Tag Archive | japanese food

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.

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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!

Dreaming Of Japan

About two nights ago, I dreamed I was at an airport, or at least what my mind considered to be an airport while in my dreamlike state. I tried to get a flight to Japan, nowhere specifically in Japan, I just wanted to be in Japan. And then, I happened to remember that I didn’t have a passport. My mind could have kept reality separate from my dream, but no, I had to give up a wonderful dream for the sake of reality. Oddly enough, the bit of reality didn’t snap me out of the dream, it just kind of ended sometime after that.

About three or four nights ago, I dreamed I was sitting down to eat something, when I asked for help with using chopsticks. Some guy who vaguely looked like my Japanese friend, though it could have been anyone remotely Japanese in my mind, forced a pair of chopsticks into my hand, pushing the sticks into the padded parts between my fingers to the point where it was slightly painful. I do need to work on my chopstick usage, but I don’t think I learned anything from my dream other than the further realization that I have rather petite hands.

About a year ago or so, I had a dream I was in some kind of Japanese discount store. I suppose that’s a stretch, as it could have been an Asian-owned discount store in America. It had that kind of a feel to it, that’s all I recall. I remember thinking I was in Japan.

I still haven’t been to Japan, of course.

I miss the days when I was just an American otaku. I feel I have to specify the nationality, because in Japan, being an otaku means you isolate yourself to your domicile and surround yourself with anime and manga, the only person you love is a fictional character, and your hygiene is questionable at best. In other words, it’s a pejorative term. At least in America, being an otaku means you probably go to conventions, you seek out others like you and watch anime together when you’re not raiding the local Pocky and Ramune suppliers. If you’re an American otaku, you might even work on your hygiene because damn it if that other person doesn’t look sexy in cosplay and you want their phone number if not more than that.

It’s debatable, but I think people could call me a weeaboo. That’s the American pejorative. And yet, it’s not really a bad thing. You’re labeled a weeaboo if you talk like, “OMG Japan is the best country ever and they have all these awesome things and they’re way better than the United States!” In my opinion, Japan isn’t the only country that’s better than the United States, but that could just be me seeing some greener grass on the other side.

Pejoratives aside, it’s no secret that I want to go to Japan. It just never dawned on me that I could work in Japan; for some reason, I always thought the only way to visit Japan was to take a vacation and go there. If I knew such options existed, I might have attended a regular university or college so I could be in Japan already.

Then again, I was into anime in high school, and started getting into Japanese rock and pup music while in college. I don’t quite think I was in the mindset of wanting to actually go to Japan just then. It wasn’t until after college when I asked a half-Asian guy about how he adds an egg to his ramen, when ramen and sushi were about all I knew of Japanese cuisine. It wasn’t until that guy when I killed a part of myself, the part that liked anime and manga, because I sold all of my manga to help him out financially.

I made a friend at work one time, and he invited me over to his place after our shifts ended. He was into Gundam everything as well as cute two-dimensional girls, and didn’t think to hide the lotion and tissues that happened to be near his computer setup. I was never seen as a girl to him, and yet he didn’t need me to hang out during the times when he did have a girlfriend. That was fine by me, as my interest in anime and manga was nowhere near his interest and I couldn’t get back into it. I went to an anime convention with him one time, and I met a well-known voice actor while I was there, but there were so many cosplay costumes that I didn’t recognize and I felt like I grew out of anime altogether.

It wasn’t until my ex fiancé took me to Mitsuwa, a Japanese supermarket in New Jersey, that I realized my love of Japan hadn’t died, or if it did it was a phoenix that rose out of its own ashes that day. That was the day I realized I had stopped playing L’arc en Ciel in iTunes. That was the day I remembered I had The Manga Cookbook and couldn’t do some of the recipes because I lacked some of the ingredients that couldn’t be found at Wegmans. That day was one of the happiest in my life, all because I went to a grocery store.

After that day, I started importing as many L’arc en Ciel albums and singles as I could find, as well as albums from Hyde and Tetsuya, not to mention Gackt, Sowelu, Ayumi Hamasaki, and a few others who had interested me. I saw that Hyde’s band Vamps was playing in NYC, and I went. A few months would pass and I would go to Mitsuwa again, and then a few more months and I went yet again, each time I would try something different.

Eventually, a desperate job search got me down, and I was trying to figure out what skills I had which would be worthwhile. Well, I’m not bilingual, so I’m nothing special around these parts. However, where could I go where speaking English could be seen as a beneficial skill? That’s when it hit me: I could work in Japan, because most people do speak English as well as Japanese.

Facebook reminded me of the research I had done, which devolved into finding fun reasons which, by the end of the day, made me want to go to Japan in the worst way.

It was this burning desire to go to Japan which ended my relationship with my ex fiancé, though I can’t complain. I didn’t think he would want to go with me to Japan, or if he did go, I couldn’t see him wanting to do anything or go anywhere when I wanted to go somewhere and do something. I figured it would be easier for both of us if he stayed back in the States, that was my plan. In hindsight, it just pointed out that we were two very different people.

Which brings us to 2017. I’ve added to my collection of Japanese music, albeit digitally. I’ve been presented with songs that wrap around my heart in such a loving and painful way. I watch Japanese stuff on YouTube. I play Yakuza 0, a video game set in Tokyo and Osaka. And I have a Japanese friend. I’m still buying and making Japanese food in addition to my normal food.

And I still don’t have a passport.

I tell myself that I’m trying to see if I could find enough things to eat without becoming bored or searching for American food, if I had to survive over there. I tell myself that I’m learning Japanese, even if I’m just listening for words I already know, when I watch Japanese-language shows or play video games in Japanese. I tell myself I’m trying to avoid culture shock. Maybe it’s all true.

Meanwhile, I’m forcing my mind to think about going to Japan, that’s ultimately what’s happening. I’d like to think of it as motivation, but let’s face it, I’m just making myself think of Japan even while I sleep. I’m waking up to the sadness that I can’t just hop on a plane and go.

But I can’t just give it all up. It’s something that makes me happy. It’s my motivation beyond just surviving in this world. So if I must dream of Japan, then that’s what I must do.