Wednesday, April 30, 2008

35 day service

Yesterday was a national holiday, it was also the 35-day service for Satoshi's father.

In Hawaii, we usually only do a 7-day and 49-day memorial service for the deceased.

In Kyoto, they do things really formally and actually have a memorial service every 7 days until the 49-day service.

Luckily for us, Satoshi's mom chose to only do the 7, 21, 35 and 49 day services.

Still, it is quite a tiring experience.

Everyone gathers at Satoshi's parent's home, tea needs to be served and greetings/bowing said. Family members bring sweets which are presented to the altar, this is called osonae, then the priest comes to say prayers for about half and hour. Sitting seiza (on your knees) for this long is very difficult. On top of this, everyone still wears all black clothing.

Since Satoshi's parent's home is quite small, a tray with a burning coal and a container with ground up incense is passed around to each person, according to "rank" in the family (first would be Satoshi's mom), each person puts some ground up incense onto the burning coal then says a prayer--this is called o-shoko.

After the service, the priest is given tea and his fee (about 3 hundred dollars US, this is given each time a service is performed!) The osonae is then divided amongst family that has attended the memorial service. Plus, a little gift, usually a Japanese confection and some chagashi(sweets for tea) is given at each service from the family to the people that attended the memorial service.

Lots of gift giving! This is one of the chagashi that we received, it is called Ajarimochi and is made by Mangetsu. It looks like a manju, but is chewy like mochi. The thing with wagashi (Japanese confections) is that the shelf life is very short.

Next week is the 49-day service, this will be held at the temple and a meal needs to be provided for everyone who attends.

Hope your week is going well.

Monday, April 28, 2008

foodie kind of weekend

Saturday was a nice day. Great for laundry.

After a couple of loads, we decided to go to Ikeda. Satoshi wanted to check out their rakugo museum. On the way, we stopped into Yuan for lunch. This place is run by Toyosu, a local arare (rice cracker) maker. I had the o-makase (leave it up to the chef) set.

It came with a mini dessert. I chose the kurogoma dango (black sesame dumplings)--rice dumplings covered with a black sesame sauce.

After lunch, we walked about 30 minutes to Ikeda.


The Rakugo museum opened sometime last year. Rakugo is a "sit-down" comedy that has quite a long history. It is part story telling and part comedy. I once saw an english version of Rakugo at the University of Hawaii.


One of Satoshi's co-workers does rakugo as an amateur. Rakugo is still quite popular in Osaka. This museum is free to the public and there is even a viewing area where you can borrow DVD to watch in the area. There were quite a number of people laughing out loud with their headsets on. Kind of fun to watch these people.

Sunday was another great day. Since we didn't want to stay indoors, we decided to go to Nakayama after lunch. Nakayama is about 5 stations from where we live. We stopped in to Marie-Ange for dessert. The cafe area seats only 10 people, but since it was Sunday, no one was there. Satoshi chose the Sakura (cherry blossom) roll--a vanilla sponge cake filled with cream and a sakura an (cherry flavored sweet bean paste) in the middle.

I chose the chiboust. A flaky crust filled with bananas and topped with chiboust cream. The sugary top was caramelized, like a creme brulee.

Delicious! The best part of this cafe was that they had free re-fills of coffee, something that is unheard of in Japan!

After dessert, we went to the grocery store. I wanted parmigiano reggiano...and was surprised, as the price has since doubled since the last time I bought a slice. 80g is now 1000 yen (about US$10)!

We used the cheese very sparingly on our pasta for dinner. Peas are in season now, so I added some to our pasta.

It looks like the houses on the other side of our building will be torn down. They vacated the houses and have started putting up the poles to attach dust curtains. Hopefully it won't be too dusty.

Hope your week is a good one!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

culture shock

This post is half rant and half culture shock. Being that Japan's workforce is mostly male, they go out for tsukiai and settai. Both include drinking and eating.

Most times tsukiai is amongst co-workers or friends, kind of like "pau hana time" (happy hour) in Hawaii.

