Saturday, March 6, 2010


Kamakura is a very spiritual and touristy part of Japan. It's a former capital, and has many Shinto shrines as well as Zen Buddhist temples. We visited both. First, we had a "Zazen experience"-- at a traditional Buddhist temple, a monk instructed us on how to meditate the zen way, and then after an hour of me trying to concentrate on counting my breaths and not how I could see them because inside the temple was effing freezing, we had a traditional simple vegetarian lunch.

Then it was off to a Shinto shrine. This was surrounded by cheesy tourist shops and food vendors, and many smaller shrines and a beautiful park. And a blooming cherry blossom tree! The first one I've ever seen in my life! Cherry blossoms are super pretty.


Finally, we visited the largest Buddha statue in Japan. It was pretty big people! I bought some Buddha-shaped cakes that were made of delicious.

Mountain Retreat

Last weekend I went on a "cultural exchange camping trip", a school-organized trip to the mountains. It was half Japanese students and half international students. Very educational! Also, the inn that we stayed at (yes, and inn not a tent, it was like a company or team retreat hotel--there was a gym, picnic grounds and an event hall but it was in the middle of nowhere) was very traditional, futon beds and communal bath and stuff like that. Here are some pics and videos! because I figured out that shooting and uploading videos with my phone is super easy.

The view from out back of the field (farther back is a soccer and baseball field), on the right you see the gym. On the left are the stairs to the second/third floor of the main building.

Our bento on the first day. It's super-deluxe! Or the most deluxe I've had so far. That brown thing in the middle of the rice is a pickled plum, a traditional topping/filling for rice and rice-balls, and SUPER DISGUSTING.

We also painted candles in the main event hall. It was fun in a charming multicultural art project way. And in a I-haven't-painted-since-last-semester-way. Here's mine. I was going for sparkly landscape?

Here is the map for our scavenger hunt that was some sadist form of Bingo. We had to visit each of the dots on the map and get the katakana letter on the sign that they indicated. The area illustrated on this map is a huge effing forest surrounding the inn at the top there, with lots of steep inclines, trees and roots, and no paths! What the heck I am not Chuck Norris! Our team did not win, but not for lack of trying.

Here's slightly demented Doraemon/Darth Vader candle. Doraevadar?

Eating the Yakisoba (yaki-anythng means it's grilled and soba is a type of noodles) we made over a roaring fire at freezing temperatures. Actually not everyone helped make this like how we all made curry together the night before. We were supposed to all make lunch together but then it, uh, started snowing and got freezing cold outside so we elected to have only a few people go. I volunteered because I was all like "I'm gonna experience Japan!" and it was totally worth it because now I know how to make yakisoba. It was suuuper delicious but then my toes went numb and it stopped being worth frostbite so I ran inside.

makin the yakisoba, or rather watching our camp leader Nahomi do it for us. Nahomi can do eeeverything

I shot this while walking back in from take the panorama picture above. It was the first day so we were getting lost because the back entrance is on a different floor than the front entrance. ahh mountainsss

Completely Irrelevent Post

Alternative post title: I watch Akihabara@deep too much Part 2

Just a quick aside, but I totally found the park where The @deep crew shot a lot of their scenes, including this one in the first episode. I was always like, what a cute little playground, I wish I could find it someday...and then on the Akiba tour we just totally walked past it!!!

(watch at 0:13)

Also, the o-den they eat in the scene right after (1:25), I totally tried some of that too. It's a hot veggie/fake meat stew that you can buy out of the vending machine. It tasted like salt and fake food, but it was like a wonderful feast for my dorky brain.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Okonomiyaki and Shirtless Boys (a.k.a., I love Japan)

On friday we ate Okonomiyaki, which you might remember as being the food that Ukyo-chan from Ranma 1/2 cooked with a giant spatula. The word "okonomiyaki" or "お好み焼き" basically means "anything-goes-grilled" and is essentially that--whatever you can imagine mixed with a pancake-like batter and fried on a skillet. The restaurant experience is killer but the concept is basic enough that one can pull it off in the comfort of their own home. I love making pancakes, so this recipe seemed right up my alley. There are infinite ways to make it, but here's what I did:

First mix about a cup of flour with 1/2 cup of water mixed with dashi soup base (seaweed-flavored broth) and salt (although I used miso soup base instead).

