In order to make better quality videos I ordered a new camera.  This camera has a quality condenser mic and an HD camera, which are both at least a step up from what I had before.  Now I just need software that can handle it also.
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Domino's Pizza has an online deal you can order, called Home Alone.  It's a "medium" pizza (10") with two toppings and a can of coke or coke zero. I sprung for a third topping since I loves me some pineapple, ham and mushroom pizza.  The discovery of this delivery service of yummy real pizza is going to be the death of me.  And they give me coupons!

But pizza really doesn't photograph all that well...
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Every two weeks I teach a private lesson in Omiya.  Sometime in December this restaurant caught my eye.  Too busy to stop and with other food plans in hand, I put this soup shop on my calendar for after the next lesson.  It was worth the wait.  Here is a bowl of perfect broccoli cheese soup with carrots, served with a baguette and hot tea.
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In my quest for sandwich bread from my bread machine, this is my second attempt.  The recipe is rather simple, but the amount of yeast made it kinda large.  It almost pushed the top of the breadmaker open.  The texture looks right though, and it looks surprisingly like the "morning harmony" bread with the rounded top sold in Japan.  Hopefully it tastes as good as it looks.
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With the bread leftover from my first two bread machine experiments I decided to make bread pudding.  It was an improvised recipe since there was heavily spiced pumpkin bread in there, but it turned out okay.  Less like pudding and more like wet cake, but tasty and not overly sweet.  Awesome.
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Today at work I assembled a test papercraft tardis out of bond paper from the office printer, under the guise of research for teaching materials.  My findings were that it was much too small to use in a classroom.  You know, I *had* to assemble it to figure this out...
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When signing up for lessons in Japan, there are some freebies that come with the contract.  It could be because everything is so expensive, or it could be *why* things are so expensive, but either way, the freebies exist.

This bread was a product of a free lesson.  It's a brioche-like bread with honey and walnuts rolled into the dough.
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Yesterday the supermarket near my lesson was having a sale on tuna sashimi.  I decided to try my hand at doing something with said sashimi and made poke.  This is cubed tuna marinaded in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil, mixed with avocado and served over rice and onions.
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While in Okinawa I found a string of beads that appeared to glow, like a diamond sparkles. When looking through it, it shines yellow, and it directs yellow light at everything, but if you just look at it, it glows a blue-violet. Cool.
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In an attempt to get away from Japanese bleached and generally boring bread, I've started experimenting with my breadmaker.  This is the first (and rather embarrassing) loaf to come out of the machine.  Looks like the top caved in, so I'll have to tweak the recipe to work with the machine I have, or find a better recipe.  Hrm.  It may be better than it looks once it's cooled and cut.
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The deli near my work has a pretty large [rotating] selection of stuff, mostly international choices.  There will be more photos of the food as I sample it when I can.
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Green tea is a common flavor in Japan.  These cookies are green tea cookies with green tea chocolate inside.  Fabulous.
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In Osaka there's a lot more space than in Tokyo.  Along Midosuji street, there are bridges with planters along the pedestrian walkways.  It looks really nice with the general design of the bridge too.  Tokyo isn't nearly as pretty as Osaka in most places, which really is too bad.
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Someone put some leaves in the lanterns lining a temple walkway.  Or at least I think someone put them there; they may have fallen.
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Today I had another cooking class, where we made tuna onion mini quiches.  It was a free lesson because I brought a friend to do a model lesson.  Really we just wanted lunch for the rest of the week (and I wanted the recipe), but it was still fun to make.
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While octopus balls (also known as takoyaki--たこ焼き) are really popular summer snacks, these giant ones known as Bakudanyaki are sold year-round in shops around Tokyo.  They have a lot of stuff put into them, from the usual octopus, to a piece of baby corn, a bit of sausage and even mushrooms.  You can get lots of different sauces.  Usually I get the "cheese mix" which is a variation on a theme, but this time I decided to try the double mentaiko cheese.  It was delicious.
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I've always been a sucker for woodwork, and the details found at temples often really impress me.  Looking at the shape and cleanness of some of these pieces is pretty impressive considering their age.

This was found over the hand-washing fountain at the Kamakura Daibutsu.
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Found this interesting fountain nestled next to the escalator heading up from the food basement of a department store near my work in Shinjuku.  I'm not sure why it's here, but it's nice to see random art that's being maintained.  Of course, stores need to keep everything clean, so I guess that's why.
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While Christmas is long over, I couldn't help but post this when I found it in my files to be sorted.  One of the department stores (Lumine) had the strangest Christmas decor I've ever seen.  How this says Christmas instead of Victorian child nightmare, I dunno.
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Recently I tried a food called okayu (お粥) in Japanese.  Basically, it's a porridge made from rice.  Mine had chopped sweet potatoes in it and was served with these toppings.  Ultimately, I decided to eat them separately, but they would've made interesting complements to the okayu.

