This World might be Ended Much Faster than We think

Last night, I saw a TV program on TV Asahi, which was quite shocking. It is a shame that I haven't seen " The Inconvenient Truth". I should rent or buy DVD soon.

The program title was ( allow me to translate directly ) "Earth Crisis 2008 - To people who live blandly. " It showed the reports from several points from the world,where faces real crisis.
At the foot of Mt. Everest, there are some small villages, but they are facing the danger that the villages might be hit by large scale flood due to the melted ice from glacier. From the ocean near the north pole, it showed the melting ice and compared the area ( which now has a big hole. ) to 10 years ago. ( It was fully covered with thick ice 10 years ago. ) The orangutan in the Borneo forest are loosing their homes. The Aral Sea in Kazkhstan & Uzbekistan is shrinking. Finally the beautiful Galapagos is now facing the loss of original ecosystem and animals are trying to hard to survive.... All these are caused by people's foolish choices, competitions, egoism. Yes, it has been talked for a while now, but seeing it in the real images gave me strong impact. I hope they do air the program many more times and produce the series. It is educational. I would like to make money and live good life, but I 'd like to keep simple life and try not to waste food and appreciate what we have now. Japan is depending on foreign countries for its food supply. One of the reason is that we became extravagant and too picky. It is shocking that convenience store's food is damped everyday although the food mileage they have spent to come here is huge. We need to think about these and start from what we can do. Yes, if I think of something good, I will forward it to those corporation and present the plan. ( I need to run my business, so cannot do much volunteer work. Still, if there is something small, I feel I should work on that after seeing that. )

Oroshi Mochi --- Rice Cakes with Grated Japanese Radish

This morning, my stomach felt heavy. I needed to have digestion aid. Japanese radish. I grated radish using the tool shown below left ( Grater ). Add some ponzu ( soy sauce and yuzu lemon ).
Dress grilled rice cakes with seasoned grated radish.
Radish will help the digestion.

Ichiro's Secret --- Japanese Baseball Player's Lunch

During new year holidays, there was NHK program featuring Seattle Mariners' Japanese super star " Ichiro ".
I was interested in him since he seems to make amazing records so easily. It turned out that his lifestyle is quite stoic and tries to stay in same patterns for almost everything. Even this super star struggles with the pressure. The program showed how he trains himself ( Scientific approach to strengthen his muscle. )
His lunch is curry and rice that his wife makes. Everyday. For the past 7 years ! Can you believe it ? I would love having curry a few times a week, but that is all. I cannot keep eating the same food every day. He says " It has to be simple curry. I cannot believe having cutlet on the top. " mmm. I don't think I can become a super star by just eating curry. Still , it was tempting after new year's feast. I cooked curry next day and had it for lunch . :)

Sukiyaki --- Pseudo Kyoto Style

I call it Pseudo Kyoto Style. I think I followed my grandfather's style ( When he was in college, he was in Kyoto and this way of cooking Sukuyaki is different from Tokyo style, ), but do not remember correctly. So, maybe not so authentic Kyoto style..... Forgive me. As to Tokyo style, I will show you next time. ( Tokyo style uses warishita --- dashi soup & soy sauce combination sauce ).
Anyways, this was the feast of January 3.
thin sliced beef 100g or up to your appetite.
Shiitake mushroom 2, 3 ( Cut as shown in the above . )
Shungiku ( Garland Chrysanthemum. It has bit bitter chrysanthemum like flavor. If you cannot find it, use some green veggie. )
Naganegi ( Leek or Scallion . ) 1 stalk cut into 5 cm.
Chinese Cabbage 2 leaves. Tear it into bite size.
Soy Sauce, Sake, Sugar 3 table spoons each.
Sesame Oil 1 table spoon.
1 or 2 fresh eggs.
( You can add tofu, shirataki= noodle like yum paste.... For me that whole volume would be too much, so this time I didn't add them. )
There is Sukiyaki Pan at the shops, but you don't have to buy those.
I always use frying pan.
1. Heat the pan. Put sesame oil into it.
2. First, put the beef and grill it.
3. When beef color was changed, add sugar, soy sauce and sake.
4. Make the space for other ingredients. Add scallion, Chinese cabbage, Shiitake and Shungiku.
5. Cover the lid and wait till they are cooked. Watch and move the ingredients to avoid burning.
( With sugar, sometimes it tends to get burned. )
6. When they are all cooked, dress the ingredients with the tasty sauce and eat ! When you eat,
dip them into the well stirred fresh raw egg. This goes well with steamed white rice.
This time, I had left over Toppogi ( Korean rice cake whose shape is like chalk. )
Enjoy !

