Today (February 3rd) was not a usual Saturday. Today was the Setsubun (節分), which marks the start of spring. As it is celebrated at about the same time as Lunar New Year – there is some historical connection there- it involves purifying rituals. Because, you know, at the start of a new year you usually make resolutions that you will not keep and clean your house, so why not sweep some devil ogres along with the dust while you are at it? The Japanese oni (鬼) are a pain-in-the-ass kind of demons and for this reason require special handling. You can only drive them away by throwing soy-beans at them (豆まき mamemaki). But not any kind of beans, the ones that are purified at a temple by a miko (young girl priestesses) or maybe conbini stuff (they seem to also possess super powers, judging by their insane working hours). Nowadays, with globalization and everything, wild onis are hard to find, so in order to keep the ritual going someone wears a demon mask and the rest of the family chase them out of the house by throwing the above holy beans while yelling “Demons out! Luck in!” (鬼は外! 福は内! Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!). Furthermore, because Japan is the country of motaenai, nothing goes to waste. Which means that you have to eat the leftover beans, one for every year of your life and that will supposedly bring you luck.
The big jinjas in tokyo usually organize events for Setsubun, so my plan was to go to Zojou-ji and sneak a peak. However, I arrived there too late and there was nothing to be seen, even the temple ground was swept clean.
- Well, there were some remains of the bean ammunition
The traditional food of the day is ehoumaki (恵方巻), a super-long sushi roll that is supposed to be eaten will one is facing a certain lucky direction. I wanted to buy a special one from the temple and eat there facing south, south-east, but my luck had abandoned me today. I got a beni-haruka sweet potato and chilled at a nearby park.
Lawson had an interesting campaign today, with the 4 employees selling ehoumaki outside the store dressed up as blue- & red-masked onis and the accompanying miko. Contrarily to popular belief, demons and priestesses seemed to get along pretty well. On my way home, I came across Seijoishii super market (ultimate favorite because it sells greek chocolate ION) and guess what? I bought ehoumaki! The cheap one with 7 ingredients, because 1300yen for supermarket sushi is far too much. I also got some soy beans and a tiny ogre mask, but now two problems have arisen: 1. who will accept to be transformed into a demon, so that I can through beans at them?, and if they do 2. the mask is tiny, does not fit but to a mouse-head, how the hell will they put it on?
Roasted soy beans to shoo shoo demons
The special long maki sushi
P.S. A nice advertisement for car tires inspired from the day.
Επιτέλους! Ευχαριστώ για τα μελομακάρονα ρε μάνα!Αν και μόνο 5 έφτασαν αρτιμελή, τα υπόλοιπα θα τα φάω με το κουτάλι. Μαζί έφτασαν αμυγδαλωτά και καρύδια. **Το μπουκάλι κοκα κόλας δεν περιέχει νερό.**
Finally, my mom’s parcel with homemade Christmas sweets arrived (late and with 5/10 surviving ‘melomakarona’). **The coca cola bottle does not contain water – ‘tsipouro’ 38%vol**
- Melomakarona are biscuit-like, traditional Greek sweets, made commonly during winter for Christmas. They are based on flour, olive oil, honey, cinnamon and grated walnuts. The name origin is not certain; some claim a connection to the Italian ‘macaron’, some suggest relations to the work ‘makarizo’ for praising the dead. Either way it’s delicious and here’s a recipe by Akis.
- Tsipouro is a widely spread, strong (40-45%vol), distilled spirit, made from grape byproducts. It is commonly sold both from official industries and from local distillers. It comes in two versions: pure or with anise flavoring, though i prefer the first version. Normally, it is served on the rocks or with water, and it can be drunk in shots at fun times. During winter, it is enjoyed boiled with honey, hence called tsipouromelo.
[Feature Photo: Come on! Welcome to our house, we have coffee and cookies! — reminds me a bit of the ‘come to the dark side, we have cookies’ meme (Credits to Martin)]
Hey there! I haven’t been active for a while because I was busy EATING. Oh my god, this Sunday was the first day in two months that I managed to sleep later than 9am. But, the reason for not sleeping was having fun, so I guess it’s ok. Autumn is the best season for excursions, short hikes and roadtrips, I encourage you to do so. I strongly recommend: Nikko, Hoshinoonsen in Karuizawa,Teradomari, Yuzawa and Yahiko in Niigata, Matsumoto in Nagano, Hakone and anywhere else with nature nearby! If you don’t like nature that much, Xmas is closing up on us, which means —> ILLUMINATION TIME // BLINK BLINK PIKA PIKA LIGHTS EVERYWHERE! Enjoy the red autumn leaves (koyou) and remember that it’s the best time of the year for hot coffee, Irish hot coffee or warm sake with rice porridge (amazake). Also I suggest this version of hot chocolate : melt chocolate with rose petals, add milk, a pinch of cinnamon, 1-2 threads of saffron, a blanket with cats and a medieval fiction book.
