Tag Archive | Japan

Thoughts You Never Want To Think About

“Mommy wants to throw you out,” said the 8-year-old boy at the dinner table. I don’t even remember what was said before that, I just remember the context. He wasn’t trying to scare me, it was an “out of the mouths of babes” moment.

So I replied, “Oh really? Tell me more.”

“You’ll have to ask Mommy… I don’t remember.”

“Mommy,” the friend I’m staying with who I’ve known for over a decade, was playing World of Warcraft while eating her dinner. The rest of us were around the table in the dining room.

I knew if I asked her why she wanted to “throw me out,” she would begin by sighing, as if it was so hard to give me an honest answer, and then she would give me a nice answer that wouldn’t be the truth. So instead, I asked her significant other.

“Did she say that out of anger, or does she really want to throw me out?”

He sighed. “She wants her space back.”

“I have a few things here. I’m not stopping her from sitting on her couch, I’m not taking up the last chair at the dinner table. I don’t tell her to go to bed so I can get to sleep. If she wants to watch TV downstairs with the boys, I’m not going to stop her. But this is how she’s always been; every time I’ve come over to hang out with her, she’s had her back to me while she’s played WoW, she doesn’t sit on the couch with me and talk like friends.”

The only way I can get out is to get a secure job that will pay me enough that I can afford my bills, I can afford rent, and have enough coming in that I can pay off my debts. But applying for work and sending my resume isn’t enough to get a job, I also need to find an employer who looks at my application and likes what they see. Years ago, I could submit enough applications to count on one hand, and from that I could get an interview and a job. It’s no wonder that I’m getting so discouraged these days.

It was my night to wash the dishes, which presented me with about an hour’s worth of Thoughts You Never Want To Think About.

Like, I miss the days when one of us would mention on Facebook that we wanted to go to the store, and the other liked the idea and asked to go as well. In my case, I had the car, so if she wanted to go and I had the day off from work, I could take her to the store. Usually I go shopping by myself, but there were times when I’d try to see if anyone else wanted to go along.

Now, I’m right here. My car is across the street. If she wants to go to the store, or she just wants to get away from everything, we could go. But no, she asks her significant other to take time off from work if she needs him in the afternoon, or some of her other friends rescue her in the evenings on rare occasions.

But not me. Because I can’t rescue her right now. Instead, I’m the problem in her life. I can’t help her escape from her problems when I have to stay back at the house to try and fix whatever I’ve screwed up.

It’s not as if I don’t try to be a good houseguest. But there’s a level of anxiety involved with being a houseguest. It’s one thing to do some cleaning to earn your keep, and I do have a daily chore assigned to me which I do every night. But there’s other things I notice here and there, things I’d do at random when I lived in my parents’ house. I’ve cleaned grime off the bannisters, light switch plates, door frames, and even the walls themselves. I’ve dusted shelves just because I was tired of seeing dust. I don’t do things like that here, unless we’re going through another period of, “I’ve turned off everyone’s wifi until this place is clean.” If I do tasks like that, they go unnoticed, but it also takes time away from other things I could be doing, like finding work. Also, I’m always worried that I’ll be told, “oh, you don’t have to clean that! You’re doing more than you need to.” Not to mention, I’d be doing the most cleaning in this house, and would likely be cleaning up messes that existed before I even started living here, and in rooms I don’t even use. And for what? Even when I do my nightly task, I’ve been told I haven’t done it as well as I could have done it, even when I swear I’ve done exactly what she claims I didn’t do.

Sometimes I play video games. She won’t say it to me, but she apparently doesn’t like when I play video games. All she does is play WoW and Diablo. I just want to lose myself for a few hours in a world where I can defend myself in a fight and make money from it, or at least I’m on a Yakuza binge right now. I can’t spend every waking minute between job searches and cleaning, I need something that will make me feel like I accomplished something without having a reason to scream, “I JUST cleaned that!” It’s an escape from my problems, and I would think that she would understand that, of all people.

Worst of all, this situation is making me think I should cut ties with so many people, not just the friend I’m staying with. Back in the day, I was working part-time while living at home with Mom. Instead of contributing to my own household, I didn’t mind skimming a little money here and there, what I could afford, just to help out a friend. You need a ride? I’ve got this. Something broke, and you can’t afford to replace it? It’s in the mail, just wait a week. Right now, I can’t afford to be that friend to anyone, and I feel helpless. But then I look around and think about the friends I’ve tried to help, and what have I got? I’m staying with the friend I did a lot of things for, and she wants me out of her house so she can “have her space back.”

And that hurts.

It hurts because,… well, maybe it’s a fantasy, maybe it’s just an ideal situation that one would hope for, but I wish I had a friend who would think, “she’s done a lot for me/others, and now she just needs to figure her life out and get something started.” I don’t know, maybe I’m not explaining it as well as I could. I guess I wish I had a friend who would sit down with me and be like, “so how are you feeling about your ex? You guys broke up, it’s pretty lousy, but let’s get you past that. Cry if you need to, vent to me if you want, but let’s start to forget him because your life will be better without him. Now, you do need to find a job, so let’s talk about what you’re good at doing and let’s see what we can find for you.”

It’s not like I have the exact opposite of that. But lately I’ve started telling her less about what’s going on, because she won’t tell me everything in regards to how she feels about me still being here. I feel like ending my friendship with her, but I can’t do that until I can get out of here. So maybe I excuse some of the things she says and does, and I tell myself she’s just trying to help me in her own way. And yet, I feel like if she was a friend, she’d be more sympathetic to my problems and not try to add more stress. But then on the other hand, I tell myself how selfish I’m being by thinking that, because I expect her to think only of me and not about what would make her feel better. So are we working together to come up with a compromise? No, because that would be the rational thing to do.

