Tag Archive | Japan

Things I Hold Onto

After a little over three months of knowing him, Libra and I have reached a point where we care about each other, but it won’t go beyond that.

For the past week, I’ve been dealing with figuring out what I want out of this now. He wanted physical space, I gave him that plus emotional distance. I have shut off the part of my heart that felt like we could have been something special, that everything I was willing to give could and would be reciprocated.

I wish Mom was still around. All I have is a mess of boxes to show of the life I had with her, which Libra and I made a special trip to New Jersey just to get all of those boxes. Now they’re consuming the entrance to the house, this wall of boxes that keeps me from my TV and therefore my ability to play video games and just forget about life for a while.

The boxes have been an issue between Libra and I, though I’m not completely against the idea of parting with many of the things I possess. The problem is the difficulty in actually parting with things.

There’s porcelain dinnerware that I could use for special occasions… except I’d be nervous about breaking a piece or scratching it somehow. So I should sell it off and not worry about it… but I worry that I’ll accept less than what the set is worth, and the buyer will resell it and make a profit.

There are items I insisted on keeping because they were aesthetically pleasing to me… some of which I know that Mom and Grandma would have reminded me of who owned that item and how long it had been in our family. I don’t remember any of those stories. I also don’t know if I’ll ever use or need some of the things I kept.

There are collectible toys, and t-shirts, and things that I bought as retail therapy while I lived in New Jersey, because I had the money and I had no one telling me I shouldn’t have these things. And as I go through the boxes, little by little, I’m happier when I uncover something I packed from my childhood home instead of things I packed from New Jersey.

Overall, it’s emotionally overwhelming, realizing that I will have to permanently part with more than just what I’ve decided to part with, that there are some things I will never have again because… because… I can’t come up with a good enough reason. I could buy certain things again, I could get married and have a porcelain dinner set on my registry that I might enjoy more, if I even think I would use it. I could buy more Funko Pop figures, I could buy more t-shirts, I could fill my closet and my walls with things that… look good.

Well, there are some things that cannot be replaced. I found a notebook that my Mom had used to copy her diary into. I took a break from working the boxes, and spent the next hour or two reading every line. The diary mentioned my father in a few places, but most of it seemed to be about this guy named Joe. Mom was clearly in love with Joe. My Dad, however, had been an on-again, off-again guy that she dated, who seemed to be a bit more possessive and into my Mom when he started to come back into her life, though she was still more interested in Joe. And while everyone else seemed to give her cards and such for one birthday, my Dad gave her a bouquet of sweetheart roses, when he wasn’t even her main squeeze at the time.

I kept looking at the reusable shopping bag that I put Mom’s jewelry box into, and I didn’t want to deal with it until today. Most of the jewelry is costume jewelry, nothing I really want but I found a few pieces I might keep. There was also a photo of Mom with another guy, and I had an issue pulling it out of the section it had been set into because the photo was laminated. Once I lifted it free with the use of a brooch, I turned over the photo. Mom often wrote who was in the photo on the back side, usually writing the date as well. On the back was written Joe’s name along with my Mom’s name.

I can’t question why she still had a photo of an ex, as I still have physical photos of my exes. It made me wonder, however, how much time was spent wondering if she had made the right choice to marry my Dad, or if maybe things would have been better with Joe, because I don’t know how things ended between my Mom and Joe at all.

It’s strange, and yet oddly comforting. I feel like my Mom’s love life is reflected in mine right now. Libra is my Joe, the guy who seemed amazing just to talk about him, but he’s not the guy I’m going to end up with.

If there was one hard-to-swallow pill from a year ago, it would be that I should just live my life and deal with the here and now. Living in the here and now got me to living with J, which broke my heart because I hoped there was something there. Living in the here and now brought me here to live with Libra, which broke my heart because I wanted more than he wanted to give me. But living with Libra is forcing me to deal with things I didn’t want to deal with, which I seem to need to do. And if I can sell my things and make enough money, I can go where I still feel I’m meant to be.

