Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Photo Entry: Kochi, Kyoto, Tokushima in a weekend

I'm actually amazed how fast the drive from Kochi to Kyoto was, as well as the drive from Kyoto to Tokushima. It took 4 hours on the highway Saturday morning to get to Kyoto, and less than 24 hours later we packed ourselves up and drove the hour and a half to Tokushima for band practice Sunday afternoon. People make Japan sound big, but things are a lot closer together (without trains) than one would expect. I will definitely be going on more road trips now that I know this :)
Mall playing Bass for TURNCOAT in Kochi

Band called AIWANA in Kyoto
Sabu and Kiyomi playing in Kochi for TURNCOAT
Singer for AIWANA, Kyoto
Can't remember the band's name, but they had matching instruments, hahahaha~
Ogi playing for Balladmen in Kyoto~

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old-man Rock n' Roll

I like seeing my older Japanese friends up on the stage, performing enthusiastically even on a Wednesday night. They still have passion for something they like to do and aren't conforming to the old-man standards! Long live old punks and rock n' rollers!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

J-Festa: Valentine's Day in Japan

Although I already wrote a little about my valentine's day in Japan, I figured I would also write a little entry for this month's J-Festa post! Not only that, but I wanted to add another post onto my "I gotta tell someone Top Five Ranking" series that has sat stagnant since I wrote about the dumbest non-alcoholic beverages this country has produced thus far. :P So, without further ado, I give you...

Top Five Cutest Valentine's Day Sale Items

5. Valentine's Day beer/alcohol: This isn't really that cute, but I think it's funny how Japan tries to even doll beer and sake up with bows, ribbons, hearts, and "couple's packaging" in order to sell booze on this big day of love. The above image is obviously one of the more simpler packaging ideas. This year, I saw tiny airplane-size booze bottles wrapped up in heart shaped baskets with pink plastic grass and enough pink and chocolate beer to drown Tokyo.

4. Valentine's Day Kit-Kats: If you've ever been to Japan, you know that the beloved chocolate kit-kat has been transformed into a monster with about a zillion flavors and themes over here. To name a few: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate, Strawberry, Macha, Sakura, Lemon Soda, Coca Cola, Yuzu, Orange, Custard, Pudding, Cookies and Cream, Melon, Lemon Lime, Fruit Parfait, Banana, Mango, Kurumi.... The list goes on. I've seen pictures of "Shoyu Kit-Kats" as well (nasty sounding if you ask me....). With that in mind, of COURSE kit-kats are going to be holiday themed! It's only a matter of time before they make a difference one for every day of the year so each person can have a "birthday kit-kat" or something....

3. Valentine's Day Packaging: I love and hate how much effort goes into packaging things in Japan. Most of the time, food items come triple-quadruple wrapped in plastic and paper. Then, once you've finally managed to get your item of desire out of it's many shells of wrapping, you have to properly dispose of said wrapping into the correct trash receptacles. So wasteful... However, at the same time, Japan does DIY gift-wrapping in the most adorable way. There are soo many cute boxes, plastic bags, wrapping papers and stickers to choose from. Valentine's day especially. You can choose boxes that will specially fit any type of sweet you made and make it look like a store-bought beauty.

2. Valentine's Day Chocolate Kits: It's the thought that counts, right? And if your S.O can't make you delicious candies and cupcakes from scratch, then at least they tried their hardest with a kit. But honestly, I think that (while very domesticating for females) it's a really cute idea to make special Valentine's day chocolate and pastry kits so that even the people who aren't skilled at wielding a whisk or double boiler can make something that is "手作り" or "made-by-hand" and has some of their heart put into it.

