Yukkuri Countdown JAPAN
Sunday, February 27, 2005
 Fumiyo's Soft Chocolate

soft chocolate recipe by Fumiyo

Here's the recipe I asked her for from Valentine's Day.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
 Chinese, Japanese, look at me

okayu set

Okayu is like rice soup, but since this was from a Chinese restaurant, was it supposed to be jook? But it wasn't like jook, it was like rice soup. Well it was yummy and vegeful and I got two shrimps this time and this lunch set was only 580yen!
 The FuyuSona Bento

Fuyu no Sonata Bento

Do you know FuyuSona? Fuyu no Sonata, or Winter Sonata, is the Korean drama TV series that started the Korea-boom in Japan. It is so popular, people go to Korea just to take Fuyu no Sonata tours. It is so popular, they make bento using its name. Somehow, this ekiben, or train food, became the teachers' lunch and again I was lucky enough to receive the extra one.

The box lid opened up to reveal the chopsticks and a plastic film over the food. By the way, did you know that aside from the ubiquitous break-apart disposable wooden chopsticks (as in this bento), while the Chinese have long plastic ones and Japanese have pointy wooden ones, Koreans have metal chopsticks? Which of those would stand up best to Big Bad Foodpocket!

Japanese Korean

From left to right, top to bottom, using the Japanese approximations of the Korean food names, the kimuchi gyoza was surprisingly spicy--not a bad thing--but in among the mush that was the filling, there was chopped hard raw cabbage!

The seafood chapche was a little spicy and wet but that's all I remember about that.

The eight grain rice was basically like white rice with a few beans in it.

The so-called spicy toppoki tasted just like Chef Boyardee Ravioli! Mushy, tomatoey, sweet, only without the beef. Tteokpogi is like mochi formed in cylinder shapes or sliced into ovals, in a very spicy and sweet soupy red sauce. It has a special meaning in Fuyu no Sonata!

The kinpap was probably the most like any authentic Korean food I ever ate. Gim means roll and bap means rice. It's like norimaki but with certain ingredients, unlike any typical Japanese roll. This one had ginger, imitation crab, egg, cucumber, ham and carrot inside.

The namuru was good. I love those beany bean sprouts anyway.

The black grain rice was a nice change. To me it's chewier than white.

The purukogi was like Yoshinoya meat but tasted sweeter like Sukiya. Nothing like left pocket's bulgogi of course. See the pineapple stars in the purukogi? Cute, like the fishcake snowman on the chijimi. Later I found another snowman hiding under one piece of chijimi, but it was too late so they didn't get to kiss. The chijimi was suspiciously an awful lot like takoyaki!

I hope this bento doesn't give Japanese people the wrong idea about Korean food. I had heard one of the teachers open the box and comment to himself on the mysterious foods within. Maybe it's a good thing I wasn't around to hear the comments while everyone was eating.

Anyway, my favorite part of the bento was the gimbap!

Mini Curry Cup Noodles

This was apparently part of the teachers' lunch. There was an assortment of mini instant noodles, including kitsune udon and wonton soup. This was my first mini cup noodles, not to mention first curry flavor. It was better than I thought it would be. I liked the meat and potato chunks!


I'm not sure why they make these small sized cup noodles. They're too much trouble for a snack and it's not like the regular serving size is very big. They must be for kids to eat. Whatever they're for, they're cute!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
 Everybody Loves Music
I just remembered. Here I am at school and I can't post about food because my pictures aren't on this computer and so I'll do my music post since I spent so long thinking about it. Thanks Renee!

What is the total amount of music files on your computer?
I'm not usually on my own computer so I don't remember the number! At one point it was over a gig but that was a long time ago and it must be less because I have a limited number of songs I end up playing since I'm too lazy to stick in a CD.

The CD you last bought?
Whichever was last, the Sunny Day Service CD I got from
BookOff, or one of the many I got in Vietnam. (I don't recommend buying any discs in Vietnam.)

