A very Australian Christmas (a 2013 retrospective)

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Where have I been you ask, did I drop off the face of the earth? Yes and no….. Over the Christmas and New Years period I returned home to the down under to spend the holidays with my family in Melbourne.

Now I did the same trip last year and expect I will do much the same this coming Christmas. However the relationship developed with a country left behind in lieu of another is a bittersweet one, the return to said country equally so.

Upon leaving Australia after my last trip I retained a residual distaste for the country, questioning whether I would ever want to return to live there in the future. Despite having spent a fantastic few weeks with my friends and family, I found myself longing to return to Japan. This year however I have returned to Kobe in quite the opposite headspace.

For so long firm in my mind was the firm belief that I was a black sheep, not only amongst my family and peers but also within my country of origin, that I was somehow different from everyone else’s.

If there is anything that can shatter long held beliefs and redefine a person it’s two things, time and distance. As the saying goes ‘you ain’t know what you got till it’s gone’.

I guess the major turning point for me was finding myself begin to contemplate my future, not in Japan but post-JET. I guess seeing my long term friends my age back home getting on with their lives caused me to reflect upon my own situation. What am I doing in Japan? What kind of career do I want in the future? Shall I return to university for further study? What will my life have shaped up to be by my later 20s?

Over the past few weeks I have sincerely had some of the greatest times of my life, simply enjoying the company of the family and friends I left behind half a world away. From this experience I experienced a major shift in my mindset of what exactly Japan and the JET program mean to me.

Having had aspired to reaching my alleged ‘ultimate goal’ of living in Japan for almost a decade. I can now see with definite clarity that I had put the country on a pedestal, the way one might put a pretty girl.

Now I’m not saying I thought the country was all Sushi, anime and geisha as many do who have never been fortunate enough to visit Japan. Nor would I want to downplay the profound respect I have developed for its people and culture. But instead I would like to put forth that yeah, if you get an awesome placement like Kobe on the JET program (or even if you don’t), Japan can be everything that you ever dreamed of and more. But at the end of the day the experience like anything in life is going to be what you make of it.

I know I have said this in past posts but you can grow up and discover where you want to go in life quite rapidly here, today is the 588th day of my journey here so I would hope to have made some progress. Whether that is the product of conquering the hardships of living alone in a foreign country for the first time or unique to JET I couldn’t say. However I am a firm believer that this experience has helped set me on the right track to becoming the man I always needed to become.

I arrived in Kobe coming up 2 years ago a person I can look back upon with distaste, self-righteous, unempathetic and stubborn as hell. I like to think I’ve made a little progress since then, yet I realize the road ahead is long but if I have gained any insight it’s this:

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of ones ignorance”
-Confucius

I don’t want to say that I have come to some great epiphany either, rather that I am just walking my own path one step at a time learning with each one.
What I have learnt is to truly appreciate and treasure those you who love you, whether they live next door or a world away. Rather than worrying about winning the affection of others and what they think of you, simply be the best you you can be. Show a sense of empathy, respect for others opinions and a sincere interest in what those around you say and you will never want for company.

I have met so many amazing people in Japan from all corners of the earth in the short part of my life that I have been here, but I will be sure never to forget those friends and family I had in Melbourne neither.

To all that I saw and spent time with during my visit home I thank you for making my trip amazing. Particularity the efforts of my parents who took every step imaginable to do anything and everything to make my visit home a memorable one.

Till next time,

-Dan

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Merry Christmas From Nihonomnom!

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Yo guys, I apologize post have been scarce lately as I returned home for the holidays and Australia really isn’t the country to inspire interesting, thought provoking blogging ideas. I figure most should be enjoying the festive season and not be reading my constant stream of consciousness anyway XD

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Regardless I have been busy getting into the holiday spirit…… as much as an Australian Christmas will allow. That said keeping to traditions is for those born prior to WW2 so alas I present to you the gingerbread castle of House Takoyaki!! Inspired by ‘A song of ice and fire’ which I am ever so obsessed with I couldn’t bring myself to make a simple house, that’s for regular jackoffs! Anyhow after sever hours of designing and baking the pieces yesterday morning, then enlisting the help of family last night, within 12 hours what was simply a figment of my imagination became a delicious Christmasy stronghold!

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Honestly though I couldn’t be happier to be back at home with my family and friends for the holidays, everyday I see posts from friends back in Kobe who decided to brave the holiday period without jumping country and its really just a tad depressing.

The Japanese seem to really have no grasp of what Christmas is or what it means for those who hail from countries where it is celebrated indigenously. Not that we really celebrate Christmas down under in all so much as what Europeans might consider a traditional sense but at least Aussie kids know the difference between Santa and Jesus 😛

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Anyhow wishing all my readers a happy holiday period where ever you are in the world and hope you have a delicious day ^______^

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I leave you with Fuji-san rocking his much appreciated Christmas bone!

-たこ焼き

Game of Thrones Inspired Dragon Egg Shortbread Cookies!

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In an attemp to get into the Christmas spirit after returning to Australia last night, I baked a batch of Christmas shortbread cookies with mother.

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Although appropriately we made a batch of Christmassy themed cookies, I was never one to settle for such mundane baked goods. Alongside this harbouring a great love for the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, I instantly knew what must be done when I saw the packet of slithered almonds in the pantry.

