnaise.

Kan pan: bread that is packaged in a can.

Koppe pan: a soft french roll
Kashi pan: bread with sweet filling inside

Katsu san: Included with the pan is this sandwich filled with fried pork cutlet.

Melon pan: a sweet pan (first image) that doesn't taste quite like melon but has many varieties including chocolate, strawberry, cream filled, green tea, custard filled, chocolate chip and coffee.

An-pan: a roll like pan filled with sweet red bean paste. There is also a fried version, which is referred to as a donut.

Cream pan: Similar to the an-pan, but filled with sweet cream flavored custard. Other flavors include peanut and chocolate.

Jam pan: very simply, breads filled with jam usually strawberry.
Koshian-pan: Topped with poppy seeds, stuffed with a smooth sweet red bean paste forced through a fine strainer

Uguisu pan: filled with green pea filling.

Korone pan: a counch shaped roll filled with cream or chocolate flavored filling.

Amashoku pan: a sweet bread roll.

There many many more pan including pan filled with sweet potato, raisins, walnuts, and pretty much anything else you can think of! I once ate a hotdog encased in a roll with ketchep and most likely mayo. That was different haha.

Feb 27, 2008

Conbini Food, Oh Oh!

I'd have to say, by far, one of my favorite things about Japan is the food. Possibly that's the reason I gained about 4kg in Japan. And the fact I visited a conbini every 3rd day didn't help much at all.

Well for those whLawson conbinio may not know, conbini or konbini is the Japanese term for convenience stores. Conbini happen to greatly differ from their American counter-parts in the sheer amount and variety of goods offered. You can go buy your favorite porn mag, grab some sushi and pocky for dinner and replace your torn socks. The local conbini (there's usually one every 2 or 3 blocks) is really a one-stop shop, and truely lives up to the name convenience so it comes to no surprise that they flurishing in Japan. The top three conbini are: 7/11, Lawson, and Family Mart. Some other common conbini are AMPM, Mini-Stop and Sunkus. For more info on conbini, look here and here.

The conbini I frequented most often were Lawons, 7/11 and Ministop (in that order) location did play a hand in what conbini I went too most often at first, but after awhile you find there's items carried by only one chain of conbini. Often I'd find myself walking a couple extra blocks just to get that particular drink or that certain pan.

The following are come conbini food I loved -
Pan (bread): Bread in Japan is far more then just white or wheat. It includes all sorts of sweet, filled, fried and unusual bread products. One of my personal goals in Japan was to eat as many different type of pan as I could. Sadly I was often side-tracked by pan I knew I already liked. My favorites are melon pan, and cream pan. from internet

Banana Castella: this is a (usually) banana shaped fried castella cake filled with a mashed up, sweet banana filling. See the image to the left. I first tried this by recommendation, Shouma thought I would like it and like it I did. After the first time I tried it, I couldn't find it for awhile and I found it again at a Mini-stop. I also found a bag of mini banana castellas shaped like animals for 100yen at Sunkus. It is perhaps one of my most favorite items.

Chips: Japan as a wonderful and wide variety of chips available, in just about any flavor you can imagine. I did find it difficult to get cheese flavors however. Most were delicious, or at least interesting. The only variety I really disliked was Doritos Pizza-La flavor. See this link for a great over-view of some Japanese chips.

Apple juice: Apple juice in Japan is an entirely different affair than it is in America. It's think, strong and pulpy. It's not nearly as sweet, but it's way more tasty. The closest juice I had to American apple juice was produced by Fanta, but it was carbonated.

Onigiri: Rice balls, usually triangular in shape and covered in portion by a piece of seaweed. They can be filled with a variety of food including pickled plum, fish, or even chicken! I really liked the chicken onigiri I had on the way to Narita airport, even though it was one of the worst days of my life haha.

Green tea ice cream: Just as the title implies, this is green tea flavored ice cream, and it's just lovely. I usually bought a single serving size, touted as having only 80 calories. I have also heard of sweet potatoe and mochi ice creams, I wish I could've tried those ones as well. But squid ink ice cream ... I'll pass.

Strawberry, banana and vanilla milk: I bought one of these almost everyday. They are usually very delicately sweet and just make you happy as you drink them. The strawberry flavor is apparently too girly for Shouma, but banana is ok.

Well that's all the food I can think of right now, it always makes me hungry when I think about Japanese food. I think America really lacks the innovativeness and openess to create varied food items like Japan. But I think more and more people become interested in unique and international food all the time so perhaps we can look forward to Japanese food being more widely offered here in America someday!

