Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lottion? I've not heard of this before...

I just posted a comment on a friend's blog, and as with many things these days, I had to provide a word verification to prove I'm not some spambot trying to post dirty things. However, I fear that a lot of computer-savvy young kids are going to have a hell of a time passing the SAT and such if they do a lot of blog-commenting and word-verifying with what came up when I did.

Good luck, kids.

Upcoming activities

Things I am looking forward to this week:

Thursday: The Fukuoka EU Association is having a wine, music, ikebana, etc. etc. gathering that I managed to RSVP to incredibly late, but haven't received a rejection fax so I assume my attendence is go. Japanese friend (graduating from college and leaving for Osaka or Tokyo, cry ;_;) who is my wine buddy and I will enjoy sampling wines from the EU, hahaha... I guess the music and flowers and food might be interesting too.

Saturday: Beer and Pizza party with fellow JETs living in the area. The pizza will be from Costco (AKA America). YESSSSS.

Sunday: Fukuoka Softbank Hawks vs. Busan Lotte Giants. As part of some friendship promotion thing, there's going to be a sister-city baseball game! S from NZ got tickets through work, and I am not one to turn down free baseball tix. One of my coworkers gets to interview some super famous Korean actress, oh lala!

That is about it. I took some nice pictures of the city the other day (which I will post within the week), since I didn't make it to Dazaifu to see the plum blossoms. I hope they are still blooming this weekend, as I am going to try to squeeze in a visit before the beer and pizza consumption commences.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wherein I eat just-barely alive (dead?) squid (cuttlefish?)

On Valentine's Day (yes, so romantical...), two of my coworker's and I drove an hour and a half west of Fukuoka City to Yobuko, a small coastal town in Saga Prefecture. Yobuko is renowned for its squid/cuttlefish, which you can see hanging up to dry all over town. However, the thing to do in Yobuko is to eat いか活り造り (ika ikizukuri), which is squid that has been cut into sashimi.......... while still alive. They serve it up still wriggling a bit. This was my first time eating this delicacy. It was somewhat uncomfortable (though after eating whale meat and raw horse meat, not many strange foodstuffs faze me anymore), but it truly was the best ika sashimi (one of my top 3 favorite raw seafoods) I have ever had in my life. I advise squeemish individuals and PETA-supporters to proceed with caution.