Finely chop 1 or 2 leaves of cabbage (stem cut out), along with some welsh onion and garlic, however much you want. Throw the chopped veggies in with the batter. Add corn, seaweed, assorted seafood, and noodles as you see fit. I used imitation crab and soba noodles. Crack an egg over the top, and stir everything up a bit (not too much). Oil and heat up your skillet or pan. Pour the mixture on, and let it cook like you would a pancake. Flip when one side becomes golden-brown (see picture), then cook until all the egg and batter are cooked. Serve with okonomiyaki sauce and bonito flakes (dried fish shavings). Apparently mayo is also a popular topping, but I just can't see that.

The result was both delicious and effectively balanced. Everything I could want in a meal in a convenient patty. My recipe made 2 servings (what you see in the photo is 1 serving)

On a side note, I use the Youtube cooking show "Cooking with Dog" for most of my Japanese recipes. I'm going to miss the convenience of having an asian food store close by and very cheap.

And finally, this is the show Abby and I are watching. It's Wallflower, remember reading that? It airs on Channel 6 on Fridays at 10 pm. This was the latest episode. Despite how it looks, these four hotties did not just have an orgy. Actually, maybe they did? Does it really matter?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Didnt see this one comin at all

So i check the weather this mornin, to see if it got warmer like it was supposed to, and I open my weather page to see that this morning's forecast is all of a sudden HEAVY SNOW, and I'm like uhhhhwhat? so I turn to my porch door (which isn't see-through) and open it, to be immediately confronted with WHITE.

This is the schoolyard, covered, and the snow is still falling. Trains are gonna be paaaacked.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


So shopping in Tokyo is pretty awesome. Everything here, while expensive, is of great quality and style. From clothes to groceries to nerdy things, it's about the same across the board. I've been spending a lot of my free time getting off the train at the popular stations and exploring. This mostly devolves into me eating and window shopping, so that's what I'm going to blog about!

First off, we went to Akihabara (Akiba), the "Electronics District!" It's famous for it's comprehensive and cheap collection of electronics and hig-tech knick-knacks, as well as the strange and exciting world of the "otaku." There are maid cafes, toy, anime, and cosplay shops, and hundreds of nerdy hidey holes all around, as well as some pretty amazing arcades.

Above and below (2) are costumes from a cosplay shop from one of my favorite video games, Persona 4. They were beautifully crafted, and therefore VERY expensive. For the low low price of about 26000 yen ($270ish) you, too, can look like you go to school in Inaba! Awesome!

This store was basically your go-to cosply store. They had tons and tons of pre-made costumes, and also had generic school girl/boy costumes, cosplay sewing kits, knick-knacks, and base pieces to build off of. I was THIS CLOSE to buying a Japanese schoolgirl bathing suit. I still might get one. They're so form flattering! :D

This is from a different store that had vintage anime toys (like classic Sailor Moon dolls and accessories!!!), but they also had some killer cosplay wigs and outfits, like this Card Captor Sakura classic!

THERE WERE DOLLS EVERYWHERE. Dolls that were pre-painted, dolls for you to do yourself, doll wigs, doll outfits, EVERYWHERE YOU TURN: DOLLS. TERRIFYING.

The vintage toy store also sold these cels from classic animes. They are WONDERFUL but also do you see that Princess Mononoke one going for 126000 yen?! YOWZA.

Nearby there was a WIG SHOP! And you could try them on in any color and style! SO COOL. The cheap ones are 1500 yen, so really not too bad. Way nicer and less expensive than in the US. They were AWESOMEEEE. I tried on like 3.