I’ve been honest with her about the whole situation. I had another friend who offered a trailer home for me to live in, rent-free, but it still needed some work done on it. A month past his original time estimate, the place still wasn’t livable, and I wasted two hour-long trips to find that my time was being wasted and that friend wasn’t being completely honest with me. I couldn’t keep excusing his behavior, especially since I couldn’t afford to keep wasting my time and gasoline. He lost my trust, and I felt like the friend I’m staying with was losing her trust in me. Things were out of my control, but I was trying to communicate everything I knew about what was going on.

I really wish things were different. I wish I wasn’t a burden to anyone, and could go back to helping out friends in need. I wish I wasn’t in debt. I wish I could get a job as easily as I used to. I wish I had the friends that everyone else seems to have.

Some days, it feels like going to Japan is less about the destination and more about the clean slate. I can’t be a burden to anyone in the States if I’m in Japan (or any other country, for that matter), and I can’t help anyone out which means I won’t be kept around just to do things for people who aren’t equally as kind or generous. I don’t have a network of people in Japan, I don’t have people I can rely on and there’s no one that I can help. I have only myself, and if I can get to Japan, it means I did all the work by myself to get there. I’ll start my life over, and maybe I’ll build metaphorical walls to make it harder for people to get into my heart, because I’m really starting to wonder if I let people in just so I wouldn’t be lonely. Well, I haven’t died of loneliness, I’ve actually embraced it a little too well, so maybe I should just learn to live with it.

I never want to be negative in these entries. I always want to find a silver lining. I don’t want to speak ill of people who won’t read this (because I won’t let them know I wrote this). Lately, I’m just stressed, fearful, frustrated,… and I hate it, and hate in any form is probably the worst thing I could feel. But I remember being happy, I remember being confident and courageous. I remember feeling like breaking up with my ex fiancé was the most freeing thing ever, like I could focus on what I wanted to do and didn’t have to worry about trying to motivate him to put any work towards his dreams. I felt like being back in my old stomping grounds was going to be the best thing ever, since it put me back with my friends and not friends I met through my ex. I want to get back to feeling like I can take on the world, like my desire to go to Japan is still something attainable. But for now, I need to stop lying to myself that everything is all right, because it’s not. I am scared. I am angry. The only way to feel less scared and angry is to get money, but I need a job to get money, and not getting a job is making me scared and angry which is probably making it harder to sell myself for the sake of getting a job.

But…

If I don’t acknowledge the negatives, I can’t work past them. I need to understand what’s bothering me, and then I need to fix it.

So if you’re reading this and you don’t like what I’m saying, I am sorry. Life isn’t perfect, at least not for me.

It all makes me think of Algernon. Himuro has an album called Flowers For Algernon, which is the title of a short story or a novel or something. I had to look it up on Wikipedia, but the premise is about this guy who has less intelligence than a normal person. He undergoes some kind of experimental procedure that boosts his intelligence, and while he’s smarter, he understands social cues a little better and realizes how many people had been mean and condescending to him, when he just thought they were being nice to him before. Algernon is apparently the name of a lab rat they perform the experiment on as well, and the main character gets to see the effects of the procedure on the rat, including the eventual deterioration and the death of the rat. So, I think about the friends I thought the world about, and how things change in life and suddenly I see people differently.

And I know I’ve changed, but I don’t know if I’m a better person, if I’m stronger or if I’ve just become colder. I don’t know if isolating myself from people who upset me is good for my well-being, or if I’ll be one less problem to people who don’t want me around.

Welcome to the Thoughts You Never Want To Think About.

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.

J-Vlogger Spotlight – Chris Broad

As much as I love sarcastic humor, I can’t be as sarcastic as I’d like while writing here. The issue with sarcasm isn’t that it comes off as being bitter and possibly resentful, but that the written word isn’t always understood to be sarcasm.

However, if you want some spoken sarcasm, and you’re into watching videos about Japan, let me steer you towards Chris Broad of Abroad In Japan.

When he started his videos, they were basically like sending a letter home to say that he was still alive and doing well. After a while, he started having some fun, teaching profane English words to Japanese people and walking through love hotels. More recently, he’s been focusing on the area of Tohoku, where he currently lives and where he wants to boost tourism.

I barely think I need to do an entry about Abroad In Japan. Quite a few of his videos have been shared by other websites. He has also popped up on other channels, alongside Rachel And Jun for example, and has been featured on Odigo Travel.

If you’re interested in learning Japanese, Chris has a few videos with tips to help you improve your skills with the language. Based on his recommendations, I tried Memrise as one of the many tools I use to learn Japanese, and I have Anki on my computer though I really haven’t used it.

If your interests are about the sights of Japan, then he has you covered. Want to see a robot restaurant, with flashing lights and a stunning floor show? How about an early morning stroll through a market that sells fresh food, where you can get fried chicken for breakfast? Do you want to see the final burial spot of Jesus Christ? I wish I was kidding about anything he has on his channel, but some of these things exist.

Oh, and he does have two videos about love hotels, and a video about an owl cafe, and yet another video about a sake vending machine. All of the normal things are covered.

If you want to see Chris interact with Japanese people, that does happen in most of his videos. However, I do recommend the video where he teaches swear words to Japanese people. Play that video in a room full of people who have no issues with profanity, and you’ll get a few laughs. He also has a few videos where he has Japanese people try British or other foreign foods, such as Marmite and international chocolate. Why he subjected someone, anyone, to eating Hershey’s chocolate is beyond me, because their chocolate candy bars have an awful texture and are only good for s’mores, but that’s my opinion.

