Welcome To Back

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Over the past couple weeks I have landed myself hospital a couple times with anaphylactic shock, seems my body decided the humble age of 26 was a good enough time as any to develop new shellfish allergies. Had a really scary couple weeks not knowing exactly what I was allergic to whilst waiting for the test results.
When I eventually returned to school after a couple days off in the hospital my favorite third year class decorated the black board with messages for Athough half the boys are terrors to teach they cute lil things at times, needless to say I was quite touched by the gesture.

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Homemade Kaisendon 海鮮丼

image Took a shot at making homemade kaisendon 海鮮丼 (various sashimi on rice) today, think it turned out fair legit. I’ma show you a just how easy it is make your own too!

imageNow this recipe is actually different from the super pretty one I made above but its all the same. Most supermarkets here will stock kaisendon sashimi kits, they basically just include サーモン (salmon), まぐろ (tuna) and 鯛 (sea bream) that have been cut up into bite sized chunks. Unlike the super fancy kaisendon above this one only set me back about 400円 for the fish. imageI picked up a packet of Kaisendon no tare 海鮮丼のたれ (soy based seasoning for the kaisendon) while I was grabbing the fish, it can either be used to marinate the sashimi before it is placed upon the rice or pored over the top once it is assembled. imageHere is one of the little packets of the sauce. Tare たれ is used in a huge array of Japanese dishes from nabe to sashimi to yakiniku, and is essentially flavored or thickened soy sauce with added dashi, vinegar, etc. That said each variation is a little different depending on the dish it is to be used with. imageI really like sushi rice so I decided to make some to go underneath the fish. Its super easy to do, this is the 米酢 (rice vinegar) that I like to use, you simply add it to the freshly steamed rice with a little sugar and salt straight out of the rice cooker. http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Sushi-Rice But i don’t need to get into that. imageAnd here is the finished product, garnish with some shredded nori 海苔 (dried seaweed) and a little wasabi, Enjoy!

Umeshu 梅酒 Workshop 2014

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Last weekend’s I ran my annual umeshu 梅酒 workshop and decided to spice things up this year (literally).

Of my 3 batches only the center one is umeshu, this year I added 700ml of spiced rum, vanilla beans, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn and all spice.

The other 2 flanking are vanilla mango/blueberryshu and ninnikushu にんにく酒 (garlic liquor).

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Whynot Nagano Ski Trip 2014

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Over the last weekend of Feburary, a grand troupe of us Kobe kids (along with another 230 so people) pilgrimaged up north to the snowy slopes of Nagano’s Kashimayari Ski Park, on the annual WhyNot ski trip.

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WhyNot is a company that runs International parties and events across Japan. They typical host very ‘gaijin friendly’ nomihoudai (all you can drink) nights across various bars and clubs in Osaka, so they are a company many a Kobe JET is very familiar with. Our ski trip was run by the WhyNot47 project, a section of the organization that plans and runs various trips around Japan to each of the 47 prefectures, in an effort to dismiss the misconception that Japan is a dangerous place post 3/11 disaster. If you would like to know more the link is here.

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Gathering on the chilly evening of Friday the 28th of February loaded up with snacks and booze aplenty, we boarded our bus departing from Sannomiya at midnight on the dot! Spirits were high in the hour after we set off, jikoushoukais (self introductions) were given and many a ‘beverage’ consumed, however at the back of our minds we all knew we would have a physically demanding day on the morrow the bus grew quiet after our first rest stop. I awoke in the early hours of the following morning, stiff necked and groggy due to a sleeping awkwardly on the bus. Casually glancing out the window at irregular intervals as we made out way up progressively further north, it almost seemed as if the seasons were winding back, the snow falling thicker and thicker as we ascended the mountain.

Upon arrival at the ‘Tateyama Prince Hotel’ a very fancy ryokan 旅館 (traditional Japanese style hotel), I was nothing short of overwhelmed as I had been expecting lodging far below its station; in fact my first thoughts that have stayed true are ‘this place is too nice for us’!
After jumping off the bus we check in our luggage, grabbed our rented gear and suited up, the next thing we knew we were boarding the transfer shuttle taking us to the slopes of Kashimayari Ski Park!
WhyNot were very accompanying for those even with the most basic of experience in winter sports, offering to take care of all the equipment and lessons for a fee.

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As it was my first time seeing snow in all my days (being from the Australias) I opted to try my luck at skiing and booked a beginner ski lesson. Luckily my mate Erik was also in a similar position and accompanied me in my attempts to learn the basics of getting around the slopes. Unfortunately the lesson provided by our instructor left a lot to be desired, the general noise about the slopes compounded alongside his broken English left us in a position where we were getting very little out of the time we were spending under his care. An hour passed by and we had done little more than learn how to put our ski’s on and walk around a few meters, it was then he proposed a half an hour break! Looking out at the slopes, we glanced our friends enjoying themselves in envy, it was then we concluded amongst ourselves (pardon my French) ‘Fuck this shit’ and jumped on the nearest ski lift’s up to one of the gentler slopes.