P.S. Mostly Japanese stuff with Greek, Finnish and Ecuadorian surprises.
Open the gallery images for detailed captions!
Bento: (Chicken meat) tsukune with vegetables and rice
Soba from Sado island (near Niigata) with salmon filet
Fancy chicken and pork super heroes on your pizza
Breakfast: Hawaii Lion coffee macadamia flavor & pancakes with blueberry jam and sake flavor KitKat
Finnish candy, came as birthday present straight from Finland (love you Ville)
Yakimeshi (fried rice) with kani (crab) shumai
Some gyuu (beef) street food in Ueno park
Super spicy chinese hot pot with harusame – My chinese friend said she could handle it but instead she turned tomatoish!
Extra huge ramen in Oookayama
Super spicy noodles in moukotanmen 蒙古タンメン in machida.. So spicy that the shop caught fire the next day!
ULTRA cute turtle sweets – how dare you even think about eating them?
Chocolate from Equador – one of the best I’ve ever tried. left: salty caramel, right: rose from andes
Bento: Ham and cheese croquettes & harusame salad with mushroom
Nikko specialty: Soba with Yuba (really thin tofu sheets – you can find them only in places with extra clean water)
Gold mochi —> or that’s what we were told that the gold marks were
Okinawa specialty: Beni imo (purple sweet potato) tart
Bento: sukeroku 助六 sushi with Niigata local brewed IPA beer Echigo
Vietnam specialty: Instant coffee! I didn’t know it before coming to Japan, but turns out that vietnamese coffee is famous overseas and has cool packaging as a plus
Snack: Brownie at the lab, covered with fat-cat themed leg blanket
Harumaki (spring rolls) with toasted bread, salad and 3 kinds of kimchi (pickle-like korean delicacy)
Extra huge honey-mustard chicken sandwich in Harajuku
Breakfast: pancakes with 1)honey and cinnamon 2)yuzu jam and ginger 3) blueberry jam
NeonGenesis Evangelion will cater all your daily needs!
Beer: India Pale Ale with fancy name Aooni (=blue demon)
Sapporo beer babuska! How come no one thought about it before? Also, who the hell buys the 2 smallest sizes?
Snack: Japanese love moomin. Japanese love maccha tea. So, I nailed it with moomin cookies + maccha tea!
Snack: October is the season for 月見 (tsukimi ,moon viewing) in Japan and for mooncakes in China. Surprisingly, the filling of the one I received was similar to the funeral ceremonial delight we make in Greece
Karuizawa specialty: Apple senbei, because the ares is famous for their apples. With extra special baking process~
GR/JP mix: Greek meatballs with tomato sauce & harusame salad & rice with nori and pink ginger and hijiki flavouring
BBQ next to the lake in hakode. Please do it – and don’t forget a lot of niniku (garlic) for the meat!
Fancy japanese dinner. A hellish amount of plates!
Niigata specialty: Please visit the fish market in Teradomari, good quality fish in freezing low prices!
Snack: Fish on a stick, you can find in almost everywhere!
Crabs are sooo cool !
Teradomari: GO for oyster etc BBQ! I don’t have to repeat it!
Cosy, country style stake house in Karuizawa. Please try the miso sauce. The tabasco is native japanese though, not spicy at all.
Enough about food, let’s check some cheap yet fancy cosmetics and random stuff!
The cosy corner on my desk. Beers and anime and cosmetics
Neon genesis evangelion clear files 5 for 100yen (less then 1euro)
Oil blotting paper, bought from hundred yen shop, I haven’t tested the results yet.
Black pearl mask from daiso, I haven’t tested that one either
Deadpool baaaaaaaaaaag! get it for the premier! only 4000yen at a random, neighborhood second hand store
Pretty much only one thing happened during the past days: rain. So it was a great opportunity for me to start experimenting with Japanese cooking. The results were satisfying, so I’ll try to keep up the pace and try to get better! The recipes that weren’t improvised, were successful thanks to japanesecooking101. Pro tip: Be extremely careful when you buy the ingredients; the contents may look the same, the kanji may look the same, BUT it’s highly possible that it’s NOT the same.