I’m going to meet my Japanese friend.

Okay, I’m going to Japan. Meeting my Japanese friend would be a bonus, and yes I hope it happens, and that this is the fairy tale part of my tale. He’s been in my life since about a week or so after things ended with the ex fiancé, and he dealt with me going insane while I was sleeping on my friend’s couch. He introduced me to Japanese entertainment that hadn’t been presented to me before, such as Downtown and Kyosuke Himuro, and to this day I listen to Himuro like it’s melodic comfort food because it’s a part of me now.

He spoke to me through songs, he wanted me taking care of myself when I was at my worst, he stayed in the background while I lived with other guys. I had to do what was best for me, and I feel like I hurt him in the process. But what have I been doing the whole time? I’ve been shopping at Asian supermarkets, buying books to understand how Japanese people think and how they handle romantic relationships, and I’ve basically been low-key preparing myself for a life with him. After all of that, I don’t want to go to Japan solely to meet my Japanese friend, I want to go because I want to go. If I don’t get the guy, maybe I’ll get someone else, or maybe I’ll just live and do what makes me happy.

Whatever happens, I now have a diary of my own, where I talk about the guys who had my heart and what became of them.

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Road Trip Part Three (Amore And More? Part Four)

Our story so far involves J dating again, and in response I planned a trip to meet a guy I’ve known a while but only online. As part of the trip, I figured I would stop in Edgewater, NJ so I could go to Mitsuwa Marketplace once again.

After my stop to the bookstore and the shop that sells almost everything else you would want from Japan, I headed into the supermarket. My goal was to only buy things I wanted or might need, things that I couldn’t easily get in Syracuse at one of the local Asian grocery stores, and since I was far from home I couldn’t get anything that required some kind of refrigeration.

I got some makings for okonomiyaki, such as the powdery nori (basically seaweed sprinkles) and fried flour bits (think of it as tiny batter drippings that are fried). The special okonomiyaki flour was about the same price as what I pay around here, so there was no point in buying more.

There are hard candies flavored like some of Suntory’s beverages such as Dekavita C and CC Lemon, which I first bought from Mitsuwa though I never tried looking for some of the other beverage flavors. I couldn’t buy any more CC Lemon while I was there, but I did get another bottle of Dekavita C, and I found the cherry drink and the honey and lemon drink that are also featured flavors of the hard candies. The cherry drink was good, but of course I enjoy the hard candy as well.

I found Hello Kitty Pasta! Unlike the Rilakuma spaghetti I’ve purchased previously (which I didn’t find this time), the Hello Kitty pasta is shaped like Hello Kitty and flowers. It was $4, and it’s not even a pound of pasta, so I’m not sure if I want to eat it or keep it around for looks.

About $75 later, once it was all back home and in the pantry and elsewhere, I was asking myself what I bought. And yet, it’s been two weeks and I still haven’t consumed all of it.

Before I got back to the car, I got myself something for lunch. Previously when I’ve visited Mitsuwa, I was in the mindset that I only lived about 40 minutes away so there was easily a next time and it could be sooner than I could imagine. With that mindset, it didn’t matter what I bought to eat for lunch, because I’d be back again to try something else. This time, since it had been over a year since the last time I was at Mitsowa (which is hard to believe that time really passed that quickly), I figured that I had to get something worth the visit. I paced from one eatery to the next, trying to figure what I wanted. I settled on ramen, but I went for the combo that included natto. Oh yes, I was going for natto.

From what I’ve gathered, natto is pretty much the Vegemite of Japan. It’s an acquired taste that is seldom enjoyed by foreigners. Let me put it this way: imagine you’re eating beans, like kidney beans, but they’re in a sauce that requires fermentation… oh, and the sauce looks like the thin, stringy slime they use in movies depicting alien lifeforms. Natto is supposed to have a strong scent, from what I’ve heard, but my natto served on rice and topped with green onions was rather mild in taste and aroma. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it, and ended up not finishing my ramen because I just couldn’t eat anything else.