What was the last song you listened to before reading this message?
When I read Renee's post, I think the last song I'd listened to was U Got It Bad by Usher, but it could've been Miss Independent by Kelly Clarkson or Why Can't I by Liz Phair or Don't Wanna Try by Frankie J or Differences by Ginuwine or something else on my old playlist from before I came to Japan. If I can, I like to put poppy music on in the morning and I'm not afraid of letting the same few songs repeat!

Write down five songs that you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.
Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees
Sigur Ros - The Nothing Song (Njosnavelin)
Weezer - Island in the Sun
Beatles - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Boa - Every Heart (English Version)
That was hard!!

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
Well it's time for me to go home and I hadn't thought about this part but I don't know any other bloggers who read this so I guess I'm stuck being it!
Monday, February 21, 2005
 My Battery is Dead

I like the quality of the pictures my (edit: three year old) CanonS300 takes but suddenly my Li-ion battery won't even last an hour anymore. Do I buy a new 40 (US) dollar battery or go for a whole new camera?

I would want a pocket-sized camera. But I don't want to give up picture quality just for super tiny size. Thin is good. Light but metal. My S300 can take movies around 10-20seconds long. I'd like unlimited video clip time. Under 300USD is good.

Last bit: I must have either a new battery or camera within two weeks!
 Apple Images

Ringoyaki, or ...

...apple jelly-filled pancakey thing

It reminded me of apple newtons!
 Stickers and Students at Visit School

Last Friday I finished visit school's second years' interview testing. The teacher and I asked each student a total of four questions from a page of 12 and they were supposed to ask me a question. One boy asked, Do you like..pens? The two other boys being tested cracked up, the teacher laughed and shook his pen questioning the boy's meaning as I lifted an unamused brow. Reluctantly I said, Pens? no, I don't really like pens... The boys fell over each other in their seats, hahahhahaha. I shook my head and aimed it back at the student, How about you, do you like pens? They just continued, hahahahhahaha.

High school entrance exam methods are changing. There are still two rounds of tests but first round is no longer only an interview limited to students who were recommended by teachers; now it's open to any students who want to try the long grueling test.

The number of first year classes is decreasing at both visit school and base school. It's not because of the terrible ratio of students to teachers or anything like that. It's simply because there are less and less young people in Japan. It's strange to see how each year the number of incoming students is one class smaller, and to realize that you're seeing the plain effects of the birthrate problem.

Last week it was time to give the students their final rewards for the stamps they earned in class. Many students lost their cards or didn't get any stamps but I still like the stamp card idea to motivate students to participate. I got rid of a lot of stickers, the ones my mom thoughtfully picked out and sent from the US. She found all the stickers that have easy English on them! I gave them out as prizes depending on how many stamps they received on their nametags for volunteering to speak during class. The Socially Hazardous type stickers were popular, but many students didn't want to pay any attention to the meanings written on them. I did my best to make sure they knew the meanings of what they were taking but while I was talking to another student, one boy chose the miniature pink decal that said $Daddy's Girl$ and ran off to show his friend at his desk before I could stop him! Oh well.
Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ku-chan's sushi mug

wafu kinoko spaghetti, or Japanese style mushroom spaghetti
Thursday, February 17, 2005
 Blogging about Clubs

I ate kinoko spaghetti for lunch. I can't believe I don't mind the mushrooms!!! I'll put up a picture later.

ESS club (English Speaking Society) had a party and though it was sabishii with only 5...4...3 of us in the end, at least we spoke English! We played Fruit Basket, Concentration, and Scattergories. Sachiko, the leader, had her Bon Jovi CD but I played Foo Fighters and No Doubt, hoping to introduce the students to newer stuff. I should've played the Bon Jovi, for Sachiko. She's the one who does all the work, meaning she informs me of all the club's plans, which usually means she tells me when the day's (the week's) meeting has been cancelled because nobody can come. She wasn't even the original leader, she stepped up. The original leader rarely showed her face and I heard she became too busy and finally disappeared completely into the library club. Today was also the day the new leader (one of two first years) for next year was decided. It's no big deal that her father wrote for her the speech she wanted to use to enter a prefectural English speech contest. At least she has competitive spirit! Okay, excuse the attitude. I try my best for ESS!

