Nara 奈良市 Adventures!

This is going to be a post from the vaults, I in fact began writing this one about 6 months ago but never got around to posting it along with so many others. Anyhow without further a due….

Nara (奈良) is an ancient capital city in Nara Prefecture, Kansai region of Japan.

Along with the development of Heijōkyō 平城京, the capital of Japan between 710-784 AD, Nara flourished under the influence of Buddhism, leading to the creation of an enormous number of cultural assets, buildings and books, many of which are preserved today. Nara has the largest number of buildings designated National Treasures in Japan.

While the Heijōkyō Palace (平城宮) site turned into plain fields after the capital was moved to Kyoto, the shrines and temples were left on the east side of the palace (called Gekyo (外京)), and Buddhism remained influential throughout the following centuries. Another part of the area developed as a merchant town, notably in the Edo period, known as Naramachi (奈良町) today.

Now at the end of last year when my parents came up to Japan to visit me I took them to check out Nara, since its pretty much a staple when visiting the country and extremely tourist trappy.

I myself had visited Nara twice before on previous visits to Japan but it was nice to be able to share such am amazing place with my family.
I want to share some of the photos of the with you.

Arriving on a Sunday outside Nara station the was a large group of performers singing and dancing to Okinawan Taiko (Japanese drumming).

Most of Nara’s temples and shrines concentrated in Nara Kouen 奈良公園 (Nara Park) and are more of less entirely accessible by traveling on foot.

For anyone that’s been to Nara before, the truly special and stand out thing about it are definitely the deer, these guys just walk around the town as they please not bothering anyone. Long ago they were considered to be sacred however post WW2 were redesignated as national treasures, visitors can buy Shika-senbei 鹿煎餅 (deer cookies) to feed to them for about 150¥ from vendors in carts around the park.

We grabbed some Takoyaki たこ焼き for lunch.

This guy here is the Daibutsuden 大仏殿 (Great Buddha Hall) the most significant building in Naras Tōdai-ji 東大寺 complex. Inside it houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue which in Japanese is called the Daibutsu 大仏. Tōdai-ji has existed since the 7th century, yet has gone through several periods of decline, destruction rebuilding in the past 1300 years due to disease, war and politics.



For shits n giggles: In 855 the head of the Daibutsu actually fell off!

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Handsome Daniel Drawing

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A good friend of mine and a Hyogo JET by the name of Pete surprised me the other day with this awesome sketch he did of me. I was fair impressed!

My Favorite Sausage Follows a Reason

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Oh god, Engrish lv 99!
One of my 6年生 (6th grade) students just asked me to correct his essay on Germany……. I couldn’t help but laugh.

My favorite sausage follows a reason very much and carries out it — going — therefore. Otherwise, it is a tablewa reset with a very sufficient handle.

Really……. this is what I imagine my Japanese looks like use google translate too ( ̄◇ ̄;)

Winter is Coming 冬が来てるよ

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WINTER IS COMING! Or as we say in Japanese 冬が来てるよ (fuyu ga kiteruyo).

So fuyu 冬 (winter) is almost upon us in the land of the riding sun….. that said recently there has been many days recently where the sun has barely peaked through the foreboding storm clouds!

Now I hail from a generally warm country with the seasons having a more or less mild temperament. Which is precisely why it has come as such a shock at just how cold it has become, today I have come to work with no less than 7 layers and even after covering myself in half a dozen kairo カイロ (chemical heat packs) I’m still shivering!

These bad boys are called カイロ (kairo), when exposed to air the iron inside them oxidises creating an exothermic reaction that heat up the pack to about 50-60 degrees Celsius for up to 24 hours depending on the brand and type.

I swear the Japanese do not feel the cold, for some reason the concept of heating a space as opposed to having a small stove producing radiant heat is incompatible with the Japanese brain! The only place your likely to find central heating in Japan is in large department stores, hotels and western style buildings.

Each day I pack on enough clothes to make it look as though I have gained 20kg or so overnight, the most remarkable thing is often I see my elementary students who are just fine wearing shorts and a light sweater whilst meanwhile the cold is bringing me to tears…… Lets just say if nuclear winter ever comes around and ‘The Free People’s of Danieltopia’ (my imaginary future civilization) are ever at ends with the Japanese, as their charismatic leader I’m going to surrender on the spot and save ourselves the frostbite.

20121128-午後035601.jpg Seriously though if buildings were heated in such a way back home teachers would be striking, parents suing the pants off the school for child abuse and negligence. Whilst the poor kids were having exam week they felt the need to keep all the windows open on the 4th floor while its only a few degrees outside! I presume much like myself the only way the students make it through the day is by keeping a couple kairo in their pockets.

The typical device for heating at the school called a sekiyu 石油 (kerosene) stove, insanely inefficient at heating any real space it does provide a nice moment of warmth when one crouches down next to it.

