Japanese Culture Enthusiasts

So you might have noticed that I've been quiet lately when it comes to the blog.

I'm not exactly sure what I've been doing. But instead of moping around and typing out my miniscule problems, I'll share a video I came across today from SNL.

I've been living in Japan for almost three years now, and this skit is pretty funny. I've met several people in America like this before coming to Japan, and seen several here in Tokyo while out during the weekends. Several students at the school I used to teach at wanted a Japanese foreign language class, just so they could understand Sailor Moon and Naruto.

And it also brings to mind the opposite - Japanese kids who are "American Culture Enthusiasts" - namely the "hip hop fashion" style that continues to be popular here. Just a couple hours ago, a teenager was standing around the station with baggy pants and an oversize jacket with logos and designs similar to what you'd see either on rap stars or on gang members.

In LA or New York (or many other places) he and others might actually get hurt being dressed that way, as many teens carry or wear colored bandannas that in the States identify which gang you belong to. I've seen girls with one pants leg rolled up - another sign of being in a gang.

And there are tons of stores in Tokyo where you can buy these clothes, from the malls to Harajuku and Shibuya to Ameyoko-cho near Ueno. (I know that hip hop fashion isn't always gang fashion and vice-versa, but for boys especially it tends to run together, and like JCE's in the US, Japanese kids don't always know the difference.)

I wouldn't call myself a Japanese Culture Enthusiast by any means. I enjoy real actual life in Japan, which isn't all that different from American life in many ways. But I do like to use a bit of Japanese from time to time (though I really don't know much), I find myself following Japanese customs (bowing, sort of, for example), and I've collected a large amount of Japanese cultural souvenirs. I prefer chopsticks in many cases and I've been moving toward more and more Japanese meals. But I've never thought of myself as Japanese.

I pose a question to my readers: is being a culture enthusiast, and trying to adopt another culture's styles and mannerisms, racist? Are the characters in the video ignorant?

Snacking with Spice: A Couple Halloween Leftovers

My last real post tossed more than a stomach's full of snacks and treats that you could give to Halloween trick-or-treaters. There were a few left over snacks and while at work last week I had a couple bags.
The first snack loosely translates as Pepper Seeds. They're chip-like snacks shaped like large seeds. As you might have guessed by the red bag and picture of a sport pepper on the front, they are spicy. The bag isn't that large, but the pieces are packed in pretty well so it took me a few snackings to finish it all off!

How about some habanero peppers? This evil-looking black bag houses tiny rings of fire. The actual snack isn't too spicy, but it does have a kick. The real power comes in that little red envelope attached to the bag.

Inside that envelope is spicy powder - very fine powder, which you can see on the picture of the snacks themselves. And while that powder isn't too spicy in my mouth or stomach, it's fine enough that it finds its way into your sinuses, and that's where the kick comes from. It's almost like sticking that powerfully spicy Chinese mustard directly into your nose. It's a good snack, but I wish that powder wasn't so powdery!

I'm Back! Soon...

I had planned to post a bit while I was on vacation. Originally, I was going to queue up a bunch of posts to go live over the last couple weeks. But I was just way too busy preparing for the trip. And I was hoping to post while I was touring around Asia, but there was no time.

So I'm back! I will give you details on the trip sometime this week, once I get settled back in. There are clothes everywhere and piles of stuff as I unpacked - and from grocery shopping tonight.

Meanwhile, here's a nice Chinese Chicken video for you. I went to Hong Kong and Singapore. My favorite dish from the trip was chicken rice from Singapore.
Yes. That's a real thing. An actual Chinese music video. You can't unsee that kind of thing.

31 Days of Halloween: Halloween Puke-tacular!

I did pretty well at work today running through several packages of candy. Sure, we didn't finish them - many of the Japanese staff members didn't even touch the stuff I shared! But I have a whole bunch to share with you below. And there's more. There's still so much more...
The above snack is very popular with the kids at my school. It used to be that every Friday evening between classes all the kids would have a different version of this snack and they'd share them all. I've seen at least a dozen types - mini potato chips like you see above, in all sorts of different flavors, cookies, crackers, you name it. And they're pretty cheap given the number of pieces inside. Then again, they're pretty small, a bit bigger than a quarter.

The above flavor is "Potewasa" (wasabi flavored potato chips). The wasabi is noticeable but not overwhelming. My coworker and I ate the entire package by the end of the day. Well, almost the entire package. I really would like to try a full spread of flavors sometime!
Dried ramen is back. This is mini chicken ramen, and like the other ramen package I had before, it looks and tastes just like you'd expect ramen noodles to taste. Except they're crunchy and dry. A great little snack, though like a bag full of broken potato chips or pretzels, they can get messy.
I've been waiting a long time to try these. Dorachoco is their name, as you can see if you look closely at the yellow edges of the package, or if you can read kana.
They're two small pancake sandwiches with chocolate "cream" inside. The texture and such was great, but the chocolate seemed a bit off. Then again, they did expire a week ago. Maybe they're better fresh.
Here is more chewing candy, this time in soda flavor. I can't remember the candy these are similar to in the US, given their size. I suppose you could say they're like giant Skittles, and I love Skittles.
The mini packages come with five pieces of only one flavor. Each candy is about the size of a couple Starburst candies. As promised, they are chewy, again like Skittles. The "soda" flavor you see here tastes more like the generic bubble gum that I've sampled lately than a cola or other common soda. They're good, but I'd like to find larger bags of these with multiple flavors (and at a better price).
Here is a candy jewel. That's what the kanji on the front translates to. It's as big as a larger gumball you'd find in the States, individually wrapped.
This one is cola flavored, and despite the strange coating on the outside it isn't sour or super-sweet. It's just like a jawbreaker, with a tart cola flavor (more like Coca-Cola than Pepsi). This was pretty good and lasted quite a long time!
Moving back to the snacks from the sweets, here is Tamanegi-san, or Mr. Onion. These little puff balls are just like cheese puff snacks in the US, but with an onion flavor. It's certainly noticeable, and they're pretty tasty, though I'd suggest not eating these before going on a date.
Remember those squid things I couldn't stand a few days ago? Well, as I mentioned, there is a variety of different flavors and styles. This is the "ethnic flavor" dried cod. Or at least that's what I was told at work - it is fish, though I'm not sure what fish it is.
Unlike the other Yotchan product I tried, this one is not overwhelming when it comes to flavor. It's like a fish jerky, and it's not that bad-tasting. On the other hand, I'm not so sure the processed fish parts used to make it is healthy. I had a few of these chewy pieces today, and since nobody else seemed interested in trying them I'll end up having a few more tomorrow.