At the end of the day I found a Valentine's Day present on my desk from Ku-chan, the former leader of English Drama Club. I helped the club with their performances of The Last Leaf, The Clever Princess Arete and Princess Mononoke last year. What a surprise to find a gift from Ku-chan! I miss working with Drama Club, they were into it.

Not sure about the connection to Valentine's Day but the gift was a sushi mug! It has the names of types of sushi in kanji with furigana too. That means if I see a picture of something I want to eat at kaitenzushi but it's only labeled with kanji, I can look at my mug and read the furigana to be able to order it! I'll show you a picture of the mug later, if you want.

This morning I checked Shiokadelicious and woo! Renee picked me! Not only that, she linked me from her site. Tons of people visited here because of that. O the power of blogs. How exciting! I know I know she would've picked hundreds of people before me but while she was away from blogdom because of computer trouble and other life stuff everyone else got the stick already. I know but ...she picked me!!

I'll post my answers later, if you want!

I haven't eaten dinner yet.
 Ramen on a Snowy Day

snow on my umbrella

winter wonderland

Yesterday it snowed!! Morning rain and sleet to snow when I walked to school, then big pieces as I watched out the window, then back to small. Roofs, trees and cars got covered but the white didn't last all the way until work was over.

snow on the fish

I went to the lunchroom at the end of lunchtime and I wasn't the only one who was forced to settle for the only food left, ramen. I'm not sure if they always run out near the end of lunch; today a lot of students seemed disappointed and the lunch ladies were saying sorry a lot!

tonkotsu ramen

Anyway I didn't mind too much, the ramen is only 250yen and it was a lot better than I expected tonkotsu to be. Ton means pork and tonkotsu is the type of ramen soup that is made by soaking, yes, pork bones! The toppings look different but are pretty much the same as the shio ramen toppings. It's the soup that makes a big difference. With the first slurp of hot soup I thought MMM! It was creamy. It was full and smooth but not in a fatty way. I wonder if they use soy milk or something like that?

 I'm not ashamed. Chicken is healthy.

Yesterday's dinner was Yoshinoya's chicken teriyaki bowl, 360yen, and salad, 90yen. I had tried the niwatori teriyakidon once before and was not impressed with the quality of the chicken or with the taste but I figured grilled chicken was more appealing than anything fried so I gave it another go.

The niwatori teriyakidon isn't available at all Yoshinoya shops, unlike in the US where chicken is one of the main items on the menu and you can even request skinless meat. I've never eaten the chicken bowl in the US but I can tell you the niwatori teriyakidon isn't the same thing.

niwatori teriyakidon and salad (MouseOver picture)
It was a nicer piece of chicken than the first time and with a lot more sauce, so I was happy. It had the same fishy taste that put me off before and for awhile I was wondering if I could be eating fish instead of chicken. The meat was really soft! Suddenly I realized that the fishiness was from the bed of seaweed strips that the chicken sits on. If I get this again I might ask for nori nuki! I don't think I would miss it. Satisfying meal!
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
 Gyudon Come Back 2/11

Yoshinoya's Comeback

I warned you it was coming, the day the Yoshinoya beef bowl returned. Well it came and went but the left pocket and I were there! You bet we filled our pockets with a fair share of the gyudon. Only thing is we had to wait in this line. Crazy people! In the cold!

back of the line

I think we waited more than an hour. At first I saw a couple people eating inside but when I asked the employee who was taking orders at the entrance he said mochikaeri, take-out, only. While in line we looked at cars passing by, tried to keep our hands warm, and when I wasn't taking pictures we did a lot of heebie-jeebie dancing to keep as warm as possible.

front of the line

Kids, grandmas, moms and dads, most people were getting the maximum four gyudon per person limit. The price was 300yen for nami, regular size, and 400yen for oomori, big size. They weren't selling any other main items on their menu but you could get salad and miso soup. I got the last plain salad (only 90yen)!

gyudon and salad

Before you MouseOver the gyudon and salad picture, beware, gyudon is not pretty, especially when half-eaten!

