I felt like having Subway the other morning, so I ended up randomly whipping up my own homemade sub. I used lettuce, ham, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomato, egg, and a special wasabi soy sauce dressing. Did you know that that’s actually available at Subways here in Japan?! It sounds a bit extreme, but it’s actually delicious and adds a nice kick to your sub.
Wasabi Soy Dressing
So simple! Actually, I feel like it would make a great salad dressing as well.
I’ve been on a bit of a breakfast sandwich kick lately, so I actually ended up making another one this morning. I’ll admit that I got a bit carried away when I was slicing the bread. That’s a thick sandwich! XD
On the theme of wasabi, here is another one of my recent earring creations. A tube of wasabi and salmon sashimi. Cute right? 😀
Remember that nice old lady who I bumped into at the library, and who took me out for the best cup of coffee ever? Well, amazing person that she is, she came and picked me up in her car and took me to a local art exhibit. It turns out her husband is an avid artist and sculptor so they have a lot of interest in this type of thing. The little figurines were so adorable! Their expressions, their clothes, their body postures…all the little details made them so much fun to look at.
After that, she took me to a folk museum that was displaying all sorts of household goods that were in common use during the early to mid-1900’s. So, this means that she would have been using a lot of these things as a child and young adult. I love this sort of museum because it gives you some insight into what everyday life might have looked like back then. Looking at the treasures and fineries of the aristocracy is of course fascinating, but getting some small glimpse of the life of the average person is somehow so meaningful to me.
A lot of these items look quite different from what was using during the same era in the West. Can you tell what everything is? Some are easier to guess than others!
Yesterday, I went out to the famous Senba Lake in Mito. It’s lined with a soft path, making it a popular place for running and cycling. (Or, as I do, just walking very slowly and stopping often to gawk at all the stunning birds.) There are so many neat species of birds busily doing their thing by the lakeside. The most impressive are the whooper swans and the black swans, but there are also all sorts of ducks, song birds, and other waterfowl.
Every season, there is something different to admire about this spot. Earlier this spring, the main attraction was the countless fluffy pink cherry trees surrounding the lake. Now, there’s a much more subtle (but cuter!) attraction.
When I went to Senba Lake a few weeks ago, most of swans were either building their nests, or had already laid their eggs. People here leave the birds alone so the birds have a very relaxed attitude toward humans. They don’t even flinch if you walk right up to them, and they will trustingly go for a swim in the lake and leave their eggs out in the open right there along the walking path!
It struck me that if I went back there again this weekend, the eggs would probably have hatched by now, so that’s what drew me back again yesterday!
I went to Kamine Park in Hitachi the other weekend. I haven’t been there in about twenty years…not since I was a tiny little kid! So, I expected the amusement park to be fully renovated and all the rides to have been replaced with modern shiny new machines, but everything was exactly the way it was back then. Not only was everything the same as when I was a little kid, but a lot of the rides have been there since the 1960’s! And, they’re still all well-maintained and fully running.
I got up to the park on the city bus, which in itself is pretty vintage! The Hitachi buses have a neat little system where you pull out this cute plastic ticket when you first board the bus, and then pay the driver the appropriate amount when you get off.
Visiting Kamine Park again after so many years was an incredible experience. At first, I have to admit that it felt a little bit creepy…like a creaky old abandoned theme park. But, there were so many families with little children running all over the place having the time of their lives. Even though the amusement park is so old, it’s still a very popular spot and a favorite weekend destination for people all over the prefecture. The fact that they’ve lovingly kept all the rides fully functioning for so long makes the place all the more endearing. I absolutely love that children are able to enjoy the exact same rides that their parents (or maybe even their grandparents!) rode when they were young.
In case you’re wondering…yes, I absolutely did go on many of the rides. I’m a fully grown 26-year-old, and I didn’t hesitate for a second to sit on the merry-go-round with all the little kiddies. Hehehe 😀
My favorite was the classic ferris wheel. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I can’t believe that we still get to ride such a priceless piece of history. Even the little ticket booth is still in use and exactly the way it used to be.
As promised, here are the photos that I took at the cherry blossom festival in Hitachi last weekend. In the previous post I wrote about the pre-event, but for the full celebration on Saturday, the cherry blossoms were at their absolute peak. The spring weather was gorgeous and I don’t think they could have picked a better date. The timing was perfect!
The main attraction of the day was the ceremonial float – a massive display on wooden wheels, attached to thick ropes, that is pulled down the main street by men wearing traditional hapi clothes. They parked the float in the centre of the festival streets and then put on a grand puppet show. The puppets are exactly the way they were in the past. They’re still hand painted dolls in silk gowns, with painstakingly carved wooden gears that allow the puppets to complete simple movements like little dances or the waving of a sword. The most popular puppets are the archers that are actually able to load a bow and arrow, pull back on the string, and launch mini arrows into the crowd!