A somewhat gloomy day, but good for a drive. It was nice being in a small seaside town for a change.
The victims in their natural-ish habitat (in the restaurant, at least)
That's where the guy comes to scoop them up and take them away. Our table was right next to this tank thing.
HERE THEY ARE! Two different kinds of ika. I believe the two on the left are sasaika (called yariika in sushi restaurants), and the one on the right is mizuika (or aoriika). They were different in texture- the sasaika was nearly transparent and a bit chewier, especially towards the end and head bits, and the mizuika was white with a softer texture. I liked both, but the texture of the mizuika was more appealing to me.
The mizuika was moving a lot. And it started changing color, as squid do when they are pissed. It sounds so cruel and awful, but it really wasn't that terrible to me... maybe I am just a horrible, heartless person.
Yummo! That purple seaweed stuff in the background was really delish too. ika shumai. A steamed Chinese-style dumpling with tiny shavings of squid all around and a touch of spicy mustard on top. SO TASTY.
The lunch set included a bunch of stuff. After we had munched on the sashimi for a bit, they took our squids (is squids the plural of squid?) away and fried them up into tempura bits. Amazing. So tender, not anything like calamari, which is almost always chewy.
Squid-scooping guy. He came out twice while we were there, each time taking back a net full of maybe 10 or so squidz.
A very unique dining experience.
A nearby observation thing. Not a big deal, but kind of nice.
The bridge to the observation island.
This map is flipped nearly upside down (south is at the top). Yobuko is the little pink dot, Nagasaki Prefecture is to the right, and Fukuoka City is on the bay in the very top left corner.
View of the sea. I think it's pretty interesting how the farmland goes RIGHT up to the ocean in Japan. They don't waste any space that isn't mountain here.
View of Yobuko. Such a cute little town! It is literally just the land along that tiny harbor. The restauran we went to is near the brown sandy-looking wharf to the left-ish.
Amanatsu-mikan, another mysterious citrus fruit of Asia that I never heard of until I came here. I think my host mom makes marmelade with it. I would describe it as having the tartness of a grapefruit, but the flavor of a tangerine. We bought amanatsu-mikan flavored carmels, hard candies, and pudding, respectively.
The under-sea observatory thing at Hado-misaki, a 15-20 minute drive from Yobuko.
The area around Yobuko is known for having incredibly clear water. This was 7 meters or so udnerwater, but we could see without any artificial light- plus, it was a cloudy day. We didn't see too many fish other than these pufferfish (fugu).
Guy folding squid-shaped origami in the observatory.
He gave me one (so cuuuute!) and here I am showing it off to the pufferfish.
Hado-misaki has this funny heart sculpture and is deemed a "lover's sanctuary" because of it's scenic view and the fact that "Hado" sounds like "ha-to," which is how the Japanese pronounce the word "heart." Silly, but cute.
A vintage Mini Cooper club was having some kind of gathering, hahahahaha.
She grills turban shells by the seashore.
Definitely my least favorite food of the day, and perhaps one of the least appetizing seafoods I have ever consumed. Turban shells. I do not recommend. Ewwww.
Squid, everywhere! Take them home to your family!!
Mmmmm ika manju... A hot bun filled with ika goodness.
Ika everywhere!
One of my coworkers is from Karatsu, a city not too far from Yobuko, and we met up with one of her HS friends, whose family owns several strawberry hot houses. She let us wander the rows and eat as many strawberries as we wanted. It was HEAVEN.
The mother of all strawberries.
The ones I picked to take home
The sign in the middle with the picture of a sunfish (the weird-looking fish I posed with back in December)? Yeah, you can EAT IT in Yobuko. We passed the restaurant, which was floating on the water surrouned by what I assume are netted areas for the sunfish. We didn't try it. I wonder if it is any good. Not too thrilled by the idea.
Then we visited my coworker's friend's friend, who is a gajillionth generation potter and lives with his family in a beeeyoooteeeful house in the middle of absolutely nowhere. They have a teahouse in their backyard. A TEAHOUSE. He treated us to an informal tea ceremony :)
There was a stained glass window INSIDE the teahouse!
I wouldn't mind living there, except for the fact that it was truly in the middle of nowhere. We drove for 15 minutes before my cellphone got any reception. But it was lovely, and a real treat!

Friday, February 19, 2010


In early May, Japan has this big long holiday (ok, 5 day weekend) known as Golden Week where most people can take time off to travel. The parade my organization participates in, and for which I am currently planning the international troupe, is smack in the middle of that long holiday. Sucks. So I can't make plans to travel with anyone because they will no doubt be leaving the Friday before or so, and the parade is on Monday.

However, I am anticipating accumulating a fair amount of overtime hours by that time, and I still have more than half of my vacation days left. In any case, I plan on taking a trip once the parade is over. It will have to be by myself, but that's no big deal and in fact, I'm looking forward to it.

Since I'm going to be here at least two years, I told myself that the first year would be the one to explore as much of Japan as possible, and in year #2 I would venture to other parts of Asia. Having grown up in the 'burbs and gone to college in the big city, I want to get away for a little bit and experience rural Japan. Most people probably think of Tokyo and Kyoto when they conjure up images of Japan, but apart from urban spaces here and there, Japan is REALLY RURAL. And it's beautiful! When I was studying abroad, we did a weekend homestay in the mountains of Okayama, and I just loved my host family's huge house nestled in the side of a hill, their grape arbour, and the tiny Shinto shrine in the nearby clearing of trees. I am grateful to be living and working in the city now (sorry, Marisa!), but I want to get out and experience a little bit more of the Japan that feeds this country and allows it to have some of the freshest, most delicious produce I've ever tasted. So I am planning on joining WWOOF (http://www.wwoofjapan.com/main/index.php?lang=en), going to a prefecture I've yet to venture to, and working on a farm for at least a week.