But then I got dessert on my way out the door, most of which traveled back to Syracuse with me. I ate the coffee jelly when I got to the storage unit, which was dumb of me because it was topped with ice cream. I knew it was topped with ice cream. For whatever reason, my brain thought it would be fine to wait that long before eating it. The ice cream was soup, of course, but it didn’t make a mess and was quite tasty as anticipated.

At the storage unit, it was lightly raining. As I packed the car, it seemed like a lot of things I had in storage were affected by the moisture in the air, as boxes seemed slightly damp and such. Well, my goal is to empty out the storage unit by the end of this year, maybe, so aside from a  few things I desperately wanted to get out to make sure they survived, I just loaded up the car with whatever was nearby. Within an hour, I was back on the road, and this time I was heading for home.

The whole trip was exhausting, but exciting. And I did find love, as I had hoped.

It wasn’t for my date, which I’m sorry to say and yet I don’t regret it. Being around him feels like being around my exes, which is only a bad thing because I wouldn’t be giving him the chance that Mr Smith probably deserves. And yet, maybe it’s just my inner workings being hyper vigilant and trying to avoid a repeat of the past, a past where I wasn’t happy, where the relationship I had really wasn’t what I wanted.

If anything, the love I found was for myself. I focused on what I wanted and what I needed to do. I did what made me happy. And I told people about it, because I wanted them to know that I found something that made me happy and they might enjoy it as well. I did things so that I wouldn’t walk away with regrets, or at least that I could say I tried. I met Mr Smith, and I had been wanting to meet him for a while, but now I know I like him as a friend and I don’t want to lose that. I tried natto. Heck, I spoke three words of Japanese to a vendor, which always made me nervous because I never wanted to assume that any Asian person was Japanese or could speak Japanese (and yes, it was a positive experience, or so it seemed).

Maybe it’s for the best if J’s house is just my home base for now. I can’t imagine it’s going to help my love life, as potential suitors might think J and I already have some kind of relationship and they might decide to not invest much time with me. But maybe I’m not supposed to be in love with anyone here, not even J. Maybe J exists to keep me from feeling lonely, to get me back on my feet and figure out where my life should go from here.

And maybe there’s an adventure in my future, a trip to Japan and not just a Japanese restaurant or supermarket. Why do I feel like I’m being called there?

And why have I really been brought back here to Syracuse? Because I could do without living with an unrequited love while he dates someone else. I never would have remembered I had a thing for him if I hadn’t moved back here. But I do have a good environment now, where I can think critically about anyone in my life. I know that J isn’t perfect, Mr Smith isn’t perfect, even J’s date isn’t all that wonderful.

Since I do have love for J, I do want him to be happy, and if it’s with his date and not me, it might be for the best. After all, getting tied down with J would only keep me in Syracuse. If I’m meant to be in Japan, then I need to be ready and willing for the opportunity when it comes my way.

So that was February, or at least the major parts of it. My birthday comes at the end of this month, and hopefully something exciting will happen between now and then. If not, I’ll find something to get excited about. Mark my words.

Logan Paul and Hamada, or What Not To Do In Japan?

So the month is drawing to a close, and before it’s February, I do want to get an entry out that deals with something other than just what’s going on with my life.

First up is the Logan Paul scandal. If you haven’t heard or you actually need to be reminded, this kid named Logan Paul went to Japan and recorded a few videos for his YouTube channel, one of which took place in the “suicide forest” where he went out of bounds and happened to find the hanging body of someone who successfully managed to commit suicide. Sounds like no big deal, right? Well, he was making light of the whole thing, and as it was posted to YouTube, he had no respect for the person who took their own life nor did he have any respect for that person’s friends and family who may have been affected by having to see that. There are other videos of Logan Paul around Japan, where he has a good time but at the cost of being disrespectful to those around him.

