Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Vacation GET! (冬休み)

Hi all,

I apologize for the recent lack of activity on the blog.  This post is just to say that I have now officially finished all my teaching duties for the year and will be on winter vacation until 1/12/2009 (Mon).

I will be travelling around Japan during this time, and will kick things off by leaving tomorrow night on a ferry bound for Kyushu.  While I'll likely be without web access during much of this time, I vow to return with loads of pictures and stories for many new updates.    

Here's wishing everyone happy holidays and a wonderful new year.

See you in 2009!


Friday, December 19, 2008

I guess this is the opposite of a hard-on.

Here's a blurry night picture of Christmas light covered trees in downtown Matsuyama. The holidays are upon us in Japan.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thanksgiving (感謝祭)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Okay, I fully realize that Thanksgiving is now around two weeks old. You don't have to rub it in! However, as I pull myself back towards regularly scheduled blog updates - I took a hiatus to cram for the Japanese proficiency exam - I figured it was as good a place as any to begin.

Two weeks ago, Cara and I had a complete Thanksgiving dinner with Japanese guests. I will begin by saying that I cannot claim even 06% of the credit for the resulting feast; it was ALL a result of my friend slaving away at the stove (or should I say our apartment's dual gas burners).

I can only claim sole responsibility for the dramatically over-sized mountain of mashed potatoes present at the meal. Once I began peeling, I sort of fell into a trance and polished off the two bags of spuds in no time.

I figured that our Japanese guests, raised in a nation obsessed with fries, sweet potatoes, and potato salad, would gobble up heaping spoonfuls of my mash. In actuality, I had to take around half of it home. Sadly, mashed potatoes are my least favorite Thanksgiving food.

Ironically, but perhaps expected, the one Thanksgiving food that is near impossible to procure in Japan is turkey. Most Japanese people have never tasted turkey - I think it was a first for all the guests at our dinner (along with roasted pumpkin seeds).

The only turkeys I have seen in Japan are whole, frozen-solid birds that are imported annually from America or New Zealand. Since there is literally zero demand for turkey in Japan, Mitsukoshi (a super high-end department store chain) only stocks around five birds per year. Each frozen turkey costs well over $100 USD.

Lucky for us, our American friend Lindsay (who had just returned to Ehime Prefecture at the time) was able to bring some canned turkey from Costco in America for us. So, all of our guests got to sample authentic American turkey (albeit a strange canned variety that required draining and heavily resembled tuna).

In total, our dinner menu included the following: turkey, stuffing, cranberries, carrots, mashed potatoes, salad, biscuits, pumpkin pie, and apple cider (I'm probably forgetting some things).

The prep for the meal included literally biking a complete kitchen's worth of utensils and ingredients from our apartment complex to the medical school (only about 5-7 minutes away).

Sure Lance Armstrong can win the Tour de France seven consecutive times, but can he ride with a steaming hot cauldron of mashed potatoes in his basket while holding a tupper of simmering maple glazed carrots in his hand?

In the end, our dinner was very fun, very friendly, and very Japanese. I am pleased to know that the tryptophan induced post meal laze exists in Japan the same as it does in America.

Happy Holidays!


This picture looks as though it should be featured on either the cover of an amateur gourmet magazine or one of those shirts you design and print at the mall for Grandma.

Group shot featuring the remnants of our Thanksgiving feast. I actually had to leave right as dinner started to go teach a private lesson. Luckily, there was still enough of each dish left for me to sample when I returned an hour later.

Enjoying hot apple cider. Honest-to-goodness hot apple cider with rum in it! After biking around the suburb at midday and visiting every local liquor shop, I came to the realization that Japanese people primarily drink beer, sake, and whiskey. It took four shops before I found this "imported" bottle.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Häagen-Dazs in Japan has the "Happy Cup." The Happy Cup is only available on the 7th, 17th, and 27th of each month. You can choose seven different mini scoops which are piled into a cup as shown. The result is actually quite a bit of ice cream (more than I wanted to eat anyways). My favorites were burnt caramel and Belgian chocolate. Too bad they ran out of the avocado flavor I requested!