Recently he participated in a TED Talk about being a YouTube vlogger and living in Tohoku. If there was one thing to take away from that, it would be to just pick up a camera and show something awesome about where you live. Give people a reason to visit your area. Chris has found so many amazing things just in the Tohoku area, and says that it would drive up tourism if more people knew about what the area has to offer.

Lately there haven’t been many updates to the channel, with a new video about once a month or so.

However, Chris is supposedly working on something special with his friend Natsuki, and it should be interesting when that’s finished. Natsuki is… a character, for lack of a better description. If a video has Natsuki in it, the video will be far from serious. Natsuki is often involved when Chris is showing something from another country. The special project that Chris is working on will involve Natsuki running around the United Kingdom, and his reactions to things that are mundane to the rest of us should be interesting.

Chris also has another channel that rarely gets updated, called Abroad Perspective. It was started with the intention of continuing some of his reaction-type videos and being less about travel and tourism. I recommend subscribing to it just the same, if you do enjoy his videos.

I also recommend following his Instagram. If you’re aware of what many people are like on Instagram, especially with the Instagram Stories feature, then following Chris’ Instagram will be entertaining. He is his sarcastic self, starting his Instagram Stories by saying, “Yay, Instagram Stories!” He then finds something that’s not worthy of being talked about, and talks about it. One of his early Instagram Stories was a sandwich he randomly picked up at a convenience store, and he barely knew what was in the sandwich. It was worthy of a snicker, in the way it parodied anyone’s “amazing” food that they bought.

Time for all the links that are fit to print!

Are there any other links that would be relevant?

And were you expecting me to spotlight someone I’ve already mentioned in other entries? I’m getting there, don’t worry. But if you want me to check out any other YouTube J-vloggers, or even any Japanese blogs, leave a comment below, and I might spotlight them soon!

J-Vlogger Spotlight – CharlesTALK

Okay, I’ve talked about Victor (Gimmeabreakman, Gimmeaflakeman) twice now. He’s not the only thing I watch on YouTube, either.

I started thinking about it, and I’ve only started watching certain YouTube channels because YouTube recommended them to me. If there was one thing I really wanted, it would be a list of people living in Japan, who do videos of Japan or their life in Japan. But then, would I watch them all because Japan? What should I watch for entertainment and what should I watch if I want to learn about society and culture?

So you know what? I’m going to try and review the YouTube channels I watch, or at least the Japanese ones. Starting with… Charles!

If you’re ever on my Instagram, you’ll see it’s nearly devoid of selfies. I have more pictures of Japanese food, especially whatever I’ve attempted to cook, than I have of pictures of myself. Every so often, someone subscribes to me who I don’t know. Usually it’s an actor who seems to be struggling in Hollywood, and their likes and subscriptions are their way of getting me to notice them and their work. And hey, if I watch the show they’re in, it’ll remain on the air and they’ll still have a job, and it all works out. But I don’t do the whole “influencer” thing, so I don’t follow back unless they seem interesting.

So one day I had someone follow me who has a YouTube channel, and his Instagram screen name is Charusharu. I looked over the pics in the Instagram, and I was like, “…okay.” So I followed him back and subscribed to his YouTube channel. Sometime after that, he released a video thanking his first 100 subscribers, and I was in disbelief. I never checked his subscriber count, or how long his channel had been around, and I was one of his first one hundred subscribers.

So what’s he like?

If anime and video games are things that interest you about Japan, then you’ll like Charles. His Instagram has a lot of Nintendo-related pictures, such as Pokemon, Legend Of Zelda and some Mario. Some of his pictures and videos reference various anime titles, between classics like Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon, and more recent titles such as Spice And Wolf. I think I post more food than he does, but he’s actually posting from Japan so he gets to post more authentic foods and things that can’t or just aren’t imported over here.

His channel CharlesTALK has the majority of his videos, but he also has a second YouTube channel, Charusharu. On the main channel, he doesn’t have too many videos yet, so if you start watching him now, you won’t be overwhelmed with where to begin or how many hours of your life you’re going to lose just trying to catch up. Make sure that captions are turned on, because he often speaks Japanese in his videos. Sometimes he switches to English, but not always.

If you want to see what he’s like before you check out his other videos, I recommend starting with his two videos about the ten things he loves about Japan. On one hand, it gets into his interests, but at the same time he’s talking about some of the best things that are either in Japan or that came out of Japan. No, it’s not all video games, anime, and Pokemon! He talks about the bullet trains, the vending machines, school culture, and…. well, I won’t spoil it, but his list might make you interested in visiting Japan if you weren’t already interested.

His alternate channel only has three videos so far. Of those, I recommend the video showing the Japanese cosplayers at Nipponbashi, which is related to a video on his main channel where he interviewed some of the cosplayers.

I do recommend subscribing to his YouTube channels, and also following him on Instagram. I won’t say he’s good at interacting with his fans, but I will say he does actively give “likes” to Instagram posts and will also read and leave comments. “Interacting with his fans” sounds like I’m putting him up on a pedestal, and while this entire entry is already doing just that, I don’t really feel like there’s much distance between Charles and those who watch him. Maybe it’s just me, but he doesn’t seem like a celebrity, he just seems like a nice guy who shares some of my interests (and possibly your interests as well). When I start to discuss other YouTube channels that talk about life in Japan, I’ll point out how it became more of a business venture instead of just posting videos for fun, and you’ll understand why I’m highlighting Charles now.

