Winter is Snow Joke!

Living in Matsue has been waaaaaay colder than what I am used to. Being from the south of America (Georgia area) I am not used to this kind of weather. I literally packed like 3 long sleeve shirts and a sweater from GAP thinking I was prepared. Jokes on me because as soon as October hit those things were obsolete.

My coat had me allllll the way messed up. My long sleeves shirts were looking at me like I made a mistake. katt-williams.jpg

So then I went on my Uniqlo shopping spree and got myself together as told in my blog “Winter is Coming”.

And I was scared because on my weather app I check every morning and night I would see the little snow emoji, but then as the day would come it would just be rain. So I was thinking “whew, this year I will get out of experiencing snow”. And then when it did snow it wasn’t even a full inch…so again I thought “I hope this is it”.

Girl let me tell you I played myself. I saw that it was gonna snow over night and since it has only been flurries I wasn’t even worried. But when I woke up and opened my door….bruh why.I don’t even know the first thing about snow! The only time I have  seen snow in real

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Snow outside my door.
life was when I visited
my extended family for Christmas vacation in high school and it wasn’t even snowing anymore they just had piles of it leftover but I found a pile and touched it. Up until then I didn’t even know snow was wet! And I know that sounds strange to the people who have dealt with snow but when you only go off of the TV and movies it looks like powder! When you live in a place where the average temperature is like 60’s for winter you never think about snow and the annoyances of snow.

And I knew that I couldn’t ride my bike to work because even when the snow was lighter it was hard biking in it and with the ice it was so slippery. And I walk past a lot of schools so I didn’t want any JHS students looking at me while I bust my butt trying to get to work. I will have no one talking about how they saw some foreigner trying to bike and go under it, not if I can help it. And walking on it was even less fun, my feet kept slipping on ice and snow. My cute combat boots from Payless were not cut out for this. Who knew I would be calf deep in snow overnight! Walking to work became more of a trek. My usual 20 minute walk was extended to a 40 minute walk simply because you have to walk slow and steady so you don’t accidentally slip and let your legs go under you. I was out here looking a mess. I was slippin and sliding all over like this meme.

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But even though snow is so annoying I think that is is so beautiful. The way it blanketed the whole area was really beautiful and even peaceful….but then I snapped out of that crazy haze and remembered how cold I was. But I withstood it long enough to get some quality photos.

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Tennis Court by my apartment.
If I could just not go to work when it snowed I think I would like it more. Because I could look at this all day with a cup of tea in my hand. When it snows the whole world just feels quiet. Like everything stopped. It’s a moment when you have to step aside and just marvel.

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I also had to make a snow angel because I mean hey, when I leave Japan I am living in the south again, I was not made for this kind of weather so I need to scratch it off my bucket list now.

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Jaaa~~

My addiction is so real…

One of my favorite Japanese foods is Takoyaki! Its soooooooooooo good. If you’ve never had takoyaki, its batter with tempura pieces, green onion and ginger and a pieces of octopus in the middle, and then fried. Its then brushed with takoyaki sauce and mayo often shaved bonito and at some places you can get special toppings that are seasonal. It’s a very typical Japanese snack, many make it at home but you often see it at stands during festivals.

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Takoyaki originated in 1935 in the Osaka area. Today the Kansai area is well known for takoyaki. Many of my students tell me to visit Osaka since I love takoyaki so much. One day I will go and eat my heart out.

There is a stand outside of my grocery store that sells takoyaki for 380¥ and it is truly a blessing when you don’t wanna go too far into town for a craving. But I always end up burning my entire mouth because I am greedy and cant wait for it to cool.

But this adventure took place at Aeon Mall. To get out of my house  and get some fresh air I often visit Aeon. I can shop, eat and even play pachinko next to some old ladies. This time I went and treated my self to takoyaki for lunch.

Now I love the normal takoyaki with the bonito and greed onion on top but you can even get that in the states. Why not try something different? Sometimes I get stuck in ruts where when I am comfortable with something I will often just keep ordering the same thing and lying to myself that I will try something new. I am a creature of habit! So this time I tried to venture out and get something new.I ended up ordering てりたま takoyaki which is takoyaki with the takoyaki sauce, mayo and egg salad on top! It was sooo good.

 

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In a way I still cheated because I knew that I loved egg salad…..but I never had egg salad and takoyaki at the same time soooo…technically it was new type of takoyaki!

When I went to Hiroshima for winter break I redeemed myself. They had a seasonal promotion and it was yuzu flavored! And I HAD to try it. My friend who I stayed with introduced me to yuzu tea and I was on a yuzu kick!! Yuzu is like a lemon…but sweeter. Not as tart. So I tried it!

It was very interesting to say the least. It was sweet and tangy at the same time which was kind of strange for me because takoyaki is so savory.

 

Jaaaaa~~~

 

Back to the Grind….

It was such a nice break but the harsh reality to work had returned. I’m actually a bit happy for it. I missed all my little kiddies and seeing their faces everyday. But I can’t say I don’t miss sleeping in. 

I actually started back on the 11th but I’ve actually been pretty busy. With the end of the semester starting the need for English had grown. My 3rd year JHS students are testing and getting ready to apply to high schools and we have a speech contest called FEPCS coming up so each grade is picking 4 or 5 reps from each class. So I’ve been busy listening to presentations which is fun. It’s interesting to see what the students are interested in. 

But upon returning to work I had this on my desk awaiting me. 

I had an 御年玉(Otoshidama) waiting for me on my desk!! 

Otoshidama is a New Years gift that is given to children by family members. It’s essentially pocket money. Students have told me that sometimes they can get a total of 100-200 dollars every New Years! But mine was filled with chocolate coins. But the gesture really touched me!! 

Jaaaa~~~~

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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

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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~~~~~

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.