Settai is when you take a client out for drinks. Sometimes settai includes taking client out to raunchy areas for their "pleasure".

Can you imagine that most men do not eat at home on the weekdays? For me, I'm okay if Satoshi eats out during the week, saves me time in making something for dinner, but the part that kills me is the "last minute" gathering. These usually include no phone call. Thank goodness, I'm not waiting for him to come home to eat with me...some wives actually do! Can you imagine waiting until 11 p.m. or later to eat dinner and then finding out that your husband ate out already?

The thing that I don't understand is why the men and women here drink to the point where they cannot walk. Maybe it is because we have public transportation like trains? They don't have to worry about driving a car to get home? I've seen people stagger, then throw up all around the place...not pretty. (sorry if you were eating while reading this...)

People fall asleep on the train. Miss their stops. Catching a train late at night smells like a brewery. Everyone's faces are red from the alcohol. Plus, the trains are packed, everyone trying to make it home before the trains stop. I think that this is the time when chikan (molesting/fondling) occurs. When you are packed liked sardines, have alcohol in you, it is bound to happen...sigh.

Having a hangover the next day cannot possibly be too productive for you at work.

So, the other night, Satoshi had a welcome party for some of his new staff. I went to bed before he came home, but wasn't "fully sleeping"--sub-conciously I was waiting for him to come home.

At about 1 a.m. I woke up and realized he hadn't come home yet. The trains stop at around this time, so the only way to come home would be by taxi.

Finally, at about 1:30 a.m. I hear a car pull up. Someone staggering up the stairs. It was Satoshi.

This is what he told me the next morning...He fell asleep on the train, missed his stop and had to catch a taxi home. But, he didn't have enough money to pay his fare, (the price of the taxi goes up after a certain time), so he had to come up, look for some money then go back down to pay.

(You should know that when he lived at his parent's house in Kyoto before we were married, he once overslept his stop and found himself at the end of the line in Shiga prefecture! I guess that would be like needing to get off in New Jersey from Manhattan but finding yourself in Washington D.C....or something like that.)

Anyway, he was in the midst of changing his clothes...then fell asleep on the floor. Lights on. I know this because I got up because the lights were on, turned the lights off and then shut the door.

Why did I shut the door? Satoshi's snoring, especially after drinking is so loud, you can hear it even with a walkman on...trust me, I still use my walkman to try to drain out the snoring, but can still hear it! He said I should just get used to his snoring, to think of it as BGM (background music), I call it more like BGN (background noise)...sigh.

So, the next morning, he complained of a headache, loss of appetite...he smelled like a brewery...blah!

I shook my head and let him suffer with his hangover. Even if it is for his company, even if it is for communication purposes. To drink yourself to the point where you are sick, is kind of...well, stupid!

I guess it is part of the culture I will never understand.

While I'm on the subject of culture shock...I never realized how fast pre-fab houses can go up.

At 15:45, I checked on the progress of the house building next door. They had the wall frames up and were working on the 3rd floor.

In the meantime, I made dinner (loco moco) and we ate at about 16:30 (early) because Satoshi had his German class.

At 17:30, I checked on them again because it was quiet. They already had the roof up. Scarily too fast...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

simple salad

I tried this really simple salad recipe (in the photo it is the salad on the right) from Made Healthier. For the dressing I used my favorite, lemon oregano vinaigrette. Since the only honey I had open was a blueberry one, I used it in the vinaigrette. The dressing came out really nice.

I wanted to show you the packaging for the lemon. It shows the picture of the farmers that grew it. Nice way for you to appreciate your food and the people who grew it.

I also made the gobo salad with fresh gobo. I used this gadget by OXO to julienne the gobo and carrots.

On my way back from the market, I happened to be looking up at the trees and noticed this fuji(wisteria) hanging down from it. It was about 3 feet from where I was standing, so I had to zoom up on it.

For breakfast today, I mixed the rest of the salad into an omlette, topped it with some pre-made pasta sauce and had some baguette with herb garlic cream cheese.