Can you believe this was my first Yoshinoya gyudon ever? I was surprised by the yummy taste, which is salty rather than sweet like Sukiya's gyudon. What I liked about Yoshinoya was the large pieces of onion because they stood out. I don't usually notice Sukiya's onions because they must be boiled down more. However I like Sukiya's gyudon more overall because their meat is a lot less fatty and they pour more sauce over the rice.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
 2/14 Valentine's Day!!

On Monday at visit school I did the same as at base school, I passed out Hershey's Kisses in silly valentine envelopes I found from a previous ALT's supplies. It's fun seeing teachers get excited-happy about receiving something. I get the same way!


After passing out my cheesy valentines, a young teacher I call Mayaya came to my desk and brought me these walnut brownies in return! Homemade, she said. They were yummy!

Fumiyo came to school again (she's a third year so she is basically finished with school and isn't supposed to come!) to bring chocolates and cookies she made to distribute to teachers. She had mine in a little Elmo/Cookie Monster gift bag!

Fumiyo's Chocolates

Who's Ami?! All I'll say is that it's not me! It's the thought that counts. The foil hearts at the top edge are soft chocolates. Fumiyo
explained they are made from chocolate with cream added. Those were gooooood! I'm going to ask her for her recipes. I never used to like fudgey things but now I think the chewy melty kind of chocolate is my favorite.

Fumiyo's Cookies

Thick cookies! I was amazed they were cooked through. Fumiyo's a good baker. There were chocolate and sugar cookie flavor, and I'm not sure exactly what the tan Mickey's flavor was, coffee? Can you see Snoopy imprinted on the heart cookie? My favorite to eat was Anpanman.

At 7pm practically all the sweets counters and cases at the department store were empty. Chocolates were gone, cheesecakes were gone, cakes were gone, tarts, even pastries and breads at the bakery were sparse. It's kind of exciting, Valentine's Day in Japan. I was touched by how much work goes into homemade chocolates and other delicate little things. It's more personal, even if all you do is melt and re-mould some storebought chocolate, than flowers or an ugly box of assorted chocolates. Unfortunately Valentine's probably is not as fun for the kids in Japan as it is for kids in the US. It's a bit like Christmas in that respect.

Berry Deceiving

My Valentine's Day dessert... This berry tart wasn't very good. The tart part was especially disappointing, a soggy bland crumble. The berries were mostly sour. What are those little round pink ones? They have an interesting pop but after that it seems like a lot of
chewing seeds and skin.

The left pocket liked it!

Today was the day after Valentine's Day which means I ate all my chocolates today and ended up sick of chocolate. Can you believe it, sick of chocolate?

One base school teacher who wasn't present when I gave out my valentines saw me today and said Thank you for the giri choco. He's the only one who called it giri choco, which means obligatory chocolate. It's the term for the chocolate women are supposed to give to their higher-ups and maybe co-workers too, on Valentine's Day. It's not because of fondness or anything, it's obligation! Bah. I would never give giri choco!! I told him it wasn't but I don't think he was listening. I miss exchanging elementary school valentines.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
 Before Valentine's Day

Since I won't be there on Monday I gave base school teachers Hershey's Almond Kisses (that my mom sent me all the way from California!) in Valentine's envelopes. Many teachers seemed 1.surprised that Valentine's Day was coming up and 2.amused that I was giving something out indiscriminately for Valentine's. One teacher went out of his way to not only ask me about the customs in America but to also teach me the history of Valentine's Day in Japan.

I told him that when I was in elementary school all my classmates would bring candy and cards to exchange, not only girls to boys but also boys to girls and girls to girls and boys to boys.

