Shabu ShabuLast night my friend Mari-chan treated me to my first Shabu Shabu experience. We met in Tochigi-shi, at the same restaurant where we dined on Teppanyaki together. Shabu Shabu is basically like fondue, done in water. We were given thinly slices veggies and beef which we dipped with our chopsticks until they were cooked. Then we topped them with green onions and/or garlic and dipped them in a soy-vinegar sauce or a miso-seasame sauce. Oishi!
After the Shabu Shabu, the assistant prepared two simple, but delicious, soups from the broth we had created: one was just a broth with finely chopped leeks, the other was more spicy and had udon noodles in it. Finally, because we weren't already stuffed to the brim, the assistant made a fabulous rice dish by adding cooked rice, beaten egg and finely chooped leeks to the remaining broth. A sticky, fragrant, soupy rice concoction was the result.
It was so great to catch up with Mari-chan, who, with Shigeru, will be visiting us in Germany next August!! Thanks so much for the fabulously authentic Japanese experience!
I Hate KakiToday I "gratefully" received another bag of kaki. I hate kaki. Kaki is persimmon, and it's yucky. I think I complained about this last year. Japan is abouding with kaki at this time of year, and it seems that everyone is trying to get rid of it.
Last week I received a bag of kaki (about 20 fruit) from my semi-private students' family. Thaaaaaank you! Can't you just picture me with a smile frozen on my face, accepting a brimming bagful of squarish, orange treats? Apparently it was so convincing that they phoned around Japan and told everyone that Crystal needs about 400 kaki.
The last bag was thrown out. This one's headed to the trash-heap as well, unless some pitiable folk claims it. Gambatte.
Manderine oranges are in season, too; why can't someone give me a horde of Manderine oranges?
Happy Wedding?Today I inadvertently walked into my last day at one of my kindergartens. I spent the first half of the classes trying to convince them that I'd be back once more. See, next Thursday is a Stat. Holiday, and the school's apparently cancelled English classes on the following Thursday, which would be my last.
At the end of each class students came up and presented me with a gift: origami "Thank You" medals, booklets of drawings of me (all rather hideous/hilarious depictions), etc. I almost cried several times and this isn't even one of my better-known schools - I guess I'll be something of a blubbering idiot at schools where I know students by name. With the presents I got the usual,
"Sank You Bery Muchi!" and
"Sayonara!" (goodbye), and
"Kyosukete ne!" (take care), but also,
Ummmmmm, Thanks? Not really sure where that one came from. Don't have enough Japanese skills to explain that I'm not getting married. And this isn't the only time students and/or teachers and/or principals have wished me a happy wedding! WTF!?
My guess is that either it was assumed that when I said I was moving to Germany for my boyfriend that I'm getting married, or that when schools were told by Cynthia and/or Hiro that I'm leaving it was also insinuated that I'm leaving to get married!! Nundaiyo!?! (what the hell?!)
And why "Happy Wedding" instead of "Happy Marriage?" Isn't happiness in a marriage more important? I mean, Japanese people also know the word marriage; it's in about 5% of Love Hotel names: Hotel Marriage. You know, because so many married couples frequent those establishments!
In any case, I want to be clear, for those of you who read this blog:
OopsA little late.
So it's come to my attention that there's a chance that I've been wishing my dearest friends birthday congratulations for the wrong age! Ahhhhh! This is such a taboo when these dearest friends have been in my inner circle for over ten years.
I'm so sorry!
Let me explain. Actually, this problem stems from a much deeper issue. That issue involves my own psychosis wherein I have effectively convinced myself that I am younger than I am. See, all these friends are younger than me, (because I'm born in January) so in lieu of keeping track, I just wish them congratulations on arriving at the age I am. It has come to my attention that I am, in fact, not 25, but rather 26 (thanks, Parker). Again, Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! So for all of you who received "Happy QC" or some such:
I'm so sorry!
What's the worst part of this whole debaucle? I'm about 1.5 months away from 27!!
Anniversary ExcursionAs a 6-month anniversary present, I took Riccardo on a one-day trip to famous Hakone. Hakone is a small mountain-side town about 60kms South of Tokyo; a very popular tourist destination among Japanese natives. Nori-chan was kind enough to book us a Ryokan (Japanese style hotel) right in the center of the city (thanks honey!!) and we were lucky to be in town for their annual festival.
