Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Guest post on Delicious Bytes

My friend, who is known on the web as "Baroque Diva," asked me to write a guest post on Japanese food for her blog, "Delicious Bytes." Without naming names, that would be this person:

(Ancient history... that picture is almost 7 years old!)

"Baroque Diva" writes about food and life in Boston and wherever her performance schedule takes her (she's an opera singer). Go check it out--you can also read about how I met this amazing person! :)

I decided to write about Tonjiru (豚汁), a hearty miso soup with root vegetables and pork. I originally received the recipe from Ronna Husby, who was my preschool teacher, and who now lives in Tokyo! (I get to see her in April, yay!) I incorporated some of my own ideas, too--I usually do when I'm cooking. Here's a picture to whet your appetite:

This recipe is the honorable mention for the recipe contest I announced in our September newsletter. Congratulations, Ronna... and thanks! The first place recipe (Tora's Hot and Sour Soup) is coming soon!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Before the snow melts...

Cherry blossoms were already blooming in Vancouver before the end of the Winter Olympics... and here in Sapporo it's raining, and the snow piles are melting. Yes, spring is on its way. So, before all the snow melts, I'm going to post some pictures of cool things to do with snow and ice.

I seriously think that this is all an excuse to prevent hibernation by the residents of the city... and to attract tourists. It was really cold here in February. I wanted to hibernate, but I did in fact brave the cold and drag myself down to Odori park where I slowly circled the park in a counter-clockwise direction...

See? Everyone is walking in the same direction. If we hadn't, we would have been (very politely) asked to stop disturbing the other guests.

The most exciting snow sculptures were the very large ones. This one, which was sponsored by the Maruyama Zoo, was our favorite. Keith liked the gorilla, and I liked the leopard the best.

There was a church from Germany...

And a palace from Korea...

And inevitably there were hundreds of tourists with cameras lined up to take pictures in front of the larger sculptures.

There were small sculptures too, including cartoon characters, famous people, animals, etc. Here is a bento box...

Homer Simpson...

And Totoro!

In nearby Susukino, we admired some ice sculptures, especially this palace of frozen fish.

And today's Engrish:

In case you were wondering, "Do" is the nickname of our island, Hokkaido...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Actually, back in December/January, my family came to visit...

Please forgive the lack of any sort of order with the posting here. I wanted to post a few highlights and pictures from my family's visit between December 28 and January 11. Yes... they came all the way here to celebrate お正月(oshougatsu=Japanese New Year) with us.

Well, Christmas first. We exchanged gifts on December 29th, their first morning in Japan. Observe our tiny "Christmas tree" and reused wrapping paper.

Colin's present was clearly labeled with his name and portrait.

To fight jet lag (and to test our new hats and "yak traks"), we went out to Mt. Moiwa on the outskirts of Sapporo for a spectacular view of the city and its surroundings.

Most of us drank civilized drinks (tea and coffee) in the restaurant while we waited for the sunset, but Keith insisted on an electric green soda.

Snow-covered Sapporo...

The next day, we had lunch at our favorite sushi shop.

Feeling mellow on the subway coming home from lunch. Time for the onsen (not pictured... ;)

The events of the next several days have already been covered in 2 previous posts. Suffice it to say, we celebrated New Year's and I played a concert.

The first Monday of the New Year was a Japanese Culture day at our language school. We started with Ikebana (flower arranging) class. We split into boys' team and girls' team...

Later on, we saw a concert with Japanese tradition music. I am going to learn this instrument. It is called Shamisen, and it is awesome. I even got to try it!

The koto (and its system of notation) was pretty awesome too... but I've already lost my heart to the shamisen.

That night we had friends over for dinner--my pianist, Shino-san and her mom and sister. Shino's mom showed me how to properly brew Sencha: warm the cups first so that the water is not too hot for the tea. Then pour the water into the tea pot. I hadn't realized until this particular evening that there weren't any tea cups in our current lodgings... only coffee mugs. (I went out to the local 2nd hand store to remedy that immediately.)

And I probably committed about a hundred faux pas (I don't know how to make that plural, sorry) that evening. I admire Japanese hospitality so much, but I simply haven't even scratched the surface of learning how to make Japanese guests feel comfortable in my home. This is something Japanese children learn from their parents... and my parents are not Japanese. Thankfully there are many Japanese mothers around who are happy to share their wisdom with me.

We celebrated Epiphany with fresh baked bread from our hosts, Dieter and Shelley...

Then we headed to Niseko Ski Resort by train. There we spent 3 days eating, sleeping, bathing in an amazing onsen, skiing, and generally relaxing.

Old school chairlifts. Japanese ski resorts are funded almost entirely by Australian tourists, since Japanese people usually don't have time to go skiing, except on holidays. Then everyone in Sapporo heads to the slopes together. That would be a fun day...

Hooray, I still know how to ski!

Mom and Colin are both the crazy jumping off of cliffs types, so they ski together. Luckily, no one was hurt. ;)

Dad is usually my ski buddy, since he is very relaxed about the whole thing. Stopping to rest and take pictures is okay.

Noodles for lunch! This is Japan after all...

Great scenery too.

Dinner: huge, beautiful meal back at our hotel. We were provided with yukata, so we could essentially wander around the hotel in our pajamas all evening.

We slept slumber party style, on futon on the floor of one big room... and with the skiing, the food, and the onsen, we slept really well!

That's it from me... if you want to read more about our time with my family, check out my mom's blog on Mt. Moiwa, New Year's Celebration, my concert, Japanese Culture Day, and Niseko. Toodle pip!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Japanese Culture Day

Definitely had a good day today. Among other things, we played dress up in kimonos, did Japanese tea ceremony, and practiced calligraphy. I love this place. I'll keep the commentary to a minimum, so just enjoy the pictures.

Getting into a kimono is no walk in the park. I just stood there while Keiko-san and Kaori-san put it on my. The only part I could do myself was the undergarments...

 The obi is tied in a special bow. The one Keiko-san is wearing is more standard.


Ellen, who is currently our housemate, played dress up too. :)

 Many hands make light work?

In the case of men's kimonos, the most decorative part is on the inside. Is that like wearing the underwear with the little rocket ships?

Getting Keith dressed took less than half the time.

Mikiko-san and Yuugo-kun came to join us for calligraphy practice and tea.

Learning to write the character for love

I kept trying to hold the brush like a western calligraphy pen.

And Yuugo-kun was doing his own thing.