Avocado-Chicken with Korean noodles
Japanese satsuma sweet potato a la amani (basically boiled in sugar syrup) [recipe here]
An awful lot of ingredients here – I mixed up too many things together, but at least it was eatable; salmon flakes, avocado, bean sprouts, fermented bamboo shoots (menma), red ginger (紅ショウガ), some king of transparent noodles made of kudzu starch (くずきり) which I accidentally bought instead of bean threads (春雨) – I wanted to make this cooling salad .
Trying to make gyoza. I made it using a filling with minced pork meat, cabbage, green onion etc. The folding is tricky at the beginning, but ‘practice makes perfect’. In the background: Vietnamese ‘Nem’ cooked by my roommate, and an episode of ‘Rick and Morty’. I had to spend my time resourcefully, considering I was making gyoza, tsukune and greek meatballs all at once.
Special Halloween KitKat with caramel pudding flavor: The individual packages came with cute little messages like ‘thank you!’, ‘sorry’, ‘you can do it’, ‘good job’, ‘of course’ & ‘friends’
Special edition Milk Tea with Princess Ariel and her sisters, from Disney’s ‘Little Mermaid’
PLUS: What to eat in okinawa
- サーターアンダギー(saataa andagii): something like doughnut, with brown sugar coating
- 紅イモ(beni imo) tarts/soft cream/kitkat/everything: purple yam flavour
- タコライス(tako rice): doesn’t have any actual taco(octopus) and comes in a lot of variations with avocado, tomato , etc
- ソーキそば(sokisoba): soba served containing giant lumps of meat
- ゴーヤチャンプルー(goya champuru): omelette style dish with the okinawan cucumber(goya), tofu, pork etc
- Orion beer: the local beer, they advertise it everywhere, and comes in 3-4 variations
- さんぴん茶: jasmine tea, but it’s supposed to be a special okinawan blend that offers longelivity
- シークワーサー・パッションフルーツ・マンゴ・グアバ お酒 (flat lemon/passion fruit/mango/guava drinks)：local alcoholic cocktail canned drinks with tropical fruit flavours
- 泡盛(awamori): the local alcoholic drink (around 25%), resembling shochu in terms of production, as it is a product of distillation
How would you like your drink? straight, on rocks or with a snake?
Orion beer, the local Okinawan beer with a summery taste
So-ki soba (with pork), a huge meal for only 700yen
Kimchi unagi don (rice bowl with eel and korean spices) at the Sukiya. Cheap and tasty
If you can’t decide on a single flavor, why don’t you choose harf and harf? (sorry for the bad quality)
Beni imo soft cream – They love the purple yam taste in the south.
Takorice and ramen
EXTRA SECTION: Cosmetics
Silicon covers for relaxing and hydrating the feet
Concentrated facial masks; I saw them for a first time, and tried to infuse one with the Kose ‘Sekkisei herbal gel’, with satisfying results
The past weeks were so full of trips and outings, that I feel like staying in for a week is the best way to go, which is pretty strange, because if you know me, you also know that I NEVER do that! Anyway, baito is fun, meeting new people is fun, drinking with new people from the baito is even better. Here follows a petite introduction to some random drinks etc that I came across last week and attracted my attention.
Lab party with random japanese and finnish drinks. I tried to google translate the contents of jaloviina, but the only thing I got was “jumbo jumbo jumbo jumbo jumbo”.
How NOT to make toast bread. Attempt #1: put ham and cheese, text for a while and you get this magnificent colourful result. Attempt #2: re-do by putting nothing on top, and get a DIY world’s blackest black easily at home.
Frula pear soda. It took me a while to figure out how to de-attach the ball on the cap. This thing needs strength! But the drink was all about the looks after all, nothing special regarding the content.
Precure donuts from Mr. Donut. Comes with marshmallow ears and smarties-style eyes and cheeks. The strawberry flavour of the topping hits your nostrils right away!
New Zealand red IPA beer. I adooored the smell, it was perfect for a cool summer evening. And the taste was also full of fruit flavors. Highly Recommended! (Also, I don’t know if it was intended but the name sounds like “Little -grim- ripper” to me)
How to properly drink nihonshuu. 1) Put a shot glass inside a square box. 2) Fill the shot glass with sake, let it overflow until it fills the box to the brim as well. 3) Drink from the shot glass and then drink from the box as well. 4) Triple quantity in one go, that’s the way to go!
