Sunday, November 29, 2009

The morning after

After a heavy, somewhat American style Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night, we decided to follow through on an earlier plan and try a "traditional" Japanese breakfast at one of our favorite fast food restaurants, Sukiya.

This restaurant was one of the first we tried when we arrived. They are a chain that specializes in gyudon, a bowl of rice with meat served on top. There are many different varieties and flavors. We had seen their breakfast menu and always meant to try it. What perfect timing!

After a few cups of coffee, we shuffled down the street toward the train station. Sukiya is only about two blocks away and open 24 hours a day.

After we sat down, the waiter brought us our glasses of mugi cha (barley tea) and headed back to the kitchen. After we discussed the menu options, we pushed the buzzer, and the waiter came scurrying back. We ordered a basic set for 400 yen (about $4).

A few minutes later, he brought out our trays, and we got to work!

First was the miso soup: lovely, warm, salty broth with seaweed floating in it. Then a piece of
grilled fish (salmon) with a bowl of white rice - all spiced up with a small bowl of pickled vegetables and some pickled ginger from the condiment rack. And don't forget the package of salty, savory dried seaweed strips!

Oh, heavenly! We shall return...

Sweet Potato Harvest

The farmers that Joan helps, Takashi-san and Shee-chan, and their family have been farming in the area for many, many years. Most of the land of Musashisakai used to belong to the family, and many branches of the family are still hear and own many things. Some Takashis own and operate the local sento (bath house) we go to. In fact, our landlord is a Takashi.

One of the long time traditions started by Shee-chan's father is having a group of local school kids and their parents come and harvest sweet potatoes. We helped prepare the field the week before
and went back to watch the event.

I took a bunch of video clips and stitched them together into this youtube video. Enjoy!

First Thanksgiving in Japan

As we have one of the family apartments in our building and the most clear space, we offered to host a Thanksgiving dinner at our apartment last Friday. We invited the other teachers at CELE (Center for English Language Education), the Japanese staff at KKC (the International Student Affairs office that we work closely with), and handful of non-school friends, both foreign and local.

On Friday, we spent the afternoon cleaning and cooking, getting ready for about 20 guests. It was going to be a pot luck - a vegetarian affair as no one had an oven large enough to cook a turkey. Plus, the cost of a turkey was quite prohibitive. Japan does not celebrate Thanksgiving; they do celebrate many of the same holidays as us but in slightly different ways. Kentucky Fried Chicken is HUGE at Christmas time here...

People started showing up around 7 PM and straggled in as the night went on. The table began to fill with food: salads, jambalaya, green beans and persimmons, squash, Spanish omelet, rolls,
brown rice, couscous salad, brownies, and of course, pumpkin pie.

Food was eaten, and the wine, beer, sake, and hot mulled wine began to flow. It got quite warm and loud in the apartment, and fun was had by all. We had arranged some spillover seating in our bedroom on the tatami mats. It provided a quieter spot for conversation and hanging out.

Someone brought an electronic word game, similar to Taboo but passed from hand to hand. The main living room began a big circular game of boys versus girls, with great shrieking and

After five hours and towards the end of the evening, I was standing on the front porch, saying goodbye to some of our guests, when I noticed our downstairs neighbor come home. I glanced at the time and realized it was midnight! Quiet hours start at 10 pm...

I quickly went inside and called a time out on the current round of the word game and suggested that we needed to keep it down as it was so late. Inadvertently, this created a tipping point, and the party promptly came to an end as people realized how late it was and how loud we had been.

With many thanks and about 20 minutes of farewells, everyone drifted or staggered off home. We soon collapsed onto our futons and promptly fell asleep.

We have celebrated many other holidays abroad, and usually they are not very memorable: perhaps a special dish or a gathering with another Peace Corps Volunteer on a school night. This Thanksgiving was very nice. We still missed all our family and friends back home, but this evening of delicious food, many friends, and a great deal of laughter made it much easier.

To see a short video of the set up, click on the link below: