Tuesday, August 28, 2012

That one time in Japan I served food at a festival....

Finally another update in the "That one time in Japan" series!

This time is when I served food at Kashima Elementary's festival. I believe is was a fundraising festival, but to be honest, it was in December and I didn't speak much Japanese then.

I was woken up one Sunday morning and my host mom said she was going to a festival ( for Japanese learners, 祭り=まつり= matsuri) at the local elementary school and asked if I wanted to go. I said sure, figuring it'd be a quick trip and definitely not realizing what an interesting day it would prove to be.

Once we arrived, I took a look at the stalls, which were filled with your typical festival foods and some activities for the kids. After the typical gaijin in a small town-craze, I was roped into helping sell food with random people my host mom knew. I was helping sell two dishes - some kind of mochi ball-thing and soup. The food, as yummy as it was, was not the reason this day was so much fun.... it was the four ojiisan's I got to work with!

When people would come to buy food, they would obviously ask who this crazy blonde gaijin-san was, why I was there, where I was from, etc. One of the guys spoke decent English, so he would help translate for me. Their answers were either I was their daughter, their mistress, sister-in-law, wife, cousin, twin, and very rarely, an exchange student. Sometimes they would say things in English which caused some confused faces of customers, but everyone working at the booth knew the game and would laugh together.

It was one the funnest days I had in Japan, and definitely one I will not forget!
I only managed to get one photo that day, but it was definitely the most important - a photo with my host mom and the ojiisans! (click for larger image!)


















It was during this festival that I apparently said I would do the Japanese Speech Contest (I don't remember this) but regardless, that story is for another time.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-changes

So... I have moved yet again!!! Now I am living with my boyfriend (and his family) just outside of Baltimore. I moved in at the end of July after hashing and re-hashing out the details and I do not regret it!

To say I disliked my last job was a severe understatement. BS Call-center work is so not for moi. BUT!! Since moving in, my boyfriend and I have gotten a lot closer and our relationship has improved 150%! I think couples often worry that moving in together can ruin a relationship because some couples are better apart than together. Luckily we are not shaping up that way.

We've started cleaning his room and making room for me, which is a huge step forward I think. I don't have all of my clothes, etc. because we still are shopping for some storage options. But I have a lot of ideas so I'm hoping it should be taken care of soon.

And speaking of ideas, I've been on this cooking binge lately. We've been dieting and exercising together and have just about stopped eating like crap (like we used to) but all I've been wanting to do it cook, cook, cook!

So tomorrow, I am going to cook for my boyfriend. I haven't decided what, so I'm going to look through The Food Network's recipes on their iPad app on the bf's iPad and through a couple of my cookbooks. My boyfriend said he also wanted to get red velvet cake mix, so we're going to make cupcakes.

I have a couple reviews to do of sushi/Japanese restaurants we've been to. I also want to do a "Japanese Food Lover's Guide to NYC" with reviews of restaurants, bakeries, cool stores, etc. that my boyfriend and I have found on our travels.

For anyone interested, I do have instagram - @stacywahh . And hello nippon!! 's Facebook fan page (that I created and haven't really updated) can be found here.

I'm doing a design overhaul so I will hopefully be simplifying the design to make it more user-friendly. But for the mean-time, who doesn't love that Pop Sister (RIP) scan? :]

Friday, July 06, 2012

焼き肉PARTY!

Hello everyone!!
For all of the Americans out there, how was your fourth of July?
Mine was really fun because I had a yakiniku party with my boyfriend! For those who don't know, yakiniku is japanese for "burned meat", which is considered korean style BBQ! And one of my favorite foods!!!!

I have tonnnnssss of pictures for posts but it's been hard because my boyfriend usually takes them on his iPhone4 and never sends them to me (>_<) Buutttt! we recently signed up for a joint box.net account so we can share pictures, documents, etc more easily. Very happy about that!

There are some Korean BBQ restaurants that you can go to but they are usually expensive and there isn't as much meat like there is when you do it at home. For around $70 in meat/supplies, you can have enough food for 4 people PLUS leftovers! Awesome, right?!

So now you may be wondering how we accomplish having yakiniku in the home and it's very easy:
Buy a yakiniku-style grill.
I have this one which is only $40 on Amazon! AI think any table top grill will work good but I wouldn't recommend outdoor ones because then you can't enjoy sitting around the table cooking together ^_^

Find thinly cut meat.
I think it's best to get this from a Korean or Asian grocery. Normal grocery stores usually don't sell meat cut thinly but I strongly recommend this because it's easy to marinate, cooks quicker and it's also easy to eat with chopsticks! We buy beef brisket, thin sliced pork that we marinate in Korean BBQ sauce, chicken tenders, honey-smoked bacon that I wrap asparagus in, and whatever else we splurge on (haha).