New Year's Fukubukuro - Lucky Bag

During New Year's celebration, usually starting January 2, shops and department stores sell " Fukubukuro= Lucky Bag".
For example, if it is women's wear section at department stores,
you can find 2,000 yen, - 20,000 ( the package prices vary. Maybe it's higher. ) yen bags that has cap, socks, sweater etc...and they are sealed. You cannot check what is inside, so it is exciting to buy these. Supposed to be good buy since one bag has several
items. I bought this bag ( this inside was not secret ! ) at Kaldi , which sells imported foods.
Three coffee package were in one bag and price was probably less than half. I got Blue Mountain Blend, Wild Mocha and Kaldi Blend. Yesterday, when I went out, there were so many people in my town and shops were selling their Lucky Bags.


Kitsune Udon ( Noodle Soup with Fried Bean Curd)

Some offices are starting new year's business today, some are
starting next Monday. Well, I did some work during new year's holidays, but I am working today. Because I am bit busy and also because I am fed up with new year's feast, I wanted to have something light and easy. Here is instant udon noodle soup with sweet fried-bean curd. There is a packet inside, soup powder and chili pepper. Open the powder packet and put on the freeze-dried bean-curd. Pour boiled hot water into the cup. ( up to the line of the inside the cup) Cover with the lid ( when you peel the lid, open only half and close it again) and wait for 5 min. Sprinkle chili pepper and stir. Yum !

This udon is called Kitsune ( Fox ) Udon (thick white noodle made of wheat flour ) . It is said fox loves deep fried bean curd. ( some kind of folk tale, I think. Correct me if I am wrong ! There are many Inari Jinja=shrine in Japan and fox is considered as messenger of Inari Jinja. At Inari Jinja , you will often see twin foxes welcoming you at the entrance. It looks like they are guarding the god. ) Inari jinja is related to industrial business.
( It seems originally considered as god for agriculture. )


Ozoni --- Rice Cakes Boiled in a Meat & Veggie Soup

I checked several websites and it seems there are various kinds of recipe for Zoni ( Ozoni ).
In Kansai district ( Western Japan ) , the taste little sweeter, I always feel and I heard that they use white miso and round mochi ( rice cake).
I believe it depends on the prefecture or region, though. My family is sort of mixed. I mean my grandfather ( father's side ) is from Fukushima prefecture,but he went to university in Kyoto, so when he cooked ( for example, sukiyaki ), the way of his cooking was Kyoto style. Also, he spent many years in overseas, so little different.
The grandmother's family ( father's side ) is from Kanda area, so I guess they are original Edokko ( true-born Tokyoite). The funny thing is that my grandmother married to my grand father knowing nothing about cooking.... The very first day, she panicked since she didn't knowhow to cook rice !!! ( Well, I wonder what she was thinking before the wedding..... ) Anyways, this is the Ozoni I cooked this year ( this year, I didn't visit my parent's place, so arranged by my style.) It is probably partly inherited from my father's side and partly from my mother's side. I feel it is similar to the ones my mother cooks usually. The white ones are rice cakes. The top, yellow ones are slice of Yuzu. Green veggie and sliced dried laver seaweed, pink and white slices are kamaboko ( fish sausage ) . There are some small chicken chunks also. I forgot to add gobo ( burdock ) , which gives good flavor to the soup. I will keep eating Osechi and this Ozoni during Oshogatsu period , so will add some later.
The right side is kazunoko ( herring roe ) and wasabi-duke ( wasabi paste with chopped wasabi stem, radish. Wasabi-duke is normal snack ( ? ) to be eaten with rice or alcohol, but kazunoko is new year food. Since I didn't have it in Osechi box, I bought it separately. Very spicy ! Very good with Sake !
The recipe for Ozoni:
( Tokyo Style )
As mentioned, there are various ways of cooking and various ingredients. So, feel free to arrange it and create your own style. I've never cooked Kansai Style, someday I 'd like to try.
Green Veggies ( I used Komatsuna, but you could use spinach or anything ).
Shredded Aburaage (Fried bean curd. This gives good flavor. If you can find it, go without it )
Daikon Radish ( I love it. So, I can't make Ozoni without it, but it is up to you. Substitution is turnip)
Shredded Shiitake Mushroom ( I used fresh one. Or, if you can find dried ones at Asian shops or super market, take it. It will create good soup. Follow the direction written on the bag. Probably you need to soak it in lukewarm water before use. Don't damp the soup, since it is the soup. )
Sliced Fish Sausage ( I used Kamaboko. )
Chicken ( cut into bite size )
Rice Cakes
Konnyaku ( Konjac )
Dashi Soup Powder ( I can't spend too much time making the soup , so I use soup powder.
I seasoned in Japanese way, but you could also use Chinese chicken broth powder. It becomes like chicken soup in a way, so make it freely. Try several times and find your favorite ! )
Yuzu lemon or Yuzu Kosho ( Yuzu gives wonderful flavor. )
1. Make basic soup.
Boil several cups of water. Bring to boil, add soup powder ( I use about 1 small packet ).
If you have, add some sake , mirin ( both 1 to 2 table spoons ) to add flavor. Sprinkle of salt.
2. Add chicken, fish sausage, konnyaku, daikon ( radish or turnip ) , shiitake mushroom and aburaage ( fried bean curd ) .
Wait till it comes to boil again. Remove scum.
3. When all the ingredients of above 2. is cooked, add chopped green veggies and rice cakes.
( I would say 2, 3 rice cakes for one serving. ) Will be cooked within 3 min. or so.
The whole volume is up to you and how many people you are going to serve. It is like a soup, so be flexible ! When you pour the cooked ozoni, sprinkle a piece of Yuzu peel. Or Add a tea spoon of Yuzu Kosho (Yuzu Kosho is like Japanese Yuzu tabasco..... made of salt and yuzu. Spicy, but gives great flavor to soups and other dishes. )