I took the trip out to Hitachi two weekends ago for the pre-sakura festival celebrations. (I also went to the full event this weekend, which I’ll make a separate post about!) The pre-event was a chance for people to gather together and enjoy a wide display of food stalls and other tents and booths, but before the cherry blossoms had reached their peak.
Hitachi was a booming mining town back in the mid-1900’s and experienced a massive surge in population during that period. As I wandered through the streets, it was amazing to see all the buildings, lampposts and tile streets preserved from the fifties and sixties.
After walking for a couple hours, we stumbled across a tea ceremony hosted by local junior high school students. We sat down and enjoyed a bowl of surprisingly high quality, freshly whisked matcha tea. They also served each guest these traditional dango, which are delicious gooey sweets made from pounded glutinous rice. Dango have a very subtle flavour, with each of the three colours having a slightly different taste. The pink one was sweetest, the white was just slightly on the savory side, and the green dango had a pleasant leafy taste that comes from the yomogi plant mixed into the dough.
Over the weekend I took advantage of my time off from my new job and rode the train out to the neighboring city of Mito. They had a special festival going on to celebrate the cherry blossom season. There were all sorts of tents set up with a variety of locally grown veggies, plus a bunch of food stands with incredible smelling treats. I bought a bundle of my favorite green onions, or negi as they’re called in Japanese. I use these as a topping for my natto (a traditional soy bean dish) each morning for breakfast.
For lunch, after wandering through the streets peeking into all of the fun looking restaurants and cafes, I was lucky enough to stumble across an Indian restaurant. I always think that I should opt for more Japanese-style cuisine, but the Hindi script engraved onto the side of the restaurant wall caught my eye and I couldn’t help but go in!
Their “light lunch” set was 660 yen and included one bowl of curry, salad, and your choice of either naan or yellow saffron rice. I went with the veggie curry (extra spice!) and naan. I spoke to one of the chefs after the meal and he told me that they were all from Calcutta, but that they adjusted their dishes to suit the Japanese taste. As is usually the case in Japan, the food was nothing like authentic Indian cuisine but it was delicious with its own Indian-Japanese fusion of flavours!
If you’ve never tried Indian cuisine in Japan, it’s definitely worth a go. It’s a completely different experience from the Indian restaurants back in Vancouver, or the ones that I went to during my visit to India. They incorporate local Japanese ingredients to create unique and intriguing dishes that are a lot of fun to try.
I’m in Japan again! As soon as I got back home to Vancouver, things just fell into place very quickly and I found myself returning to Japan much sooner than expected. This time I’ll be working here so I’ll get to stay a lot longer. I will be busy with work every weekday, but on the weekends I plan to explore as much as I can of the neighboring cities and prefectures.
The flight over was very smooth and comfortable as always. I flew with ANA and it was pretty awesome how all the flight attendants were all dressed up for the season to match the cherry blossoms!
The standard in-flight meal is a fish or meat main course, with a few side dishes including soba noodles. I pre-ordered an Indian veggie meal instead with two curries and basmati rice, chickpeas, a corn and cauliflower salad, and two fruit bowls. For plane food, I have to say it was pretty fantastic! The snack at the end of the flight was a tomato and cucumber sandwich with more fruit. Before I knew it, I was in Japan. I’m looking forward to all the months of excitement to come! It will be a big adjustment, but a memorable adventure for sure.
I had a sudden craving for steamed buns the other day so I headed to Chinatown to see what was on offer. I wandered up and down the streets, stepping into random dim sum shops and bakeries looking for veggie steamed buns, but pretty much everything contained meat or seafood. Just when I thought I’d have to go back home empty handed, I discovered what is now my absolute favorite Chinese bakery in Vancouver. Every single bun, cake, dumpling, and tart is gigantic! They’re honestly about twice the size of every other shop I visited, and the crazy thing is that most of the items are actually cheaper!
For lunch, I got one white steamed veggie bun, and another whole wheat one. They were so huge that I couldn’t even finish them and ended up having the rest for dinner. It’s not just about the size and price either…none of that would matter if the food was poor. But, you could tell that fresh vegetables were used for the filling inside the buns, and they also had a variety of other ingredients mixed in like mushrooms, rice noodles, and tofu. Really fantastic!
I visited another farmers’ market! This one was just a little bit further away, and close to the Ibaraki airport. The market is called Solala, and it’s made up of a whole bunch of shops arranged in a circle with a big park in the centre. It’s a pretty fantastic layout — you can buy your fresh fruits, lunchboxes, or sweets and then head outside for a little picnic right there on the lawn.
At Solala, I found these massive roasted chestnuts. They were probably at least an inch and a half across. Crazy! I was never too much into roasted chestnuts before, but the ones that I’ve been finding locally in Ibaraki prefecture have been pretty incredible.
Outside some of the storefronts, they were also hanging these dried persimmons, or hoshigaki. (Hoshi means “dry” and kaki or gaki means “persimmon”). These one’s aren’t quite ready yet, but after a they have dried out a little more they look and taste a lot like giant dates!