I suppose it would help if I added a few links.

He also has a Twitter account… so do I, but I don’t use my Twitter unless it’s absolutely necessary. Also, I don’t like being limited to 120 characters, as you can tell.

Go forth and enjoy his videos!

Meanwhile, before I get to some of the other YouTube channels I watch, I’d like to know if you already watch some Japanese YouTube channels or read any Japan-based blogs. I know I have a follower on here who IS a Japan-related blog, maybe I have more than one. Regardless, leave me a comment and tell me what vlogs and blogs I should look at next!

Japanese Food Is Expensive In The States?

I have, on numerous occasions, had people advise me not to shop at the Asian food stores that I might visit once a month. This advice comes after I’ve been to the Asian food stores and have picked up a few things for myself.

Their reasoning is simple. My friends don’t want me spending more money on food than what’s necessary. They’re not wrong, there are some things that are on the pricier side in regards to imported food. However, I manage to keep my shopping trips under $50 by buying food items that I’ll make last longer than a week.

And yet, lately it’s like I’ve been eating Japanese food for about half of my meals.

I’ve been making the same three things in rotation: okonomiyaki, omuraisu (omelette rice), and curry. That’s not to say I’ve eaten the same three things all the time, or that there aren’t variations to keep things interesting. Besides, the ingredients for each can be used for other recipes, and some ingredients are probably in most kitchens already.

Your basic shopping list will look like:

  • flour
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • cabbage
  • cooking oil (extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, your choice)
  • ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • rice
  • carrots
  • green onions/scallions
  • cooking onions
  • potatoes
  • chicken
  • bacon
  • mayonaise (in a squeeze container)
  • Japanese curry mix (I’ve seen Walmart and Wegmans carry Golden Curry in their Asian food section, so it is possible to buy it at a regular grocery store)
  • instant ramen, any flavor (the brick form, not cup, and you won’t be using the flavor packet anyway)

If you want to get fancy, and by fancy I mean you have an Asian market near where you live, then look for these items:

  • okonomiyaki flour (you won’t need the flour, baking powder, and sugar from the above list if you choose to get okonomiyaki flour instead)
  • okonomi sauce (you won’t need Worcestershire sauce)
  • straight ramen noodles
  • udon noodles
  • Japanese mayonaise
  • yakisoba sauce
  • nori sheets (yes, dried seaweed sheets used for sushi and such)

Chances are, you probably have many of these things already, making a run to the store even less expensive.

If you already have rice, eggs, ketchup, cooking onions, and chicken, you can make omelette rice! That’s probably the simplest recipe I could pass along, not to mention that it might be the only one where you already have everything you need. Start by making a lot of rice, maybe about 2 or 3 cups of cooked rice. Honestly you could make 10 cups of cooked rice for all I care, but unless you’re making a lot of omuraisu, you won’t be using it all right now and can save it for some of the other recipes. Once you have some cooked rice, even if you just cooked it or it was left over from another recipe or last night’s Chinese takeout, set it aside. Chop about half of an onion, more if you’d like, less if you don’t like onion. Cut a chicken breast into small pieces, then cook the chicken with the chopped onion in a pan with a tablespoon or two of cooking oil until the chicken is cooked. Add about two cups of rice, and maybe about two or three tablespoons of ketchup, in with the chicken and rice and stir it all together. Add more ketchup until it’s light pink, but not too much because you want it to hold together. If you add too much ketchup and the mix won’t hold together, add the other cup of rice if you reserved any. Put this mix aside and get out a skillet. Grease the skillet with butter, cooking oil, or nonstick cooking spray, your choice. In a small bowl, beat two eggs until scrambled. Fry the eggs in the skillet, though I personally recommend only cooking the eggs halfway and leaving a tiny bit of runny egg. The next part, you can do this as you’re supposed to or you can do my lazy technique. You’re supposed to press the rice mixture into a bowl so it takes on that shape, then flip the bowl onto a plate, and then put the omelette on top of the now-shaped rice. Trying to cut down on dishes, or maybe I’m boxing it up for work, I just press the rice mixture into a bowl and then put the egg on top of the bowl (runny side down, so the egg mixes in with the rice a bit). With some extra ketchup, you can draw on top of the omelette, or just add a little bit as a topping.

That’s the most basic way to make omuraisu. You can also add peppers or other vegetables to your liking, or you can use spicy ketchup instead of regular ketchup. There’s also a bacon omuraisu recipe on the internet, which I’ve tried and approve of (at that point, you’re eating breakfast because you’ve got bacon and eggs). You did buy bacon for the okonomiyaki, right?

One head of regular green cabbage will make about 6 to 8 cabbage pancakes, or okonomiyaki. It’s not difficult to find the recipe, either: if you bought the okonomiyaki flour, the recipe is on the package. If you bought the okonomi sauce, the recipe is on the package. If you bought an okonomiyaki kit, the recipe is on the package and your portions are measured out. But there’s so many recipes out there, depending on how you want to make okonomiyaki, and this is one I haven’t done completely from scratch before. Start by chopping your cabbage into short, narrow strips. To that, add okonomiyaki flour, water, eggs, and scallions, and mix everything together. Grease a skillet or griddle, then put some of the cabbage mix onto the heated skillet, press it down until it’s about an inch thick and top with bacon. After a few minutes, flip the okonomiyaki and let the bacon get cooked. Serve it bacon-side-up after topping with mayo and okonomi sauce.