Friday, April 25, 2008

odds & ends

In Japan, they have different types of strawberries. This one is called Amaou.

Not sure if this is what is called an acrostic, but the name comes from A: Akai (red)
Ma: Marui (round)
O: Ookii (big)
U: Umai (delicious)

These guys were definitely big, round and delicious! Perfect for dipping in dark chocolate. (Mom says that this is an acronym not an acrostic...thanks Mom!)

So, without butter, I used only olive oil for these banana nib muffins. As I baked the muffins, I realized I didn't put in any eggs or vanilla extract either! They came out a bit dense, but they were really moist, probably because of the bananas.

Some "old-fashioned" bacon that I found. Only 6 slices in a package...won't tell you the price. Of all the brands I've found, this one cooks up the crispiest! With a brand name like, Butz, I wonder if there is some kind of hidden message? (Maybe?)

A new brand of candied yuzu (citron). Saw a segment on television where they were making these. It takes about 6 months to make a batch. They soak the citron peels in sugar water for several days then, air dry them r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y, then add more sugar.

These peels are so delicious! Makes your mouth pucker because they are so sour. They are brownish, because they don't add any coloring.

Well, they have finally started building. It looks like it will be 3 (or probably 4) new houses on the lot next door. All I know is that the scaffolding is as high as our building (3 stories)! If you notice the 2 cement slabs, each is for a house.

The newest macaron flavor at Starbucks is lemon. A bright yellow outside with a tart lemony gel filling. Delicious!

I had lunch with my host-mom the other day. I like having lunch with her, it gives us time to bond and she always tells me about the newest food trends. I wanted to share what she told me...egoma oil. Egoma is in the same family as shiso (perilla/beefsteak plant) and the leaves are found in Korean cuisine, maybe the oil too? She said that if you have high cholesterol, this oil will help bring it down and is better than olive oil. The only thing with this oil is that it is expensive and has a very short shelf life.

Hope you have a nice weekend, next week is Golden Week here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

gomoku mame (minus 1)

Last week, Kazumi came over to bring me an ice cream maker that she didn't want. She also brought over these dried daizu (soy beans) which her friend grew.

She told me that she usually makes gomoku mame with the daizu. So, I looked in my cookbooks and found a recipe for it. Gomoku stands for 5 ingredients--so there are supposed to be 5 different items besides the beans included in the recipe.

Gomoku Mame :adapted from Orange Page: "Obachan no aji" Serves 4
1 cup dry daizu (soy beans)
1/4 cup of hijiki (edible brown seaweed)
1 small piece of gobo (about 6 inches)
1/2 renkon (about 3 inches)
1 small carrot (about 6 inches)
1/2 piece of konnyaku (about 2 inches)
vinegar
5 tablespoons of sugar
5 tablespoons of shoyu (soy sauce)

I soaked 1 cup of beans the night before.

In the morning, I made a list and went to the market.

Picked up some gobo (burdock), renkon (lotus root). Since I had carrots, and hijiki (edible brown seaweed), I was all set. As I was walking back from the market, I realized that I had forgotten to buy konnyaku (devil's tongue jelly)....sigh...since I was already half way home and I decided to do without.

Clean your gobo with the back of your knife, it will scrape off all the dirt and part of the skin. Cut the gobo into 2 cm thick disks then cut into four pieces. Do this for 1/2 a stalk of gobo.

With the renkon, peel it then cut it into cubes about 2 cm thick.

Soak the renkon and gobo in water and 1 teaspoon of vinegar for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes, boil the gobo and renkon for 2 to 3 minutes...Drain.

Cut a carrot into 2 cm thick disks and then into four pieces. Do this for the whole carrot. Cut the konnyaku into 2 cm thick cubes.

Bring water to a boil then turn down to a simmer, be sure to cover the beans with enough water and simmer without the cover for an hour and a half to two hours. Be sure to religiously scrape off the scum that forms on the top. You may need to add water.