The Ornament on The Entrance Door

This is the ornament on the door I picked this year. I usually put this on December 30 and keep it there till January 7. The first 3 days ( Jan. 1 - 3 ) is the core ( ? ) Oshogatsu ( new year celebration period) , Jan. 1 - 7 is also Oshogatsu ( called Matsunouchi) . I feel when I eat " Nanakusa gayu " ( = rice porridge with seven herbs ) in the morning of January 7, new year celebration is over.


Otoso & Osechi --- Japanese New Year Drink & Food

This is mini- osechi that I bought at super market near my place. This doesn't have the whole thing,but I cannot finish it all by myself, so this is enough. About 2,000 yen, equivalent to 17 US dollars.
Each food has the meaning of good luck. For instance, the far left is black beans and it tastes sweet. Mame ( beans ) also means diligence. So, it means " work diligently and make money.( My friend made some comments after reading this. Yes, mame also means live healthy in this feast. I would say the translation is --- Work diligently and stay healthy. ) " The shrimp indicates longevity since the shape is like old man whose back is bent.
30 to 40 years ago, mothers, grand mothers used to cook each food. I remember when I was small, January 2 was the day for big gathering of the family members. I have like 14 cousins or more ??? and aunts and uncles, grand mother, grand father grand mother's sister etc...... Women were in the kitchen cooking food. However, it is lots of work. Nowadays, people in the city don't cook everything. Just a part of it or buy the whole set from department stores or well-known restaurants. The origin of Osechi is said that " you are supposed to be quiet in new year's kitchen since the god is coming." Also, the shops used to be closed for 5 days or more. So, this food was sort of preservative food during new year holidays. Then, it also made women rest and relieve them from cooking during new year.
Otoso is sort of new year sake cocktail. There is a pack of herb you can find in the shop and soak it into Mirin & Sake. This is supposed to avoid evil spirit.

Kitazawa Hachimangu--- This Year's New Year Visit

I am not so religious. Still, it is nice to visit shrines or temples in new year. Refreshing ambiance is nice and it makes me think

" Let's make it happen (Various kinds of dreams) !"

Well, I visited Kitazawa Hachiman this year. ( I have visited big ones such as Meiji Shrine..... those ones are nice also,but too crowded and takes time. ) I went there around 9:30 a.m. so, there was very short line and I could come to the front very quickly. Some people visit shrines right after midnight. ( Very early January 1st. )

I bought this bell, a shape of mouse. ( This year's Zodiac Animal Symbol) Isn't this cute ?

Beautiful Kadomatsu in front of Buckwheat Noodle Restaurant

Usually, they are just greens. Bamboo and the pines. This one had some branches with red fruits.
I found these on the way to local shrine, in front of buckwheat noodle restaurant.
These set of pines with bamboo are called " Kadomatsu", placed during new year celebration.
It is said that God comes and stay in the branches or to welcome new year's god.