At the cosplay store was this BEAUTIFUL Lina Inverse costume. It was perfect, right down to the detail on the collar. Wow.

Later we went to the Taito arcade. They had DDR, Taiko Drums, Drum Hero, FPSes, and a game where you sit in this huge capsule cockpit and pilot a virtual Gundam! Awesome! Also there were purikura (photobooths) everywhere inside, and you could rent costumes, for full-body photos if you wanted to cosplay! Too bad it was girls only!

Dave drumming it up!

Speaking of shopping, look at this cute shirt I bought!

In Shinjuku there is this unassuming little shop that houses amazing amazing things, like these dresses from Excentrique. LET'S TAKE A LOOK SHALL WE?

The downstairs of this store looked like a Japanese Atomic Pop! There were tons of artist's original works and such, lots of vinyl toys, that sort of thing. Pretty cool. I felt right at home.

Then I saw these: hankies with artist's original prints on them, selling for 500 yen! What a great idea says I! Art Market, anyone? They were really sassy, let me tell you.


SPECIALTY SHOPS, LIKE THIS LOLITA SHOP! We aren't supposed to take pictures of any merchandise, but you can get away with almost anything if you are foreign and say like "OH I'M SO SORRY" in really obvious English. This store had A TRILLION FRILLY PRINCESS DRESSES AND THINGS TO GO WITH THEM. Ohhhhh it was heaven. And there were like 3 of these stores in this building.

There was also an amazing kimono store. They're very classy. There are so many things to go with kimono, and the girls wearing them look so fabulous. Bigtime jealous.

OMG WANT THESE BOOTS. No way for 12600 yen though. :( I got some more different khaki-colored cowboy boots at a thrift store here for 1500 yen. Beat that!

OH PS In Harajuku there is this store called BABY THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT which you may remember from such films as Kamikazi Girls and MY LIFE. It was wonderful. Sweet loli is the best loli. UGH SO MANY DRESSES THAT I NEED TO OWN.

Lastly. Look at this Kiki shirt. Look at it. I WAS SO MAD THAT IT DIDN'T FIT ARGH SO CUTE. We found this in Sunshine City, which is a HUGE MALL in Ikebukero that also has an aquarium, museum, and kiddy-playland thing inside.

SO THAT'S THAT FOR SHOPPING FOR NOW. Is there anything you want me to look for and snap pics of? Let me know! I will continue my shopping escapades. Also, next post is the food post. Yesssss.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bread Project part 2

Above we have the delicious MELON BREAD, which tastes like a giant macaroon. MMMMM. Below that is Strawberry-jam-filled bread, not to be confused with strawberry-flavored bread. The latter tastes kind of bad, in my opinion. Too cake-y. The former was strawberrylicious, but also kind of too sweet for me. Below is a shot of the bread aisle in a konbini near my dorm. Some of the more savory breads. Cheese bread, sausage bread, etc.


A lot of large department stores in Tokyo have basement floors like this. Many food vendors will have small displays. The selection is vast! Many traditional Japanese foods, like tempura, bento lunches, and sushi were out on display like works of art. It smelled amazing. There was also a wide variety of pastries and bread! One place even had a glass-window kitchen, where two pastry chefs were making strawberry shortcakes (see Shibuya Part 3.1).


HACHIKO (Shibuya Part 2 of 3)

At Shibuya Station, the Hachiko exit leads you to a small square packed with people! In the center is this statue of the famous dog Hachiko, who faithfully waited for his master at the train station every evening for over 10 years after he'd pasted away. Now it's a popular meeting place! And a tourist hot spot. I was one of maybe a dozen foreigners who walked up to take a picture of him. After wards I sat for a while and observed the scenery. There were a lot of high school kids and trendy people standing around and walking by. Just behind me was the famous crosswalk. And, closer to the station entrance, is the entrance to the Tokyu Food Show, a basement floor food market with dozens of specialty stores selling all kinds of food and desserts.