Moving to Japan #1-5, Part I

I totally forgot to add pictures into the last post meant to make the last post into a ‘teaser’ that would later devolve into a mini post series on my first impressions about Japan (from this time around and from when I studied abroad 2-3 years ago),.. ahahaha >.> Yeah, I totally forgot to add the pictures. But here we go!

This mini-series is called ‘The Thing About Moving to Japan’ and will include more explanation than the previous post about my first impressions on moving to the Land of the Rising Sun.

1. We all take language for granted. Then you have that moment when you need to do something simple, like, say: wash the laundry, cook rice, or you know set up a fish tank and this is what you get…

Seriously, taking foreign language lessons before you arrive to your host country will make your stay that much better, but if for whatever reason that isn’t possible due to time constraints/obligations the next best thing is to invest in a smart phone. Smart phones have applications such as dictionaries and kanji readers that will help out in moments like these. My first time here I had one of those granny flip phones (no offense meant!) and I struggled through the experience for the first six months. True, I learned things I will never forget and learning the hard way sometimes makes for the best experience but looking back on it, if given the chance to do things differently, I would probably opt for the smart phone choice.

Very helpful applications that can get you out of a bind and which I’ve personally used:

Imiwa? (iOS devices)

Midori (iOS devices)

JED Dictionary (Android)

Denshi Jisho (this website will save your life and homework)

2. Home ec might have taught you how to fry eggs and boil water but let me tell you: there is nothing more frightening than cooking rice in a Japanese rice cooker for the first time with all the buttons and setting in Japanese. This is where Midori-chan mentioned above came in and saved the day but that wasn’t until long after… as I’m fumbling around trying to find an option for brown rice and accidentally setting it to stew for the next six hours. The end result: porridgy… rice?! Yeah, don’t try to go all “I can do this!” mode if in reality back home you’d still need some auxiliary help.

Gaijin derps aside, I love Japanese utensils (however sci-fi-ish they may be). My only problem is cooking for one. It’s something I am still trying to accustom myself to and forgetting quite often. I’m constantly mentally checking in to ensure I use only 1/4 of the ingredients necessary. Though I haven’t posted the recipe yet, I made tempura about three nights ago. I still have enough for the week, on top of which Mina and her cousin left for a trip to Hokkaidou and left me with extra food from her fridge. What amazing sempai *sniffle*!  I’ve been getting creative with how to pair up tempura with mac and cheese, mashed potato, salsa, and whatever else happens to be in my fridge ^-^

3. Yep. Moby-chan. My fish. There’s something definitely Japanese about him, completely unlike any American goldfish I’ve ever owned… very… fishy… >.>”

mobychan

He tried eating the FAKE seaweed… twice O.O Gave me such a scare I finally had to take it out!

Home stay is a wonderful way to integrate yourself into a culture and make lasting connections with people from your host country but if that family has pets it also shows you the ways in which how people from around the world treat their pets. My host family had Pooh-chan (yes, named after Winnie the Pooh), a scruffy little poodle mix that I would torture ceaseless with affection. He was quite literally a member of the family and strictly trained, I might add! Even his meals were regimented, although I find that Japanese life is in general much more scheduled than the American one. He had a free reign of the house except for certain areas and at night Pooh-chan was expected to sleep in a kennel. From their interactions with Pooh-chan, I learned dog-speak (so to speak) in Japanese (sit became ‘osuwari!’ and such) and I noticed that the family also didn’t play tricks on their pet (I hide Kenji’s ball all the time or pretend to throw it and then hid it behind my back ahaha) which made Pooh-chan irritable when I did it. Pooh-chan, so honest and adorable!!!

4. If you are not a vegetarian, are a culinary adventurer, and open to trying the following: raw fish/salmon eggs, raw or cooked horse meat/ intestines/heart, squid, eel, raw egg yolk/whites, wasabi, all manner of seafood sauces and dishes, fermented beans, mayo on just about everything, deep-fried vegetables, etc…. Then Japan is the place for you! I personally do not eat raw egg yolk (guck!) but raw salmon eggs and raw fish are absolutely no problem for me. I will eat anything at least once, no matter how vile looking or foul-smelling because otherwise how will I ever find out what tastes good and what doesn’t, right? I mean, you could chicken out and live off of Subway and McDonald’s but you will find yourself in a foreign country only so often: might as well make the most of it while you can!

That’s exactly how I found out that wasabi, raw egg, and nattou are the three most evil things invented in the history of forever. Seriously not a fan. But I had to sacrifice the taste buds at least the once to know for sure what not to ask for at restaurants. Horse meat is surprisingly almost beef like and I would eat it again. You read that. I WOULD EAT HORSE AGAIN. Be a little bit more spontaneous with your foods, you might be pleasantly surprised!

5. Spice rack. It be intense! I don’t think I’ve ever once been able to afford saffron in my life (and probably never will) so I don’t quite know what to do with the little that has been bequeathed onto me… and I need to Google search half of what my predecessors and sempai have been giving me for free (also looking up recipes that require these specific types of spices) but I love culinary adventures almost as much as the travelling kind.

intense

“The spice must flow!!!” Although laughing matter aside, Japanese people do not like spicy food in general so this was a pleasant surprise to find!

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