View of Mount Fuji from My Room ( New Year )

I can see clearly Mt. Fuji from my window. The air is fresh and crisp since there are few cars on the streets. Shops are closed today. The people on the streets are mainly to go visit shrines for Hatsumode ( New Year's Visit to wish this year's luck and health.)
For Hatsuyume ( First Dream of the Year ), 1. Mt. Fuji 2. Hawk 3. Egg Plant are supposed to be good ones to see. Well, before dreaming it, I saw it for real. What kind of good luck will be carried to me !??? I can't stop myself to expect a lot.


Toshikoshi Soba --- Buckwheat Noodle on New Year's Eve

I just finished eating this. Soba, chopped green onion and wasabi as condiments with cold sake.

( Yamada Nishiki from Kobe )

Now I finished ( finally ) all the cleaning of the room and am ready for new year. The TV program ( kohaku ) is still on. It feels good to have new year. Refreshing. Hope 2008 will be a good year for me and everybody in the world.

Year End TV Program

I am watching NHK , the public broadcaster in Japan. They are broadcasting year end program
"Kohaku Uta Gassen" ( = Red-women vs. White-men song competition ) . It is 58th this year.
Started at 7:20 p.m. and will last till just before midnight. Since I was child, watching this program has been a custom. After the program, we eat soba-noodle ( This is called Toshikoshi Soba = buckwheat noodle eaten on New Year's Eve) listening to Night Watch Bell. This bell rings 108 times , which is the number of human earthly desires. Wait a moment, I will post the photo of the noodle later or tomorrow morning. You will see our traditional new year food as well.

Wish you all Happy New Year and Full of Happiness !


When You Are Invited by Japanese Friends

Well, I would like to write about Japanese custom today. Be on time, if you are invited by Japanese or ask them if you should show up on time or be fashionably late. I have been educated in Japan ,but since I have foreign relatives and many foreign friends, sometimes my way of thinking is not very Japanese. While ago, a group of my friends asked me " how come you always show up later when we throw party ? ". For them, if they say " OK, let's start the party at my place at 1:00 p.m. ", you are supposed to show up at 1:00 p.m. It is not all of them and not all of the parties. For instance, if it is business party planned around 6:00 p.m., it is OK to be little late. However, if it is small parties and arranged by senior people, be careful. Just making one call to let them know that you will be late will save you. Otherwise, they might take your not showing at all or be late without any notice as rude attitude although you have no bad intention. Some people accept your attitude and never mind, but some people do mind it and next time you might not be invited. I don't want to sound too strict, but it is always nice to know the local manner to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding.
When I host a party at my place, I would appreciate it if people show up like 10 , 15 min. late, because sometimes I am not ready being busy with cooking etc. Also, I have been told by my American friends and others, " Be fashionably late " since it is a manner. The group who asked me why I was late were very Japanese people. So, I explained that and apologized if it caused any inconvenience. Since then, for this group's gathering, I try to show up on time. On the other hand, with the gathering of foreign friends, I try to be flexible because people are more easy going. It is sometimes difficult since I feel like I have to have multiple personalities. Yet, this is probably a typical cultural gap I should understand and be a bridge for Japanese and foreign people. Let me add one more thing. If you book restaurant in Japan and if you think you might be late, please just ring them and let them know that you are 10 min. late or 15 min. late since it helps the restaurants to be prepared and keep your reservation. I talked to a friend who owns barbecue restaurant near my place. She says all her customers call if they are late even 5 min. She appreciates it since she can plan the next reservation based on that. Some restaurants cancel your reservation if you don't show up and are late more than 20 min., so please be aware of that.

Broiled Saury with Salt

Dinner at Tonsui ( Reasonable set menu restaurant in Shimokitazawa ).
Samma ( Saury ) is broiled with sprinkled salt.
Steamed white rice, pickled cabbage and miso soup ( cabbage and tofu).
Simple, healthy, light menu and also reasonable.
The chef of this restaurant is probably early 60's ? He and his wife are always friendly and nice. 680 yen for this set menu is also quite reasonable. I 've been busy with cleaning my place toward new year. This kind of place is precious for this busy time.
2-39-13 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
They have take out menu also. There are plastic replicas in front of the restaurant.
You can order it through the window. It takes about 10 to 15 min.
While waiting, you can stroll around the shops on the same street.