Some of the sides were fairly average, like the fried yuba (top-left) or the seaweed (bottom-center), while others were unusual, like the 1000-year eggs (center-right).  Some of it I had no idea what I was eating.

This particular okayu was at a Taiwanese restaurant, although the name was Japanese (お粥).
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Normally shark fins are served shredded in shark fin soup in Chinese cuisine, but in Japan it's often served whole to show off that it's a shark fin.
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Had my first official cooking class at the ABC Cooking Studio today.  The lesson was a simple bread with pumpkin, red bell pepper and olives on top of a mayo-mustard sauce.  While the bread was baking, the teacher went through and explained how to adapt the recipe to different tastes and uses.  At the moment, I'm looking forward to sharing my cooking adventures.

And the lighting in the studio doesn't hurt my photos.
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This appears to be a representation of Sun Wukong, also known as the Monkey King, from the story "Journey to the West" from classical Chinese literature. Found painted on the side of a building in Yokohama Chinatown.
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Sometimes when I take photos with my phone the camera does weird things. Was trying to show the radioactive green color of the candy and the wrapper, but this happened.  Needless to say, that hasn't helped my opinion on how radioactive it is. Oh, Japanese flavors...
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The café on the ground floor of my office's new building is okay, although it plays questionable covers of songs that make my ears bleed. There are lots of deli foods to try, so I may spend a bit of time here instead of the curry place now, even though it's only just across the street.
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Every area of Japan is "famous" for something, and the Japanese pride themselves in knowing what every area is known for.  Perhaps it's how geography is taught.

Kamakura is known for the Daibutsu, the beach and purple sweet potatoes, but this ice cream is perhaps my favorite thing that comes from there.  It's a twist of purple sweet potato (beni-imo) and matcha, and is called Hydrangea-flavored ice cream.  Of course, Kamakura is also known for the hydrangeas that bloom in the spring.
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Tokyo is surprisingly devoid of plants, but once in a while a climbing vine reminds us that nature will take back everything if we let her.
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Shisa are the dog/lion hybrids imported from China into the Ryukyu kingdom.  Traditionally in China (and in Okinawa), they are a little scary looking since they're supposed to be protectors.  Nowadays they're happy purveyors of Okinawan culture.  This rotating tower of happy gremlin-esque shisa are sitting underneath a Hanagasa.

Hanagasa are flower hats worn by female Okinawan dancers for a specific dance.  Now people wear them for other performances too.

See a more recent shisa photo here.
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Soki is a pork sparerib with the cartilage that's cooked for a really long time.  The Japanese say that it's cooked for so long that the fat is no longer bad for you (the bad fat is cooked off) and the remaining fat is collagen, which is good for the skin.  It would make sense, since most Okinawan traditional foods are local varieties--often similar, but not identical to other Japanese ones--and are unbelievably fresh.

This Soki Soba was found at an izakaya on Kokusai Dori in Naha.  The noodles, while called soba, are yellow and unlike soba found in most of Japan.  Okinawan soba resembles udon elsewhere and contains no buckwheat.  Historically, the Japanese were rather miffed by the misnomer, but their reverence for culture and tradition allow Okinawa to keep calling it soba despite not being soba in the purist sense.

Whatever else it is, it certainly is delicious.
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These saké bottles are in the shape of kagami mochi, the stacked mochi topped with a bitter orange symbolic of New Year.  I didn't read too closely, but perhaps the alcohol is orange-flavored?  Or perhaps just rice-based, like mochi (and of course saké).

The feature of these may well be the bottles, because glass-blowing has become a local craft.  In particular, there's a glass or stone, not sure what it is, that continues to glow after having light shined on it.  It's vaguely reminiscent of those glow worm toys from the early 1990s, but much less plastic.
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Happy New Year!

For New Year, we went to the Gyokusendo caves and Okinawa World.  Inside was a theme park based on Okinawan culture, tweaked a bit for tourists' tastes.  In a place like that it's to be expected.  Still, since it's open every day of the year we were able to do some New Year crafts, like painting our own shisa.

Can you guess which one is mine?  I'll give you a hint: It's not the one with the moustache.
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