I'm getting super excited just thinking about it! People come from all over the world to participate in WWOOF, and I've read about a lot of wonderful experiences. It's not expensive at all, since all I would have to do is get myself to wherever I will be working and there receive free room and board for 6-7 hours of labor a day. I really want to work on a rice or vegetable farm, so I am considering going to Nagano Prefecture (lots of rice farms), but there are at least 15 other prefectures I'm interested in. I also think it will be a particularly rewarding experience since I speak some Japanese, and will probably be speaking nothing BUT Japanese for that whole week.

Another exciting thing I found is a farm in Saitama Prefecture that is just a few train stops away from where my first Japanese tutor's parents live. I stayed with them the very first time I visited Japan (eight years ago, holy cow), and although we haven't been in touch, it would be pretty amazing to see them and actually be able to speak with them in their native language after all this time. I can still remember what their house looks like, the shiitake mushroom log in their carport, the river and mountains nearby. So I am tempted to request to go to this farm and visit them along the way, even though I've already been to Saitama.

It's too early to do too much planning, since there is still sooooo much to be done for the parade, but I'm really looking forward to this!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine's wishes

"To Kecha: This year I don't have any chocolate. Sorry. Love you."
This was my absolute favorite.
"To Jun:
Thank you for being born.
"I hope the five members of Arashi stay healthy this year." Arashi is by far the most popular boy band in Japan. They have like 3-4 late night TV shows and are quite entertaining.
"No matter how far we are separated, I am thinking of you. I pray that you are always smiling. I love you. To D, from S."
"(Arashi) Aiba-kun, good luck." This one is funny because Aiba is by far the dumbest of the lot. Dumb, but hilarious and cute.
"I love Mama. I love Papa. I love Arashi. I love my friends. By R." Looks like she has her priorities straight.
"When I turn 20, I pray that I will meet Nishikido Ryo. Erina." Member of another boy band.
"To Sakai-san: IT'S OK!! Follow your own path!"
This is what it looked like last week. Now it is overflowing and you can barely turn them around to read them.
"To our baby who is yet to be born: We pray that you may be born full of life. Papa and Mama are waiting"

My (messy) apartment

I should have taken these ages ago, but my room was either too messy or the light wasn't good enough, so finally! Some pictures of my abode.Hallway, which is on the exact same level as the intra-city highway. It's not too loud, thankfully, and thank heavens it's not on the bedroom side. After 4am garbage trucks in NYC, this may as well be a field in the middle of nowhere.
Welcome to Casa Emily.
My genkan (where you take your shoes off). Usually there is a much greater explosion of shoes, but I straightened up for you all. Excuse the bra hanging up in the background.
A bit blurry. My "oven" on the right, and my dining room table complete with mikans and all manners of junk (I almost never eat here). Why are my sneakers on the table, you ask? Because they are my gym sneakers and they MUST be shoes that you only wear indoors. Sometimes I disregard this since I find it super annoying to have to pad around barefoot in the gym (certain areas are NO SHOES ALLOWED. Even though they are indoor shoes.... I don't get it either...).
My genkan and kitchen, also messy.
Toilet/bathroom/washer area. Shower/bathroom is at the far left, and toilet room is the one with the towel hanging on the door. My bathroom is kind of scary and crappy so I won't make you suffer any pictures of that.
Messy bedroom. With glorious down comforter, FINALLY. I spend almost no time in here except to sleep.
Messy living room with kotatsu (the table that has a heater and makes your legs nice and toasty while the rest of you freezes in your freezing apartment).
Messy bedroom with gigantic closet doors in the background. That's all.
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