He told me that about 25 years ago some chocolate maker in Japan heard about the customs of giving chocolates for Valentine's Day in the US and advertised to encourage the start of the same phenomenon in Japan. I guess it caught on! (Why it is only women giving chocolate to men, the teacher did not explain.) Then after ten years or so the idea for White Day emerged, when the marshmallow manufacturers get their happy day!

White Day is on March 14th and as far as I know it's the equal and opposite reaction to Japan's version of Valentine's Day. That means it's the day for guys to give girls something.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
 Tiny Strawberries

cute little strawberries

secret weapon
The chou roll cake was on sale for only 100yen!

easy shortcake
This picture is from last December, the first time we had it. I think the strawberries were a little bigger that time.

I did it, I ordered the right one. Katsudon isn't ever a very pretty food; the egg on top makes it look like the surface of a strange planet or moon. Naturally base school's lovely cafeteria's version is no exception. Still, perhaps you can enjoy it.

katsudon (MouseOver picture)
The thing is, I wasn't as happy as I thought I would be with my katsudon. This could be because of a number of reasons. First, it was kind of, well, it was cold. Second, I am getting more and more tired of eating the same fried foods so often. Third, it could be that I actually prefer the wafu sauce katsudon!

Because of the egg and the dousing of sweet sauce, the fried breading becomes soft and so wet that it slides off of the chicken when picked up. I think when the katsu has crunch it is more substantial and satisfying. Also, the wafu sauce is sharper and more noticeable to me.

That's my opinion for now but I'll probably change my mind if I eat another katsudon!

Maybe I need a katsu-break...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
 Bento Service #2

Here's a heartwarming story from the staff room. I hadn't bothered to make sure the cafeteria was open today and, being Tuesday, it was the beginning of the week for me at base school so I have an excuse for being out of it. Lo and behold, today was another no-cafeteria-and-teachers-order-special-bento day so when the bentos started to be passed around I asked the teacher beside me about the cafeteria. He's the one who, if he can't answer himself, will broadcast my question in a startling voice to everyone in the vicinity, adding that I'm the one who wants to know. You would think I'd learn to not ask him questions all the time. Maybe I asked him knowing that he would make a big ruckus that would cause other teachers to feel sorry for me. What I'm trying to say is that it was very nice of the teacher who gave me his bento because he had brought his own bento from home.

What's today's bento?
Here it is, complete with a pack of instant miso paste.

strawberries for dessert
The strawberries were actually distributed before the bento and I was given some simply because they had enough extra. These were very big strawberries though you probably can't tell from the picture. I'd say they were bigger than golf balls! Although they were pleasantly sweet, they had a strange soggy texture. Like I always say, Watsonville strawberries are the best!

homestyle bento (MouseOver picture)
Here's the monster uncovered. You've got your rice topped with sesame seeds and ume, a teriyaki chicken(?) meatball, a little KFC-style chicken piece, two deep-fried breaded hardboiled quail eggs on a stick, boiled daikon, boiled carrot, boiled dried tofu(?), kabocha tempura, sweet fried egg, a deep-fried breaded pork and onion skewer (with sauce), little foilies of spinach, daikon(?) and carrot, macaroni salad and pink pickles.

My favorite parts were the fried chicken, the kabocha tempura, the boiled daikon and tofu, the strange skewers and the meatball. The whole bento was pretty good, but unfortunately very oily!

Like last time, I wonder if the other teachers ate all of their bentos. I ate all of mine!! (I was too full for the miso soup so I saved it.)

Here's a sample of an excellent paragraph. I am proud of my students, I am!
Monday, February 07, 2005
 I didn't do anything!

There is a music teacher at visit school who has a daughter who is applying to a fancy music school in Britain. She seems to be a very talented and dedicated pianist. Sometime last year, I was asked through the JTEs at the school to help translate and fine tune her resume in English. The music teacher was very thankful to me for helping with that and gave me a fancy cake to thank me. Recently I was asked for help again, but all I did was check a letter that the JTE had already translated. I feel bad because I didn't do anything yet look what I received!

