Just Your Monthly McDonald’s Update.

Another day…another trip to McDonald’s. I might as well just become the spoke person for Japanese McDonald’s. Its not my fault Japan is so much more progressive with burgers. While McDonald’s in America is making Grand Macs and Mac Jr`s McDonald’s in Japan released new goodies for this month!

So this month at McDonald’s the seasonal burger is the Karubi burger! And Karubi is Japanese boneless short rib. It’s a really tender cut of meat. It was marinated in a special sauce and had a lemon cream sauce. At first I thought it was mayo but it didn’t taste the same. Even thought it was good I wasn’t that impressed. I expected it to maybe taste a bit different and it was a bit thin. My friend and I expected it to be a big bigger. I think that because they marketed it as a huge seasonal burger we expected more.

IMG_3966 - コピー.jpg

Another new menu is the tiramisu mcflurry! This was by far one of my favorite things. It has the perfect soft serve with pieces of tiramisu and sauce inside of it. It tasted like eating a tiramisu Frappuccino from Starbucks!

15192571_10207629092673888_6447154421998096737_n.jpg

Another new thing they had were chocolate pies. They had a white chocolate and a regular chocolate pie. These were okay. I actually liked my friends more. He got the white chocolate one. The flaky pastry worked better with his than it did mine. The pasty was like…the fruit stuffed pastries at a bakery. It had the crunchy and flaky outside with chocolate in the middle.

It was sooo yummy!!

Ja~~~

To Smoke or Not to Smoke, is that really a question?

When I first came to Japan…my mind was blown at how smoking friendly it really is. And that was perhaps one of my biggest culture shocks. In America everywhere says no smoking, don’t smoke, we have TV ads that depict gruesome ways smoking could affect you and even on the packages now there are more warnings.

02-1a-400-11162012_0.jpghttp://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/11/13151/cigarette-pack-health-warning-labels-us-lag-behind-world

We have many aids such as the nicotine patch, nicotine replacement, and behavioral therapy and so on. We sell cigarettes behind the counter and every time you buy them the cashier checks your ID. Some places even have a sound go off to make sure they check your ID.

In Japan I have yet to see someone’s ID being checked. It could be that if you look old enough rule that we have in America. Where if you look over 40 or something they won’t check your ID. But sometimes my mom even had to show it at Wal-Mart so I don’t really understand the screening for that.

And another reason I think the age check is a very loose term is the existence of these bad boys.

Cig machine.jpg

This is one of the cigarette machines in Japan; they do not check your ID. They are akin to the drink machines where you just enter the money and then they give you which ever pack you chose. And some machines have different brands in them, but these are what they all generally look like.

The smoking age in Japan is 20, so I often wonder if street youth or curious teens or even children buy these. There seems to be no restrictions to these machines. I wonder do the Japanese just operate on morals. Like they believe that no one under 20 will them or so….I have no idea. Where I live now the only machines I tend to see are the ones outside of liquor stores, in the grocery store and downtown in the bar area. In Hiroshima I saw them EVERYWHERE so much more than I see here, but that’s also probably because there are more people in Hiroshima and its more of a city unlike Matsue.

I did hear though that they are hoping to get the population smoking less. Japan is very concerned with the 2020 Olympics and many are concerned that Japan is too smoking friendly. Many people are concerned about second hand smoking and that many restaurants in Japan allow smoking in the restaurants…But even while this happens many of the places that allow smoking in restaurants have special rooms for it. This is nice because while you’re eating you don’t have to smell it if you don’t want to. I wonder how Japan will take care of this issue by 2020.

Ja~~~~

Matsue Castle

I have been in Matsue for over a month now, and I just now made it to castle. I came for the lantern festival but it isn’t the same. That was at night and I couldn’t go explore inside.
Out of all the castles I`ve been to, I think Matsue is the smallest so far. And I am not complaining. The stairs are so steep in these castles, my legs were thankful. I still wonder how they walked up and especially down in those full kimonos with no rail. Its mind blowing!IMG_3993 - コピー.jpg

Matsue castle or the “Black Castle” is one of the few remaining medieval castles in Japan, and it is still in its wooden form, no construction has been done to it. The castle began being built by Horio Yoshiharu in 1607 and finished in 1611. For 230 years it was owned by the Matsudaira clan a branch of the Tokugawa family. It has also has been named a National Treasure.

