Tag Archives: snacks

How many licks

For as often as I’m emphatically told “we have four seasons in Japan” as though it is some sort of rare anomaly specific to this country, it’s sure hot today, the second of December, a month I have traditionally associated with the season of winter. By the time I made it up to school I think I even started to break a sweat, though it may merely have been because of the embarassment of running into a few kids on the steps who tried asking me bizarre questions like “handsome desu ne” and “singuru or melly,” which I assume are only removed one level from the stage of outright vulgarity due to their merely lacking the ability (or confidence) to deliver it. Perhaps this trio could learn something from last week’s electronic dictionary outburst, courtesy of the guy I now know literally only as “ecstasy kid” in my mind.

It’s exam week again, which means for the most part the children are cramming as much knowledge as they can into their creamy chocolate centers while trying to Tootsie Pop harden the exterior and prevent any of it from escaping. Most of them just seem really stressed, which I can understand. The real victims though are the teachers, one of whom told me he was at school until eight in the evening doing work on the test stuff. I told him to take a break, but I’m not sure how simple a process that is for the Japanese office worker (actually I am, and it is not). Those bearers of the 35-40 hour work week in the States rejoice: at least you (and I) are afforded the option to have a life.

Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– Student “review” lessons coming through in the win department full sail ahead:
Ka-Ru is king of snacks!
I like Ka-Ru very much. I eat it everyday.
Ka-Ru is king of snacks because.
It is very delicious. This taste is oriental miracle!
It is very beautiful. This body looks like gold!
I think that Ka-Ru achieves God territory.
Thank you the creator for wonderful present.
Let’s eat Ka-Ru.
– One student telling me this movie was the “moungliest” she had ever seen, whatever being moungly is
– New “TIROL Cheetos+Chiroru”, which appear to be chocolate-covered Cheetos even though I have not opened up the package for a taste yet
– The day after Jessy puts in for a day off from school later this month to pick up Final Fantasy XIII for us, a commercial begins airing on Japanese TV in which a teacher announces to his students that he is going on a short vacation, because he’s been waiting for this game for three years
– One of my students being apparently oblivious to the real meaning of his red, yellow, and green pencil tin bearing an illustration of a giant marijuana leaf and the word “CANNABIS” in huge block letters
– Old cranky lady with a grey old-style Nintendo DS muscles past me to get on the train first, cuts to the right to go for a seat, then is cut in front of by another old cranky lady who takes the seat instead
– New Cookie flavor Kit-Kat is the greatest Kit-Kat I have ever eaten, and I think they know it because it’s only sold in tiny boxes of ten or so super-minisize Kit-kats instead of the larger bags that the other kinds come in, the punks
– One kid telling me “you are cool, you have girlfriend?” and me saying “maybe” and once the kid leaves my teacher saying in nice English “that bastard” and laughing maniacally

I had the most interesting Thanksgiving-evening meal in my relatively abbreviated history last Friday, aboard a cruise ship “Concerto” as part of the year-end office party (similarly to the Mid-Year conference, taking place decidedly at a time that is not exactly the end of the year). Between trips to the expansive Chinese buffet, as I sipped on Asahi Super Dry and hot cinnamon wine, one teacher reminded me that the American holiday was currently taking place. I had thought of it the day before, Thursday, in terms of the holidays coming with me to Japan as though they could have all just packed onto the plane, but this particular bit of information stuck around in my head. Holidays in the U.S. continue without me, whenever the hell they may please, even if that means that Thanksgiving is on my Friday, and steamed dumplings are my mashed potatoes.

As a sort of door-prize distribution system, we played bingo, with the first bingo-ers getting the better prizes. It turned out to be good Japanese practice for me, as all the numbers were obviously not spoken in my native language. I won late, pathetic, and took home a pair of fuzzy “high socks,” the packaging adorned with oddly phrased sentiments comparing their pastel rainbow color scheme to a warm melted candy. They became Jessy’s, after I threatened my teachers that I’d wear them to work.

Unrelated segue: I want a drum set. There’s not a goddamned place I’d be able to play it in my apartment without likely pissing someone off, and I’m trying to think around that. There’s also the matter of it being probably impossible for us to move it from the Hard-Off (where I’d buy it) to our apartment, which is much further away. Also I have never owned a drum set before. But that’s kinda why I want one. Alas, I feel this particular endeavor will likely end up on the Japanese cutting room floor with the surround-sound speakers, full-sized arcade cabinet, pinball machine, soda fountain, pool table, electronic dart board, and other weighty monoliths to the space-occupying excess that is totally possible in the U.S. and retardedly outlandish here. At least I can cradle my only occasionally obscene PVC action figures as I cry myself to sleep (dear future self: send money, i spent it all on lady ninjas and transforming secretaries and a black mage thx bye).