I booked us on a "Romance Car" - special express train specific to this route - from Shinjuku to Hakone, which arrived around 6pm. We rushed to the hotel to be on time for our pre-scheduled in-room dinner. A table-full of food later, we were content to have a lazy night. After a short walk through town, we relaxed in the private, indoor onsen (hot spring bath).
The next morning we followed a procession of Japanese folk up the mountainous town and nuzzled into an optimal parade-viewing spot. Actually, Hakone's parade was a lot shorter than the one we viewed in Okazaki last March, but in my opinion, the musical numbers were better quality.
Back in the center of town, we patiently waited our turn to take the train partway up a mountain to commence our tour-route. I had no idea the town festival was such a big deal, but apparently everyone and their dog, in the free world had to experience Hakone that day. After the nearly hour-long up-hill train ride, we waited to board a cable car which took us still further up the mountain. And just when we thought we couldn't get any higher, we waited just a little more for a speedy tram that offerred a spectacular view of Hakone and it's surrounding mountainscapes.
At the top of the mountain, we plugged our noses to avoid the sulfurous stench and debated ingesting the famous black egg. Said to add seven years to one's life, these eggs were anything but appetizing. Perhaps I would have been more inclined to try one if the overwhelming stench of sulfur hadn't put me onto a good up-chuck already. Or perhaps it was that a single egg couldn't be purchased, but rather, there was a half-dozen minimum. Ew.
A death-defying bus ride halfway down the mountain brought us to a picturesque lake, from which, on a clear day, one is supposed to be able to view Mt. Fuji. It wasn't clear. Just as the sun was setting we boarded a fantastic pirate ship that took us across the length in a half-hour ride. Then in was onto another bus and back to the train station where we had perfectly scheduled our arrival to coincide with our departure back to Toyko.
In a breif stop in Harajuku, I introduced Riccardo to the fabulous fare at the Wolfgang Puck express restaurant. Without too much trouble, we found the infamous "Love Hotel Hill" in Shibuya, and had quite an enjoyable time shopping the picture-boards in a number of hotels for a suitable room. Being fairly exhausted from our long day didn't stop us from enjoying a bubble bath in our extra-large jetted tub and a few rounds of karaoke on the flat-screen. Good times!
The next day was Ueno Day, one we've been trying to have for months. We headed to a park that is filled with every type of museum one can imagine and made our first stop the Japan National History Museum complex. Basically this museum served as the major headquarters for all things Japanese; a massive compilation of all the historical artifacts and nicknacks that can be seen in town museums, and more.
Finally we spent the afternooon in the National Museum of Western Art, which featured a broad range of ancient to modern artwork by an array of accomplished names. I was most interested to see "Water Lilies" by Monet which is a permant fixture in the Impressionist exhibit at the museum; it's my favourite painting.
Thanks to Nori for booking our Ryokan, to Cynthia for switching my Thursday afternoon class, and to Riccardo for joining me on this mini-adventure!
Friends for Dinner
Riccardo's two weeks here were meticulously planned so that we would have time to meet up with all our friends. In addition to much travel and sight-seeing (blogs to come), we met Anna & Dave, Shigeru & Mari, and Mark & Azumi for a variety of beloved Japanese fare. Tressa also had us over for some non-Japanesy food: yummy homemade lasagne!
Many thanks to everyone for taking the time to meet with us! We had a terrific time visiting with everyone. Gonna miss yas!
An UpdateFor all those who are far past PO'ed at my lack of blogging, I'll apologize. Unfortunately you'll get no news from me at this time - though I have plenty of bloggy-type things floating around in my head. Riccardo is gone back to Germany. I'm depressed, but moreover, I'm friggin sick, yo. REALLY sick. I've got bronchitis, among other lovelies. Good times. So basically, my apartment is a DISASTER and other than for work, I haven't left my couch in 4 days. My fingers get crampy after about 6 minutes of typing, and I have no patience for my screwy computer. I can't call in sick for work because I was already sick 3 days this month - same illness. So there.
Apologies, also, to those who've taken the time to email but haven't received replies. I'm working on about a one-mail-per-day policy right now, because reading makes me sleepy.
P.S. Riccardo & Mom: don't worry, I'm taking lots of echinacea, and vitamin C and living off of tea. I'll kick this bitch, I swear it.