Feb 20, 2008

Book Corner: Confessions of a Yakuza

I recently finished reading Junichi Saga's book entitled "Confessions of a Yakuza"

I have to say, I found this book down-right delightful. The basic premise of this book is the recounting of Ichiji Eiji's life and rise as a Yakuza during the 30's and 40's. It is written as a dialog between and to the Doctor, as the author, and at time's it feels as though Ichiji is telling you directly the intimate details of his youth.

Events include multiple incarserations in jail, serving in the military, falling in love again and again, and living by the code of Yakuza. All the while the details are explained as simply and straight-forward as though you were speaking with a friend. You really feel like you are right there, in 1930s' Asakusa.

I recommend this book to anyone, really, if you like Japan, history, biographies - it's just insightful and personal. You are able to understand what life really is like forYakuza, they don't carry around swords and draw out guns at the drop of a hat. They really do chop off their fingers however, Ichiji looses 2 for one woman. So give this book a reading if you have the chance, I doubt you would regret it!

Feb 19, 2008

Another Poisoned Product

I'm sure by now that everyone has heard of the 10 people in the Kanto region had been poisoned by gyoza manufactured in China.
Taken from internet
Well today frozen food company Takamatsu recalled 19 products processed on June 5th at two Chinese factories in Shandong Province. Poisoned frozen mackerel was impetus of the recall. The mackerel had been tainted with a pesticide apparently called "dichlorvos" and were well over the limit of .01 parts per million. More about this can be read here.

It’s interesting a similar case of food poisoning would arise so quickly, one after the other. But it seems that almost every month there is a new case of something poisoned coming out of China. Some people have expressed their opinion as people are over-reacting to the 10 cases of gyoza poisoning.

But I think, how many people does it take before it becomes important? Its true people all over the world are food poisoned every day. But in reality the food industry should be doing its best to reduce food poisoning, and China is just not cutting it. Besides these recent cases in Japan, China has sent poisoned pet food, toothpaste and toys to the US. Another huge problem is all the counterfeit drugs being produced for export in China.

It seems a majority of Japanese are now either going to avoid Chinese produced food or limited their consumption of it. However this is going to be a very difficult task, as a great amount of the food in Japanese supermarkets is either blatantly Chinese or Chinese food that has been repackaged and labeled as "Made in Japan".

Onsen in Snow

Feb 15, 2008

Japan FAQ

Well honestly I was in a bit of a bad mood when I came up with this post, but I really want to post it as it amuses me so. Basically these are some questions that come up quite frequently on forums about Japan and sometimes I think they are just so silly. So please enjoy them, and know I am not trying to tease anyone, it's just some fun.

Q: "I am _____ inches/cm tall, will I stand out in Japan?"
A: Are you Japanese? No? Then you are going to stand out in Japan.

Q: "I really like _____ (Tacky&Tsubasa, Gackt, anime characters, etc) so I want a Japanese boyfriend."
A: Um, just like real men in America don't look like Brad Pitt, real men in Japan don't look like celebrities either (and they certainly don't look/act like anime chara). Closest you can get is a host I guess. Good luck with that.

Q: I'm ____ (white, black, latina, etc) will Japanese boys like me?
A: Do any guys like you? But seriously, most Japanese men will be curious enough to casually date you or have sex with you. However if you want a serious relationship it will be tougher, and if you have your heart set on Japanese you might have to lower your expections.

Q: Are people going to stare at me if I go to a Sento?
A: Look, yeah. Stare, hopefully not.

Q: I am visiting a Japanese person's house, should I bring something along?
A: Chocolate, alchohol, flowers.

Q: I am (13-15) years old and I love anime/manga, now I want to live in Japan, how can I?
A: Well it's true Japan is the best place to get your anime goods (although I really didn't see them that often) but if thats why you want to live in Japan.... research a bit more first.

Q: I want to live in Japan, it's the coolest place on earth!
A: That's a rather unrealistic view, now isn't is.

Feb 14, 2008

Giri-choco and Vday

Taken from internet I think anyone who has interest in Japan probably know a bit about Japan's version of Valentines, but I will give a quick summary of it before I talk more heavly about it.

Basically Valentine's Day in Japan is celebrated by girls and women giving chocolate to men. There is no boys giving to girls, and no classmates passing around paper greetings.

There are levels of chocolate too. Honmei-choco (prospective winner chocolate) is for your romantic interest, giri-choco (obligation chocolate) is for your male co-workers, boss, etc. and tomo-choco (friend chocolate) is for your friends. In addition to chocolate, a woman may also give a necktie or other other type of nice present to her partner for Valentines. It seems a tad commericial and un-fair, but there is a complimentary holiday, called White Day on which the men must return the favor and give a present to the women whom gave them chocolate. The candy companies invented this holiday as a way to market white chocolate and marshmellows, but now man give a wide variety of gifts.