It’s almost an afterthought for me to consider mentioning such a thing in here, since I haven’t actually seen a game all season, but the Colts have won every one they’ve played so far, and all under the leadership of a new post-Dungy coach. I’m sure they’ll drop a game eventually, but it sure is nice to know they’re winning for now. I read Peter King’s Monday Morning QB (on Tuesday) and check Sunday scores on Monday night. It’s not exactly the same as strong beer, crispy pizza, and excited friends, but it works. Kinda.

On Saturday we’re going to our city’s enormous “Home’s Stadium” for the last J-League soccer game of the year (Vissel Kobe), on the goodwill dime of a can’t-attend fellow teacher of Jessy’s. If my longstanding axiom holds true–that sports which for me are unwatchable on TV (baseball, soccer, golf) become tolerable in person only while under the influence of alcohol (beer, whiskey, shochu)–then I anticipate becoming some kind of temporary soccer fan until Sunday morning.

For now the weapon of choice is Fanta Melon, and hours to go before I sleep, and hours to go before I sleep.

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It’s not easy being green

It got downright cold here in Kobe this week following an unusually warm Halloween, almost as if the ghastly presence swooped in, leeched all the heat off everything, and zipped away. In a human sense, this is nearly what happened: we attended a Halloween event at one of the usual “gaijin bars” downtown called the Polo Dog, wherein hundreds of costumed foreigners (and native residents with an interest in foreigners) crammed themselves together in all manner of costumes running the gamut from Snow White to superheroes, proceeded to sweat profusely, barely able to move, then dispersed like the warm weather.

I was a frog, by way of that I wore a Frog Mask, which was acquired at The Daiso (you’re surely getting to know your hundred-yen stores by now), for one hundred yen. I use the term Mask loosely, as it seemed more like a green fabric hood with a couple of little frog eyes on top that did not want to stand straight up and kept falling down, making it look like I was just a green hood for Halloween. My t-shirt was kind of orange, causing one person to ask if I was a carrot. I could be a carrot, I said, and there was no reason why not, if it suited their fancy.

Jessy was some manner of hula girl, an impulse costume spurned by the fortunate sighting of a ¥1750 beginner’s ukulele at our nearest Hard-Off second-hand shop, the same one I got my Supreme Plasma Television at a few months ago. She tied it to some string and wore it around her neck along with an assortment of hundred-yen flower leis. As a member of an ignorant death-pact, wherein I was obligated to wear my frog mask so long as she remained inexorably in costume, riding the Port Liner train from our island to downtown was perhaps one of my most poignantly embarassing moments on record, a literal outsider in a goddamned frog mask failing miserably at Halloween even by Japanese standards and the fucking eyes wouldn’t stand up right.

You see in Japan, though they use Halloween as an excuse to buy cute seasonal candies and festively decorated packages, very few people actually dress themselves in costumes or do any of the things you likely English-speaking readers have come to associate with the holiday. Though my ego had already been crushed by the time we arrived in Sannomiya (the downtown district), Jessy let me take the frog mask off to go into McDonalds and try their new Bacon+BBQ Quarter Pounder (a scrumptious onion-bearing hybrid flavor experience eliciting a thoughtful consideration of the result of the theoretical breeding of a McRib sandwich with a standard Quarter Pounder). The damage had already been done, of course, but the sandwich made it mostly okay.

In an effort to mentally bleach this traumatic experience away completely, we spent yesterday with another couple in Kyoto, the fabled historical hotbed of the Kansai region (and most of Japan). It was the first trip there for Jessy and I, for some reason (Kyoto’s a ¥1000, 50-minute rapid train away), and we had a very cultural time! Fitting, as Tuesday was national Culture Day, an annual holiday celebrating a former emperor during which residents are encouraged to connect with culture! Mainly, as seems to be a trend in the more populated areas of this country, I spent more of Tuesday connecting with thousands of other people who all had the same idea as we did and decided to slam Kyoto in school trip buses, on bicycles, on foot, by car, by van.