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At this point we had a fair idea of how to ‘go’, but little knowledge of just how to ‘turn’ or ‘stop’, I thought back to what the ski instructor told Ike in the episode of South Park in the boys go skiing ‘If you french fry when you’re supposed to pizza you’re gonna have a bad time’, and felt pretty confident I had this.
Over the next few hours I only fell over 70 or 80 times. I became terrified each and every time I reached a speed my body was not yet comfortable with, my legs instinctively failing me resulting in me ‘eating it’ time and time again. It wasn’t until the afternoon in which one of my buddies who is a very proficient snowboarder found me still failing epically at even the easiest of slopes, and insisted I come up to one of the tallest ones for a ‘trial by fire’. Reluctantly I jumped on the lift up heading up to the mountain whose peak was obscured by clouds, upon reaching the summit all I could think was ‘oh hell no’, as I looked out at the white abyss beyond. Somehow I made it down inch by inch (most of which I was on my ass), yet miraculously after having conquered the beast mountain (albeit in the least fashionable of ways), by comparison those gentle slopes which had tossed me around in the morning I could now traverse with ease. I think what it really came down to was a confidence issue, soon as I had it in my head that this was just ‘a little slope’ I stopped falling over every 10m and all of a sudden skiing was a lot more enjoyable!

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One of the fun parts about WhyNot trips is that they always include a nomihoudai 飲み放題 (all you can drink) party in the evening of the Saturday night, very aware of this, myself and a couple mates retired early from the slopes to relax in order to utilize the hotels onsens and take a nap prior to the evenings festivities.
Having paid the very reasonable additional surcharge of 1000円 to reserve a private double room instead of a communal one, my mate Ryan and I who I was bunking with were delighted to discover that the small fee had bought us an identically sized room to that of our other friends who were sharing 7 in the same space! Needless to say we found ourselves with room a plenty.

After a long soak in the onsen, a brief nap and the amazing buffet dinner the hotel provided, I found feeling somewhat like a normal human being again. Onsen are a funny thing when you think about them, when I first arrived in Japan they terrified me, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would possibly want to get naked with their peers! Almost two years down the roads having been to them dozens of times they now don’t faze me in the slightest, in fact they are a rare treat! The whole concept of the naked body being shameful for some unknown reason is really a western concept, one that if you are to bath in Japan you must discarded with your underwear!

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Anyhow I digress, at around 8pm the nomihoudai party began in the bottom floor of the hotel. If there is one thing WhyNot will always do well it’s alcohol! They had a wide array of canned chuuhai 酎ハイ (Japanese liquor that is often used in place of vodka and added typically to juices or sodas), beer and the ever abunai Strong Zero’s.
I think I know my way around liquor in Japan by this point in my adventures, and there are two kinds of nights out drinking you have do here:
1. Regular drinking
2. Strong Zeroing
The thing is, the morning after a night in which one was drinking Strong Zeroes are going to be agonizing without any doubt. The reason these drinks are so dangerous, is that although they don’t taste particularly alcoholic they are 8% alcohol, even drinking one tall can has 3 standard drinks in it! Personally I would usually only be willing to drink 1 or 2 of these a night before switching out for beer, however since they were all free things got out of hand rapidly.

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There were more kampais than I will ever recall, shenanigans a plenty and at one point I found myself in some sort of circle pit screaming the lyrics to ‘what does the fox say?’. Needless to say I found myself spread out on the floor of my room, still fully clothed alarm blaring at 8:30am the following morning, my room buddy not in a dissimilar state.
We had almost missed breakfast but we discovered there was one bus headed back to the slopes at 10:30am. By this point those dozens and dozens of falls the day before had caught up to me, and my body was screaming for rest. Never being one to know my own limits I decide to ganbare and head back out to the slopes one more time (we had paid a good deal for the privilege after all)!

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In retrospect the amount of damage I ended up doing to my back (was wearing a back brace for a week after the weekend) heading out for the second day was perhaps not one of my wisest judgement calls, however with a little experience under my belt skiing in general became a whole lot more enjoyable. I even managed to tackle the mountains highest slope that took me a whole half hour to get down (however half the time I was on my ass)!
12:30pm marked the last bus back to the hotel before our departure home, luckily most of the guys managed to squeeze one last onsen in before we left to defrost our frozen limbs.
We packed up and checked out with haste the 8 hours later we arrived home in Kobe, tired and weary but with a grand sense of accomplishment!

There are worse ways the spend the weekend 😉

-Dan

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In case you are interested in going next year (I know I am certainly keen to do so) here was the flyer for the event.>

A very Australian Christmas (a 2013 retrospective)

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Where have I been you ask, did I drop off the face of the earth? Yes and no….. Over the Christmas and New Years period I returned home to the down under to spend the holidays with my family in Melbourne.