After the beans are soft, add the gobo, carrots and konnyaku and simmer without the cover for 14 to 15 minutes--religiously scraping the scum on the top.

Add the renkon and hijiki and simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes.

After the 5 to 6 minutes, check the renkon to see if it is soft with a fork. If it isn't, simmer a little longer. If it is soft, add sugar. Boil for another 10 minutes.

Add the shoyu and simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes.


This dish gets better and better in the following days.

NOTES: this dish is a bit labor intensive, but makes a nice side dish for your bento (boxed lunch) or a nice alternative to meat for a main dish.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

meme and a birthday

First off, it is Satoshi's grandma's birthday today...she is 100. Every year the cyclamen that we had bought for her blooms and to me, seems to be getting fuller and fuller every year.

I posted about this plant awhile back, you can read about it here. (Happy Birthday, Hikone Grandma!)

Now for the meme....Ilingc of Feed me! I'm Hungry! tagged me for a meme, similar to one I did awhile back, but I'm still game to play...here goes.

10 years ago... I was working at a tour agency, looking to find a way out, I think this maybe the time I applied at the C.I.A. and F.B.I.

1 year ago... I was exploring Kyoto on a foodie adventure.

5 favorite snacks
1. chocolate
2. arare (rice crackers)
3. potato chips (kettle style)
4. popcorn
5. nuts (preferably almonds)

5 things I would do if I were a millionaire
1. buy a house, with a large kitchen, lots of counter space and an island in the middle.
2. renovate my mom's kitchen
3. let Satoshi quit his job, and get a job that he would want to do "for fun"
4. travel for most part of the year
5. donate money to cancer research

5 bad habits
1. eat after 20:00
2. nap after I eat
3. buy cookbooks and books on food
4. stay on the internet for hours
5. be lazy & stubborn (it was a tie)

5 things you like doing
1. laundry on sunny days
2. walking different routes to the supermarket
3. eating out
4. trying new recipes
5. taking photos of flowers and food

5 things you would never wear again
1. chawan bowl style hair cut
2. blue or purple eye shadow
3. orthodontic braces
4. pantyhose
5. waterproof mascara (I always get raccoon eyes when I do)

5 favorite toys
1. 2 screen television
2. steamer basket
3. citrus zester
4. food processor
5. ice cream maker (haven't used it yet, but I know it will become a favorite)

I would tag 5 people, but I think this meme has made its rounds...if you'd like to participate, consider yourself tagged!

Thanks Ilingc!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

butter

Today is Earth Day. The sun is out, perfect for baking...only thing is that there is a butter shortage.

While I was in Hawaii, I read about a butter shortage in Japan on Amy's blog. In her post, she said that she was later able to buy some butter.

Unfortunately, the store that I went to had no unsalted butter. They did have salted butter but that had a limit per person and was selling it for 335 yen (about US$3.35) for 200 grams...I decided to wait.

While shopping, I realized I needed sugar. I know that that price has risen since the last time I bought sugar--which was sometime last year. 1 kilogram is now 258 yen (about US$2.58 for 2.2 pounds).

I still have 3 (50 gram) sticks of unsalted butter left, but I guess I'll wait before I get into baking again...

Monday, April 21, 2008

gobo salad

Found a recipe for the gobo salad that I like...I love the internet!

Adapted it a bit...from Cookpad--Serves 2

1 package for kinpira (100g) pre-cut gobo (burdock), carrots
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
4 grinds of black pepper)
1 dash of shichimi (Japanese 7-pepper)
2 tablespoons of canned corn, rinsed
1 package (50g) of chickpeas, kidney beans and peas, rinsed
3 pinches of black sesame seeds

If you do use a kinpira mix, separate the carrots from the gobo.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.
Cook gobo for 5 minutes.
During last minute, add carrots.
Drain well.
While hot, sprinkle vinegar over gobo and carrots and mix.
Add rest of ingredients and mix well.
Chill and serve.

