Sandankyo, Hiroshima

sandankyohiroshima

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Time To Lose Some Weight!

In an attempt to control my ever-growing stomach, I’ve decided to restart my “jogging” routine and start to control my diet. Though it’s not an aggressive, “superhero” lifestyle change, I hope to lose a few kilos over the next couple of months. The late autumn and winter season are a gourmet delight in Japan with a custom of comfort cuisine. And as a result, I’ve let myself go. I weigh myself daily on the scales, though I’m constantly adjusting the dial settings to make sure it’s “100% accurate”. And I can tell you that I’m a little shocked. This isn’t the worst shape I’ve been, but that’s not something to be proud of.

It was bought to attention when I recently visited my girlfriend’s house during the Golden Week holiday. With nothing to do, we decided to take advantage of the bigger kitchen and bake apple pie. I was handed an apron, a lady’s apron, to which her mother commented that it looked like the equivalent of a man-baby’s bib. The usual questions of weight were thrown around like my days at school, I smiled it off but deep down it was  a rather embarrassing moment. The pie turned out fantastic by the way.

I’ve cut down on the amount of sugar that I’m eating. Soft drinks have been booted off the shopping list, and dessert has unfortunately been limited to once a week. With temperatures reaching 30°C already, it’ll take some self-control not to visit the ice cream section of the supermarket. Jogging at night has proven to be the best option, as I can avoid the summer heat and the embarrassing gazes from high school students. My chubby tummy or “pon-pon”, as my girlfriend has dubbed it, dances like an anthropomorphic lava lamp while I struggle uphill. Hypnotic, if not a little reminiscent of those “Belly’s gonna get you” adverts for Reebok. We’ll just have to see what happens in the coming months.

It’s The Small Things: Hot Cross Buns

Easter has long passed, and I managed to avoid the overly abundant marketing and consumerism found back home. Japan has failed to join the Easter train. And for a nation that loves it’s gimmicks, sweet treats and cute imagery, it’s surprising that the material side of the festival hasn’t become a hit over here. This year saw Japanese pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu release her single entitled “Easter”. This bizarre acid trip of a music video, complete with dancing eggs and UFO’s doesn’t really clarify the religious holiday, instead opting to further confuse the Japanese masses and everyone else for that matter.

As a kid, I fondly remember gathering a substantial collection of chocolate eggs from relatives and friends. But the one thing I really crave around Easter are hot cross buns. The sweet smell of cinnamon and orange zest, the butter slowly melting and the iconic cross decoration are a quintessential part of England’s baking heritage. That being said, the exact origins of the hot cross bun aren’t well defined. Some have linked it back to the Roman period, others to the Saxons, with many connecting them with 14th Century monks of St Albans Abbey. In fact, Elizabeth I is believed to have banned the sale of hot cross buns and spiced breads during Good Friday and Christmas due to its Catholic connotations. But the first real, documented record of the baked good can be found in the Poor Robin’s Almanak back in 1733.

Similarly, the hot cross buns connection to Easter, both in terms of its recipe and general existence are shrouded in historiographical and religious mystery. With the Church of England’s incessant need to relate every baked good to a Christian context, the bread seems to represent communion, the spice related to those used to wrap Jesus’ body, and the cross obvious represents his crucifixion. But the atheist in me simply sees them as a seasonal treat with a cute design. Though I’ll admit that I rarely ponder the significance of my afternoon treat.

Unlike baking pies or cakes, I lack the patience, methodical thinking and precision that’s required in crafting a beautiful sourdough or crusty whole-wheat loaf. So I usually buy hot cross buns from the supermarket. My particular favourite have been Marks and Spencer’s Apple-Cinnamon variety. They might be more expensive than those from Tesco or Sainsbury, but they’re worth it.

God damn it, I wish I had some now.