Homemade Japanese styled Pizza

Celebrating my imminent departure from Japan with some homemade Japanese styled pizza! Yay! Because nowhere in America is corn going to be a topping option…

  
::Ingredients::

1 pre-made pizza bread

Mixed cheese, shredded

1 small green bell pepper

Corn

Fresh mozzarella

Favorite spaghetti sauce of choice, mine is a tomato and basil mix that can be found in most Kaldi Farms Stores across Japan

Optional: favorite meat, drizzle of Sriracha, etc.

::DIRECTIONS::

1. Preheat your oven to 210C and preheat for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile spread a layer of tomato sauce and olive oil across the pizza bread. Top with mixed cheese.

3. If your veg is not pre-sliced now is the time to do it. Scatter the green bell pepper, followed by chunks of fresh mozzarella, and finally the corn.

4. At the same temperature set your pizza to bake for the next ten minutes. 

5. Enjoy!

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Wagashi with Hashiba Jiro

IMG_1975-0 和菓子 (wagashi) is the Japanese style of confectionary. The main ingredients used in the creation of wagashi are soy, red azuki beans, white azuki beans, sugar, sakura, and natural gelatin. For the most part, wagashi is flour free (unless you make dorayaki, pancakes with red bean filling). Wagashi are often made according to season and served with hot green tea to counterbalance their bright, sweet overtones of azuki and sugar. The best part, in my opinion, is that wagashi can be either molded by hand or placed into special pine molds which makes the activity feel more like play and less like work 😀

Hashiba Jirou, confectioner of Japanese sweets at Marumiya, spent two hours showing Japanese and foreign residents how to make a variety of bean paste based wagashi (luckily for me, no rice). The seminar reminded me of an edible version of ceramics – for anyone who knows the pain of keeping clay at just the right level of moisture (too dry and it cracks, too wet and it loses sculpting functionality) the bean paste acted in much the same manner. Our plates were plasticwrapped to prevent our colorful bean pastes from over drying and a bowl for finger/hand dipping provided all the extra moisture we would need as the molding commenced. Bean paste is decidedly softer, making it easier to retain moisture better than clay, but these traits also come with a less positive flip side: it’s easier to over moisturizer and thereby reduce it to runny, sticky mess if not careful. Also, the colors bleed into each other with more difficulty but can spread over each other more easily. Or in other words: blending for artistry = difficult, but like Playdough once the colors stick to each other they’re hard to separate, this is largely due to the moisture. Or so I suspect.

We made a koi, a pine molded fan, cherries, a rose that stumped us all on the same scale as rocket science, and kabuto (samurai hat). My favorite was, hands down, the koi because KOI. It had an adorably puckered fishy mouth, a chocolate centerpiece eye, and sweet red bean paste filling.  Being taught by a master in the field was a unique experience and absolutely better than my usual method of ‘buy the ingredients, say a little prayer, and hope for the best’. And like all new things, it opened a temporary window into a world of possibility. I would like to make my own version of wagashi in my own kitchen someday 😀 but it may not take place of my cookie making. There is something about working with flour that I love, in the way that the dough feels and the uncertainty of anything turning out right until the very end.

ALSO! I got to keep a magic fan that Hashiba-sensei hand made!!! Open out the fan on one side and it looks like any other ordinary fan. Now reverse the opening movement and the individual components of the fan lock out of place to make it look like the cloth covering it’s frame have come apart completely! Pictures to come later…

Ikebana Like It’s 1536

Before my ikebana instructor corrected my form…     

According to my ikebana instructor, the flowers speak. Can I put that on my resume once I master this skill? 😉 Ikebana is a series of studied forms. There is nothing spontaneous about this art form. Geometric, methodical, one might even say strategic. Scholars suspect that the practice of flower arrangement for artistic and meditation goes back further than its first recorded history in the 15th century.

After ikebana master corrected my display. Mind blown.  

I keep crowding my flowers. Or as she put it: “They flowers are like a family. If they can’t breathe, they can’t talk to each other.”

 

Alone in Two Billion One Hundred Light Years of Solitude

With the school principals seated by order of appointment in a discreet corner and their hospitality coffee served, my supervisor was free to return the tray and coffee things to the caddy stationed just behind my desk. Instead, he paused to glance down at my work… because no one really knows what I do in that office anyway. And I’m just the newest foreigner in a long succession of previous foreigners who have been teaching English since before my parents even dreamed of my possible existence. No one really knows what we do in that office, I suspect.

