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Fried Fish & Spicy Chicken: Japanese School Lunch

Lunch at our school here in Tokyo is usually a bowl of rice, an entree, a small clear soup, side salad, and maybe a small pudding or jello for dessert. So, getting a donburi (a big rice bowl with toppings) was an unusual treat!

The fried fish was delicious, and although our school lunches are usually mild, the spicy chicken was surprisingly flavorful!

Just a quick post for now. I wonder what’s on the menu for today 🙂

Mochi Waffles at School in Tokyo

The principal brought his waffle maker in to school, so when I got to school in the morning, there it was right next to my desk. The principal does this from time to time. For example, on the first day back to work after New Year’s holiday, he brought in ingredients and made a huge batch of udon to share with all of the teachers!

Since my desk is closest to the kitchen area of the office space, all this happens at the empty table beside my desk. So, I get a front row view of these little cooking parties.

Now then, beside the waffle maker, there was also a bag of mochi, a bottle of soy sauce, a pack of nori, and sugar. Close to lunch time, the lovely lady who looks after the kitchen area asked me if I would like some mochi. I of course said yes, so she went to ask the principal if it was alright. He himself then came over to make it!

He put two blocks of mochi in, then set the timer for five minutes. The whole office started to smell like toasted mochi, and other teachers started to gather around, saying, “Moffle, moffle!” I guess that’s what a mochi waffle is called! XD

Pretty soon, we had a little mochi party going!

I topped mine with soy sauce and nori, traditional style. Other teachers mixed sugar and soy sauce together to make a sweet-savory syrup to drizzle over their mochi waffles.

Indian Freedom Fighter Event in Yokohama, Japan

This weekend, I was invited as a guest to the annual event in honour of Rash Behari Bose’s death anniversary and Subhash Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary. They were freedom fighters who fought for Indian independence, and Rash Behari Bose actually carried out his efforts from here in Japan, establishing the Indian National Army and the Indian Independence League. He lived here in Tokyo until his passing in 1945.

Rash Behari Bose with his children, Tetsuko and Masahide.
Rash Behari Bose passed away shortly before the end of WWII.
Masahide was killed in the war.

I am actually working on a 6 volume series of books on Rash Behari Bose, which contain translations of Rash Behari Bose’s own writings (which are in Japanese), and well as the writings of people who knew and worked with him. Two volumes are already published. (Link here if you’re interested!) It is titled, Rash Behari Bose: The Father of the Indian National Army.

Rash Behari Bose: The Father of the Indian National Army, Vol. 1 by [Eston, Elizabeth, Kawabe, Lexi]

I had attended this event once before in 2017, as well as other celebrations and ceremonies such as Republic Day at the Indian Embassy in Tokyo, and a Durga Puja event last October. They are always splendid gatherings, with warmhearted people, so I gladly accepted the invitation.

This year, the event was held at an Indian school in Yokohama, so I left home at 7:15 AM to get there on time. It was two hours each way, but well worth it.

Oh, and on my way there, I saw the perfect example of exactly how not to sit on a crowded commuter train!

I was very surprised to see how large the Indian school was! There must be a huge Indian community in this area. It wasn’t just big, but very nice also. The amenities seemed fabulous, and many things were new and clean.

I was glad to see so many familiar faces, and was welcomed warmly with a delicious cup of chai.

The speeches and performances began soon after. There were songs, dances and plays. Absolutely captivating, and a pleasure to see.

They were even kind enough to present me with flowers!

After all of the performances, we moved into another warm room. The lovely wife of one of the organizers kindly gave me a lunch set. It was chole bhature (also known as chana bhatura). It was rice, chana masala (chickpea curry), bhatura (fried bread), rice, and a bit of veggies. So delicious!

As I was leaving, I met a wonderful couple, and they even asked me to give a speech about Rash Behari Bose at their school. I am very much looking forward to that!