On the note of retarded Japanese rules, one that is followed here very strictly is that the heaters which are used to heat the classrooms and staffroom at school may not be turned on until winter……… no not when its freezing, but literally the 1st of December. When I have questioned why such a practice is carried out when it is clearly causing much distress amongst students and teachers alike the only response I ever seem to get is ‘This is Japanese Culture’……… um excuse me, how the fuck is being unnecessarily cold ‘culture’, seriously chadou 茶道 (tea ceremony) is culture, onsen 温泉 (hot spring bathing) is culture, matsuri 祭り (Japanese festivals) are culture, not turning the heating on until a certain date is madness!

I came across similar issues when I questioned why I couldn’t wear gloves at school, nor a beanie, nor a neck warmer…….. always the same ‘this is Japanese culture’, i really feel like Japanese people use this much to often as a scapegoat when asked a question they don’t want to answer to the point where it looses its meaning.

I really did attempt to explain the correlation between loss of productivity and being forced to work in an environment a few degrees above zero without much luck and also the fact that as I come from a warm country I am still going through a period of physical acclimatization to the weather here which is far colder and more humid than what I have ever experienced before.

Found unfortunately all but accurate yet humorous description of the workings of a sekiyu heater done by a fellow JET.

OK rant over, the moral of the story, you cant win them all……. however I must also end on a depressing note, being that……..

ITS NOT EVEN WINTER YET BECAUSE

Homemade Sashimi Teishoku 自家製の刺身定食

Many who know me will be aware of my grand love of teishoku 定食 (Japanese Set Meal) which are always ever so special when you make them yourself.

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Last night I came across some sashimi at a local produce store that I though looked fair delicious, so I though I would try my hand at slicing up sashimi.

The pack I purchased included Saba 鯖 (mackerel), ika いか (squid), maguro 鮪 (tuna) and hamachi 魬 (yellowtail).

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Although I am a decade off becoming a master sushi chef I’m down with the fundamentals of slicing raw fish, basically the most important part is you cut fish across the grain not along it otherwise its going to end up tough and chewy instead of melt in your mouthy.

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There are different techniques used for cutting different varieties of fish, for sashimi mostly the hira zukiri 平ずきり (thick sliced sashimi) technique is used which is good if the fish is to become sashimi.
However with squid it is first scored then cut using the ito zukiri 糸ずきり(thread sliced sashimi) technique.

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In terms of wasabi わさび (Japanese horseradish), I always use the much higher quality konawasabi 粉わさび which must be reconstituted using a little water.

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And here we have the finished product, all sliced and ready to eat!

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Alongside this I simply prepared some steamed garlic shoots, miso soup and various tsukemono 漬物 (Japanese pickles). Normally this would also be accompanied by a bowl of rice but I’m on a diet so I skipped it to save the empty carbs ☆〜(ゝ。∂)

いただきます‼

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 8 – Kuri Yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋

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Yes today I bring to you yet another yatsuhashi instalment of The Mochi Diaries, and so this is Chapter 8 – Kuri Yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋.

The Kuri 栗 (chestnut) flavour is a popular mochi filling at this time of year as we are half way through Aki 秋(autumn).

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Of corse there is to be an autumn variation of yatsuhashi and I came across this box at my favourite omiyage shop in Osaka a few weeks ago.

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I’v tried many kuri flavored mochi in the past so I went in pretty much knowing exactly what to expect, however there is the addition of the awesome texture of the yatsuhashi wrappings that always brings the mochi noming experience up to the next level.

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This aside I think I can safely say that these are my least favourite of the yatsuhashi flavours I have tried thus far.
I find the the Japanese autumn flavours to be on the bland side of things, having a large emphasis on starchy vegetables such as Kabocha 南瓜 (Pumpkin), Kuri 栗 (Chestnuts) and Satsumaimo さつま芋 (Sweet Potato). This really shined through with these kuri yatsuhashi, filled with the vaguely sweet kuri paste which I feel doesn’t compliment the outer mochi all that amazingly.
Regardless I still ate them all hungrily however in the future I think I’d prefer to stick with the more traditional cinnamon variety.
3/5

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 7 – Ninja (Kusa) Dango 草餅

<———– Last

 The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 9 – Mochitsuki Special Edition 餅搗き増刊

Next ———>

What The Hell Is Thanksgiving?

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Ok so I’m an Australian, we don’t tend to really get into most European holidays let alone American ones.
So my knowlage of Thanksgiving is that it’s got something to do with Indians, turkey and maybe candy corn……
Now I’d heard that Japanese people tend to assume all gaijin are American but had yet to experience it before today.

Conversation 10 minutes before class with ES sensei who speaks very little English.
OTE: Daniel Sensei, today Thanksgiving yes.
Me: Yeah I guess, but…..
OTE: (cutting me off? Today class change Thanksgiving shoukai OK?
Me: But I’m Australian not American and I have a lesson planned based on this weeks grammar point.
OTE: Ahhhh sou desu, Australia Thanksgiving class ok. Byebye. (Runs out of the staff room)

FML (−_−;)