IMG_3994 - コピー.jpg

When I was looking up the history of this castle, I discovered something interesting. There is an urban legend written about Matsue Castle. This myth is based around something called `hitobashira` and this is when someone is when a human sacrifice is sealed inside the building to make the foundation stable after construction.
During the construction of the Matsue castle the central tower fell repeatedly during construction so the builders were convinced they needed to have a human sacrifice to keep the tower up. It was the only way. The human sacrifice they found was a dancer at a Bon festival and they lured her to the castle and sealed her within the walls. The legend then goes on to say that whenever a woman dances in the streets in Matsue the castle walls shake violently. Soon after those occurrences there was a law that passed that prohibited dancing in pubic places.

So please enjoy a few of my pictures from my day at the castle!

IMG_3998 - コピー.jpg

IMG_4003 - コピー.jpg

IMG_4038.jpg

 

IMG_4041.jpg

This building was actually one of the coolest things I have seen. It was built in 1903 and was meant to host the Emperor Meiji but he cancelled his visit. So it was used to as extra lodging. What makes it interesting is because it is a western build with a Japanese style roof. I was so shocked when I saw it thinking it was a new addition. I am surprised it was built so long ago looking like this. It makes you feel like you are in Middle America and not on a Japanese castle ground. Now its being used as Matsue Folk Museum.

 

IMG_4048.jpg

 

Jaaa~~

Fried Chicken is a Universal Food

If Japan had soul food, I think that karaage would defiantly be a contender. Karaage is the Japanese way of deep frying food, but mostly chicken….and I don’t know what it is but Japanese fried chicken happens to be my favorite type of fried chicken. I feel pretty well versed in fried chicken, I’ve had my moms, my grandmas, KFC, Bojangles, Popeye’s, and even Churches. But I think what makes Japanese fried chicken so good is the type of oil and flour they use. The typical technique, at least from what I understand, is marinating the chicken and then using either wheat or potato flour and then frying in light oil.

Whatever magic they do it makes the chicken taste so tender and juicy and not at all oily. You know what I am talking about, not the grease that’s on your hands, but sometimes the chicken under the fried skin is so oily and slimy, it really ruins chicken for me. I think the perfect fried chicken should have a crispy outside and a juicy inside. That’s beautiful fried chicken.

What made me think about that is because when I went to a stationary shop in my town there is a cute little stand that sells a many types of chicken karaage.

15049721_10207572991271388_2116617131_n.jpg

15050257_10207572991511394_653223839_n.jpg

It smelled soooo good so I made my friend check it out with me (grey jacket guy).

On the menu they had so many types of fried chicken from maru or balls of chicken, to crispy thighs, lemon and even chili!

15086266_10207572991311389_1584889072_n.jpg

And it’s all so reasonable and quick! It makes a really nice snack while you’re out doing errands.

15046269_10207572991391391_121836939_n.jpg

And the even more amazing thing is it doesn’t taste like “fast” food. It tastes like restaurant quality without the wait.

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of what I actually ordered I was so hungry I devoured it! But next time I go I promise to take a few more photos.

Ja~~~~~

Just Ignore Me…

So every Sunday I try to do my grocery shopping. I spend a good deal of money, but its either that or shop every few days…and I am not about that. I plan my meals to where breakfast, lunch and dinner are all planned out for the week. I don`t leave work until 5, so the last thing I want to do is meander around the grocery store.

On my shopping trip this week….I almost cried in the middle of the store… I’ll explain trust me.
If you’re not living in Japan you may not understand. But many of us go through fruit withdrawal. And if you don’t know what that is it’s when you come from enjoying an abundance fruits that are in and out of season. Still at a reasonable price and not trying to find reasons on why you should pay $13 on a tiny honeydew melon.
In the states I ate fruit almost every day. I love fruit I have loved it since I was a child.., that didn’t help me prepare for the Japanese lifestyle of tiny fruit that cost on average $5 for a sad handful of grapes.

