8.31.2011

Oh Pinteresting Wednesday - Living in Japan Series - Summers

Gosh there is so much I want to share with you all, I'm stressed to do it all, eck! There are so many wonderful things about the seasons in Japan from the cherry blossoms in the spring to the New Years celebrations in the winter. But because we are in summer, I picked summer and the things that the Japanese do to celebrate summer. One reason I loved summer so much was because of all the festivals held around Tokyo and the whole country. The first festival that I love is the Chinese lantern  Hozuki Ichi plant festival.




A few days later then the Morning glory or Iriya Asagao Ichi festival is held to sell the plants.




One of my favorite things about the Japanese summers (if you asked for my top dislike was the humidity, blech!) was the month of August, which is O-bon season, meaning you return to your hometown and pay respects to those who have passed on before you. Along with that are lots of parades, wearing of the summer yukata (robes) and fireworks or hanabi! Watching the hanabi is such a major event in August, you wear your yukata, get a bunch of friends, grab your obento (boxed dinner) and get on an extremely packed train to wherever the hanabi are being lit off at. Then afterwards you get back to the extremely packed station, wait in an enormous line for your ticket and wait for your train. But guess what the Japanese nor I would wish it was any different, after all it is summer and it is O-bon time. Here are a few Japanese items that I found that remind me of my summers spent there which I am posting at my Oh Pinteresting Wednesday




google

and linking it up over at The Vintage Apple.
Here are my pins for this Wednesday!

The wind chimes, watermelon and shaved ice are very common throughout the summer
Source: google.com via Meg on Pinterest


This is a yukata, or summer kimono with the morning glory flower
Source: google.com via Meg on Pinterest


The hanabi or fireworks!
Source: google.com via Meg on Pinterest


Of course ramune, which is a fizzy drink similar to 7-Up with a marble sealing the top of the bottle, you unwrap the green top, press the marble down to start drinking. The saying goes if you can get the marble out of the bottle without breaking the bottle you will have extremely good luck!
Source: google.com via Meg on Pinterest


Part of the major summer celebrations include tons of men wearing the shrine on their backs through the streets
Source: google.com via Meg on Pinterest

Women then follow the men carrying the shrine and they dance in their summer kimonos, the dances are done in a straight line moving forward with simple hand motions

Source: google.com via Meg on Pinterest
Food vendors set up at the festivals to sell the popular summer foods

Source: google.com via Meg on Pinterest


 This is the typical summer kimono which is lightweight and wearing the sandals with socks is not done in the summer, only the winter or colder times

Source: google.com via Meg on Pinterest


One meal you must eat during the summer, typically which the Japanese consider the hottest day of the year which is July 20. It is barbequed eel over a bowl of rice, called unagi. The unagi is believed to help give your body sustenance to endure the summer humidity. It is barbequed over and basted in a teriyaki sauce, yum!
Some of you might like this unagi too!



8.30.2011

Living in Japan Series - The Food

Ok on to the food of Japan, sorry I am just heading straight into this topic, sorry for the lack of greeting. When people think of Japan, sushi comes to mind. And yes Japan has a plethora of sushi restaurants. Quick tip to note to, Japan does not have stinky smelly fish. Why? Because it is all fresh and fish that is not fresh is stinky and smelly. Keep that in mind the next time you buy fish, the smellier it is, the farther number of days it has spent away from the ocean. Where does Japan get it fish? In Tokyo, the biggest and most well-known fish market is called Tsujiki and it is no laughing matter. The fish comes in fresh, the market opens up at 4am, even earlier than the first train, and it is just as busy as New York City is on Times Square during New Years Eve. People are driving around in small trailers, others are getting orders on the phone from restaurants throughout Tokyo and the entire country itself, still others are at the tuna auction which is serious business. Whenever my family would have visitors in the U.S., the day after they arrived we would take them to the fish market, and one main reason was because of jet lag at 5am Japan time, it would be about 3pm in the U.S. So they were wide awake and ready to start touring. Here are a few photos from Tsujiki. 
This is an aerial shot of Tsujiki, and right next to a river very convenient for boats to come in and unload their catch

This is the tuna auction, wholesalers bid on a fish


They are moved by cart
To be cut by huge bandsaw because they are frozen solid
When they have melted then they are cut into smaller pieces for restaurants and sushi bars

Overview of a section of the market


The small trucks driven around Tsujiki, do not get in their way!
The last time my dad went to Tokyo, he tried to go to Tsujiki but found out that you can only visit the fish market by a tour guide now and those start well often Tsujiki has sold out for the day.
Japan does have quiet of a wide variety of foods. From sushi to ramen, a noodle soup that can vary from region to region. In fact, Japan across the country, food will vary from region to region, just like we do in the United States. In Japan, each region will use the foods that are most common in that particular part of the country. In the northern most island of Japan, called Sapporo, that region is popular with crab, other seafood, dairy products (typically dairy is not a common food group in Japan), produce especially melon, and of course beer you know Sapporo beer!