Hiroshima-yaki is okonomiyaki cooked in layers. Instead of mixing everything together, you make a circle of pancake batter and put the shredded cabbage on top of that, and then other toppings including your bacon, then put some of the batter on top so it holds everything together when you flip everything. Don’t make Hiroshima-yaki if you’re trying to impress someone, at least not until you’ve made it a few times without making a mess of your stove.

Modan-yaki is easy to make and is quite good. Start with the regular Osaka-style okonomiyaki, but before you throw down your bacon, cook some noodles (ramen, udon, soba, whatever you have) and then mix those noodles with either some okonomi sauce or even yakisoba sauce. Put that noodle mixture on top of the cabbage mix in the skillet and spread it out to cover the cabbage, and then put the bacon on top of that. Once everything has cooked and you put it on a plate, fry an egg or two (scrambled, over-easy, I personally don’t care. It’s supposed to be over-easy, I believe) and then put the egg on top of the bacon and noodles. Finish by drizzling the mayo and okonomi sauce over the top of everything.

Since we’ve been neglecting the rest of the rice you made, because you insisted on making 10 cups earlier, we’ll serve it with the curry. Mild Japanese curry is really mild, so if you’re worried about spiciness, I can assure you that you will enjoy it. But first, chop an entire onion. One onion is supposedly not enough based on the directions, but my friends keep telling me it’s too much onion because you can smell it across the house. Anyway, one diced onion is enough unless you want more onion, I’m not going to stop you. Cut a chicken breast into small pieces, or you can use beef or seafood instead. Cook the onion with the meat until browned, at the very least. Next, chop up some potatoes, carrots, and any other vegetables you want to add. Pour in the recommended amount of water, although I suggest adding a bit more than that because my curry always seems to be between a stew and barbecue pulled pork. Cook everything together until your potatoes are tender, and then add in the curry seasoning and remove from heat. Once the curry seasoning has dissolved and everything is mixed together, it’s ready to serve alongside rice or udon.

Do you still have rice? Make onigiri, or rice balls. Basic onigiri is rice that’s shaped into a triangular ball, and a rectangle of nori is wrapped around the bottom. You can also fill the rice balls with chicken or seafood, you can mix seasonings into the rice, and you can make the balls as large or as small as you want.

Do you still have cabbage, noodles, carrots, and some yakisoba or okonomi sauce? Make yakisoba! It’s like Chinese lo mein, but the flavor is a bit different. Also, if you’re starting with okonomi sauce, add more soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce or it might taste too sweet.

And now you’re making Japanese food! And unless you bought ingredients from a specialty store, you made Japanese food for cheap!

Okay, I’ll admit I kept the necessary ingredients to a minimum. To make some of these things so they’re closer in taste to what’s in Japan, there are some harder-to-find ingredients involved, and your costs will also go up. Also, if you substitute ingredients because of allergies or dietary restrictions, it will change the cost of the ingredients as well. But if you stick with what I’ve listed, then you can make simple Japanese food without spending too much money.

Do you already cook Japanese food? Leave a comment with any other simple recipes you wish to share, because I’d like to make a few more things but don’t know where to begin. And if you do shop at Asian grocery stores, leave a comment about what you like to buy most often that you can’t seem to get just anywhere.

Stealing Is Bad, Unless It’s A Flower For Mom

I have to begin by apologizing.

For the past two weeks, my life has involved late-night shifts at work. In theory, it wasn’t something I minded accepting, because I’m up late at night usually anyway. But after the first shift on this schedule, I came home and still had to do the dishes, and I was exhausted! So I started drinking the coffee at work, which helped, unless I drank two cups or started drinking too close to the end of the evening.

Mornings lately have involved me waking up an hour or two ahead of my alarm. More often than not, I’ve also had my Nintendo 3DS and Game Boy Color handed back to me along with some of the games. The first time this happened, I was too drowsy to understand why my portable gaming devices weren’t still in the Doctor Whooves purse I kept them in. When this became an everyday occurrence, I started getting annoyed and frustrated. The thefts weren’t limited to video gaming things, in fact I lost my lightsaber chopsticks and my Fitbit in this way. My level of trust, in general, has gone down as a result of this, and I can honestly say I’ve had a bit of anxiety.

Wednesday, I had to squeeze in a trip to an auto repair shop after my car overheated on my way home from work Tuesday night. I had to replace the radiator, which meant I never got to see the paycheck that was deposited into my account that morning, and I lost the cushion I made for myself in case an emergency came up. Well, I guess it was an emergency, but then I had to worry about every other expense that I needed to cover over the course of the week. To date, I’m still doing fine, which means I’m still fairly magical when it comes to money.

I had Friday off from work. And I had the greatest intention to post something here, of some variety. I intended to make good use of WordPress’ ability to schedule posts, so that I could sit down, write a few things, and then I wouldn’t need to worry about actually writing something every day or every other day. But that never happened.

So, please forgive me for the lack of updates.

What happened Friday? I’m glad you asked!

My other idea for something to do on Friday was to move my bins of video game console equipment and other miscellaneous stuff out of the hallway where it’s being kept, and put it into my car after swapping out some of the more boring things that I retrieved from storage when I last visited New Jersey. It sounds like it wouldn’t take much time, but it was a matter of figuring where to put things in general and what I wanted to bring into the house (yeah, don’t ask about my car being a rolling miniature storage unit as well). In the end, I had towels where I once had electronics, I had more of my clothes in the house, and I had reduced the likelihood of some random things getting “misplaced.”

In addition to that, I did a load of laundry, ran errands, and even made dinner to take to work while washing the dishes. I was exhausted by the time I had my laundry put back into the suitcase I’m living out of and put other things into a decent place in the house.

