Sunday, February 28, 2010

Here comes the sun-- wait, scratch that, it's just more rain...

Today (at least over here), it's March 1st. After two chilly months, the snow is almost completely gone save a few slush piles up in the hills, and we're back to our regularly scheduled programming of rain, and temperatures in the low 50s. Apart from one bizarre sunny day in the upper 60s, it looks like this what we can expect for at least the next month.

The last sign of snow was only a couple of weeks ago, so I'm almost still in the mentality that I need to be prepared if I have to hole up in the apartment in case of some kind of freak blizzard. Fortunately, at the local sporting goods store, there was at least one food I knew I could count on:

This, boys and girls, is canned bread. More specifically, it's Sabaibaru Pan, or Survival Bread! I rest assured that I can tear one of these open next time there's a snowstorm and it's impossible to get out (read: most likely never, or if it does happen, in about 9 or 10 months).

Speaking of winter food, neither of us has yet to track down the elusive yakiimo man. I hear him and his damn "YAAAAAAAAAKIIIIIMOOOOOO" song every couple of days, but he only seems to drive by, headed off to places unknown. Just once, I'd like to walk down a street in our neighborhood and see him open for business, selling his delicious roasted sweet potatoes. But no, it's always at some crazy hour (seriously, I've heard it at 9 in the morning and 11 at night) in which he's just zipping by our building, leaving only an aroma and a creaky ballad about potatoes in his wake.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Sukiyaki" - it's not just for dinner

This song, popularly known as "Sukiyaki" (aka the Japanese hotpot dish) in the U.S., is a jaunty little number about a lonely, sad walk in the night. The actual name is "Ue wo muite arukou", or "Looking Up While Walking." Its freak popularity in the US came when a DJ in Washington state played it on a lark, and suddenly found himself with a hit!

The singer, Kyu Sakamoto, is considered one of the most influential Japanese musicians. Sadly, he died in what ended up being the deadliest plane crashes in history in 1985.

Thanks to Jeff Oliver for forwarding this to me!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I'm still pretty sure a first grader can out talk me though...

We are officially Japanese 1st graders! Well, language-wise anyway. Thankfully we both passed the JLPT 4 quite easily, which apparently means we have mastered 80 kanji and 800 words. We both know more than that, so next December we hope to shoot for a higher level...
...which brings me to the second topic of this post: we're staying another year! It was a tough decision, but we haven't been able to travel nearly as much as we've wanted to and, let's face it, this is pretty easy money. I've pretty much gotten the hang of things at work and next year will be even easier because I can recycle lesson plans from this year. Besides, neither of us has really figured out what we want to do when we get back, so hip-hip-hooray for procrastinating!
Because we're sticking around we've made a few upgrades to our living situation. Japanese homes typically don't have an oven, but they'll often feature a "moven" microwave/toaster oven combo. We didn't even get that. We have finally given in to our grumbling tummies' demands for fresh baked goods. We got an adorable little table top electric oven off of Amazon and I'm totally in love with it. Here's some bread I made (real bread, with crust!). It works surprisingly well.

I'm lazy so I usually just run through google translate when I'm shopping online. This makes shopping far more interesting than it is on boring old For example, we needed a table to put the oven on top of:

Our table table table table is working out quite nicely.

Today some of my students at the special needs school told me about Setsubun, which is when Japanese people celebrate the coming of spring by having beans thrown at them. This seemed ridiculous until I had to tell them about Groundhog Day.