Some of my favorite foods of Japanese is a dish called katsu-don, which is basically a breaded pork cutlet that is fried then cooked in a fish broth with onions and eggs until the eggs are cooked and then dished out over a bowl of rice. There was one restaurant that I craved their katsu-don and I would eat there myself sometimes just because I loved it so much. When you see the words don at a restaurant in Japan, it means a rice bowl and the word in front of don describe what is on it, katsu is the word for pork cutlet.
Here is a photo of my favorite dish!
YUM!
Some of my other favorite dishes in Japan are tempura, deep-fried vegetables, fish or shrimp,
ramen and yakitori.
Tempura

Ramen, which varies region to region
Yakitori, which is grilled pieces of meat of chicken or beef and then grilled vegetable
For today's recipe instead of Tuesday Treats, I want to provide you with a easy, at home teriyaki sauce which is used in Japan. I don't like to buy teriyaki sauce from the store because usually it is high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup. This recipe is really really easy and you can feel better at serving this to your family because it is loaded up with sugar.

To make homemade teriyaki sauce you need 1/2 cup sake, which is Japanese rice wine, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1/2 cup of mirin, which is a sweet rice wine and can be found in the Asian section of a grocery store, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. In a pot, combine all the ingredients and simmer until greatly reduced, which should be thick enough to brush on chicken or vegetables and enjoy!

As you know most of my Tuesdays are filed with lovely baked goods known as Tuesday Treats. I can't leave you without some of Japanese desserts! Japan is not known for having many sweet treats like cakes or pies. What Japan has for desserts is called wagashi or confectionary that are often served with cake. Usually wagashi consists of mochi which is rice pounded together until it is sticky, and red beans called azuki in the center. These are what the beans look like and they are cooked and mashed until it is the consistency of refried beans.


Then taking a piece of mochi, the pounded rice it is pressed into all types of shapes and sizes and decorated very pretty. Some are decorated to look like different fruits, vegetables, animals or other items found in nature in Japan.
Here are a few samples of the wagashi!

Pressed into a lantern shape

Here is a flower, a permission, an apple and a rabbit
The azuki beans are quite popular as a sweet and the most common item found in any Japanese desserts. Thank you all for letting me share with you my experiences growing up in Japan, your sweet comments mean a lot to me and I will definitely be doing a post to answer the questions asked so far, please if any questions do pop into your head, ask away!



8.29.2011

Living in Japan Series - The Basics

Happy Monday ladies! Hope everyone had a great weekend. As I mentioned last week I will be doing a living in Japan series since I lived there, actually was born there and lived there until I was three and then my family moved back at the start of my freshman year of high school. I spent all four years of high school there and my family still lived there while I was in college until the end of my junior year. Growing up, my siblings always teased me that we wouldn't go back to the country of my birth, lo and behold the joke was on them! We lived in Japan because my dad was in the Air Force, served 24 years. Specifically we live in Tokyo, not on a military base outside of Tokyo but we lived in the heart of Tokyo. 

I think the best way to talk about Japan is through my favorite things, the food, the customs, the seasons and the people. I hope that I do you readers justice in sharing my life when I lived in Japan and helping you to understand another culture and people better!

I have great memories of living in Japan, it was such a unique experience and I feel it has helped shaped some of the person I am today because of those experiences.

 I'll start with the basics, where we lived. Our address in Japan was written like this
3-21-21- Kamimeguro, Nakameguro
Tokyo, Japan 153-0051
 The train station that we lived closest was was called Nakameguro and the word for train station in Japanese is eki so I lived near Nakameguro-eki. This is how it is written in Japanese.

中目黒

When you told your friends where you lived, you usually referred to the train station nearest you.
We did have a car but we rarely used it when driving in Tokyo, public transportation whether it be the subway, train or bus was always on time, always convenient and easier than driving. Learning to take the public transportation and travel by myself whenever I wanted helped instill in me independence and not having a car to rely to go everywhere helped me to value public transportation. Here is a map of the Tokyo subway system, and let me remind you this is the subway system only, it doesn't include the above ground train system.
See that green circle in the middle of the map? That circle represents the Imperial Palace, where the current Emperor and his family live. While the Emperor is more of a title now than an actual ruler, he definitely has not lost the importance of the position as a whole.

