Friday, August 27, 2010

Inspired by Sake!

This is the 2nd in my series of posts called "Inspired by....". This time I chose "Inspired by sake!". In Japanese, "sake" means alcoholic drinks in general. So, this post includes items inspired by Japanese beer as well as "nihonshu" (what we foreigners usually mean when we say "sake").

The first is a very very cool sake cup! It can be found at mikioceramics. The interior glaze is food safe so it can be used!

Next we have this very cute print by threecatsgraphics.

It is super hot here in Japan right sales are soaring! Sapporo is a very famous brand of beer. This is a very cool recycled notebook by ivylanedesigns.
Here is another item inspired by Sapporo beer-soap by thebeersoapcompany.

Pocket mirrors are very handy to have and this one is also cute! Robots drinking sake under a cherry blossom tree eating sushi-what's not to love! Check it out at botodesigns

One can't talk about sake without including sake sets! This is a very cool set by Hodakapottery. I love the colors!

Here is a gorgeous fine art print by kylespears. Stunning!

How cute is this print by TomokoMaruyama ? Cute animals in a hot spring enjoying sake and Mt. Fuji!

And what a perfect combination - a sake set with cherry blossoms! Check it out at alinahayes

Saturday, August 21, 2010

When I first came to Japan...

The other day my friend and I were talking about how we couldn't believe I had been living here for 12 years. She said she had noticed some changes in me and after our little talk I got to thinking about my first few years here. are some things I realize/remember etc.

When I first came to Japan 12 years ago:

* I didn't have culture shock but I did have price shock! I remember going to a kind of cafe and a small (think ornate British style tea cup) cup of mint tea was $4.5. I almost walked out.

* My body was confused. I came in July from Vancouver (almost no humidity) and the humidity was so heavy here that everyday my body was expecting rain followed by a break in the humidity. It never came. It also gets dark here in the summer by 7:30 so I kept looking at the clock expecting it to be much later than it really was.

* I couldn't wear makeup. It was so hot and humid until November that the thought of putting anything on my face made me cringe and besides, I would have just wiped it off as I was using a cloth every few minutes to wipe the sweat off my face (if you come to Japan in the summer you will see that everyone carries around at least a small handkerchief though some carry towels). And by "wipe" I don't mean the dainty style of dabbing my face like Japanese women do. I mean I was taking off my glasses (thank God I wear contacts now) and wiping my face as if I just got out of a shower or like the "ojisan" (old men) do.

* I had never seen a cockroach in any place I had ever lived in and therefore the thought of having to deal with/kill them was so foreign to me. Now, I'm a pro at killing them and have come to realize that it has nothing to do with a dirty house but rather it has to do with living in Japan (though thankfully I only have to deal with them 2-3 times a year).

* My first winter here was a bit shocking. Where I live, it doesn't snow-kind of like Vancouver. It does get cold (sometimes it gets below 0) but there are vegetables growing, flowers blooming etc. What was shocking was that I was fine outside with nothing more than a sweater (I am Canadian!) but inside my house I was freezing!! I could never get warm enough. Cold wind blows in easily through closed windows! And there is no central heat so you have a choice of contraptions to keep warm but for the first few years it wasn't enough. Now, I'm not only used to it I love it and find it too warm in Canadian houses especially while sleeping.

* I couldn't drink cold green tea (the real stuff...not flavored or sweetened "green tea" products). It was way too bitter for me. Now, it is my favorite drink.

* I had hard time dealing with getting paid only once a month. In Vancouver I had 2 jobs so I was paid every week since they had different pay schedules. I was in shock and had a really hard time learning to budget my money.

* I was really homesick at Christmas time since not only was I far away from my family and traditions but really...Christmas in Japan is....well...not the same (I know I know....not a real shocker). Now, I love NOT having Christmas. Honestly, I never thought I would be someone to say that but it is true. I'm glad I don't have all the stuff taking up space in my home, no pressure to shop ( I do send a few things home but it isn't the same), no overspending etc.

* I was shocked at how small the portions are in Japan. I will never forget my first meal here with my boss. We ordered and after it came I looked around and thought the waitress would be bringing more...nope! Now, the opposite is true. I am SHOCKED at the how big the food is in Canada!

* I couldn't eat plain white rice-no flavor. Now, I love it. I couldn't taste the difference between 100 yen salmon sushi and 500 yen salmon sushi ($1 and $5). Now I really can and I'm not so fond of the 100 yen salmon sushi anymore.