The Japanese have a wide array of opinions on these holiday traditions, but the most common seems to be that they feel it helps aid communication (in the case of giri-choco). It seems a bit absurd to western views that chocolate can help office communications run smoother, but in a reserved society like Japan, it might just do the trick.

I asked Shouma if he had gotten any chocolate today and he said no and was glad for it. When I asked him why he felt that way he explained: "It's better to not get chocolate, because then I don't have to spend any money later (White Day)"- He should count himself lucky that he is not an american man, and expected to give chocolate, flowers, a card, buy dinner and perhaps even jewelry.
Taken from Ping-mag
What is the best gift to recieve on Valentines in my opinion? I'd have to say it's the chocolate okonomiyaki made by Tora-ya. It looks as good as real okonomiyaki and tastes even better.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Feb 13, 2008

Girl Bars

So what business is giving Hostess bars a run for their money? Girl Bars of course.

The basic concept of Girl Bars is you pay to talk with the cute girl bartenders. Typically you'll get in on a 1500-2000yen cover and then you'll be forking over 800yen per drink. For this low price you get the opportunity to talk casually with adorable young girls. Better yet, since girl bars are bars they can stay open till 5am, later then your average hostess club. And if you're willing to pay a bit more you might enjoy some extras like mirrored floors and extra sexy costumes.

Now in all honesty, yes Girl Bars are cheaper then hostess clubs and they offer a much different and more relaxed atmosphere. But I thought generally that's what happens in bars, you talk casually with the bartender, enjoy your drinks and stumble home. And you don't have to pay an over-inflated price to do it.

As they are gaining popularity, it's obivous that the sararimen approve, but foriegn opinion seems to vary. Of course you got your schlubby men saying "With mirrored floors I can see their panties! Hell yes!" and on the opposite end spectrum you get "Typical sex-obsessed Japanese".

I guess my opinion falls somewhere in the middle. I feel its sad that these men will pay money just to talk to a young girl, but atleast it seems like a decent job and good pay for the girls. However all in all I feel its just another sex business that contributes to Japan's declining birth-rate and the increasing rate of sexless marriages.

Feb 12, 2008

Planning ahead

I really enjoyed my last trip to Japan, which was my life-long dream, and now here I am planning my next trip to Japan. I honestly never thought I would make it there once but I am really happy I have the oppertunity to go there again.

My tentitive dates for travel are within the last two weeks of may or the first week of June. Thanks be to the government in this case as I will be funding my airplane ticket with my tax refund and that rebate. Otherwise I highly doubt I could fund this on my 12$ an hour job.
I will be visiting Fukuoka and Saitama (perhaps) this time. However I am still debating on how I am going to get to Saitama from Fukuoka. Flight seems the easiest for me.

Sadly this trip will not be nearly so long as my first, I am thinking somewhere 9-13 days long depending on when/how long my friends are availble for hanging out. I'm not really sure how much money to bring, besides hotel, transportation, and food, because I think most of the things I wanted to buy from Japan were purchased in December and November.

Who knows maybe I will find some Gackt goods I can't pass up haha.

Feb 11, 2008

Gyudon Tonight

Ah, one of my true loves from Japan - Gyudon. Today I thought, well I like gyudon so much and I can't just walk down the street and eat it at Suki-ya anymore so I might as well try making it. I reached some recipes on the internet and ended up using This One.

Well it turned out tasting alright (besides the dashi releasing an eye watering stink in our kitchen, perhaps I will talk about the smell issues with dashi at further length in a later entry). The two problems we had with it were it's difficult to find the highly-marbled thinly sliced beef around here, and we didn't have any sake. It seems like you really need the sake to make it taste just right. But otherwise I was so happy! I will be trying this again as soon as we can pick up a small bottle of sake.

Mt. Aso in the Distance

Feb 2, 2008

Snow in Kumamoto

Pic taken by Shouma Yesterday Kumamoto recieved a light dusting of snow, I'm not sure how much of Kumamoto actually got snow but I can safely say Aso City was white for awhile.

Everytime it snows in Kumamoto Shouma makes sure he tells me asap. It seems he wants me to be sure that Japan gets snow too, like Minnesota. Well not like Minnesota so much haha.

I never got to see snow while I was in Japan, I know the time and location plays a big part in of when snow falls, but still it would have been nice to see some flakes for Christmas.

Oh Christmas in Japan is a rather big let down, especially for someone like me who is really big into "American Christmas". I mean there are all these decorations, lights, music and then on Christmas - nothing. It's like, what was the point of all that?