And then, my friend from Japan wrote to me. And I felt too compelled to respond, so I wrote back and told him to give me a few minutes. He told me to just go to bed, but I needed to unwind. I’ve been going almost nonstop for well over a week, my sleep has been reduced, and I gave it my all on Friday to get as much done as I could. I felt like, if I was losing more sleep, it would be worth it just to get things off my mind. And, well, I said some things that weren’t taken as I had intended. But if I’m going to upset an audience, I’d rather upset a single person than a whole crowd.

And so, I apologized to him before I left for work. I almost made myself late for work because I just HAD to write back right away.

In my contrition, I considered giving up my plans for Sunday. But I was still asleep, and the morning coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. In fact, I was still waiting for the coffee to not burn my tongue when I had a good start to my day at work. No, that’s being modest about it, I had an unbelievably amazing start that I wasn’t expecting. And then when the project I was working on for the morning was switched to another project when I came back from lunch, it was a project that wasn’t yielding the best of results overall but I was still doing fairly well compared to others that day. I wasn’t able to hate myself while at work, I was doing well enough that the endorphins made me feel like I wasn’t solely to blame for the argument, if at all.

Since I was definitely following through with my Sunday plans, that meant that I was spending Saturday night in the kitchen, nonstop. I made dark chocolate mochi based on the recipe printed on the Mochiko box, as well as tuna salad-stuffed onigiri (rice balls) and a dish of fruit sliced and arranged in layers. By the time I was done, I really couldn’t stand up for much longer,… and I was exhausted.

This morning, I woke up… and it was quiet. I got to sleep a bit longer than normal. It was nice! You’d think I was a mother, and this was part of my Mother’s Day treatment. Actually, the kids were in their mother’s bedroom, where she had breakfast in bed. But I had only a couple of hours to get ready, which always seems like more than enough time until other things come up.

I intended to do a few dishes that were left over from my cooking, so that was my first order of business. Since I also planned to take a shower, I took off my bracelets and my rings and threaded the Fitbit through them all to keep them together. When I had finished with the dishes, I heard one of the boys going, “look at me, I’m married!” I came out of the kitchen to see that he was wearing my sterling silver band with moons and stars on it, which I’ve had for a decade now and have rarely removed it except to shower. I panicked and probably raised my voice more than necessary, but I didn’t want it getting lost. As he was taking off my ring and handing it back to me, I noticed he was also wearing my bracelets. I asked for those back as well. The Fitbit, however, was still missing. The other boy started looking under the couch for it, but somehow couldn’t find the Fitbit at all. His father knew where it was, and sent him to his room to bring it back.

“Why did you take it?” I asked.

“I always wanted a Fitbit,” was his reply.

I only have a Flex, which displays up to five pips based on how many steps you’ve taken for the day, each pip being about 20% of your goal. So I tapped on the device and asked him if he could read how many steps he’s taken for the day. “Um,… none?” Without a smartphone or a computer with which to sync the data, there’s really nothing he could do with a Fitbit, aside from losing it on me. And being only eight years old and slender, there’s nothing he needs to do with a Fitbit. But I will admit, I was careless in leaving the Fitbit lying around, thinking that it would be fine.

I was actually glad to get out of the house, and especially because I wasn’t going to work. I needed to get away and just relax.

But, it rained.

Rain never stops the annual garden tour that’s held at this one person’s home every year. There is at least five acres of land that’s just a garden. There are koi ponds, cherry trees, stepping stones, statues of various mythological creatures and from different cultures, and flowers and other trees and shrubbery. There are gongs and wind chimes, there are benches and chairs scattered throughout. There is even a hedge maze, which I didn’t get to.

Saying I’ve already seen this garden from my car is an understatement. Yes, you can drive by the residence and see that there is, indeed, a sizable garden to behold. I actually had a chance to drive through the garden, keeping to the stone paths, while my Grandma rode along with me. I remember I had my first car at the time, and I was quietly playing the Silent Hill 3 soundtrack, and that it was autumn so nothing was really in bloom. I’ll admit, it helps to know the owners of the residence.

It also helps to know the crossing guard as you’re entering the garden tour. The county sheriff who was directing traffic happened to be one of my cousins. He called me by my Mom’s name at first, but I hesitated to correct him although he realized his own mistake after a moment. Although he said the rest of his family was already at the tour, I didn’t see them.

Once I was on the grounds, I saw one of the people who I was supposed to meet up with. After a few minutes, and wondering if the rain was going to hold off, we headed to the “usual spot.” For the past few years, the Japanese Culture Meetup group has gathered under the cherry blossoms for a picnic during the Mother’s Day garden tour. When we arrived, one of the members was already there and had put a tarp on the ground for us to sit on. She also brought matcha and hot water, and was starting to make tea for us when the heavens above decided that we needed rain. That lasted about a minute, long enough to get things wet if they weren’t covered. Later on, the sun came out and it was warm, but then there were also moments of passing clouds which cooled things off again. When the garden tour was ending, the rain was starting up again.

If you think you missed anything, the meet up was a few of us talking about Japan, traveling in general, upcoming meet ups, and enjoying food. But if you wanted to stray from that, you could wander the gardens, which I did do for a bit. I even took a selfie with a dragon statue, because… you know… that’s just how I roll.

As we all were leaving, I did what I saw most people doing, which was to take a flower (or two, or three) from those which had been planted in a few rows. Part of me didn’t want to take any flowers, because I was thinking of how that’s frowned upon in Japan to pick flowers or take branches of sakura off the trees, and I was also unsure if the owners even allowed people to take flowers like that at all. But I took a daffodil and two tulips, then I put them into my bag and headed to my car before it started to rain.

