Wasabi!

Anyone who is familiar with Japanese food is probably also familiar with wasabi, the “horseradish” spice that is usually eaten with sushi, sashimi or zarusoba, or other dishes. I have been in Japan for, “quite-some-time” now, but just recently I saw a wasabi plant for the first time.

This small izakaya owner was growing it in her shop! I’m curious as to how this works out, because I have heard that wasabi can only really be grown in areas with an especially pure water supply. And this izakaya is in the middle of an alley in Amagasaki…

I do not believe that the wasabi she served in her shop was the stuff she was growing… Didn’t ask.

The bottom picture, is of the upper part of wasabi. The leaves and stems and stuff. Normally when we eat wasabi we’re eating the ground root portion. This was my first time to try the leaves.

They’re good. They are not as nose-grinding, brain frying spicy as ground wasabi root, but they definitely have that wasabi taste.

On a side note, normally, wasabi will make the upper part of your nose burn if you eat too much too quickly, right? I found this sushi shop in Shibuya Mark City, with wasabi so “good”, that not only does it hurt the upper part of my nose, but it makes the back of my brain burn with that wasabi-sensation.

Good stuff!

– Harvey

Movie: TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN

I rarely post topics about popular media on this site, but this movie has really caught my attention. The title is TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN (立喰師列伝) Which roughly translates into, the Legend of the Standing-Eating Masters (please don’t quote me on that). It starts showing April 8th in Japan.

First, some useful Japanese. 意味わからん。 (Imi wakaran) This is the informal way to say, “I don’t know what the heck that’s supposed to mean.” I think you’ll need that phrase after reading about this movie.

There is a English introduction to the movie on this site. Here too. This movie was done by the same director, Mamoru Oshii, who did all kinds of famous anime, like Urusei Yatsura, Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell 1 and 2, etc etc.

Check out the trailer for Tachiguishi here. Done watching? All together now…

“IMI WAKARAN.”

At one point in the trailer…

Girl: ようこそロッテリアへ! (welcome to Lotteria!)
Customer: ハンバーガー百個。(100 Hamburgers.)
Girl: ハンバーガー単品百個。お持ち帰りでしょうか?(100 Hamburgers. For take out?)
Customer: ここで喰う。(I’ll eat them here.)
[Looks back to see there are only 4 hamburgers ready]

Girl: ハンバーガー 96 please! (96 hamburgers please!)
Cook: え?どんな客です?! (Eh!? What kind customer is that?!)

This is weird stuff. I’m going to go see it in the theatre!

– Harvey

Funny Translation

Haha, one of my favorite online Japanese-English dictionaries, Space ALC has an entry for Extreme Ironing. Haha. What gag. I wonder why this normally totally serious professional online dictionary would even have the time to include a silly easter egg like this?

Guess everyone has time for comedy eh?

Extreme Ironing. Hah. What a gag.

Eh?

What’s that you say?

www.extremeironing.com

It’s real??

It’s really real?!

– Harvey

Maid Cafe: e-maid

Maybe you’ve heard of the “maid cafe” in Japan. They are most well known in Tokyo’s Akihabara, but there are many of them in Kansai as well. I visited e-maid in the Osaka in Namba area near Electric Town.

The cafe has wireless lan, a shelf full of comic books, and of course all of the staff are wearing cute maid outfits. They’ll even recharge any model of cell phone for you for free!

As tempting as it may be, photography of the maids themselves is strictly prohibited (that’s a no-no, but I should have snuck one). There are also a host of other rules for the cafe as well. I was able to get pictures of objects inside of the store though.

The menu is completely normal for the most part. One interesting item is the Otona no Okosama Set (大人のお子様セット)for 1200 yen. An Okosama Set is basically a “kids” meal. Most family restaurants in Japan offer this as a cheap option in small portions for families who bring their kids to restaurants. Otona in Japanese means adult. So, this is the kids meal for adults. How cute.

Here’s the Otona no Okosama Set.

The portion is huge! Yum.