IMG_3970 - コピー.jpg
Now I won’t say all fruit is expensive, they have tangerines in the stores now, they’re the size of cuties in America, and they are like $5 for a bag of 12! That’s great…but you can only eat them so much until you burn out on them. And a single apple is like $1.70 and a Nishi pear is like $2….my cheap heart has a hard time coming to terms with these prices but fruit withdrawal makes you do crazy things….so why did I almost cry you ask….

Well Christmas cake season is upon us, and I heard from one of my teachers that they grow strawberries in a greenhouse just for them. So with that tender greenhouse care you already know that they are ridiculous. I pass through the fruit section every time I am in the store and stare longingly at the melons and apples…and I saw strawberries and I saw the price…800 yen or $8 and for like 6 strawberries….and I sighed defeated and moved on…but I always look at the sale section in the fruit area and low and behold….I see these bad boys!!!!

unnamed.jpg

And I almost cried…This is so beautiful and I can eat a strawberry…you really don’t realize how often you take things for granted…I am so happy…

I am still waiting for the day I crack and buy that tiny honeydew for $13…

Jaaaaa~~~~~~~~~~

Matcha Toast with Honey Ice cream and Adzuki with coffee 

So this is a tiny little tea house near Shimane  University. They serve pizza, sandwiches and other items. But of course I got the matcha toast with honey ice cream. The matcha is so subtle you couldn’t really taste it. I was a bit disappointed. I love matcha but it is a subtle flavor that’s was easily over powered by the ice cream and red bean.

I love honey ice cream it’s so creamy and just sweet enough. It’s not too overpowering.

And the coffee was amazing. I don’t know if this is just some places in Japan. But to me some places coffee taste burnt. And if you’re a coffee drinker you’ll understand what I mean. It taste like someone either scorched it with hot water or left it brewing for longer than it was supposed to. But this shop’s coffee was so smooth and rich. I will defiantly go back.

…WHAAAA

So today I did a thing!!!

I WOOOOOON!

These claw machines are practically rigged. It’s so hard to win anything from these things and usually whenever I grab the prize it always falls or never really grips the toy. Some of these machines have claws that have a flat side….I am sure there is a trick to win at these machines but….that may take me longer to figure out.

15050428_10207572989711349_16768588_n.jpg

I really like Neko Atsume! And I won Princess, she’s so cute.

15045630_10207572989751350_152698324_n.jpg

My friend said I could have just paid like $3 for it at a store, but sometimes its not about the toy its about the win!

Ja~~~~

Fall Crafts at School

So my elementary first graders and kindergartners came together and did fall crafts. And I loved every second of it. So they let the students loose outside and had them grab anything they wanted. So the children came back with handfuls of acorns, pinecones, sticks, leaves, and so much more.

15057946_10207572989311339_565833004_n.jpg

Then they went to work. The reason I loved it so much because it is so old fashioned. Not saying that American children are so next level, I am saying that these look like crafts from the 60’s. Children are just gluing pinecones on cups and putting acorns in them. Some even made cardboard signs and gluing pinecones and sticks to string dangling from them.

 

15050319_10207572989631347_236997754_n.jpg15128622_10207572989431342_1118893454_n.jpg15058030_10207572989471343_548087020_n.jpg15046367_10207572989391341_1080917948_n.jpg15087021_10207572989671348_256435987_n.jpg

My kindergarteners were so proud showing me bags full of pinecones and the best leaf they found.  Ahhh…so cute.

Ja~~~~~

Speech Contest

15086875_10207572988591321_1055044901_n.jpg15086241_10207572988351315_76931458_n

So my Junior High students have worked intently preparing their speeches for the annual speech contest in Izumo. Students have to either write their own speech or recite a speech memorize it and then recite it. At the speech contest there are 3 judges that judge on their pronunciation, speed and how “native” they sounds meaning just how natural and not awkward they are speaking. I helped the chosen students from each grade(1-3) after school for a week helping them pronounce words or giving them speech tips such as making eye contact and using intonation and facial expressions. I was so happy to find out they places second. They all worked so hard.