Henri Charpentier's Bonne Taille
I don't think I've ever seen this name but they have a neat website. If you can navigate through the French and Japanese you can even see pictures of the cakes that I got!

It's an image of a tiger's paw! Cute, no? It's a chocolate chip cake and that's chocolate in the middle too.

Week-end The
That's "the" as in tea as in tea flavored. The left pocket described it as punchy. I didn't realize it was jam-coated and despite the nice pistachio bits on top, its taste reminded me of the bad air freshener in the cupboard! hehe!

Week-end Citron
This is the lemon version of the last one. This flavor tasted better!

Pain de Genes Chocolat
The description for this says something about the time of Napoleon. Don't eat the paper label! This one is chocolate, of course. It had a nice bitter deep chocolate taste.

Pain de Genes
This one they call plain. It was yummy too.
 hi-sushi-buri desu ne!

A little explanation about the title: "hisashiburi" is similar to "long time no see" and it's appropriate here because I haven't been to Sushi Ondo in awhile!

counter seats
Here's a view of one of the rows of counter seats. Sushi Ondo, like most kaitenzushi restaurants, is a big place and tonight there weren't too many people there so rather than sit at the counter, the left pocket and I were able to sit at our own booth. Yes, they have kaitenzushi booths!

green tea
First thing we do is get our piping hot green tea. You can see our booth's built-in spigot in the picture below. Simply place one scoop of green tea powder in your mug, press it against the button under the spout for hot water and voila, green tea!

Here's a closer look at the conveyer belt. You can see random types of sushi going by, as well as signs to let you know what type it is, and even a container of condiments such as wasabi and sauce for unagi. Above on the partition you can see some of the sushi menu. It tells you the price and kcal for each item! Generally all the plates are 105yen each but a few fancy ones are a bit more.

It looks like table 3 ordered miso soup!
Of course it's fun to watch what goes by and spontaneously take plates but sometimes the same plates go around time after time and you realize that nobody wants that sushi so neither do you! Or maybe you know exactly what you want but it won't come out! Then what? Simply press the speaker button to call the kitchen and order what you want! Then you had better keep an eye out because in no time your (hopefully) freshly made items sitting atop special yellow Ordered Items pedestals will come out and if you don't notice your table number you might miss your order.

bintoro and kappamaki

I had to snap this picture quickly. The first piece disappeared into the left pocket before I knew it!

Lesson from the left pocket: Anago is freshwater eel and unagi is salt water eel!

They both taste good with the yummy sweet sauce on top.

This is my favorite!

Ebiten has the same sauce as the anago!

baby lobster
Only the left pocket tried this one and he didn't like it.

chawanmushi (MouseOver picture)
Chawanmushi is one of the higher priced items. I believe it's 157yen. The left pocket loves it but it's a bit too fishy for me. Coincidentally, hop over to Obachan's recent post on chawanmushi if you'd like to see another example.

chocolate cake
How can you not be tempted by a piece of cake scooting by repeatedly while you're eating your meal?

count the plates
When you've decided to call it quits you push the button to bring the waiter to your table and count your plates. I don't know if you get a strange look if you don't stack your plates but that's what everyone does so that's what we do too!

Here are some interesting things that went by which we didn't take:
daigaku imo, or glazed sweet potato
something pretty
macaroni salad sushi
Seize the food, for Japan is time-service only! In other words, this blog is to preserve, share, and make the most of my six months left living in Japan. Yes, I am obsessed with food. Cheap food!

My Photo
Location: Tokyo/Saitama, Japan

Life is short so I eat fast, lest it get cold or disappear. I'm currently teaching English in Japan for two years. I was born and raised in California, and will be returning there in Summer 2005. I was ovo-lacto-vegetarian for about seven years but decided to let it go during second year in Japan!

Latest Posts
Tyfoooon Tuesday
She was dancing to Please Please Me with headphone...
1.5% fat milk
T-shirt is a design by Yoshitomo Nara
Another Year, Another Bunkasai
School People
Someone Moving in Before I'm Out
Black, Brown, Orange, Yellow

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