NOTES: The original recipe calls for you to "whittle" the gobo, but I took the lazy way out and bought the pre-"whittled" package. I think the next time I'll add thinly sliced red onion and maybe some cooked, shelled soybeans. Add whatever veggies you have in your fridge or your favorites! Also, if the texture is too watery for you, you could add a bit more mayo.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

himeji

Today we went to the Himeji Kashihaku. It is an expo for sweets! Apparently this event has been around for 100 years and the last one was held in Kumamoto. I had seen an ad for it last year, and told Satoshi that I wanted to go.It is about an hour and a half from Osaka to Himeji by train.

After a couple days of rain, we were worried about the weather, but it turned out to be a nice, HOT, day.

For 2000 yen (about US$20), you get admission to the event. The thing that I hate about events/fairs in Japan are the tons of people that show up. Almost all the areas had a waiting time of about 2 hours! (no fast passes, here!)

Who knew there were this many different kinds of castella?






Or this many different types of momiji manju (maple leaf manju)?


The nice thing about waiting in line was that you had great photo opportunities to take pictures of Himeji castle.



A lot of the attractions had "no photos" allowed, but heck, if I have to wait 2 hours to see it, I think I deserve to take a photo.

So take photos I did (as well as everyone else...)I'll post the rest on Flickr.












By the time we got through seeing 2 attractions, it was 14:00, so we decided to find lunch. The problem was how long we wanted to wait to get some...we found a really short line for these. Tempura--a fishcake that is fried. We had some with tako (octopus), renkon (lotus root) & cheese.

After having "lunch" we debated standing in other 2-hour lines to see other things, but it was HOT and sunny, so we gave up and headed back towards the station.

We stopped into a department store for some coffee. Can you believe this family left their baby stroller which was borrowed from the department store right in the middle of the walk area, went into the cafe and had their coffee while everyone outside had to be careful not to flip over it? (sigh)

I had the coffee roll (400 yen about US$4). A light, fluffy coffee flavored cake covered with chocolate.

Though it was a hot day, filled with lots of people, and long lines, we were able to see all kinds of sweets from all over Japan.

Hope you have a great week!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

saturday

As I told Lori in the comments from a previous post, we eat out mostly on weekends. This is an agreement that Satoshi and I have had from before we were married. The agreement is that on weekends, I don't cook...so I have "the weekend off". My half of the agreement is that Satoshi is allowed to sleep until 9:00 a.m. (Though with our holo-holo (galavanting) schedule, usually he has to wake up earlier.)

Anyway, last Saturday was a beautiful day.

Breakfast was really simple, yomogi (mugwort) toast, with adzuki cream cheese and a strawberry-banana flax seed smoothie.

Half a banana, 5 strawberries, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground flax seed and 1/2 a cup of milk. Whiz in food processor, makes 1 serving. Add more milk if too thick.

After breakfast, we walked to Suigetsu Park. Most of the cherry blossoms were billowing to the ground. Seeing the ground all pink is just as beautiful as seeing the blossoms on the trees.

We also visited Sonpachiyakujin, we've visited this temple before and I've written about it here. The archway at the entrance seems to be eroding and starting to lean. Still, it was beautiful with the cherry blossoms and I will post more pics on Flickr.

From Sonpachiyakujin, we walked to Satsukiyama Park then to Kawanishi. Lunch was at a restaurant called Corin. There was a line, so we waited for a table.

I ordered the daily lunch special--fried shrimp and Chinese roast pork (950 yen--about US$9.50). This came with ratatouille, a salad and "clam chowder". (Actually it was clam flavored soup, nothing chowder-y or clammy about it...)

Satoshi had the jumbo fried shrimp (1600 yen--about US$16). Ordering this, he was told he'd have to wait about 20 minutes for them to cook it. Boy, were they HUGE!

We both added dessert--ice cream (each 250 yen about US$2.50).

Mine was honey & walnut, Satoshi's was matcha (green tea).

After lunch, we walked to Hibarigaoka-Hanayashiki through a little park near the tracks. Most of the cherry blossoms were billowing off the trees, but it was still nice to be out and about.