“Gaburieru Garushia Marukezu.”

Suddenly, without warning, he lifts my iPhone from its cover and pries open the battered book with the slightest traces of urgency. You can tell when someone loves to read. It shows and not just in the way they handle books. Anyway, as far as copies goes,  this one has seen better days, which means it has been loved properly. Again, I’m just the latest in a long line of assistant language teachers to inherit it over the past decade; also, I’m excited to see what his eyes might discover that I may have missed. On the title page, a boldly magnificent proclamation is brought back to life, its semi-neatly scrawled hand on the bottom right hand corner:

Bought by Kevin in Kinokuniya on 10/12/’o5 w/ Julia and Jason (on JET)

He points to the title.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” I read from the cover as he passes it back, gingerly, into my care. Subconsciously aware that used books breathe a different kind of magic, we’re very careful not to awaken it just yet. In a quiet whisper, I try with my limited, unpoetical, and clumsy translation skills to render the full weight of the title in a language that is not my own.”「百年の寂しさ」かなあ?” And then because I’m curious, too, ” どんな本が好きですか?”

Like most people, I realize immediately after speaking that there was actually a better word for ‘solitude’ but recognition comes a heartbeat too late to fix. Meanwhile…

…”I like poems,” he replies, finally replacing the coffee things where they belong.

“Like Matsuo Basho?”

Not Matsuo Basho. Tanikawa Shuntarou. I don’t think you’ll be able to find him, though,” he adds doubtfully but eternal optimists that we are, we both instinctively lean towards the computer screen anyway. It’s worth a shot, right?

The Google Machine sputters back nonsense juxtaposed next to potentially click-worthy links next to more nonsense. He’s silently not too happy with the results. “It’s okay. Let me look it up for you!”

The mastery of kanji is still outside my grasp but his native skills render a quicker and more successful search. I manage to scrawl the name onto my palm, a confused mixture of Chinese characters and Hiragana, before quickly making myself scarce as they’re busier today than most other days. In this way I busy myself in an office where no one – not even I – knows what I do exactly. Tanikawa Shuntaro’s Alone in Two Billion Light Years is metaphorically chewed on as my food for thought of the day. I can’t decide just yet if I like him or not; I can’t decide why I can’t decide, and that in itself is a beautiful feeling.

A simple enough conversation, an exchanging of pleasantries, yet I’ve been given a gift, the best gift: inspirational words to read.

 

A Portrait of a JET in Its Natural Habitat

According to my precocious 1st graders, I look like…

IMG_1271

IMG_1276

IMG_1273

The days are going much too fast. It’s as if, there’s nothing but waking and eating breakfast then planning for lessons, teaching the lesson and suddenly it’s lunchtime followed by cleaning and more lessons and kendo. Sometimes there’s kendo in the morning, too, and those are the busiest days.

Thankfully it’s going to be a slow weekend this time. I’ll probably finally get Skype time with my parents. The first in nearly two weeks. In fact I’m going to schedule that now… Not now… In a couple hours when it’s not 4am in California. Anyway. I digress…

~*Hatsuyuki*~

初雪:はつゆき:hatsuyuki: the first snowfall of winter

目覚まして、

何処も雪だね。

美しい。

I opened my eyes,

And everywhere, there is snow:

Beautiful and white.

 -Page One Adventures

snow

Aomori City for a Skills and Development conference last week and the first snowfall of winter with friends over that same weekend \O/ It’s beginning to feel like a real winter wonderland… though perhaps I shouldn’t be celebrating too early, seeing as I still have to cold proof the house. Suddenly the small Yamazen electric heater and electric blanket aren’t enough. I’ve been practically living out of one room to conserve energy as well as to keep the heat consistently concentrated to at least one area of the house. Note to self: buy a tank of kerosene ASAP.

Enjoy the haiku/translation fail 😉 Somethings will never translate perfectly but I captured it as close as possible. For the syllabic sticklers and joy suckers of the world: I do pronounce everywhere as ‘ev-rywhere’ instead of ‘e-ver-y-where. Might be a SoCal thing.