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

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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‼

How Much You Can Expect To Be Paid On The JET Program(me)

Now particularly with all the changes to the JET program compensation and introduction of the sliding pay-scale which began this year. There were many very worried prospective applicants this time last year (myself included) who would have done anything to get their hands on some solid information regarding how much we could expect to take home.
These are my last couple pay slips, which accurately reflect exactly how much a Kobe JET participant can hope to take home a month. Those in other prefectures can end up with slightly more or less but 20万円 (200,000¥) a month is a good ballpark figure.

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Now since we are quite fortunate in Kobe and get a couple bonus perks with our income ill break it down.
So for our first year we earn 3.36百万円 (3,360,000¥) or 28万円 (280,000¥) on a monthly basis. From this the deductions include:
1.5万円 (15,000¥) mandatory heath insurance
2.5万円 (25,000¥) average social security
6千円 (6,000¥) income tax (note: Americans are not subject to this for the first 2 years on the program due to a tax treaty)
3.9万円 (39,000¥) apartment rent (originally around 8万円 but half is paid for by the Kobe Board of Education)

This usually leaves me with around 19万円 take home money. However one of our perks living in Kobe is that we are refunded our transportation expenses, this amount is dependent on the route you must take to work, mine is 15,640¥ a month. However to complicate things depending on the month sometimes we are paid out for a month transport pass at a time and once a year a 6 month pass (which is why the pay for October is so much higher than November).

Soon as my second year rolls around (6 more months wew!) my pay will go up to 3600000¥ a year, in my third year it will again rise to 3900000¥ and if I so choose to the pay in the 4-5th years is 3960000¥.
Although I earn significantly less than many if my friends I haven’t really noticed any difference in our lifestyles as most people save quite a lot of money whilst on JET (I have many temptations here in Kobe but I imagine saving in the inaka is even easier!). The first few months money was quite tight I will admit, however once your apartment is furnished money is not such a problem as Japan can be quite the affordable country if you live sensibly.

Anyhow I hope this breakdown was somewhat helpful, as always feel free to hitt me up if you have any questions.

Sh*t ALTs Say

Staring the brightest up and coming talents from Kobe JET I present to you ‘Sh*t ALTs Say’ produced by the world renowned Luke & Rory production company!

I even cameo in a couple scenes 😉

Domo Arigatzz

Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

During my parents visit to Japan a few weeks ago we visited Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社 the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi -ku, Kyoto.

Famous for the thousands of torii 鳥居 (shinto archways) lining the paths up the mountain on which the shrine is located, all of which are donated to the temple by local families and corporations. The Inari kami 神 (deity) are one of the three main kami in the shinto faith, being the protectors of grains and rice. Companies often make offerings to Inari shrines by placing barrels of sake 酒 (rice wine) at the base of the mountain, however visitors can make small offerings by placing food in front of the kitsune statues (popular choices are sake and rice).

Kitsune themed decorations at Fushimi Inari station.
Omiyage stores leading up to the entrance to the shrine.

Kitsune 狐 (Fox) statues

Torii themed prayer boards

Genkii 元気 torii time

Parentals waking through the torii.
Mother in front of a small restaurant along the way.

We purchased a bag of Tsujiura Senbei 辻占煎餅 (fortune cookie) a speciality product of the area.Reading my O-mikuji 御御籤 (Fortune), I received a Dai-kichi 大吉 (Great blessing) and a Chū-kichi 中吉 (Middle blessing).

Popin’ Cookin’ – Curry Set (Meccha Oishii Japanese Candy Adventures: Part 2)

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I know it’s been a long while since I published the first installment of ‘Meccha Oishii Japanese Candy Adventures’ but every step of creating these posts is very time consuming so I have been subconsciously putting off creating Part 2, alas it is now complete so please enjoy. Popin’ Cookin’ – Curry Set (Meccha Oishii Japanese Candy Adventures: Part 2)

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In this kit we shall be making karē raisu カレーライス (curry rice) and accompanying Korokke コロッケ (croquettes) a popular dish in Japan. Keep in mind like the last entry where I made gyoza and ramen, similarly these tiny dishes are actually savoury.

First things first take your various bowls and cut them up accordingly, this will make things easier. If you like you can also trim around the round serving bowl to make it a tad more aesthetically pleasing.

First we will be making the rice so grab the blue packet ライス.

Pour the entire contents of the rice packet along with not one but TWO measures of water into the almost rectangular container and mix it until it becomes fluffy.

Once your done transfer your ‘rice’ to the serving bowl, covering 2/3rds of one side as I have done.

Next up were making the Korokke コロッケ so grab the orange pack labeled Poteto ポテト (Potato).

Once again pour the packet into the almost rectangular container along with ONE measure of water and mix until you can roll it into a doughy ball.

Spit the dough in half, transfer to a plate and mold them to whatever takes your fancy. I went with a star and heart, this can be a little tricky to do ebtirely with you fingers, so use the mixing spoon as it is flat.

Once your done, temporarily set them aside.

Take the bag of crispy balls and crush them to dust prior to opening them.

Once again pour the crushed balls into the almost rectangular container.

Then proceed to roll your potato shapes in the crispy coating until they are well covered.

Once again set them aside as they are all done!

For the final step grab the brown packet labeled カレー (curry) and pour it into the almost rectangle container.

Add ONE measure of water to the powder and mix thoroughly until it is a thick brown paste.

Transfer your finished curry to the serving bowl in the empty third alongside your rice and your done!

There you have it the finished dish カレーライス コロッケ セット(curry rice and croquette set meal) !

Score
Funness (楽しい) – 4/5
Tastiness (美味しい) – 3.5/5
Authenticness (正真正銘) – 4.5/5
Overall impression (全体の印象) – 4/5

Halloween 2012!!

After 2 weekend of Halloween parties in Kobe and Osaka it’s safe to say I’m Halloweened out! A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join a krew dressing as nigirizushi for Halloween.

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The Saturday prior to Halloween a couple dozen of us pilgrimaged to Amemura アメリカ村 (America Village) in Osaka the Friday following we did it all over again for the annual Kobe JET Halloween party at IZNT in Sannomiya.

Here’s a couple of photos from both!