After everything was over, I explored the surrounding area. There were so many huge and cheap stores! I planned to return much earlier, but I ended up staying for hours!

Mochitsuki in Tokyo!

At noon today, there was a mochitsuki on Kyokai-dori, right by Ogikubo Station. Kyokai-dori literally means “Church Street” (although it is simply a nice pedestrian street with many neat shops and restaurants). And, a mochitsuki is the Japanese tradition of pounding steamed rice in a wooden barrel to make mochi.

Even though I got there at 11:30, there was already a long line!

I joined the line, and before I knew it, it was time to choose which mochi to buy.

There were three kinds: kinako, anko and karami (that’s what’s written in the poster below). Kinako is roasted soybean flour, which tastes a lot like peanut butter. Anko is sweet red bean paste, which is almost chocolately. And, karami turned out to be mochi topped with grated daikon radish.

I couldn’t decide, so I got one of each. Besides, they were just 100 yen! I wonder if they even made any profit at all!

After purchasing my mochi, I went to the nearby Town Seven mall at Ogikubo Station and went to the rooftop floor. There are chairs and tables where people can enjoy packed meals or bentos, and just outside, there is a playground that is extremely popular among parents with young children. It is always very crowded.

You can see a beautiful view from the rooftop, and when the weather is very clear, you can even see Mt. Fuji!

I sampled each of the three mochi packs. On the left is kinako, middle is karami, and on the right is anko. All were much more delicious than I even expected! Normally, anko would have been by far my favorite, but I was in a savory mood this afternoon, so I found the karami (grated daikon) mochi exceptionally delicious.

I washed this all down with a traditional Mitsuya Cider, which is a sort of carbonated lemonade with a long history here in Japan.

Banana & Tomato Energy Drink: Cool Japanese Snacks

The other day, I posted about creative Japanese snacks like fried chicken crackers and Mexican taco ramen. As a continuation of that, I just tried yet another unusual combination of flavors!

I was a bit thirsty, so I picked up what I thought would simply be a banana smoothie. I mean, the container was yellow, the picture showed nothing but bananas, and the label said “ENERGY BANANA.”

But, lo and behold, when I opened it up, the drink was red, and it was totally a banana and tomato smoothie! What a unique combination. It was sweet and had a distinct banana flavor, but at the same time, it was mildly sour and totally tasted like tomato soup. Not bad at all, but very unexpected!

Nepali Elementary School in Tokyo: Anime Workshop

Yesterday, I worked as a volunteer interpreter for 9 to 10 year old Nepali students at Everest International School Japan in Suginami, Tokyo. It was a wonderful experience! Even much more so than I had expected! The children were warm, outgoing and very polite and approachable. Absolutely adorable!

A group of Japanese university students studying animation came to visit the school and introduce the students to their very first hands-on experience in creating their own stop-motion animation film.

First, there was an introductory speech, in which the children were explained the whole process, and what they would be doing. The explanation was all in Japanese, and was interpreted to the students. Then, they were all assigned to their own group tables and given an assortment of colorful, soft clay.

We encouraged them to use their imagination and create their own original character. It needed to be small enough to be proportionate to each backdrop, and be able to stand on its own.

There were several different backdrops on which to film their stop-motion animations!

Two of the stages were from foreign countries, a few were from famous Japanese sights (Mt. Fuji, Tokyo Tower, and Asakusa), and all the rest were well known spots right here in the Suginami ward!

I decided to make my own clay figure as well. I chose to make a likeness of the Hindu god, Ganesha! Here he is at the Kaminarimon gate in Asakusa.

The students were very engaged and excited, and they enthusiastically worked on their figures. Even near the end, when time was running out, and it really was time to wrap up and film their stop motion clips, there were some girls who I could simply not tear away from their creative works. They were determined to make the perfect character. The children were absolute treasures.

Here is my Ganesha with some of the students’ wonderful creations!