As is written above, in exchange for some strawberry brownies, Yukiko made me her Special Cake~
Hand-made chocolate from students~
Hand-made chocolate from teachers~
1. Valentine's Day Sweets: In the month or so before Valentine's Day, most sweet-making materials (like chocolate, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon) go on sale so that ambitious people can make their own sweets from scratch. By far, I think this is the best way to "do Valentine's Day" right. Relying on a kit is one thing, and buying a box of chocolates from the store could be seen as a little lazy at times... but actually taking some time out of your day to make crooked cupcakes and lumpy chocolates for the people you care about is the cutest and only valuable thing about Valentine's Day in my opinion. :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Frustration Never Disapear"

3月は17日(土)にマイペースながらの自主企画、今年一発目やります。今回のゲストは先ず「TheMiscasts」。数枚のレコードシングル (DRIFTAGEとのSPLITも含む)とテープリリースが中心で音の知名度は低いかもしれないが、吐き出す激ヴォイスとポップセンスと見事なドラム捌 きは圧巻。ビート感抜群のベースと、replacementsばりのギターメロディが絡まって、最高なサウンドを奏でる。最近配布中のデモCDRではまた 新しい境地へと向かっていっている。更に今回はそのMISCASTS権氏がサポートドラムを務めるSANHOSEも初来松決定。UNDERGROUND GOVERNMENT/RECESS JAPANからアルバムもリリースされている彼らのその音はまさにドタバタPOP PUNK。初期LOOK OUT,RECESS,Plan It X等のレーベルファンからHARD CORE,オルタナファンまで必見。そして四国勢は要注目のニューカマーLEEWAY。シカゴ出身高知県在住のマット(ベース)とインディ(ギター・ ボーカル)、そして徳島のメロディックパンク若頭Thirsty Chordsのアツシ氏(ドラム・ボーカル)、サポートギターにHAMKの荒瀬を迎えた豪華BAND期待大のその中身やいかに!?
Busy weekend complete with seeing "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (ものすごくうるさくて、ありえないほど近い) with some friends, an art exhibition opening (Sea's landlord's paintings from the past 40-ish years), once again proctoring for the Eiken interview segment (ugh, kill me), and band practice in Tokushima. Also, this poster for my band's (Leeway) next show just came out on a (locally) popular blog called "FND" that two of my friends write on. If the nihongo is okay with you, the little segment about my band is at the end. :) I'm pretty excited for this show, because we get to play with my friend Mall's band "Turncoat," as well as a band I'm rather found of called "The Miscasts" from Kyoto. I've never heard of any of the other bands.... but I'm looking forward to it all since Hoshizora Jett usually puts together some pretty excellent shows~

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Strawberry Truffle Brownies cut out like Dinos~
Happy Valentine's Day!

Oh, Valentine's Day. I have my problems with this "holiday" in general; the crazy it brings out of people and the bitterness is draws out of others is a bit frightening for a "holiday" where you don't even get a day off! The idea that someone would break up with someone else just because they don't want to get the other a gift for Valentine's Day just goes to show how consumer-oriented it's become. Speaking of consumer-oriented cultures, the way Japan has gone and capitalized on this day is a step faarrrr beyond the normal definition of "insane." Special V-day themed packaging becomes more like an incurable disease as it spreads over everything from chocolate to beer in the supermarket and conbinis. Also, the fact that Japan couldn't be satisfied with just V-day and had to make a White Day too, gender-specifying the significance for each day... *sigh... in any case, I still like making sweets for people and getting the cutest chocolates from my teachers and students.

I also always appreciate a holiday where you can say "I love/like/appreciate you" to the people you care about. With that, I hope you all have a wonderful little (rainy) Valentine's Day and make something special with/for someone you care about~ I know I am ;)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 15 – Weirdest food item you’ve seen, and weirdest food item you’ve actually eaten.

Surprisingly, I haven't really eaten anything that weird while being in Japan. I've had smelly things like natto and uncomfortable looking things like whole fish heads on platters.... but I suppose the oddest things I've eaten and enjoyed are these two: Horse Sashimi and Motsunabe (intestines hot pot). Okay, so that's pretty weird but... I think Japan has thrown off my sense of the "abnormal" and my reality has become slightly skewed since living here.... ("weird" in my mind equates with eating things like: house hold pets, pigeons and insects...).

Unfortunately, the tasting of these two foods does not come with the most entertaining of stories. I tried horse sashimi when one of my friends was trying to get her boyfriend to eat it some random weekend early last year. Since the place we were eating at (Hirome Ichiba) doesn't serve it that often, the sashimi came still-frozen and had to thaw for a little while. It wasn't terribly mentionable in flavor but the texture was nice. I'd still go for maguro or salmon over it anyday.

