Hello all! Sorry there has not been much blog posting, but quite honestly, there has not been that much exicting going on... I've been having meeting after meeting to get ready for school: planning syllibi, learning how to assess students, taking tours of the campus, etc.. Also, the weather has been quite chilly and rainy, so it's not been very inspiring to get out and about. Joan has been doing some exploring, but I will let her write about that in her own time.
Our couchsurfer, Rico, is quite nice. She had to come back to Tokyo from America due to a family emergency, and since she had rented out her place, she had no place to stay. She found us on couchsurfing.com and asked if she could stay with us for a couple of days while she got herself reorganized. She arrived yesterday evening, spent the night, and then was in town all day today running errands and such. She came back this evening, and we went for a walk around the neighborhood. She translated and explained all the different restaurants and shops just around the corner. Who knew that we had so many little eating establishments to try? There are a couple of mom and pop Japanese restaurants, ramen (noodle) shops, yaktori (BBQ chicken) places, and izakayas (small drinking bar - and I mean small! Maybe five stools total?)
We went to a ramen shop that we have been eyeballing for quite some time. It is very small with only about 10 stools at a counter. The cooks are behind the counter and slightly higher, so they look down at you from clouds of steam rising from massive pots of water and broth.
There is a small vending machine where one inserts money and then chooses the kind of ramen one wants. The other teachers have said good things about the place but have also expressed some frustration because they did not know what all the buttons mean. Well, Rico translated for us, and chose we did. She and I got the spicy pork ramen, and Joan got the plain pork ramen. The printed paper tickets fell in the hopper, and we took them to our seats. One of the cooks asked for our tickets, and a few minutes later, gave us big bowls of steaming soup.
I know ramen noodles have a poor reputation in America. These ramen noodles were not those ramen noodles. Quite honestly, they were so good that I shouldn't even try to describe them: rich, creamy, saltly broth with chewy thick noodles, fried pork, and spicy hot red bean paste on top. You must simply try them to believe them when you come for a visit!
Then we went to the grocery store, and again, Rico translated and explained what all the things were that we could not figure out. We had a long talk about miso (not just a soup!) and tofu (they don't do super firm here...). She also recommended some different things that we try, such as a spicy Chinese bean paste and a salty radish dressing. Oh, I think we are going to gain some weight here...