As I was walking back from the supermarket, an elementary school girl sped past. She smiled at me and then proceeded to cheerfully give me the middle finger. I wasn’t shocked, it was pretty funny seeing an innocent little girl flipping off trees, cats and cars. Remember that scene near the end of The Bean Movie where Mr. Bean is casually giving everyone the finger? (See above) It was essentially like that…..except a lot more innocent and Japanese. She must have been in the first or second grade of elementary school. So I thought about telling that it wasn’t a nice thing to do. But… Japan…bearded foreigner…small girl…talking…not the safest of options.
Meanwhile I often see school kids and teenagers swapping Japan’s stereotypical “kawaii” peace sign (V-sign) for the reverse version (palm facing inwards). It’s constant use by bands and TV personalities trying to be “cool”, like everything, has made it the new pose of choice for many. Now for Americans, this gesture is pretty harmless. But from a British perspective it’s another way of “showing the finger”. I kind of way of saying “f••k off”. So you can imagine my reaction as my entire class posed for their class photo.
I’m going back to the UK for the Summer Holidays. So when I recently called home, my mother asked what I wanted to eat when I arrived. I instantaneously answered with “Fish and Chips”. Whether it be sitting in the garden of our family house back when I was a kid, or in the pub before an away football game, I have fond and delicious memories of eating them. In Japan, it’s not uncommon to find a rather underwhelming offering in Irish Pubs. But for a nation that slaps tempura batter on everything from prawns to asparagus, it’s strange that they’ve yet to understand the beautiful romance between the potato and white fish. That’s not to say the Japanese have no idea about the dish. On the contrary, if there’s one thing that Japanese people know about the UK aside from the Queen, Peter Rabbit and David Beckham, it’s “Fish and Chips”.
Continue reading “It’s The Small Things: Fish and Chips”
If you have lived or traveled around Japan, then you will have undoubtably sampled Japanese wagashi at some point. Usually enjoyed with green tea, wagashi are traditional confectionary that have been an iconic piece of Japanese food culture since the Edo Period (1603-1868). There is a dizzying amount of variety, ranging from Dorayaki to the bewildering world of Mochi, far from the realms of Butter Shortbread and Victoria Sponge Cake found back home.
As I previously explained, Hiroshima is famous for its variation on okonomiyaki. But when it comes to sweet treats, there’s nothing more popular than momiji manju. Every time I board the afternoon train, I can expect to see at least five people carrying bags containing souvenir boxes of them. And if you happen to be a salaryman taking a business trip to Hiroshima, you’ll definitely be expected to bring some back to the office. I usually buy them as a gift when travelling to friends’ houses. It’s a safe option if you’ve no idea what to get. Continue reading “Hiroshima and the Momiji Manju”
I go to an evening Japanese Language class once-a-week. It’s run by local volunteers who spend two hours of their own time teaching foreigners the language. We use textbooks, but I primarily use it for Japanese conversational practice. So each “lesson” boils down to talking about random things, much to the chagrin of one of the my fellow classmates.
Occasionally we’ll drop the textbooks and experience a part of traditional Japanese culture. Today we tried our hands at Japanese Flower Arranging (生け花). I’m no artist and have little understanding about flowers or horticulture, but I think I did a pretty good job. I kept it simple, remembering that saying “less is more” (here being the only situation where that advice seems relevant). The flower sensei didn’t even have to adjust anything on my display, unlike everyone else’s. Hahaha.