Some of the meat we purchased. A - Thicker cut pork, B - Not sure of the marinade, but it tasted like kimchi. The English label said "Pork Butt", haha. C - Marinated beef. Not sure what part, but I do know it was good.
Find sauces/marinades. 
For dipping: Standard soy sauce is good. I also really like sesame seed oil with a little salt and pepper. Could also use hot sauce, miso-flavored dressing or sauce, teriyaki sauce, etc. This is a really good place to be creative!

Marinades: Korean BBQ Sauce (not sure of the brand we use, I will update it once I find out the name), Teriyaki sauce, Yakitori sauce, Sesame/miso dressing, 

Plan out drinks.
This can be a fun part too. We usually add in some sort of Japanese drink, either Oi! Ocha, Ramune, or something. This time we had Kirin Light Beer (I just turned 21!! Yay! Have yet to be carded anywhere though (x_x;;) )


A - Taiwanese Apple Soda (called Apple Sidra in English?), B - ACE Hard Apple Cider. Veryyyy good. Not too strong so lightweights like me can drink it. D - Kirin Light Beer. Not as strong of a beer flavor so manageable. E - Stella Artois. My boyfriend's pick and one of his favorite beers. I think it's Belgian?
Just realized I forgot C in that picture, hahaha!

Enjoy with family and friends!
I've done yakiniku in Japan with host families and friends, and in America with Ricky and his family. It's always such a fun time to share with others. I hope you will get the chance to as well!!

*** I do have to mention though, that for all the deliciousness that is yakiniku, cooking it at home means you're left with the cleanup. Cleaning the drip pan after it hardens is the worst!!! Makes me elbows hurt x_x hahaha.


So, time for some pictures....!
Us while cooking. Not a great picture of me, but I still like it! ^_^


If anyone is interested, I could give my tutorial on how I make the bacon asparagus wraps that are AMAZING. Probably most awesome part of Yakiniku!


Thanks for reading!!!
xoxo

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Kashima Shrine

I am finally able to post again!!! My computer's fan just stopped working. It was horribly stressful because I had just started looking for jobs in Baltimore, and then my computer suddenly wouldn't stay on for longer than 10 minutes. Luckily I was able to get it fixed for only $65.00!


In other news, today my car decided to stop working as well. In the absolute lack of luck that was today, one of my best friends came to my rescue and hopefully everything will go up from here.


Sometimes I really want to just know how many times in a two year time-frame can you hit rock-bottom, but things will get better eventually, just gotta keep swimming...

So onto a post I've planned and had written for awhile....

鹿島神宮
Kashima Shrine
All photos from : http://city.kashima.ibaraki.jp/kankou/1/zingu.html

Now, don’t call me biased or anything (though I totally am), but today I want to talk about 鹿島神宮Kashima Jinguu, located in Kashima-shi, Ibaraki-ken.

I got to visit this shrine a lot. So much so, I’ve memorized most of it - the pathways, the big, beautiful trees, the deer, the way the pathway felt kind of like quicksand after it rained. This shrine in particular means a whole lot to me.

The Kashima Jinguu shrine is one of the oldest in Japan.

Here’s a little history lesson about Kashima-shi: The original kanji for Kashima was 鹿(ka, “deer”)+島(shima, “island“). This kanji pairing is still used for many things in Kashima such as in the names of the “Kashima Antlers“ soccer team and the shrine. The official kanji pairing used now for the city, however, is 鹿嶋, which still means “deer island”. I’m not exactly sure why they changed the kanji because I could never get a clear answer other than “that sometimes happens in Japan”. Really? I could have never guess that myself. /sarcasm

This “deer island” theme carried over into many aspects of life in Kashima - the Antlers name came from it, their mascot was a pair of deer, the members prayed at the shrine together before every home match and hosted their championship parade there (which I totally skipped school for :] ), and there were many deer kept at this shrine (much more than I’ve seen in other places, such as in Hiroshima).

My school - Seishin Gakuen was located at the upper end of the shrine, so there were a few times during Long Home Room that we were able to walk around the shrine. During the summer, we had a lot of rain, which made the softball field unusable, so instead of doing any real exercise, we just walked to the shrine and looked at the fish. My school also has a special relationship with the shrine, so the Shourinji-kempo, kyuudou, and jyuudou clubs all practiced at the shrine.

I used to ride next to it every day when I rode my bike to and from school at my first host family. I’ve visited it at least 15 times. I’ve seen it damp from rain, covered with leaves in Autumn, covered with snow on Setsubun no Hi(the first day of Spring in February), and have hidden beneath it’s trees on a hot summer’s day. I’ve donated over 1000 yen ($10) in prayer money, for everything from passing tests, to succeeding in love, to fixing issues with host parents, friends, and my last wish - that I could make it back there once again.

Even though I’ve spent so much time there, I still discovered something new every time I’m there. It’s like a little puzzle and I’ve only pieced some of it together - like much of my connection with Japan. I’ve visited this shrine with most of the important people in my life, and I hope that one day I can share it with my friends and my family.

