Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-11

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I have reposted them separately, as they were meant to be.

Small Victories

Originally posted on October 16, 2005.

I have successfully explained binary and how to count in binary on your fingers to a Japanese person who has no computer programming experience using the Japanese language. You have no idea how awesome that felt. I can feel the power of the Japanese language growing within me daily. Soon, I shall conquer the universe.

I mean, be fluent.

Anyway. The other day, Sato introduced me to a large group of her fellow Okinawans, and we went to a robata. A robata is a restaurant where the table is a grill with boards around it on which you can set your plate. You pick a table, then go up and pay for the food you want (Actually, you paid at the register for vouchers that you could then take to the food counters to exchange for the tasties arranged before you, but whatever), then take it back to your table and cook it. They have small portions of some things on sticks, some whole fish, some whole shellfish, a few things that come in a tin so you can cook them together for flavor, some plain ol’ vegetables, squid — all kinds of stuff. So.

Okinawans at the Robata

This was taken with my cell phone at the robata. (Photo added to this post on August 17, 2010.)

Taste-O-Meter!

Ika (Squid): 3
It tastes fine, but the texture is a bit rubbery, making chewing and swallowing take a bit more time.

Tama, Sanma, and Hokke (each a kind of fish): 3
I’m not so fond of fish.

Hokke bones: 4
Once a fish had been divested of flesh, the Okinawans placed it back on the grill. Later, I saw Sato chowing down on Sanma skeleton, and went o_O . Then, one of the guys (I never found out his name, though I talked to him a bit) offered me the opportunity to try some of his Hokke skeleton. It’s tastier than the fish, and since it was well cooked, the bones were brittle and not dangerous.

Kaki (a shellfish): 3
I prefer oyster, but this is pretty good, too. Bigger than oysters are. The meat of the kaki is bigger than an oyster in its shell.

Aspara-Bacon (Pieces of asparagus wrapped in bacon): 5
Hot diggety-damn. I don’t know who came up with this idea, but it was a good one. This is some tasty, tasty stuff. (August 17, 2010 Edit: Since returning to the States, this has been a major hit every time I’ve shared it. You should try it — it’s easy and delicious!)

Hitsuji (Lamb) and Sprouts: 4
This actually came in a pan. When we told the person behind the counter that we’d have that, she added some sort of oriental-flavored sauce to it. It was good, but I still prefer my baby sheep meat on pita bread.

Toriniku (Chicken): 5
Chicken on a stick. Speaks for itself, I think.

Butaniku (Pork): 4
Three pieces of pork on a stick, with some kind of vegetable (from the onion family, maybe) in between the pieces. The vegetable is an excellent choice to go with the pork.

I didn’t try the chicken skins on a stick (though I will next time, I think). Between what I paid for and the massive amounts of food that got shared later I ended up trying almost everything the store had. At the end, everyone was full, so I ended up with the leftover vouchers. They had to be used by Saturday if they were gonna get used, but I forgot until it was raining pretty hard Saturday evening. The robata is in a nice spot on the riverfront, but it’s a 15-20 minute walk, and I didn’t want to go there in the rain with no umbrella.

I’ve never been much of an umbrella-user, but now that I’m walking everywhere I’m starting to see the appeal. It’s sunny today, so I’ll probably see if the nearby 100 yen store has any. I know that the first 100 yen store I went to had a bunch. If nothing else, I know they sell them at the Co-op, though it’s a bit more expensive there.

Old-Fashioned Kettle

Traditionally, the kettles are heated over coals in a pit set into the floor (with a trap tatami mat to cover it when not in use). The school washitsu had such a pit, but fire is dangerous and so we were required to use electric heating devices. (Photo added to this post on August 17, 2010.)

Friday, I got my own supplies for sadou club. ^^ It was a lot of fun; I got to run through the whole tea ceremony three times. There are multiple tea ceremony set-ups. I got to do the one with a good old-fashioned tea kettle twice, and the one with a kama (the kind you usually see in pictures; it’s an iron kettle with a small lid that you have to dip water out of with a scoop called hishaku) that is set into a table.

Taste-O-Meter!

Kusadango (a candy eaten with green tea): 5
They tasted a little weird at first, but I quickly fell in love with them.

After that, I headed home. Two of the other girls in sadoubu live in my apartment building, and one other lives up towards the buddhist tower just up the hill from me. Ryoko is one of the girls who lives in this building, and she invited the other three of us to her house for dinner. When we got into her apartment, I discovered that I really don’t have a lot of stuff. I’m pretty sure that if I were in America with all my stuff in an apartment this size, it’d look pretty similar to hers, but at the moment, I have like nothing. (On the plus side, when Conrad, Jordan, and their friends come to Japan, there’ll be room for them to sleep at my place when they come to Kushiro. [August 17, 2010 Edit: The bastards never came!])

Ryoko has a Gamecube. :D The first person I’ve socialized with in Japan to play video games is a girl with the exact same color Gamecube I’ve got back home. That was pretty awesome. It may not sound like much, but there are more Gamecube colors available in Japan, reducing the chances of the same color. While cooking was getting started, we talked about games in America and Japan. I ended up listing some game franchises in America; the only ones that got really spiffy reactions out of the other girls (all three of these knew something about games) were Mario (eternal), Suikoden, and Katamari Damacy. I also found out that Jak & Daxter have made it over here, but aren’t very popular. Didn’t surprise me at all.

Conversation moved on to other things, too, as conversations, do. The other long-standing conversations was how much pizza and beer North Americans down. One of the girls went to Canada on exchange, and her host mother wasn’t much of a cooker, so they had lots of ravioli and pizza. Then the food was done and ready to eat. There was kabocha (pumpkin), which was dished out in equal portions on small plates. In the center of everyone was a plate that had somen (a kind of noodle) and tuna.

Taste-O-Meter!

Somen with tuna: 4
Somen is a pretty tasty noodle. It’s got a milder flavor than ramen or pasta, but it went really well with the tuna. Originally, Ryoko was going to use pasta with the tuna, but she didn’t have any sauce. She had a zillion packages of udon, though, it turns out, but I guess udon doesn’t go well with tuna, ’cause as soon as she found the somen, everyone but me was like, “Aha!” (August 17, 2010 Edit: After this, somen with tuna became a common meal for me.)

I didn’t catch the other girls’ names, but next Friday we’re to have dinner together at the apartment of the other girl in my building, then mine. I’m planning to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum.

Realizations of the Period

1) Joining a club has proven the best way for me to immerse my ears in Japanese so that I can get my brain more used to processing it. There’s a lot of friendly conversation going on during and after sadoubu.
2) Sato and the other Okinawans all transferred here for this semester, so they know just as little of Kushiro as I do, though they’re obviously far better versed in the Japanese language and customs.
3) This stupid blog post is done. DONE! AHAHAHAHAHA!

August 17, 2010 Edit: Done, indeed. The next BGGP blog entry will be Post 4.