Motsunabe was something that my Japanese friends had wanted me to try for months and months so finally, one Tuesday night, we trekked out to the city and found a good nabe restaurant that specialized in motsunabe. Although the idea of intestines skives me out, I've picked up a certain stubbornness when it comes to food here in Japan. I hate when my Japanese co-workers and acquaintances ask if I can eat something or act like whatever food thing they are telling me about is only Japan and that it's sooo typical foreigner to not like it/not have tried it before. I get really defensive (because I've been using chopsticks since I was small, thank you very much!!!) and insist that yes, I CAN eat it and in fact I LIKE it/don't really care for it because of the flavor, not because I'm foreign (as if it wasn't obvious that Japanese people who don't really like natto/fish/whatever exist as well). Anyway, despite my little rant there, I was really surprised to find the boiled motsu soft and flavorful, not chewy like I expected (since intestines have a lot of fat on them). It's also such a simple nabe and contains little more than the broth, motsu, green onions, bean sprouts, cabbage, and tofu (we added some dumplings for extra~).

What weird things have you guys eaten? Am I missing out on anything out there?!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 14 – What is the hardest thing about living in Japan versus your home country?

I considered leaving this as a one-word post but I'll whine a little longer about this instead. :) Fellow Japan blogger, Miss Godzilla hit it right on the head with her nickname. Being a female over 170cm in Japan feels like Godzilla trying to disguise himself as a proper lady at a tea party. I mean... okay, it's not like being 180cm (my height) is really that devastating, but it's enough to notice doors are kinda short in places, dresses/skirts are wayyy too short at times, sleeves don't fit my long arms, and little kids filterlessly shout "デカイ!" (huge!) at you every chance they get (even when they've known you for more than a year..... and yes, those that know me DO get an earful if I hear that word escape their mouths). I hate when my Japanaese girl-friends say they're "jealous" of my height, because I know that if given the chance they'd stay short and unnoticeable compared to turning tall and awkward. Also, the whole kitchen thing is really a pain in my back (literally). Kitchen counters/sinks/stoves are much to short for me in my apartment and I end up achy-er than normal after making lunch/dinner.

The plight of the tall girl is an uphill battle. :P

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Flu Season and Singing Songs

Instant camera picture. I love developing these things and being surprised at what I find!~
 I feel like I've been really busy these last two weeks, but really don't have a lot of interesting things that I want to talk about. My weekends have been booked practicing/learning new songs/lyrics for the album we are starting to record at the end of February/beginning of March, so I've been back and forth from Kochi to Tokushima a lot. My wrist feels like it's going to fall off from all of our three-hour long practice sessions, but I'm excited about what we've come up with and accomplished so far. We had to turn down a show at the beginning of March in order to record... so I hope it all goes smoothly and is done by our Matsuyama show.

With the coming of February (usually the coldest month in Japan), I find that more and more of my children get sick and more and more of my classes are cancelled due to "influenza" (which is seriously over-exaggerated here). This always worries me, because I'm the type of person who picks up colds and flus from the people around me really really easily, and up until today I've been fine.... but then yesterday morning my throat started to hurt and I was struck with a stuffy nose. :x I blame it less on this "influenza" craze and more on the crazy weather that's been going on. It was in the negative numbers on Sunday, only to switch rapidly to rainy and warm yesterday/today. My system has never liked rapid changes in the weather, and with the horrid condition of my house (I live in the most run-down piece of crap apartment.... I'm convinced there is black mold growing in all the walls because one of my walls sweats when I put the heater on...), I feel like my allergies have probably just been super-revved. :P That, and Japanese schools seem to think that leaving the windows open (even when it snows) "exchanges the bad air with the good air" which is BS and they are only making their own children sicker.

Taken after I won "Best Speaker" at a Japanese speech contest and was gifted with wayyy too many oranges. I have crazy eyes.... and everyone says me and Matto look like middle schoolers :P