* I was shocked at how quickly Japanese homes get dusty. You could dust here every day and still not keep up with it. I am thinking it must be the way houses are built or what they are built with. I remember 3 older friends (ladies in their 50's) went to my mother's house and one morning they got up early to clean her house for her but they couldn't find any dust....they thought she had just cleaned but mom said she cleaned before they got there- so about 5 days before. They were shocked.

* I would stare out my school's windows at the rice fields in dismay and wonder what the hell I was doing here. Now, I LOVE rice fields. Walking by one as the wind blows through it is so amazing!

* I missed so many foods from home but when I go back and try them I can't believe they were my favorites as my tastes have changed so much.

* I couldn't imagine that I would start to forget English. I remember listening to the teacher I was replacing explain how to use the washing machine. She was talking and then she was struggling to find the right words so she used her hands in a sweeping motion while saying "now we will make the water go away". In other words, turn this dial to drain the water. She was Canadian. I was shocked. Now....I'm not shocked. Now I struggle sometimes and the dictionary is my best friend. But living in a foreign country for 12 years and teaching "This is a pen." over and over....chances are will lose some English!

I still can't believe I have been here this long. I came when I was 27 and I will be 40 in October. I never could have imagined this life but I love it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer Vacation!

I'm on 2 weeks of summer vacation though I'm not planning on going anywhere far. I'm planning to stay home and putter around and organize etc. It is super hot and humid here so basically I have no desire to do anything that involves not being in air conditioning. I've been having trouble with "natsubate" or ....I guess something similar to heat exhaustion. I have no appetite-the thought of meat (my favorite food) makes me want to gag so I've been eating a lot of salads when I do finally eat or some of my homemade sesame and almond flour crackers with some cream cheese. I can't wait until this horrible weather is over. It was 37 degrees Celsius (not including the humidity) the other day so can imagine.

So I'm taking this vacation to purge. I'm purging the things I don't need, want or use. The first day, my honey and I carried down to the office a huge dish cupboard (thankfully it was in 2 pieces) to just give me more space in my office/relaxing/reading room upstairs in our apartment. The place was a huge mess as I piled items into the "garbage" or "give away" piles. I carted down all kinds of things to the office where I will box them up and give them to family members who love all things Japanese. We are using the huge dish cupboard to store some of the vintage items we have for sale in our vintage store and now upstairs feels so light and inviting! I can't wait till fall comes and I can roll up the "hurricane" shutters (we need to keep them closed now to block the hot afternoon sun or we would be able to bake bread in this room) and enjoy the fresh air and enjoy this new open space! Today I went through about a year's worth of paper stuff-feels good to have that done! I'm going through books, dishes, bags...everything! It just feels so good to get rid of these things.

Last year we went back to Canada and I have to say....I'm a little homesick. I really would love to be at my mom's (Southampton, Ontario .....she lives about a 5 minute walk from Lake Huron) hanging out at the beach or in her hot tub. I remember at night it was sometimes only 15 degrees (Celsius) so it was heaven sitting in the hot tub and looking at the stars! Eating "Canadian" food (you know....just things different from Japanese food) was fabulous (and we still talk about some of them yummy things we ate)! We are hoping to go back next year so that is what I will think about as I step out into the "hot wet blanket" feeling that is this hell aka summer.

I thought I would end this post with some pictures . These pictures are from different festivals that have taken place around Japan. They LOVE summer festivals!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Soy Sauce On Ice Cream? read that right! A very old and famous soy sauce and miso company invented a soy sauce based ice cream sauce! It is meant to be used only on vanilla flavored ice cream and a few other desserts. Apparently, it tastes like caramel!

Here is the man who invented it. He looks pretty happy eating it!

Here he is pouring it on Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream.

Here he is eating it on "kinako mochi" (rice cakes with powered soy beans).

I think I will pass on this. Would you try it?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How cute is this?

This summer has, so far, been very very hot and humid. All my students know how much I hate this weather (and hate really isn't quite strong enough...loathe, detest...). They often ask me how I'm doing and if I'm surviving etc. was very very humid and hot and it rained cats and dogs....I got wet and I walked around my class without sandals as they were soaked right through and I must have looked hot and miserable (yes, I have air conditioning in my classroom but there isn't any in the kitchen or bathroom etc). Anyway, my little student pulled something out of her bag and gave it to me. She had made me this postcard-it was so cute it cheered me up right away! She drew the sunflower and the "kakigori" (snow cone) and the rest are stickers. She is 8 and very sweet and ...what can I say? I had a smile on my face all day!


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