Seasons Change Fast in Japan

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Now the Japanese tend to like to make a big deal about how the Japanese archipelago has 4 distinct seasons, almost as if they seriously believe that this is an attribute unique to their country (to be honest though the day I do come across someone who beloved this I shan’t be surprised).

Anyhow what I want to talk about today is just how rapidly these very distinct seasons suddenly come about. Having been living in Japan for what is coming up on a year now I have seen each if the 4 seasons come about.
When winter arrived it was more or less a slap in the face to the unprepared Australian, it wasn’t that it was just unbaringly cold for someone who had never seen snow before but more so its rapid onset.

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Thank god winter is behind us for another 9 months but what I’m really amazed with is just how fast it seemed to disappear. Above is the weather forecast for Kobe this week, strangely quite comfortable, the odd thing is that 2 weeks ago the average was little more than 0-4 degrees. That’s an average jump of 10 whole degrees in 2 weeks! It’s like there are little men in the clouds who be like ‘oh shit son Feburary is over, switch out the snow and fill up the weather bukake machine with Sakura!’.
Anyone else from other parts of the world experience seasons changing so abruptly? Back home in Melbourne we don’t really have well defined seasons, they all kinda bleed into eachother on top of that you can have freezing days in hummer and warm ones in winter…..

Anyhow things are looking up in my little corner of the world. I leave you with imminent Ned….. On vacation it seems.

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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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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