But we got to see a pretty large temple holding 1,001 statues of Buddha (the Sanjuusangen-do, and that was awesome (in a historical sense). We also went to another big temple up on the mountain and got our stamp book calligraphied in and stamped by some monk-type dude. On the way back down the mountain to the city proper we stopped along the way for goodies (a famous cream puff, some chocolate crepes, and free looks at a variety of souvenir shops–and I even saw a real-life geisha just walking around).

Famished as we were we ignorantly stumbled into a misleading Japanese restaurant courtesy of some jackass restaurateur who beckoned us in with an English menu then proceeded to serve us the things we ordered only in tiny minuscule portions belying the prices we paid for them, the fellow having never mentioned anything about this bizarre divergence from usual dining establishment convention (highlight: a ¥1180 plate of “grilled duck with Kyoto green onions on a mulberry leaf” which turned out to be three bite-sized slices of duck meat with onions and no mulberry leaf). After our “meal” we got the bonus privilege of paying ¥500 each for a decidedly un-tasty Now and Later-sized cube of fish gelatin that we were served without ordering it shortly after we arrived. “Everyone must get it,” the waiter said upon our objection at the bill. I felt great anger well up inside me and wished for enough language skill to tell the tiny little man that he should be ashamed of himself for his deception, then for the sake of the harmonious Buddha, placed the experience out of my mind with the help of my friends Cheap Convenience Store Alcohol and Steamy Bun.

Today at work I have made the conscious effort to totally drown myself in cheap, filling, unhealthy food as a sort of mental remuneration for my stomach’s lingering disappointment, consuming in the last five hours:
– a shelf-stable packaged udon bowl with sweet kitsune-style fried tofu slice (¥200)
– a package of “Hokkaido Choco Potato” chocolate-covered crispy potato snacks (¥160)
– one pouch (27g) of average Daiso beef jerky (¥100)
– one pack of CRATZ brand pretzel and almond snack mix, bacon pepper flavor (¥100)
– a handful of festive winter chocolate-covered almonds dusted in fresh cocoa powder (full box, ¥180)
– a Yamazaki baking company cheese pizza bun, a hamburger-sized bun stuffed with delicious pizza filling (¥90)
– two 500ml cans of Fanta soda, grape and orange (¥100 each)

Total cost something like ¥1030? Which is way less than my three slices of grilled duck and gelatinous fish cube. Take that, random Kyoto restaurant whose name and location I can no longer remember (I hope you go out of business, and as you move your equipment out, are destroyed by a really pretentious meteor!)!

Outside the wind rages about blustery, tossing the trees and causing the shrine cats to huddle up. They even have a meteorological term for it here (kogarashi). They assign it to these strong crispy winds that gust in from the mountains, I think? and cut through our houses and cause coldness. I think when I woke up this morning around 6:00 AM it happened to be about five degrees outside (Celcius, as we do). In Fahrenheit I think that’s about 44?

Compared to the oppressive heat of Halloween, it’s a frosty revelation: Monday marked our three-month anniversary of arriving in Japan, winter is on its way, and time relentlessly marches on.

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Finishing in Tokyo, Akihabara, and oddities

Every meal here in our hotel comes with a tiny, limp bread roll and creamy margarine that feels like salad oil in my mouth, and the eggs have a similar consistency–like instant, but creamy?  Goopy perhaps?  With pepper on them I have almost forgotten how fucked it is.  Random announcements pour forth from overhead speakers nearly everywhere I go.  My pockets are routinely filled and then immediately emptied of 100-yen coins, which are accepted in every single coin-slot-having machine (and there are more of them than even I had allowed myself to believe prior to coming here).

I just purchased a bag of snack chips called “Mammoth meat!?” and I opened the package and by god if it doesn’t smell like popping open a jar of dried beef.  Each chip pops apart into individual sections too.  I could write individual entries on everything I’ve done in the last two days.  I think the theme of the week is more or less sensory overload: overwhelmed, overburdened, overstimulated, overjoyed.

We got to Akihabara tonight by taking the JR Rail system, a feat so gargantuan it’s difficult to describe, but feels somewhat like what I imagine it is to be a salmon swimming upstream.  I went to a store called Super Potato, which I think must be the most extensive and cramped retro video game store in the world.  I ate katsudon at some restaurant and bought the new black Wii Classic Controller Pro at Sofmap.  Tomorrow I take the Shinkansen to my new home in Kobe. Life is pretty weird right now.

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