In the maid cafe, the maids address the customers in extremely polite Japanese, saying things like お気をつけていってらしゃいませ (oki wo tsukette itterasyaimase), the polite form for something like, “take care on your way out”. 旦那様はおもどりになりました (danna sama ha omodorininarimashita) an extremely polite for of, “the master? has returned”, and they say this whenever a new male customer comes into the shop, even if it’s their first time. For me, all this sounds odd. For Japanese, I guess it adds to the “at your service” feeling of the cafe.
Check below for more on the “maid cafe thing”.

– Harvey

Tokyo Times on Maid Cafes

Japan Times article on Maid Cafes

Mainichi News article on same!

Final Fantasy Potion Drinks!

I used to be a huge Final Fantasy fan. With the upcoming release of a new Final Fantasy game, convenience stores in Japan are selling Final Fantasy Potion drinks!

[UPDATE 3/18] Chika pointed out this great commercial for FF12 potion! Hilarious! Thanks for the tip!
My friend told me they taste just like any old ‘energy’ drink, and actually it doesn’t taste so good. But hey! It’s Final Fantasy.

I didn’t have enough gold to pick one up myself, so now I am walking around in circles with my party killing imps to earn enough gold.

The bottle on the right is the regular bottle, the box on the left, they have released the same drink, but in a variety of collectors bottles. Need Elixer.

– Harvey

White Day 2006

March 14th in Japan is White Day. On Valentines day here traditionally girls will give chocolates to guys, and then one month later on March 14th those guys are expected to return the chocolate to the girls.

Double money for chocolate companies!

The guy below is about to break under the overwhelming influence of White Day marketing…

Gifts are not only limited to chocolates however, below you can see a flower shop getting in on the action.

I myself was suckered into buying some chocolates as well… When in Rome do as the Romans do huh.

Here’s some easterwood on White Day from 2003!

– Harvey

Cool Keitai

Everyone knows Japan is famous for it’s super elite high-tech cell phones and other gadgets. There is even a cell phone with a 4 gig HD for MP3’s. (やり過ぎ) If you need help keeping up to date, check out TechJapan.com

I personally just upgraded my own keitai, and now I can read JapanNewbie on my cell phone, and also take decent enough quality pictures. Excellent. I can even take part in a cute character driven chat called ‘Hello Messenger’ with up to five of my friends simultaneously. Excellent. I haven’t used that feature yet, but, I’m sure I will. Oh yes. I’m sure. I will.

However, in addition to it’s already amazing line-up…  AU has released another killer device.

Behold.

This cell phone may “look” like a remote control for an air-conditioner or television. However the features are amazing.

We’ve got. Talk feature. We’ve got… Power on, and Power off. We’ve got volume control. One button pick-up.  You can even attach a keitai-strap to it.

Dang. I upgraded too soon.

– Harvey

Ebisu Matsuri

This post is way off-season.

Ebisu Matsuri in Osaka is every year from Jan 9-11. This festival is for Ebisu, one of the coolest gods in Japan. Ebisu is the god of business and prosperity, and the festival is held at Imamiya Ebisu shrine in Osaka. A close subway station is Ebisu-cho, which is also nearby Osaka’s version of Akihabara, Den-Den Town.

One of the most famous Osaka dialect phrases is “moukari makka?” 儲かりまっか? Which means, “Are you making a lot of money?” Or, “How’s business?” Which is said to have been a regular common greeting in Osaka, as the city was so focused on trade. These days people rarely seriously greet each other that way, but due to that history, Ebisu Matsuri in Osaka is big time. One of the chants during Ebisu Matsuri is, “Syoubai hanjyo de Sasa mottekoi!” 商売繁盛で笹持ってこい! Which means, maybe… Bring the Sasa to make business prosper! Please fix me if I got that wrong.

Sasa 笹 is basically “bamboo grass” according to a translation site. This is the food that pandas eat. I’m not sure exactly why it is used on Ebisu Matsuri, but it supposedly brings good luck. During the festival, people will get their own Sasa branch, they hand them out for free at the temple. Then, buy various charms to hang from it.

These charms were MOFO expensive. I think I dropped 5000 yen on lucky charms that are meant to help me earn more money this year. I only bought about three charms! So far they are not working well, as already my small investment in NZ dollars came back weak, and our companies performance was bad so my bonus was cut 10%. なんでやねん。 Come on Ebisu, where’s the love? Ebisu-san and Daikoku-san! They come together as a set.

– Harvey