Attempting To Bake A Cheesecake In Japan

Shortly after arriving in Japan almost 3 months ago I acquired a convection oven as I am quite the baking enthusiast. Unfortunately by western standard the Japanese just really don’t seem to know what an oven is which is why the ‘oven’ I purchased is nothing more than a glorified microwave.

Despite the plethora of settings and modes it comes equip with (33 in total, everything from steaming fish to warming sake) the only ones I really use are the oven, microwave and grill. This however is mostly due to the fact all the buttons are in Japanese and I’m fairly poor at kanji.

Anyhow this evening once overcoming the hurdles associated with purchasing all the necessary ingredients (mostly financial), I decided to try my hand at baking a cheesecake as I had been given some home made cookie crumbs by a departing JET. Now despite undertaking a few ambitious baking exploits in the past never had I deluged into the realm of cheesecakes so this was quite the experiment on my part.

Now one thing you will notice about the photos is the pan I used is meccha tiny, this is largely a reflection on the size of Japanese ovens, however the difficulty it presented to me was that all the recipes I came across upon searching were for much larger batches. Alas I took it upon myself to simply ‘wing it’ and see where my baking adventures would take me. The following is the recipe I ended up going with.

Crust:

  • 200g cookie crumbs
  • 100g butter, melted

Cake:

  • 200g cream cheese
  • 150ml fresh cream
  • 100g vanilla infused sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk
  • 1 table spoon of vanilla essence
  • 3 Tablespoons of gelatin

Topping:

  • 100ml cream, whipped

Alas the following is the final product, lets just say it was very rich and tasty. As testament to this last Thursday I had 5 friends over to ‘taste test’ my baking exploits and they returned with positive feedback, the consensus being that it tasted like the milky candies.

All in all for a first try I’m ruling this quite the success, alas until next time ^_____^

Natsuyasumi 夏休み (Summer Holidays in Japan)

So tsuyu 梅雨 (rainy season) has come and gone and natsu 夏 (summer) is upon us in Japan.
Along with it came the beginning of Natsuyasumi 夏休み (Summer Holidays), now you be mistaken to think ‘oh that awesome, as a teacher you don’t have to work for a couple months’
NO JUST NO!

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For both students and teachers, summer holidays mean something very different than their western counterpart.
This is in the same vein of thinking of how the Japanese seem to love to work 4 hours of overtime everyday and work the weekends. Thus in Japan all teachers and most students attend school on a daily basis even during summer break! At my JHS which students come to school for half days either in the morning or afternoon to train with their respective clubs. The teachers tend to spend half a day supervising club activities and the other half siting in front of their computers repetitively fanning themselves and mumbling atsu atsu (its hot), I presume this is what they regard as junbi 準備 (preparation time).

Fortunately as the token gaijin I’m pretty much exempt from working such ridiculous hours if I don’t want too.
That said I regard the opportunity to watch my students sports club tournaments on a Saturday more of a perk of the job than a chore.
However it does mean that during the summer there are several thousand ALTs across Japan, that find themselves sitting at work awkwardly twiddling their fingers for a couple months with nothing to do.

Now I think I’m particularly fortunate, as I work at a school where I can do pretty much anything I want. No matter how crazy they are my ideas are, they have yet to be shot down! My OTEs (other teachers of english) have been nothing but amazing at accommodating my imagination, which has a tendency to run wild at times.

In addition as one of my OTEs is in charge of the kendo club I have been watching them practice often and training with the ichi-nen sei on a daily basis. God I now understand how Japanese people are so skinny, these kids do like intense workouts for 4 hours a day on the school holidays!
It’s actually really fun training with the kids as it gives me a chance to interact with them in a situation were we are equals instead of sensei 先生 (teacher) and chuugakusei 中学生 (student).

Last week I spent had the week designing Halloween lessons and then 2 days making this epic Australian money poster.

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This week I’v shifted my ambitions to claiming some wall space in one of the hallways to make an ‘English wall’, to aid in such a pursuit I have recruited half the members of the kendo club to aid me in some arts and craft! Alas after raiding the stationary room I have been teaching aboriginal dot art, having students create me a giant collage in the shape of Australia and decorating didgeridoo’s.
Bwahahaha my own personal army of Japanese children (who are also all ni-dan 二段 at kendo), the first step to my goals of global conquest and pretty much what I always wanted \(^o^)/

Still at the end of the day I’m not complaining, I am rather enjoying all the free time that has been thrust upon me after having such a busy first 2 months.
If anything it has endowed me will all the time I could ever want to read, study, play on my phone and get to know my students (^_^)☆

Natsuyasumi 夏休み (Summer Holidays in Japan)

So tsuyu 梅雨 (rainy season) has come and gone and natsu 夏 (summer) is upon us in Japan.
Along with it came the beginning of Natsuyasumi 夏休み (Summer Holidays), now you be mistaken to think ‘oh that awesome, as a teacher you don’t have to work for a couple months’
NO JUST NO!