Our house in Japan was considered Western style, and that usually mean anything non-Japanese but not always American. So an American house we had a washer and dryer in our house, typical Japanese homes only have a washer and hang their clothes out to dry. Our Western house had carpet, linoleum and other Western amenities like a full shower and bathroom. The usual flooring in a Japanese house is tatami mats, which is rice straw tightly sown together. In the US, we asked how the square footage is in a house, in Japan, you ask how many tatami mats does each room have, that is how someone knows how large the space is. This is what a Japanese room looks like with tatami mats.

The typical Japanese house has one room that is used as the living and dining room.
Our house separated these two rooms. My family was blessed to find a house that allowed myself, each of my two siblings and of course my parents our own bedrooms. Usual Japanese homes do not have that many bedrooms. We rented our house from a Japanese older lady whose house was right next door to ours. It was a quiet neighborhood and near an elementary school. Japan as you may have heard it a very safe country, and I had no problem walking from the train station to my house which was about 10 minutes by myself at night.
Sometimes the noise we would hear would be the roasted sweet potato seller who roasted the sweet potatoes or called yakimo from the back of his truck and there was the same song always played alerting everyone to come buy his sweet potatoes. Here is a youtube video of the song played from the truck.



We also would sometimes hear the tofu man blowing on his torn and he was selling tofu from the back of his motorcycle.

The school that I went to was an international school, was girls-only and had grade K-12 and had only 650 students. My graduating class was only 24 girl and we came from all over. Most of the girls were part Japanese, part American, full Japanese, from other Asian countries or Europe. Overall, there was only myself and one other girl who was just American. The name of my school was Seisen International School and was run by an order of Spanish nuns. Most of the international schools in Tokyo were religiously-based. Here is a photo of my school.

I'll leave you with a few photos of Nakameguro the area I lived in. These are not my photos, any photos of Japan I have are at my parents house so I found all of these online. Hope you enjoyed today, come back tomorrow and I'll be talking about Japanese food, yum! Also please feel free to ask any questions you may have, I would love to do a post comprised entirely by your questions about Japan so ask away!

This is the actual Nakameguro station

There was a river running through the area Nakameguro and a lot of people would walk along the river which had a lot of trees
The largest street in the Nakameguro area called Yamate-dori, Dori means street in Japanese.
Yes that BR in the photo stands for Baskin-Robbins :-)
Another view of Yamate-dori

8.26.2011

Sometimes you gotta...

Have an In-n-Out burger for lunch and some girl time to catch up with a friend! 




That is what I did for my lunch today!

Wedding edition - Friday Fancies

Yippee its TGIF!! Thank you everyone who participated in my first series Thankful Thursday, I truly appreciate it! See you all next week and hope to have more people join.
Anyways it is Friday and thank goodness, it has been a good week overall having my husband back home is the best part. What are your Friday night plans? Going out in style or laying low? Hope you have a great time whatever you are doing. My Sean and I are having a date night, it is something I always look forward to and he suggested it when he was gone last week, it helps to have time to reconnect and hang out with my best friend and favorite man. 

I was giddy with glee when Allison announced what this week's Fridays Fancies would be because who doesn't love weddings, whether you are the bride, bridesmaid or a guest. No better reason to dress up and as the bride and the groom it is of course extra special for them! I am linking my look over to Friday Fancies
 over at Long Distance Loving.

I truly loved my dress from when I put it on about 11 months before our wedding, then 9 months later when my mom and mother-in-law came out to go dress shopping with me and then of course the day of! I was a typical bride at times questioning if I had purchased the right gown, was it me? was it going to fit? All those questions floated through my head and of course the day of, it was the THE gown for me!
I really wouldn't choose another look if I had to go back and redo the whole day, so this Friday Fancies was a casual backyard wedding look I selected. I loved the look of a wedding dress without a veil, I opted out of a veil. But this look I recreated features the top things I love about a bridal look, her dress, her hair, her shoes, her bouquet, her engagement and wedding rings. Then I have posted for you each of these categories that I had on my wedding day.

Here is my look for Friday Fancies.
wedding day attire


Now here is my look of my wedding day featuring the dress, the shoes,
the bouquet, the earrings, the hair and the rings!

The dress
The bouquet
The shoes


Side view of hair with the flower I wore

Back view of hair
Thank you for letting me share my recreated wedding look and what I actually wore.
 Hope you all have a terrific weekend and as the signature line is my email says just keep smiling!