Just between you and me, I had in fact, made a second character — an “oni,” which is a unique sort of troll or goblin in Japanese folklore. However, when I was not looking, some mischievous child squashed it up before I had the chance to take a photo! Here is the aftermath…

Here are a couple more random shots of my Ganesha, one at Mt. Fuji, and the other at a popular grocery stand by Ogikubo Station.

By the time we were done, our table was a total disaster zone! But, we all pitched in to clean up and it was done in no time.

All in all, it was a beautiful day. The students of Nepal International School Japan were an absolute pleasure to be with. I hope to see them again all soon!

Legendary Ramen in Tokyo

Yesterday evening, after English conversation with those two lovely Japanese ladies at our favorite cafe, I went for ramen!

I had recently discovered that there was a Taishoken shop near my home, in Ogikubo. Taishoken is a legendary chain of ramen shops in Japan founded by Masayasu Sakaguchi in 1951. There’s even a full length documentary about it! (But, be prepared to get very hungry. You have been warned.)

I got the abura soba (really oily, thick noodles), and my friend got the shina soba (the most foundational, basic ramen). Both were just 570 yen! Unbelievable.

I was super happy with my abura soba. The flavors were quite strong, which I was happy with. And, it was actually just a bit sweet as well. Really lovely.

The shina soba had a very nice, light broth and thinner noodles. I would definitely say that between the two of them, this is the healthier option. But, if you like bold flavors and have a big appetite, definitely go for the abura soba!

English Conversation at a Cafe in Tokyo

After work today, I rushed over to the Ogikubo Station area to meet two Japanese ladies at the Town Seven mall. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had met two wonderful ladies and that we are starting to meet regularly for English conversation practice.

We went to Kurashiki coffee (the same cafe as last week). This time, however, I didn’t order a hot coffee. Would you believe that it was 16 degrees in Tokyo today and yesterday?! In Vancouver, this winter it has gone as low as -15 degrees. And, Vancouver is the warmest part of Canada!

To say the least, I was burning hot, so for the first time, I ordered an iced coffee.

It was very good. I added more sugar than I should have 🙂

We talked for over two and a half hours! I must admit that most of it was in Japanese. But, even the Japanese conversation was useful explanations and discussions of English grammar and pronunciation, so I think it was best that way.

For Japanese, some difficult words to pronounce are: avocado, refill, work vs. walk, and other such things. We had many interesting discussions about accent patterns and Japanese culture. We completely lost track of time!

We also shared some avocado and egg sandwiches as we chatted. They were scrumptious!

I feel lucky to have met so many wonderful people since arriving in Tokyo!

When we get together again next week, we will discuss Ranald MacDonald, who was the first native English teacher to arrive in Japan! Here is a link to the teaching materials that I made about him, and used for my high school students:

Click to access ranald-macdonald-3-3-1.pdf

Japanese School Lunch: Cheese Chicken & Apple Salad

Today’s school lunch was grilled chicken thigh, topped with cheese and slices of green onion. They were served with curry spice spaghetti, a bowl of apple salad, and a bowl of rice. So good!

I topped my rice with gyudon furikake. Gyudon is a rice bowl topped with thin slices of beef and onion cooked together with soy sauce. Furikake is a really popular type of topping for white rice, and it comes in various flavors. Some are amazing, some are so-so, and this one was a winner.

Taco Ramen & Fried Chicken Crackers: Quirky Japanese Food

Everywhere you go in Japan, there are unusual and creative food creations. Poke bowl potato chips, McDonald’s shrimp filet burgers, and apple pie Kit Kats.

Here are a couple intriguing snacks that I’ve tried out recently. When I see these sorts of things, I can’t help but try them! Taco spice and instant ramen noodles doesn’t seem like the most appealing combination, but it was surprisingly good!

The fried chicken Ritz cracker sandwiches were also pretty decent, although I’ve got to say that nothing beats the classic.

I don’t know why we don’t have more of these creative things in Canada!