First nabe 鍋 (Japanese hotpot) for the seasons with my friends last week whist sewing our Halloween costumes.
During my visit to Tokyo we visited Alcatraz ER, a jail/hospital themed theater restaurants in Shibuya.
I came across the place during a previous trip to Japan in 2006 and now finally returning I had my heart set on experiencing it.
Upon arriving guests are ‘admitted’ to the restaurant ‘sexy nurses’ ask one member of each party their symptoms (an imagined affliction), before being handcuffed and led to a cell where the dining takes place to be ‘locked up’. The actual dining booths are convincing jail cells little more than a meter in height, in order to call a waitress for service one takes an iron bar and racks it across the bars of cell, as this happens quite frequently the constant rattling of the cells around you adds to the spookiness of the atmosphere.
The drinks are an experience in themselves, the top one being a banana yogurt cocktail (with extra cock) when served the waitress has a syringe full of condensed milk she dribbled over the ‘head’ of the severed member.
The beers are also quite the novelty, we ordered a liter jug that was served in a urinal bedpan, looking quite convincing and frothy.
These 2 dishes, takoyaki and shuumai respectively were off the ‘Russian roulette’ section of the menu with one of each of being filled with karashi 辛子 (hot Japanese mustard) that i accidentally ate in both without so much batting an eyelid (let’s be honest guys if you going to advertise something as being spicy with 7 chillies next to the description at least make it hot!)
Even the bathrooms were quite horrific, again ruined by the flash but the male one is lit by a black light with gore spread across the walls glowing in an eerier purple haze.
Such dim lighting makes a trip to the bathroom quite the challenge particularly if you have had a couple beers but makes for an interesting experience.
Look at the end of the day it was quite an interesting experience, the food was nothing special and the drinks nothing special. That said its not crazy priced or anything (about 7000円 for 3 of us with drinks), coming on a week night I think it was all toned down a little and would like to return on a weekend, online I had seen videos of mid meal ‘prisoner escapes’ with costumed actors running through the corridors but we saw nothing of the sort.
Regardless it gets my おすすめ for a spooky night out!
Last weekend was the Bunkasai 文化祭(Cultural Festival) at my chuugakko 中学校 (Junior High School). This was the Australian culture table I put together to teach visitors to the school about my country.
A few weeks ago I applied for a Australia education kit from the Australian consulate in Japan and they sent me a cricket bag loaded to the brim with useful resources like flags, books and uniforms!!!!
Always having been quite the avid baker, ever since arriving in Japan I have been experimenting with new Japanese flavours and ingredients I either was unable to acquire back home or had never even heard of!
Not just baking but cooking also, over the past 6 months my skills in the kitchen have gone from cooking the most basic of curries to basically anything that might take my fancy if I have the means to google a recipe.
Here is the recipe to whip up a batch of Azuki 小豆 Kinako 黄粉 Shortbread Cookies that I baked.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup kinako (roasted soybean flour)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
250 grams unsalted butter
250 grams azuki (sweet red beans)
1. Beat butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes until fluffy with an electric mixer.
2. Fold flour, kinako, and salt into butter mixture, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. You don’t want to work the dough too much once the flour is added so use a wooden spoon.
3. Fold in azuki paste in a similar fashion.
3. Scoop mixture into a ziplock bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, using a rolling pin roll the dough into a half a cm thick rectangle. Once your done seal the bag, pressing out all the air and freeze for 30 minutes. You may keep the dough in this stage up to two days.
4. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open, discard the bag and using a sharp knife, cut the dough into small rectangles or use a cookie cutter like I did (mine were hearts). Transfer the cookies to a baking sheets and carefully prick each one four times with a fork.
6. Bake for 15 to 16 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. This recipe makes about 20 cookies.
This morning I was rudely awoken in the wee hours by whining winds. Grumpily I dragged myself out of bed and looked over to my calendar, glancing the date to be October 23.
A little note Soukou 霜降 sat in the box meaning ‘descent of frost’ thinking of the storm raging outside my window I chuckled to myself and though ‘yeah sounds about right’.
Unlike much of Asia the Gregorian calendar has been in use in Japan since 1873 when it superseded the Chinese lunisolar calendar which had been in place for almost 1200 years.