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Alas here I present to you my prototype ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ inspired dragon egg shortbread cookies.
Here is the dough prior to baking, the scales I created by painstakingly layering slithered almonds one by one.

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And here we have it, shortbread fitting for the khaleesi herself.
In the coming weeks I intend to try this recipe once again but with the addition of dying the almonds black and green to create the coloured eggs of Daeneyrs dragons Rhaegal and Drogon.

The basic shortbread recipe i used is as follows:

-250g butter, at room temperature
-100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
-300g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted
-90g (1/2 cup) rice flour, sifted
-Slithered almonds (for decoration)

Process:
Step 1
Preheat oven to 150°C. Using an electric cream butter and sugar in a bowl.

Step 2
Gradually add flour, beating on low speed, once crumbly kneed dough with hands until firm. Dough is then transferred to a lightly floured surface and flattened to 2cm with a rolling pin.

Step 3
Using a medium sized bowl cut 15cm circles in the dough, then shape the sides into an egg’esq shape by slicing off some dough on the upper half of each side. Now you will make your dragon scales, push the slithered almonds into the dough lightly in rows alternating a centimetre to the side so they end up in the centre of almonds in the row preceding.

Step 4
Bake the shortbread in oven, swapping the trays halfway through cooking, for 40 minutes or until light golden. Set aside on the trays for 10 minutes to cool before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Fire and Blood!

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I Still Call Australia Home

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I’m always travelin’
And I love bein’ free
So I keep leavin’ the sun and the sea
But my heart lies waiting over the foam
I still call Australia home.

Im currently sitting on the tarmac at Kansai Kokusai Kūkō 関西国際空港 (Kansai International Airport) in 10 minutes or so I shall be departing homebound for Australia for the Christmas and New Year period.

Honestly I’m met with a flux of emotion ranging from excitement to nostalgia, all in all I just want to be home and out of the cold landscape that Kobe rapidly degraded into.
In fact my biggest fear in leaving Japan is the possibility that my Japanese which is already less than stellar may degrade over the next 3 weeks as I fill my body with copious amounts of food n booze!

Anyhow rather than posting day by day as i usually do, I have prepared a ‘holiday schedule’ of posts I have been writing as a buffer in just in case, so (presumed) loyal readers can look forward to that.
Anyhow ill see you all on the otherside!
オーストラリア 行きで!

Australian Cultural Festival Board

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With today being the eve of the Bunkasai 文化祭 (Cultural Festival) at my base JHS, I have been hard at work all week creating an Australian cultural booth, this is my sign to point visitors in the right direction tomorrow 😀

Did I really need to colour in the entire thing blue……

Well lets just say there are 2 ways to do things, the right way and the Tako way!

Don’t Say Oh Well

Yeah, I step outta my little country
I traveled seasons, took a longboat
And now I find myself in a small town
It’s so remote, I couldn’t trawl
So I kissed my mommy, I wanna sweet cheeks
And I told my dad I’m real glad that we’re friends
Said to my brother I’ll surely miss him
I’m coming back just don’t know when
Waited enough to find the truth
The pain, again then say oh well
Don’t say oh well
Departing Australia for foreign shores has been the most difficult thing I have every brought myself to do, and to those I am leaving behind, know you will be in my mind and in my heart, always
-ダニエル

Sayonara Australia!!

Alas the moment of my departure is imminent, the road up to this point has certainly been long and arduous. I certainly wouldn’t be in this position if not for the support of my family and friends that helped me every step of the way.

My flight leaving Melbourne departs this evening at 6:30pm this evening, Sydney bound with a connection to Tokyo’s Kansai International Airport in which I will be arriving at 6:05am on Wednesday 30th May!

Honestly the last month has quite literally been the best of my entire life, never have I felt so loved and appreciated by those around me, which has made the decision to leave all that more difficult. I have been showered with gifts and good times by my friends, co-workers and especially my family, and have been thrown no less than four going away parties in the last week.

I would go so far to say I have lived more in these past few weeks than in the many months before, having being caught up in the daily grind these past few years. From the bottom of my heart I have been as truly happy and content with life, since I found out I was accepted into the 2012 JET Program and was heading to Kobe.

The packing up of everything I have ever owned and deciding what exactly makes the cut to be packed away to come along with me (made all the more-so difficult by the fact I have always been a compulsive hoarder) has been enduring process. Having been through the emotional roller-coaster that comes with leaving ones home that have ranged from joy to guilt to regret to contentment, one feeling that is prominent as ever, is that of being terminally Australian.

However reassuringly, unlike my grandparents that first came to these shores over half a century ago (a journey of which they have reminded me several times upon each of our meetings these past weeks) I leave knowing, that a home to be warmly welcomed back to will always be awaiting me in Melbourne, with my family and friends being little more than a Skype session away.

I would like to share a couple of the photos of the people and times that have made these last few weeks special.

So how long have I been waiting to do the cheesiest thing possible and play Big Jet Plane by Angus & Julia Stone upon my departure to Japan. About a year and a half or so, it pretty much clicked the first time I ever heard it that this was destined to be my JET song. If anything its an awesome replacement for the only other JET applicable departure song Leaving On A JET Plane.