Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Homemade Umeshu

It's time to make some plum wine (梅酒). Here's what we need:

The plastic bag on the left contains rock sugar. The carton is filled with liqueur.

We live pretty close to Wakayama, which is famous for its fruits -- especially plums, which are used to make plum wine or are pickled into umeboshi. When Yuki spotted bags of plums from Wakayama at the local supermarket, we decided to make umeshu again. The last time we did this was 2001 (maybe 2002?) in Niigata. The results kicked major ass.

The directions we got with the big glass jar told us to put the plums and sugar in the jar in layers:

I don't remember if we did the same thing in Niigata. The directions also said that we can drink it after about a month. But from experience I know the longer you wait, the better it tastes. We kept the jar in Niigata for about two years before we drank all of it. Super tasty!

So, see ya guys next year...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stuffing Ourselves at the Conveyor Belt

Last night at dinner, I said to Yuki that I think I've never been to a real sushi restaurant in Japan with her. In Niigata, whenever we wanted to have sushi, we'd go to one of the kaiten-sushi places. They kinda look like this:


We were having this conversation at Kappa Sushi, which is the nearest kaiten-sushi for us in Ibaraki. Kappa Sushi is a chain that charges 100 yen for a plate with two pieces of sushi. That's 100 yen (= $1.10) for just about any kind of fish: salmon, tuna, mackerel, yellowtail...

One of the first plates Yuki had was amberjack (カンパチ). She liked it so much, she proceeded to have four more plates of カンパチ, spread out through the entire meal. That's ten pieces of the same fish for those counting at home. We ended up having 14 plates of sushi, plus miso soup, plus chawanmushi and some watermelon for dessert. The total was 2200 yen.

I don't think we ever went to Kappa Sushi in Niigata but we did once in Tokyo and it wasn't good at all. Yuki remembers that the mackerel she had there hadn't been thawed completely. But the one in Ibaraki is fine and dandy. My favorite feature is how they deliver your orders. There are actually two conveyor belts. The lower one is in constant motion and you can take what you want. The upper belt is actually a track for the bullet train sushi delivery system. Fun for the whole family.

See ya next time, Kappa!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Travis Bickle Sells Out

From this...

to this...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Out of Luck

If you were a whale, where is the last place you'd want to get stranded in?

That's right. I'd avoid the land of whale sashimi and whale bacon too. I'd make sure to keep my distance from a land where whales get caught for "scientific research" because there is just no way to count them without harpooning them first; where people with science degrees claim that the supply of fish in the oceans would increase if we'd keep the population of whales under control.

Well, this poor thing got stuck in shallow water in the wrong place -- the wrong place being the port of Tanabe-shi in Wakayama Prefecture.


According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the tireless rescue team spent all of one hour on trying to help the presumably sick cetacean.

I wonder how long they spent tenderizing the sucker with special juice:


Just joshing...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's Wrong with This Picture?

For me, this is the most tangible evidence that things are not normal these days. The high school yard is deserted on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. What I miss more is the noise the kids make. It's my constant background noise. And now it's gone. Have you ever watched a movie with the sound turned completely off? It feels off. That's what Ibaraki-shi feels like now -- off.

Here's Yuki and I getting ready to go grocery shopping yesterday:

I look like a medical professional, don't I? Outside, mask-wearers outnumber gamblers over 3-to-1.

You know who needs a mask? The cat. She doesn't seem to be sweating it too much, though:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

H1N1 comes to Kansai

I've probably already mentioned that I live behind a high school. My front door faces the school's yard. This means during the day, seven days a week, I hear the softball team and the soccer team and the handball team practicing and chanting.

Today, it rained. So the yard was empty. But it turns out that the weather did not keep the kids away. The flu did.

Schools in Osaka have closed because H1N1 has spread here. Yuki just found out from a classmate that her school has shut down for a week. She just received a second Golden Week.

Now that I think back, it was strange that the high school was completely empty. Even if the teams were idle, there should have been students there for band practice, or judo practice or dozens of other club activities. A Japanese school is always alive with activity.

A related aside:
Earlier last week, Yuki told me that in one of her classes, she sat next to a Mexican student. The student was coughing on and off. And the student told her that he had gone back home during Golden Week. But he felt okay.


If you never hear from me again, I love you all.