One year after 3/11

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which led to the tsunami that took the lives of over 19.000 people and caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. I arrived in Japan about a month after the earthquake and stayed in this fascinating country for this whole year and even in these times I always felt welcome. In the face of all the hospitality that I received this is not much, but I give my deepest condolences to everyone, who lost loved ones due to this disaster, who lost their homes and who lost everything they possessed. Do not give up in living your life and rebuilding what you love. 頑張れ日本!

And to everyone else I can only try to raise some awareness that the problems are far from over and there is much to be done. Despite the Fukushima-centered media coverage around the world, the damage from the tsunami has probably more direct influence on the people from East Japan. If you have the time I can recommend the following two videos. One is a documentary of a Japanese, who’s coming back to his tsunami-struck hometown, while the second one is a trailer for a documentary that also deals with the life after the tsunami and has already received some international reputation.

After the Wave:

http://www.after-the-wave.com/

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom:

http://www.thetsunamiandthecherryblossom.com/

Thank you, Japan!

Nishin Soba

Nishin Soba is a typical dish from Kyoto, which consists of a soba noodle soup with sweet marinated dried herring added. As Kyoto is far from the seaside, it was hard to bring in fresh seafood from the coast, so dried herring established itself as one of the easier to transport fishes and became one of the important sources of proteine in the past.

As you can guess from this description, I ate this dish when I was in Kyoto in December, but I still wanted to put it up here, because it remained in my head. The taste of sweet herring together with a traditional Japanese soup flavour was completely new to me in that situation and at first I was a bit at a loss as to how I should judge it. But I grew to like the taste very fast and appreciate its difference to the other dishes I’ve eaten in Japan and also back in Europe (Yannik didn’t, btw. :P). For me, the subtle sweetness did fit very well with the broth and made for a well rounded meal together with the soba.

If you want to try it yourself, the following recipe might be helpful. I found it under this link and translated it for you (hopefully without mistakes :D). Enjoy your cooking!

http://www.rakuten.ne.jp/gold/suginoki/c0312.html

You will need (for 4 persons):

  • 400g soba noodles
  • 1 sweetly cooked herring (you can either buy it or prepare it this way(scroll down))
  • 1 leek
  • 4 sheets of dried laver / seaweed
  • 7 cups of dashi broth
  • 120ml of mirin (sweet soy sauce)
  • 120ml of soy sauce

Preparation:

  1. Mix the dashi broth, mirin and soy sauce in a pot and let it boil up to prepare the soup.
  2. Boil the soba in plenty of water until they are boiled thoroughly. Pour the water and put the soba in 4 bowls. Add the soup to each bowl.
  3. Add the finely cut leek, the dried laver and the herring on top. Enjoy your meal! :)

Capsule Hotels

I bet most of you have already read or heard about capsule hotels in Japan. Those hotels, where you don’t sleep in your own room, but instead sleep in a plastic box in a room with many of those, called capsules. They usually feature a few technical amenities such as a television and the stereotypical customer is the Japanese salaryman on a business trip.

But as some of them are really cheap and can even compete with hostels, I gave it a try and stayed in a capsule hotel in Asakusa on my trip to Tokyo last week. It was located directly next to Asakusa station and from the public bath in the 8th floor, you had a really beautiful view over the Sumida River and towards the famous Asahi Building, as well as the soon to be completed Tokyo Sky Tree. So obviously I went up there every evening, went to the sauna, took a hot bath  and enjoyed the sight from there.

But back to the capsules. I was actually a bit surprised how spacious those seemed to me, as I hadn’t expected to be able to sit upright in one, which was perfectly possible. Space to the sides was also no problem at, only the length would have been more comfortable had it been 5-10cm more. The way it was, my feet were constantly scratching at the curtain, which closed my capsule once I was inside. The television presented me with 10 Japanese TV channels for free every evening, so no need for complaints there as well.

And now please have a look at a few pictures :)

Matcha Parfait

Again it’s time for a small break from the sightseeing articles and instead a good moment for a food-related post. After all, who doesn’t like tasty food, especially if it’s sweet and nice-looking :D

Therefor behold the mighty fine dessert that is Matcha Parfait (see below). Now first of all, matcha is powdered green tea and is also the tea that’s used in tea ceremonies. It’s definitely not cheap, but the taste is really unique and i can only recommend to try it, if you have the chance. I guess, you might even find it in asia shops in Europe, although i don’t know about the quality in that case.

But back to the parfait. When you have something as nice as matcha, it would be a waste to only make tea with it, so there are various products featuring the matcha taste, for example icecream, desserts or sauces. The picture below shows a parfait of matcha cream, cookie, matcha icecream, yoghurt icecream, mochi and fresh fruits – a very delicious combination! It might have cost me around 1200 Yen, but it was definitely worth it :D

A small measure of fame

During one of my language sessions with Masako I was interviewed by the local television about my thoughts on a change of the start of the academic year in Japan from Spring to Autumn. Weirdly enough, they indeed broadcasted it and Masako recorded it later (that’s the girl’s voice in the background ;) ).

YouTube Preview Image

And just for the content, I basically said that it would be easier for foreign students to study in Japan if they changed it to autumn. I actually said more in the interview, but that stuff has seemingly been cut out ^^