20120805-162259.jpg

For both students and teachers, summer holidays mean something very different than their western counterpart.
This is in the same vein of thinking of how the Japanese seem to love to work 4 hours of overtime everyday and work the weekends. Thus in Japan all teachers and most students attend school on a daily basis even during summer break! At my JHS which students come to school for half days either in the morning or afternoon to train with their respective clubs. The teachers tend to spend half a day supervising club activities and the other half siting in front of their computers repetitively fanning themselves and mumbling atsu atsu (its hot), I presume this is what they regard as junbi 準備 (preparation time).

Fortunately as the token gaijin I’m pretty much exempt from working such ridiculous hours if I don’t want too.
That said I regard the opportunity to watch my students sports club tournaments on a Saturday more of a perk of the job than a chore.
However it does mean that during the summer there are several thousand ALTs across Japan, that find themselves sitting at work awkwardly twiddling their fingers for a couple months with nothing to do.

Now I think I’m particularly fortunate, as I work at a school where I can do pretty much anything I want. No matter how crazy they are my ideas are, they have yet to be shot down! My OTEs (other teachers of english) have been nothing but amazing at accommodating my imagination, which has a tendency to run wild at times.

In addition as one of my OTEs is in charge of the kendo club I have been watching them practice often and training with the ichi-nen sei on a daily basis. God I now understand how Japanese people are so skinny, these kids do like intense workouts for 4 hours a day on the school holidays!
It’s actually really fun training with the kids as it gives me a chance to interact with them in a situation were we are equals instead of sensei 先生 (teacher) and chuugakusei 中学生 (student).

Last week I spent had the week designing Halloween lessons and then 2 days making this epic Australian money poster.

20120801-101221.jpg

This week I’v shifted my ambitions to claiming some wall space in one of the hallways to make an ‘English wall’, to aid in such a pursuit I have recruited half the members of the kendo club to aid me in some arts and craft! Alas after raiding the stationary room I have been teaching aboriginal dot art, having students create me a giant collage in the shape of Australia and decorating didgeridoo’s.
Bwahahaha my own personal army of Japanese children (who are also all ni-dan 二段 at kendo), the first step to my goals of global conquest and pretty much what I always wanted \(^o^)/

Still at the end of the day I’m not complaining, I am rather enjoying all the free time that has been thrust upon me after having such a busy first 2 months.
If anything it has endowed me will all the time I could ever want to read, study, play on my phone and get to know my students (^_^)☆

Whale is Delicious! 鯨は美味しいですよ

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Fakuu yuu wharu! Fakuu yuu dofinuu!

So the Whalewhores episode of southpark is pretty much my favorite…… period!!
Despite politely smiling, nodding and enduring the politically loaded rants I am often subjected to by many of my American friends, being Australian I certainly don’t give two fucks about any political/ethical issues in general.
For that matter i consider it un-Australian to get your panties in a bunch over basically anything that doesn’t directly affect your day to day life.

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Unfortunately the whole whaling issue is something I just so happen to be very well versed in, not due to my faintest interest, but as it is quite the heated topic between Australia and Japan. I was afraid it might come up in my JET Program interview and I’m not one to no cover my bases, so research I did.

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Should Japan whale in Australian and antarctic waters? No.
Should one nation tell another what to do within their own borders? No.
Does the current state of Japanese whaling even vaguely represent anything that could be considered of value in maintaining Japan’s cultural heritage? Well that’s laughable.
At the end if the day, do I care either way??? Unlikely.
Is this a post about whaling? Never!!

So anyway last weekend my good friend Mike and I set out on an adventure to track down the legendary moby dick and take a bite outa that bastard!

Honestly I hadn’t seen whale sashimi at all in the 2 months prior since I arrived in Japan. Now that’s largely due to despite the popular belief that Japan has a hard on for eating whale, according to my Japanese friends and co-workers the average Japanese person has never even tried whale meat! In fact it came as a shock to my OTE’s when I said I ate whale on the weekend as they didn’t even know where I got it from!

Needless to say whale is not something you find stocked at the average supermarket, nor have I ever seen it on the menu at a sushi restaurant!
Anyhow heading out to a large shopping complex called Midori 緑 a couple kilometers south of Gakuentoshi station, we found a shop inside that had a couple boxes of whale sashimi, but again as its not the most popular foodstuff I’m talking 3 boxes out of 100s of other varieties of sashimi.

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Surprisingly it was extremely cheap at just under 300¥ for 5 pieces, in fact that’s cheap for any sashimi!
Well anyway we purchased a couple boxes, some shouyu 醤油 (soy sauce) and headed to the food court to get our nom on.

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Honestly I was a little intimidated by the dark flesh at first, perhaps as it stirred up repressed memories of my first enkai which was nama niku 生肉 (raw meat).
However upon taking my first bite I was pleasantly surprised! I had heard that whale had a strong smell and flavor, but that wasn’t the case at all, it was quite chewy with a flavor akin to maguro 鮪 (tuna) (not the sexual kind either XD)!

Now would eat it again though?? Well if it was sold a little closer to my house I would probably say yes, but a couple kilometer bike ride is more than I’m willing to endure to obtain sashimi.
Especially when there are half a dozen places I could get other varieties instead wayyyy closer!!