Unfortunately, when I got to the cemetery, it was raining. So there I stood, wearing a black and white dress, holding a black umbrella. You’d think it was a funeral, or that I was still mourning, but it was all coincidental. I gave the daffodil to my Mom, and I gave one of the tulips to Grandma. The other tulip, I kept for myself. Mom never had a chance to see the garden, so I could at least say I brought the garden to her. I spoke a few words, expressed some confidence and determination for the future, hoped I could make her happy in the afterlife, and even cried a bit. The cemetery was a popular place, and as I was leaving, I was momentarily blocked by cars of other people paying their respects.

Overall, today turned into what I needed. Well, I’ll always need my Mom by my side, even though I carry her with me in spirit these days. But I needed a bit of an adventure, and even though what I’ve mentioned doesn’t sound too adventurous, it felt like it to be there. I was neither trying to remember my Mom or forget her on this day, but I managed to do something that allowed me to live in both states of mind, to honor her and yet to not dwell on her loss from my life.

If you’re reading this and you didn’t do so yesterday, call your mom. Do something with your mom, or at least make plans with her that you intend to keep. The conversation might not be the best, but if you can still have conversations with your mom right now, do so. In the end, I’ll admit that regardless of how much time you do spend with your mom, it will never be enough. But at least try to do the things she has always wanted to do, because you will still have time to do the things in life that you want to do for yourself when she’s gone. If you learn anything from me, it’s that your life will never be the same once you don’t have your mother anymore. So call your mom now.

I Suck At Chopsticks – Mitsuba

I have had an amazing week!

Although I was coached at work, I did have a 92 percent score on a “harshly graded” audit of one of the calls I made. After that, I tweaked the rhythm and tone that I use when I recite the introduction script, and I went from having one or two completed surveys a day to having five completes on Friday and six completes today!

Not only that, but I called someone who greeted me by saying, “Moshi moshi!” After my introduction, the woman said a few things, and it wasn’t until I heard her say “nihongo” that it dawned on me that she was speaking Japanese! I apologized, explaining that I don’t know much Nihongo, and I ended the call by saying “gomen nasai” and “sayounara.” I was so hyped about that call! I think my supervisor was about as interested in hearing that I’m learning Japanese and that I got that call, that I could have told him what I ate for breakfast and he would be just as interested. I asked if I could get a copy of the recording, even if someone had to censor out the introduction or something, but I was told that it wouldn’t be allowed. I feel like no one would believe that I had such luck, which is why I wanted a copy of the recording.

I made a trip to New Jersey this week, and one of the errands I made while down there was to return the internet equipment to my former service provider. Two days later, I received a call from the debt collection agency that was handling that account, and I scheduled the payment for the remaining balance. So, that takes care of one of my many debts!

When I got home from work tonight, the house was empty. My friend’s daughter was at her prom, and I assume the rest of the family was off taking pictures and talking to other parents. There was nothing made for dinner and left behind, and I didn’t have enough ingredients to make anything worthwhile. The idea of conveyer belt sushi danced in my mind, but the one conveyer belt sushi restaurant in the area that I’m aware of has mediocre Yelp reviews. I couldn’t get the thought of Japanese food out of my mind, despite having the ability to get free American food from TGI Friday’s, so I decided to go to someplace close by for whatever they offered.

If you’ve been here a while or have perused the archives, then you know I’m not a fan of the abundance of hibachi-style Japanese restaurants in the area. Seriously, the only way a restaurant seems to qualify as a Japanese restaurant is if it has hibachi, which is western-style Asian food, and rolled sushi, which is also western-style (california rolls are not Japanese in any way). That being said, you would think that I would be avoiding all Japanese restaurants, turning my nose up at the mere mention of hibachi. If I did that, I’d have to make my own Japanese food all the time, which takes away from being able to just relax and enjoy myself.

While I was working on moving to New Jersey, there was a vacant lot of land that was in the process of being renovated. At the time, there was barely anything built. I did visit the new Costco one time before I had finished moving out of the area. When I returned to the area, that location was filled with new restaurants, a movie theater, a bank, and a few other little shops. Among the restaurants was a place called Mitsuba, which was yet another hibachi/sushi place. I never vowed I wouldn’t go there, and tonight, that’s where I went.

Now, this isn’t a food blog. I’m not here to analyze the presentation, and I don’t consider myself to be a foodie so I won’t be judging the way things tasted. I’m just a girl who is celebrating life, who isn’t about to be held back by bad times. So then, let’s have some fun!

I walked in and was seated quickly, which was pretty good for a Saturday night around 7 at night. I also didn’t have a seating preference, so I didn’t mind when I was given a regular table instead of being escorted to the hibachi tables.

Before I had a chance to look through the menu, a waitress came to the table and asked if I wanted a hot towel, which I accepted. After she walked away, my mind was reeling – what do I do with this? All I could think was to not use it on the face, the hot towel is not meant to wash the face and that’s frowned upon in Japan. Okay, so what… do… I… do? I actually pulled out my phone and looked it up on Google, just to confirm that it’s for washing the hands before eating. The downside was, there was nothing saying if I should leave it wadded up when I was done using it, or if I should neatly fold it, or if that much even mattered.