The best flavoured filter coffee around here, for the time being. This one is “vanilla macadamia”, but I think i liked “hazelnut” more. Hawaiian dancing coffee beans – hooray!
“Make your own beer” club
That’s not a valid number for alcohol percentage!
When the mood is down, it’s time for BBQ
Featured Image: Night sea in Kamakura, the foam on top of the waves was glowing with an awesome electric blue hue. No camera could capture that view.
You know, my main goal since I came here, is to try every silly food that exists. It’s the country of infinite possibilities! Also, after a quick experimentation session I decided that (apart from maccha that will always have a special space in my heart and stomach) my favourite flavour is kurogoma(黒ゴマ － black sesame). Subsequently, I started using kurogoma oil in pretty much every dish I cook at home.
Also, I tried to cook a traditional Greek dish with green beans the other day, you know? Ah, didn’t work out well. The beans that I bought at the supermarket had the correct colour, correct shape, correct texture – but they were not the normal green beans! It was soy beans, the ones that Japanese grill and eat while drinking alcohol. You cannot eat the outside part, so my whole dish was ruined, it was a disaster. Meh, they do say that ‘as long as you live, you learn’.
pachi pachi paniku! those soda caramels pop in your mouth (oh, and if japanese people give it to you without explaining, the element of surprise at it’s finest)
Driving schools or mobile companies usually give out those snacks for free. A lot of different flavours, one verdict – untasty
Kurogoma icecream. Such in interesting color selection for icecream!
I found greek chocolate (love you ION) in a lawson!
Sashimi plate and beers in Aobadai
Red bean paste jelly sweet. Actually, it was fun eating in, with that slimy texture
4 flavoured pizza from pizza hat (not as bad as I expected it to be)
Caesar salad with avocado and spaghetti with eggplants
Tempura in Kamakura. Worth it!
Some kind of pork donburi, I really didn’t like it, too much fat in the meat
First attempt of homemade miso soup – I had no nori so I used green onion and parsley (foreigner fail!)
Maccha ice cream in Harajukuuuuuu
Vietnamese sween from beans. The texture is powderish and it is not so sweet, but is excellent with tea
japanese wakashi (traditional sweets) – minimal presentation and balanced flavour
Abura ramen. In these chain shops every bowl size costs the same. I ordered the biggest and I couldn’t finish it in any way
kurogoma taiyaki, I said it’s my new favourite, right?
Kit Kat! Top: Rum and Raisins. Bottom: Japanese Sake
Tabehodai with yakiniku. Pay a certain amount and eat as much as you want for two hours. IT’S PARADISE
The japanese usually eat grilled soy beans while drinking
Italian ice cream with 1.sakura, 2.lemon tart flavours from Venus port in Odaiba
The famous maccha tiramisu in momiji, Kamakura. If it’s too crowded, you can always buy some takeout dorayaki
meiji maccha cookies – oh my god I’m addicted
coconut biscuits, perfect as an afternoon snack in the lab
Greek traditional food with green beans and tomato sauce (fasolakia) accompanied by salmon maki sushi
Takoyaki from the takoyaki museum in odaiba. It even has a tako shrine!
guracha snack omiyage from kansai
Ichiryu ramen in shibuya. The first time that I ordered karai-ramen and the dish was actually spicy!
Man actually comes from China, but the Japanese love it, so it’s provided in a million different flavours. This is pizzaman.
Finally, let’s hear what Yotsuba (from Yotsubato!) has to say about Taiyaki.
I personally conclude that the only reason the taiyaki shop went bankrupt was because of bad management – Taiyaki is soooooo much better than pudding.
What about this week’s stuck song?
Hydrogen Sea – Beating Heart (Always thankful to Suicide Sheep for the music he introduces us to)
Featured Image: From 茶庭 然花抄院(Zenkashoin) @Hikarie Mall in Shibuya. (Top) Roasted tea float (with agar, ice cream and stewed sweet japanese chestnut, (Bottom) Maccha chocolate terrine (from Uji, Kyoto)
Q: What’s an adult’s sweet taste?
Hey there! I moved to Japan about a week ago and everything is SUPER different here! The first big difference: food! As a European, the first time I went to the super market, I didn’t know what to buy, because I didn’t know what all these products were! However, I am getting used to it and I am starting to like japanese food, even though up until now I’ve only tried cheap dishes from the school cafeteria or the convenience store. Of course I have many pictures of landscapes etc. but food has priority. Enjoy the foodporn!
P.S. I would just like to boast about the univ. internet connection. ABSOLUTELY no comparison with my home country.