If you’re new to my blog, you might not be aware that I want to go to Japan someday. People like Logan Paul would ruin the opportunity for me to do so. A major aspect of Japan’s history involves them being closed off to much of the rest of the world, not allowing foreigners or foreign influence in the country. Although they’ve opened up, they’ve accepted people from other countries and have welcomed parts of other cultures, there are still Japanese people who don’t approve of outside influences, mixed dating, and the like. Japanese people also try to maintain harmony and respect towards each other and their environment. So if you have a foreign kid come in, and he acts like a ten-year-old whose parents think it’s fine to not keep an eye on him, then it’s going to make people upset. Worst case scenario, they make things more difficult, if not impossible, for a foreigner to enter the country or stay for an extended period of time.

It really irks me to know there are people who go to other countries and expect that it’s okay to act like they’re in their home country. It wouldn’t surprise me if those same people see a foreigner in their home country and expect them to act like they’re not a foreigner, especially if a foreigner comes to America and Americans start to dictate what is considered “American.” But I digress, just a bit.

Commentary aside, Logan Paul’s actions weren’t even acceptable by my American standards. I say “my American standards,” because we have people over here who insist that “boys will be boys” and probably wouldn’t hold him accountable for his behavior if he did the same things over here. I care more about what happens as a result of his actions in regards to how the Japanese people will react, though I’ve heard he has lost a lot of support  and YouTube stepped up after people petitioned for action to be taken. Regardless of whether or not you can view his videos, there are others out there who were either influenced by him or have the same mentality, not to mention that Logan Paul himself is still out there somewhere, and they could ruin things for those of us who would have far more respect.

My next issue I wanted to bring up was about Hamada. I’ve previously mentioned that I’m a fan of Downtown and the Gaki No Tsukai series. Despite having the ability, I did not watch the latest No Laughing Batsu challenge when it streamed on New Year’s. I didn’t find out what happened until my Facebook feed was covered with articles about Hamada, the round-faced member of Downtown who’s often compared to a chimpanzee, doing blackface as part of his costume.

Personally, blackface doesn’t offend me, and I’m about as white as fallen snow. Does that make it right? Does that mean it’s acceptable? Probably not. In America, we have a history against people of darker skin tones, so blackface is offensive to anyone with any compassion towards non-white people. Japan, however, doesn’t have our history of slavery, discrimination and segregation, and it seems like it’s just another skin color to them, that it’s another version of non-Asian or foreigner to them (I could very well be wrong, which is why I said it seems that way).

But Hamada wasn’t just dressing up as a random black person, he wasn’t trying to be a caricature of someone of African descent. He was basically doing cosplay of Axel Foley, the lead character of the Beverly Hills Cop movies. In my opinion, if there was one person to ask about whether or not it was offensive to dress up like that, I would say that Eddie Murphy should be asked, as he is known for playing the character Axel Foley. Should he have just been an Asian Axel Foley, and not done the blackface? Or was it necessary to be more accurate about the character? Despite the character of Axel Foley being iconic in a sense, should they have chosen a different American cop from the movies?

Honestly, it’s not for me to judge, because it doesn’t affect me. “Yes it does!” you may cry out. Well, if I sit here and say how offensive the act was, there will be someone who will say it was just for the sake of comedy but not as a means of insulting the character or anyone who shares his traits. If I say it’s not offensive, whether it’s just that it doesn’t offend me or that it’s not offensive to Japanese people, then I will get someone who will tell me exactly why and how it’s offensive and why I should be bothered. I won’t do blackface, I’m not one for dressing up like that, and I can’t really stop anyone from doing blackface if they’re going to do it anyway.

The best I can do is just educate anyone reading, to be mindful of your actions and how it affects others. Not everything you do will bother people; some will care, others won’t. What’s fun for you may negatively affect others. I’m not saying that you won’t ever bother people by being more mindful, or that the right choice will be obvious, but just putting forth the effort will be worthwhile.

 

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.