I had plans this past March to revisit Kashima Jinguu but unfortunately, due to the earthquake, I was unable to make it back to Kashima. I managed to pick up pieces of information from different news outlets and people who informed me that the shrine was damaged a little. Unfortunately, I still don’t know how bad, but I honestly don’t think I want to know because the very thought of anything in Kashima being damaged has brought me to tears too often.

If you‘re one of those people that like shrines/temples (like me) or are interested in ancient Japan (like me), I highly recommend this shrine. It’s located about an hour by highway bus (it even has it’s own stop) from Tokyo and the city itself has many other interesting things like the BEACH!!, many shops, yakuza, and good restaurants (like the couple my host family owns ;) )

Access:
鹿島神宮
Kashima Jinguu
Kashima Shrine
〒314-0031
茨城県鹿嶋市宮中2306-1
Ibaraki-ken, Kashima-shi, Kyuuchuu 2306-1
2306-1 Kyuuchuu, Kashima City, Ibaraki Prefecture


TEL 0299-82-1209
FAX 0299-82-1625


Links about Kashima Jinguu:
[japanese] http://city.kashima.ibaraki.jp/kankou/1/zingu.html
[japanese] http://www.livedo.net/tabi/96.html
[japanese] http://www.kashimajingu.jp/wp/access/access07 (includes a map of Kashima Jinguu)
[japanese] http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~tohara/kasima.html
[english] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashima_Shrine

[english] http://city.kashima.ibaraki.jp/english/100701.htm


[english] http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/bukyoku/seikan/kokuko/e-ibaraki-report/0604kashima.html


[english] http://japanexplorer.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/kashima-jingu-enshrines-the-god-of-quake-prevention-ibaraki-prefecture/ (includes a lot of background information)


Please let me know if you have any questions, or give suggestions of what you want to see!
いつも読んでくれてありがとうございます!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Hello 2012, Hello New Start♥

Hello everyone!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I hope everyone had a great time. I spent the weekend with my boyfriend. We had a lot of fun, drinking champagne, watching weird Korean horror movies, having a yakiniku party, and just spending a lot of time enjoy each other's company

We watched the ball drop in NYC (and whined that we weren't there) and I had my first ever kiss at Midnight!


Backing up a bit, how was everyone's Christmas? (or, if you don't celebrate Christmas, how was your [insert holiday here]? I'm curious to know how/if everyone celebrates during this time of year.)


This Christmas was full of Hello Kitty... Slippers, laptop case, keychain, bubble batch, my boyfriend even got me a cute plushie! My mom got me a sweet miniature tea set that was made in Okayama Prefecture in Japan!! I love it so much, but I'm scared to use it, haha!


As for resolutions, I've thought a lot and decided to make some new goals. Returning to Japan a.s.a.p. is no longer a top priority. I know, I know... Most people will probably wonder what could have changed my mind, but lets just say I know Japan is always going to be there and it will always be an option. However, for the time being, I have other things I want to do first.


That being said, the first one is this blog. I'm changing my focus. Some things in my life may be changing soon and I really want to focus on sharing my experiences and furthermore, sharing how I create a little bit of Japan back in the U.S. For example, my boyfriend is also a total Japan addict, so we often make yakiniku (though technically it's korean, whatev haha), make okonomiyaki, look for cool Japanese-inspired food, go to many Japanese restaurants, follow Japanese news...... I'm thinking about writing about things like how to make okonomiyaki at home, reviewing Japanese restaurants, etc.  That way, those of us who are not in Japan can have a little inspiration. I also have been seeing a lot more of the U.S. and doing a lot more things. A lot more activity means a lot more to write about and a lot more to share


My biggest goal is to de-clutter my life, starting with my body by dieting. I don't need those extra pounds and don't want those extra pounds so it's time to say bye-bye. Next is my closet. I have way too many clothes! And not enough that I enjoy wearing. And many more that are not going to fit. Next will be my things. Moving is in my near future and I just cannot bring myself to take all of this crap with me. Time to move the eff on~! I want to have what I need, what is important, and rid myself of the here, there, and in between.


Like I stated before, I want to focus on finishing my diet and reaching my goal. I am past the halfway point, now I just need to step it up a notch. No more making excuses. I want more action and completion! (just a note: I recently bought a looser fitting shirt, but it was an XS! I never thought I could wear an XS and it actually look good!)


I also want to start school. This is my second most important goal. By the end of this year, I will be on the track to getting my degree, come hell or high water, or so much debt I can't even think about it. I need to focus on getting it started.





And one last thing I'm going to work on is being more reliable. Having Google Reader on my phone has really ruined my commenting and posting on this blog. I hardly ever am on my actual laptop anymore. It's just so much easier to creepread than contribute.Well, creeping no more!!! I just deleted the app from my phone. I also want to be there more for the people in my life. I have a habit of disappearing for extended periods of time, which doesn't make my a very good friend. First goal: To mail out those letters I have been writing for over 2 months.


Here's to a new year, new beginnings and new experiences abound!
(≧∇≦)/□☆□\(≧∇≦ )カンパーイ!!