The Chinese calendar divided one solar year into twenty-four points signifying significant celestial events such as solstices, equinoxes and the beginning of the seasons or natural phenomenon. In Japanese these are referred to as Nijushi Sekki 二十四節季 and are still retain some importance in modern society.
The Nijushi Sekki or seasonal days are as follows:
Risshun (立春): February 4—Beginning of spring
Usui (雨水): February 18—Rain water
Keichitsu (啓蟄): March 5—Awakening of Insects (from hibernation)
Shunbun (春分): March 20—Vernal equinox, middle of spring
Seimei (清明): April 4—Clear and bright (skies)
Kokuu (穀雨): April 20—Grain rain
Rikka (立夏): May 5—Beginning of summer
Shōman (小満): May 21—Grain Fills
Bōshu (芒種): June 5—Grain in Ear
Geshi (夏至): June 21—Summer Solstice, middle of summer
Shōsho (小暑): July 7—Little Heat
Taisho (大暑): July 23—Great Heat
Risshū (立秋): August 7—Beginning of Autumn
Shosho (処暑): August 23—End of Heat
Hakuro (白露): September 7—Descent of White Dew
Shūbun (秋分): September 23—Autumnal Equinox, middle of Autumn
Kanro (寒露): October 8—Cold Dew
Sōkō (霜降): October 23—Descent of Frost
Rittō (立冬): November 7—Beginning of winter
Shōsetsu (小雪): November 22—Little Snow
Taisetsu (大雪): December 7—Great Snow
Tōji (冬至): December 22—Winter Solstice, middle of Winter
Shōkan (小寒): January 5— Little Cold
Daikan (大寒): January 20—Great Cold
Many zassetsu days occur in multiple seasons:
Setsubun (節分) prefers to the day before each season, or the eves of Risshun 立春 (Spring), Rikka 立夏(Summer), Risshuu 立秋 (Autumn), and Rittou 立冬 (Winter). However it is most commonly attributed the day before the first day of spring (risshun). Setsubun falls on the 3rd or the 4th of February on the calendar today.
Doyō (土用) refers to the 18 days before each season, especially the one before fall which is known as the hottest period of a year.
Higan (彼岸) is the seven middle days of spring and autumn, with Shunbun at the middle of the seven days for spring, Shūbun for fall.
Shanichi (社日) is the Tsuchinoe (戊?) day closest to Shunbun (middle of spring) or Shūbun (middle of fall), which can be as much as −5 to +4 days away from Shunbun/Shūbun.
A couple weeks ago towards the end of summer my good friend Matcha-san (a fellow Melbournian) and I spent a day exploring Nunobiki Herb Garden 布引ハーブ園 and the Nunobiki no Taki 布引の滝 (Nunobiki Falls) next door for a chill and relaxing Friday adventure. Situated a couple minutes walk from Shin-Kobe station (the stop the Shinkansen 新幹線 (Bullet Train) passes through) it’s insane that such beauty and wilderness exists literally on our doorstep here in Kobe.
The Nunobiki herb garden sits on the side of Mt Rokko, consisting of a large café and rest house at its peak, further down a sizable greenhouse and a long path lined with every herb imaginable. The easiest way to reach the peak by taking the Shin-Kōbe Ropeway 新神戸ロープウェー (colloquial known as the Kōbe Yume-Fūsen 神戸夢風船 (Kobe Dream Balloon)) a 1.5km cable car for a brisk 10 minute trip to the top of the mountain then walk the casual slopes down. In my opinion view of Kobe granted from the peak of the Herb Garden is far superior to that of Port Tower and I highly recommend a day up there. At 700¥ all the way up it was certainly not expensive also!
After a relaxing morning casually strolling around the gardens we decided to head off to see the Nunobiki Waterfalls which is considered to be one of Japan’s one of the greatest divine falls alongside Kegon Falls and Nachi Falls.
Much to my amusement I forced Lady Matcha to go bushwacking (its an australian term) to the nearby waterfalls next door, a task she was not at all dressed to embark on!
To add to the awesomeness of this place there is also a little traditional Japanese restaurant on the top of the mountain overlooking said waterfalls.
We ended up talking to the little old obaa- chan that runs the place for a good half hour! She’s meccha sweet!
After devouring this bowl whist looking out at an amazing view it too has become my おすすめ and at 500円 why not ^_^
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!