I flipped through the menu to find something to drink, and while I was going to ask for the free rice tea, I reminded myself that I was treating myself. I decided on ordering a Thai tea, which interested an older woman dining at the table next to mine later on in the evening. After she asked what I was drinking, I told her what it was, that it’s black tea with other spices added which gives the tea its unique orange color, and then milk and ice are added to the steeped tea. She thought I might have had something fruit-flavored, which is understandable considering the coloration of the drink.

After placing my entire order, one of the waiters placed a small square plate in front of me. The plate had what looked like rice rolled up inside of nori, then topped with a drizzle of sriracha mayonnaise. I was told that the dish was on the house, which made me feel special. They probably give that dish to everyone, but please just let me have my moment.

I opened up my chopsticks so I could use them to eat my free food. I thought about what I had learned from Joe Inoue, because I had otherwise built up a “this kinda works for me” mentality when trying to eat with chopsticks. The funny thing is, when I put Joe’s lesson into practice, I realized I had to do one more thing to make it work… I had to press the stationary chopstick into the padding between my thumb and index finger, and press it deeply until I felt it. I also had to press the tip of my ring finger against the chopstick to keep it stationary. But, I made it work, and I ate my rice rolls with ease!

Not long after finishing those rice rolls, my shumai appetizer came out of the kitchen. Awesome, right? That’s good timing. So once again, I put my chopstick skills to use, lifting the shrimp dumplings and dipping them into the horseradish-based sauce. I cleared out my sinuses, but it was delicious!

After that, I had a bit of a wait for my main dish. When I was looking over the menu, I went back and forth between pages, debating whether I wanted sushi or tempura or katsudon. I finally decided on the house nabe, which was a soup-style dish with thinly-sliced steak and seafood with noodles and vegetables in a soy broth. I couldn’t help but think of Great Teacher Onizuka, with the title character Onizuka’s voice in my head, shouting “NABE!” There is a part in the series where he demands that his students make nabe, and if I’m wrong, then I’m confusing it with The Wallflower. However, if I remember correctly, The Wallflower has a scene where one of the guys demands shabu-shabu in the winter, not nabe. I’ve digressed to the point where I know I’m going to watch anime tomorrow to prove to myself that I was right.

Anyway, NABE! And the waiter or manager came over to me, not long after I placed my order, to tell me they were out of the noodles that normally go into the nabe. He asked if I would mind if they substituted udon instead, and I said that was all right. Unfortunately, that reminded me of my ex-fiance, but it made me appreciate the fact that he and I don’t have a relationship anymore. His family is “cursed,” in that they can’t go to a restaurant without something going wrong. If the kitchen runs out of an ingredient, “OH NO, THE CURSE HAS STRUCK AGAIN!” Me? They substituted something, that’s fine. I’d rather have a kitchen run out of ingredients from time to time, because it means they have to replace them, and if they’re replacing ingredients, they’re not letting anything spoil or rot. Besides, it also means I’m probably eating something that other people enjoy or would recommend, so I must have chosen well for my dinner.

That nabe was delicious! The steak was tender, the seafood was done well, and the broth wasn’t too salty. I was halfway done when two things happened.

First, I was starting to think I had eaten enough. I could tell by the counter in front of me, which held various supplies for dining and such, that this establishment would allow you to take food home. However, that’s not something that’s done in Japan. “But Luna, you’re not in Japan!” Yeah, I know that. In fact, I wondered if I was eating an American portion of nabe, if I was actually trying to eat more than I would be given if I were in Japan. I decided to press on, going so far as to finish all of my noodles and all of the meat. I left quite a bit of broth and some of the vegetables in the dish.

Second, the waiter came over while I was adjusting my chopsticks and trying to grasp a noodle. He asked if I wanted a fork. I smiled, even laughed a bit, as I explained to him that I could use chopsticks just fine, but that my hand would sometimes move the stationary chopstick out of place. I was willing to struggle with chopsticks for the sake of trying to improve my skill, possibly even my dexterity. I would say I succeeded! I mean, I did struggle, but I also ate well without using my bare hands.

Dessert was half of an orange, which was cut into quarters and impaled with a toothpick. The bill was handed to me as I ate my orange, and because I downloaded Mitsuba’s app onto my phone, I got $5 off my total. I wanted to leave a note on the restaurant’s copy of the receipt, but I thought I probably shouldn’t. I wanted to say something along the lines of, “In Japan, they don’t leave a tip. When I finally go to Japan, I hope the restaurant service is as good as it was here.” I thought of adding more words to that, or maybe not, because it might not be understood in the same way as what I was trying to say. However, I did leave a 20% tip because the service was worth it. The staff was attentive, checking on me to see that I was ready to order or if my order was already placed, making sure everything was enjoyed by me, even offering me a fork so that I didn’t have too many issues.

I left the restaurant and walked back to my car, which was parked about a hundred feet away from the establishment. Maybe it was closer than that, possibly only eighty feet away, but it had been the best parking spot I could find. The movie theater was nearby, so I assumed that most of the spots were taken by movie-goers. Past the movie theater was a frozen yogurt shop, but my stomach didn’t feel like I had any room left for dessert.

When I got to my car, I got in and drove to the grocery store. I still needed to get a few things so I could make actual meals for the week, most of which would be my lunch at work. With a full stomach, I was sure to buy only what I absolutely needed.

I might have purchased Akira as well, which I absolutely didn’t need, but it was $5. I basically took myself out for dinner and a movie. I’m dating myself. I think I’m going to make it a long-term relationship, because I see some potential. Should I wait until three days have passed before calling myself? I don’t want to seem too eager.

All joking aside, it was the perfect ending to an already amazing week! I don’t know if the next week could get any better, but I’ll take whatever comes my way.