Now I did the same trip last year and expect I will do much the same this coming Christmas. However the relationship developed with a country left behind in lieu of another is a bittersweet one, the return to said country equally so.

Upon leaving Australia after my last trip I retained a residual distaste for the country, questioning whether I would ever want to return to live there in the future. Despite having spent a fantastic few weeks with my friends and family, I found myself longing to return to Japan. This year however I have returned to Kobe in quite the opposite headspace.

For so long firm in my mind was the firm belief that I was a black sheep, not only amongst my family and peers but also within my country of origin, that I was somehow different from everyone else’s.

If there is anything that can shatter long held beliefs and redefine a person it’s two things, time and distance. As the saying goes ‘you ain’t know what you got till it’s gone’.

I guess the major turning point for me was finding myself begin to contemplate my future, not in Japan but post-JET. I guess seeing my long term friends my age back home getting on with their lives caused me to reflect upon my own situation. What am I doing in Japan? What kind of career do I want in the future? Shall I return to university for further study? What will my life have shaped up to be by my later 20s?

Over the past few weeks I have sincerely had some of the greatest times of my life, simply enjoying the company of the family and friends I left behind half a world away. From this experience I experienced a major shift in my mindset of what exactly Japan and the JET program mean to me.

Having had aspired to reaching my alleged ‘ultimate goal’ of living in Japan for almost a decade. I can now see with definite clarity that I had put the country on a pedestal, the way one might put a pretty girl.

Now I’m not saying I thought the country was all Sushi, anime and geisha as many do who have never been fortunate enough to visit Japan. Nor would I want to downplay the profound respect I have developed for its people and culture. But instead I would like to put forth that yeah, if you get an awesome placement like Kobe on the JET program (or even if you don’t), Japan can be everything that you ever dreamed of and more. But at the end of the day the experience like anything in life is going to be what you make of it.

I know I have said this in past posts but you can grow up and discover where you want to go in life quite rapidly here, today is the 588th day of my journey here so I would hope to have made some progress. Whether that is the product of conquering the hardships of living alone in a foreign country for the first time or unique to JET I couldn’t say. However I am a firm believer that this experience has helped set me on the right track to becoming the man I always needed to become.

I arrived in Kobe coming up 2 years ago a person I can look back upon with distaste, self-righteous, unempathetic and stubborn as hell. I like to think I’ve made a little progress since then, yet I realize the road ahead is long but if I have gained any insight it’s this:

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of ones ignorance”
-Confucius

I don’t want to say that I have come to some great epiphany either, rather that I am just walking my own path one step at a time learning with each one.
What I have learnt is to truly appreciate and treasure those you who love you, whether they live next door or a world away. Rather than worrying about winning the affection of others and what they think of you, simply be the best you you can be. Show a sense of empathy, respect for others opinions and a sincere interest in what those around you say and you will never want for company.

I have met so many amazing people in Japan from all corners of the earth in the short part of my life that I have been here, but I will be sure never to forget those friends and family I had in Melbourne neither.

To all that I saw and spent time with during my visit home I thank you for making my trip amazing. Particularity the efforts of my parents who took every step imaginable to do anything and everything to make my visit home a memorable one.

Till next time,

-Dan

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Elementary Christmas Cards 小学校クリスマスカード

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Today after teaching a Christmas lesson to one of my favorite 3rd year classes at my elementary, the kids took me by surprise!
Soon as i finished the farewell, they all ran up to me at once pushing dozens of Christmas cards they had written for me into my hands!

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I thought this one was cute. My Japanese isn’t amazing but it basically says.

Dear Daniel,
English classes are fun, even though I don’t understand any English at all!
I now understand because the explanation was clear.
Please continue to teach me in the future.

All of the feels!

Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルミナリエ)

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Kobe Luminarie 神戸ルミナリエ has been a grand event held in Sannomiya the central district of Kobe, for around 2 weeks every December since 1995.

The lights were donated by the Italian government to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake which had devastated much of Kobe that year, resulting in the deaths of around 4600 residents.

The display includes around 200,000 hand painted lights which have been lit every year as a tourist attraction to draw people back to Kobe after the disaster. In addition the event acts as a fundraiser to help cover the 100 billion dollars of damages that were caused by the Earthquake.

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Unfortunately I missed out of seeing the lights last year,as the event conflicted with my return to Australia over the Christmas break. This year however I was lucky enough to check it out with my good mate Pete!

Around this time of the year, glancing at my Facebook feed, it seems like pretty much every JET in Kobe seems to head over at some point, take the exact same photos and upload an album of them :p

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Protip: If you are attending this event, don’t be a stooge and line up with the masses!
Especially on the weekends people will wait for hours and hours just to walk down the shopping street!
The thing about Japan is the average person here doesn’t really break the rules, so there is little to no security at things like this. If you simply just walk along parallel to the enormous lines of people, there is really nothing stoping the clever of us from just slipping into the river of people at the entrance of the event.

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