Despite eating so many kinds of junk food today, I didn't eat much of any particular item, just sampling a few of them. So I didn't OD on Halloween treats. And there are more snacks to come.
Until next time...

31 Days of Halloween: Good News, Everyone!

So, remember that big problem I was talking about before? It finally cleared up, three weeks later, Wednesday evening. Needless to say, I'm in a much better place now!
I'm still busy preparing for next week, and I'm about to Skype my mom (hopefully my computer will cooperate this time). So time is short. But I have some sweet candies to go with the sweet news on All Hallows Eve Eve.
These are Konpeito/konpeitou. It's named after the Portuguese candy confeito, a type of sugar candy. According to Wikipedia, which is always super-trustworthy, it used to be a very rare and expensive candy in Japan, because of the difficulty in obtaining refined sugar. Apparently it takes over a week to make them, due to the slow process of coating them.
This little package is quite tasty, though. I've had them before, so I knew I was in for a treat. It's similar to American rock candy or other semi-hard/crunchy sugar candies. If I was handing out trick-or-treat candy, I'd probably choose these to go with some chocolate!
Speaking of chocolate, this style of candy should look familiar, as I had a similar package of chocolate balls earlier this month. Each candy is supposed to represent some form of good luck. Where the previous package had chocolate balls, this has ramune-flavored candies. Ramune is essentially another sugar product, with the original flavor being lemon-lime. These little balls didn't have any specific notable flavors, but they were pretty good too! There are other ramune candies out there, but I haven't picked any up yet.

So, tomorrow is Halloween! Hopefully I can get together a good post to finish off the treats, and the other tricks I picked up to try!

31 Days of Halloween: Taffy that isn't Laffy

I've been on the hunt for American flavor lately. I just picked up a bag of Butterfinger candies and a box of Mac and Cheese, I enjoyed plenty of pretzels at the Halloween party, I had pizza for dinner last night, and I have some chips and salsa now (thank you - you know who you are!).

Sitting in my candy basket, unbeknownst to me, were a couple pieces of candy much like American taffy.
On top, in the black bag, is Colorful Gaburi Chew. The bottom bag is just normal Gaburi Chew. I don't know what Gaburi means, other than Gabriel, which might be the character you see on the package.
The brown log came from the white bag, and is cola flavored. It's very taffy-like, though unlike good taffy in America it isn't very stretchy or gooey - it's a bit more firm. This makes it much easier to eat, though. The flavor is spot on cola, though, there's no denying that!
The black package has a mystery flavor. And it still is a mystery. Seriously, I have no idea what it was. It was kind of Sprite-like - lemon-lime-ish. But it was pretty good.

These were good treats! I might have to buy some more of these soon.

31 Days of Halloween: Strike One - Squid Snacks

We had our Halloween party at work Saturday night. All next week, I'll be changing into my costume during kids classes, and back into my shirt and tie for the adult classes. I'm going to be like a female pop star, going through so many wardrobe changes so fast!

Unlike female pop stars, I can enjoy snacks without having to worry about remaining super-skinny. And I'm not using makeup or wearing skirts.

Today's two tiny treats aren't sweets. but they're still just the right size for Halloween packages. Actually, at the party yesterday we had tiny packages of pretzels for giving out on Halloween. And I suppose these might be the traditional Japanese equivalents.
Mochi. That's the only word I can make out on the front of this package. The picture at the bottom shows part of the process of mochi making, and I'm going to assume that whatever these are called, they are made from mochi. However, my experience with mochi has been as a sweet, sticky, soft snack, usually filled with something like red bean paste or actual strawberries!
These look similar to rice cracker snacks I've talked about in the past. They're pretty small, and lightly covered with some grainy crystal similar to salt or sugar. They have a hint of sweetness, so the flavor on the outside could be sugar. It's highly possible that it's made from fried mochi. The taste is very mild, and is just a crunchy snack.
The second snack is quite exotic. This is White Cut Yocchan. It's made with seafood (mostly squid) and fish jelly. There are other styles, all containing dry seafood products, most with added fish jelly.
The pieces inside are small, thin squares. The squid gives it a crunch or chewiness that isn't so bad, but they're soaked in vinegar that gives it an aroma and a taste that you won't forget. If you like vinegar with your fish, give this a try. But I don't, and for that reason I couldn't eat more than one.

Oddly enough, this is the first snack I've had this month that I didn't like. But then again, I've been avoiding some of the scarier snacks until now. I guess that's the horror of Halloween... and Halloween trick or treat bags!