My 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 will be reposting them separately, as they were meant to be.
Originally posted on October 16, 2005.
It’s been a week since I updated this… o.O Holy Hand Grenade, it HAS been a week. Well. Let’s start with…
Ever since I got to UAF, I’ve heard about natto. It’s slightly fermented soy beans. Generally, foreigners come to Japan can’t stand the stuff. I’ve heard horror stories about how the first thing people wanted to do after putting it in their mouths is to spit it out. I did not have that problem. Maybe it’s my faulty nose making my taste buds think the wrong thing, but I just found the taste to be… interesting. I don’t really want to eat more natto, but I’m sure that if I had to eat it every day it would quickly become palatable, then tasty. Foreigners who’ll eat natto are rare, so Sayaka wanted a picture.
I’m not sure what, exactly, korokke is, but I like it. I grabbed it ’cause I wasn’t paying attention and thought it was tonkatsu. (August 10, 2010 edit: It’s like a breaded potato fritter. Carbs, carbs, carbs. Delicious carbs, but carbs.)
Aka Ringo, Ao Ringo Apple Juice: 5
The Sunkist apple juice pales in comparison. This is more like the apple juice you get in America yet still more apple-y, in the Japanese Sunkist apple juice style. Aka means red, Ao means blue. Blue here means green; the Japanese word for green is a pretty new thing in their language, so they still use blue to mean green as often as not.
Other Apple Juice: 4
I forget the name of this one, but it comes in a black box. Better than Sunkist, not as good as Aka/Ao.
Bacon Mayo Roll: 5
I don’t really like mayonnaise, though I do like it cooked into things at times. Deviled eggs, potato salad, and the like are actually some of my favorite foods. The bacon mayo roll (which I have so far only found at 7-11 stores [which are kind of cool to see again after so many years, coincidentally]) has enough of a mayo taste to be noticeable, but the main flavor is still bread and bacon. I woke up this morning and wanted one, but I went to Sunkus (another convenience store) and discovered they don’t have it.
Pork Winter Roll: 5
This is a lot like the bacon mayo roll. It was, in fact, my breakfast today, since I couldn’t find a bacon mayo roll at Sunkus. It’s got the same kind of bread as the bacon mayo roll, but instead of bacon and mayo, it has a hot dog and some kind of cheese sauce. Yum!
Mister Donuts Vanilla Shake: 5
It’s a good shake. But it’s tiny compared to the servings you get of milkshakes in America. This thing was only about 8 ounces. For 200 yen… kind of expensive. The donuts at the shop were good, too. (They don’t get their own Taste-O-Meter entry because, as usual, I got glazed. A glazed doughnut is a glazed doughnut.)
Anko-Filled Rolls: 3
Anko is a sweet bean paste. Not generally something I look for inside a bread, but it doesn’t taste bad.
Japanese Nabisco Saltines: 5
These get their own Taste-O-Meter entry for two reasons: first, they’re less salty than their American counterparts (which is actually pretty nice); second, when I opened the box expecting two packages of crackers, I actually found nine. There were like 6 crackers to a package. It was convenient, but made the crackers even more expensive than they already were.
Random Blue Cup Noodle: 3
It had some kind of fish in it for meat. Didn’t taste bad, but wasn’t really good either. Noodles.
Random Green Cup Noodle: 4
Pork Ramen: 5
Real ramen is better than instant ramen, and the portions are big, too. Hallelujah. There’s also large chunks of pork and some vegetables in it. Woot! (I still think Harlan should do a ramen cook-off as a dorm program, btw.)
So there’s the Taste-O-Meter for the past week. Eating isn’t all I’ve done… in fact, I’m skimping on food a bit to save money. Not going hungry, but making damned sure not to overeat and eating cheaply. My morning bacon roll or whatever and a box of apple juice is about 200 yen. For the evening, I have spaghetti. It’s like 125 yen for a kg of spaghetti, and I only need about an eighth of that to make a meal. :D
I am indebted to Nacilik; he gave me 200 dollars before I left Japan so I could buy him some manga. Without it, I would be in trouble. m(_ _)m I find myself having to borrow from his cash, since it turns out that my scholarship gets disbursed at month’s end. That’s good to know. I found out because I was like, hey… I need to pay my rent somehow. Fortunately for me, my landlord is willing to take my rent at the end of the month, along with next month’s rent. >.> I’ll be poor again for another month, but then it’ll be smooth sailing.
I’ve bought myself a Japanese crossword magazine. I suck at Japanese crosswords. I need a kanji dictionary just to read the clues. Thankfully, all the answers are written in katakana. Not all of the puzzles in the book are traditional crosswords, though; some are the kind of puzzle where you have a word list and a blank grid and have to figure out how to place the words. Those I can do. I would like to get better at this for two reasons: one is mastery of the language. The only answer I’ve gotten so far (I haven’t bothered with the kanji dictionary ^^’) is Cairo, being the capital of Egypt. However, all throughout the magazine there is talk of “presents” which somehow relates to the completion of the puzzles. Among the presents are a DS and a PSP, as well as various spiffy-looking household goods, so… I need to get that translated as well.
I have done a lot more exploring. There are ramen shops all over the place. I’ve found or been shown a furniture store, two more karaoke places, two “recycle shops” (used stuff stores), a sushi bar, a big book store (which is likely where I’ll find the manga Nacilik wants, as well as the stuff I want), two kimono shops, a large clothing store, a couple of more places to buy food, several convenience stores (they’re more everywhere you want to be than Visa around here), and some other stuff I’ll probably remember next time I need to think about them. Woot! Good stuff.
I’ve also joined the Sadou (Japanese tea ceremony) club. Sadou is awesome, on many levels. It’s very relaxing, for one. It’s all about hospitality and getting good at it. The constant presence of boiling water makes the place warm, too. It’s also interesting to watch (and perform — I’ve learned the basics) the exact movements required. It’s got an all-around meditative air to it. And I’ll tell you what: real, honest-to-goodness Japanese green tea is so much better than the kind of “green tea” that you can buy in American stores that I can’t believe I ever liked the latter. The foods that go with the tea ceremony are also traditional, and complement the taste of the tea so well I don’t think I can give it words. Glory! I wonder if I can get tea ceremony equipment in America. This is already something I’m interested in continuing after I go home.
Realizations of the Period
1) I don’t read kanji as well as I thought I did — though thankfully, part of that is rust.
2) Japanese sounds really cool with a heavy Russian accent, even if it is a bit more interesting to understand.
3) I can get to a lot of places when I walk for an hour. It’s an odd feeling.
4) I’ve been asked by multiple people what sort of sports I like. The only good answer I have for them? Curling. I really must take that up when I get back.
5) True green tea is the bomb-diggity.
August 10, 2010 Edit: I can get sadou equipment, even here in Alaska, thanks to web sites such as eBay. I still don’t read kanji as well as I’d like, though that’s improving as I read more Japanese so that they’re in context. I still haven’t taken up curling. :(
Getting to lots of places with an hour’s walk felt weird because everything’s so spread out in Alaska — right now I can walk for an hour and end up in a shopping district, but when I go back to Fairbanks, an hour’s walk from campus will get me a couple of restaurants and possibly some railroad tracks. In Kushiro, an hour’s walk was an adventure no matter which way I went.