Posts Tagged ‘sakae’

The last couple of weeks has been a mixed bag of emotions. I’ve had some real highs  – like seeing my Cousin Hazel in Kyoto with Toddles in tow; great fun now he is running around everywhere! And he has grown SO big since I saw him last! – but its brought about a lot of low points too. Saying good bye to a lot of people on my course I’ve made friends with over the last few months was sad enough, but a couple of my really good friends were leaving too which is a bit of a blow. Luckily we are living in the age of Skype! The other thing was that this year was my first ever Christmas away from home and while I was expecting it to be hard, it was even harder than I imagined. I kept myself as busy as possible to keep my mind off the fact that I wasn’t with family, firstly on Christmas eve by going to one of my good Japanese friends’ house.

Since I live in halls, I really appreciate getting this kind of home-stay experience! After paying respects to the family shrine we entered Haruna’s grandparents house – enormous and incredibly Japanese in every single way with tatami flooring, sliding doors, with an outer corridor surrounding the inner rooms. We had a real feast for lunch and although I though I had tried almost everything before they still found things to surprise me! Remarkably, they have a small amount of land and grow all their own rice, vegetables and fruit, as well as making their own plum-wine liqueur, pickles and other things! Naturally it was all delicious – there’s nothing like home cooked food!! I enjoyed talking to them – even if they spoke with a really thick dialect accent that made it hard to understand! Her grandma is an inspiration – at 70 she still does Japanese archery and competes at a national level – I saw the trophies! They were so kind and very generously gave me a whole bag of goodies to take home with me – home grown clementines, pickles, sweet potatoes and dried persimmons.

Afterwards we went on to her family home and I got to meet her mum and dad. We made nabe which is kind of like clear soup with meat and vegetables or whatever you have lying around – for that very reason its becoming a favourite of mine! I got to try out her koto which I suppose is a cross between a guitar and a piano – very strange – and heard all about her dad entering the famously hardcore Iron Man competition for a second time!

We then had drinks at My Bar and after a long long walk from Sakae all the way to Don Quixote in Kanayama/Nagoya Eki decided to crash out at a Manga Cafe till the first train home. Christmas day itself was also very very different to what I’m used to; replace the roast with raw octopus, soy beans and radish salad, the wine with beer, and instead of carols at church think of carols at karaoke and you’ve got a pretty good approximation! I actually had a pretty fun day in the end but I’m really glad its over now so I can enjoy the rest of my holiday.

Here are some pics…

I’m going off to Tokyo for New Years Eve and to see a bit more what I missed last time, like Akihabara, a bit more Harajuku and maybe we will try and catch a glimpse of the first sunrise of the new year from the vantage point of the Roppongi Hills Hotel…

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This is how sundays should be:

Wake up late. Go for ice cream at a place where they mash up fruit or chocolate with your favourite ice cream whilst singing you a song and clinking their metal spatulas. Enjoy a bit of window shopping. A quick visit to the pet shop where you can cuddle the puppies. A walk around Sakae waving at random people and making small talk with shop keepers. Finished with a drink or two at a nice tea room with a beautiful aquarium.

And back just in time to make the international food party* and make decorations for the halloween party.

* I may have slightly brought gastronomic shame on Great-Britain-land. My wonderful Scottish friend and I tried to make Toad in the Hole. But they dont have ovens in Japan. Or decent pork sausages. So we improvised using a frying pan. And frankfurters. It did not work. Luckily the Japanese and Americans didnt really know any better! It made me a bit homesick though, shopping and realising just how few home comforts we have here. I try to improvise as far as possible, but its almost impossible to make anything authentic. 😦

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I’m serious. Last night I went to prison. Well a prison themed restaurant at least! What an experience it was as well! Mina, Jenny, Cynthia and I made our way to Yaba-cho station where we met 4 Japanese girls, who I had met at one of the welcome parties on campus, and one of whom had given me a tour of the campus. We approached the venue not entirely sure what to expect, but being lead through the front door down a dark corridor splattered with UV paint and filled with rock music into the main prison area we knew we were in for an interesting night out!

The place looked and felt exactly like a creepy prison museum; 2 floors and about 10 barred cells, very dark and dingy, complete with mannequin replicas of famous movie murders. We ordered drinks and soon after got a multi-course meal of really delicious Japanese food. But then, towards the end of the meal, all the lights went out and the show began. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone who might like to go but I shall just say we were all screaming and holding each other during the whole show!

To top it all off, the end of the meal came with a rather interesting visitor, in the shape of a dangerously blue alcoholic drink with a IGUANA in it. Now, at first I actually thought it was real and was slightly concerned about its health, but (luckily?) it was just a gutted lizard skin. Anyways, as with all major decisions in Japan, we played the Japanese equivalent of rock paper scissors to decide who would have to bite its head off. Luckily it wasn’t me.

In other news, things continue to go well, and I’m enjoying all my classes but this week is particularly busy for me what with one thing and another. On Friday I have my first proper seminar class – essentially a student run class where we decide what to discuss and how to approach topics set and moderated by the teacher. This week is on Hiroshima and atomic bomb literature so I know its going to be controversial! We have a plan so I hope its going to go well; with this kind of class you get out as much as you put in, so its going to be a real challenge!

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Life in Nagoya is very laid back compared to London – it seems like there are always people around, but they don’t rush in the same way that Londoners do. Even in Sakae (the heart of Nagoya where we all hang out, go shopping etc) the piped music makes it feel like toy-town or Disneyland! (It certainly solves the problem of ASBO kids playing music on their mobile phones!)

This weekend I went to Sakae with a girl I met at a welcome party (so many welcome parties!) and we went for tea and cake, and purikura. Purikura is a kind of photobooth where you take between 5-8 photos with various backgrounds and you can then pick the ones you like and decorate them with writing, glitter, stars, and other images. You then get a sheet of them printed out on sticker paper so you can decorate folders/files etc with them. Ive done a few before but late at night when they are pretty quiet. So it was a great surprise to see the purikura room at its fullest. Matching outfits, fancy dress… I saw two girls dressed exactly the same in Pikachu outfits (from Pokemon). This is no simple pastime – this is a serious endevour! We did some and you can get them sent to your phone so here they are:



I also went to Nagoya Castle which was really nice, worth a visit. Hopefully going to do some more sight seeing next weekend too. So much to do and see!

My only gripe so far: I never thought I would say this but I am really missing vegetables and Im almost sick of meat, ramen and yaki soba! Vegetables are really expensive here – ¥260 (GBP 1.50) for ONE courgette!! Not really sure why, but apparently all vegetables are all organic and produced in small quantities due to the lack of space. On the other hand, a portion of fresh noodles are 15p so hopefully all the maths will work itself out!!

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