I have a wasabi plant 5 NO MORE

Well on JapanNewbie, you ask, and you receive.

My poor wasabi plant.

Finished.

Rotten too. He’s stinky. He’s outta here. Really. It rotted at the core.

In fact. The picture looks greener than it actually is.

If you’re gonna buy me a present. Don’t buy me a plant.

Unless it’s a virtual plant.

I’m sorry Mr. Wasabi! Next time I eat a wasabi filled sushi… I’ll reminisce.

– Harvey

Kinkan. Just eat the peel.

At the same sushi shop where I acquired the famed wasabi plant, the sushi master also pulled out this interesting fruit known as “kinkan” (金柑). My dictionary says that’s a kumquat.

He told us to eat the peel.

My wife’s mom told me to place them by a box of tabacco that “dad” was smoking for “scale”. Funny how a box of tobacco becomes an item to show scale in Japan. Smoking is everywhere. Maybe that would happen in the States as well…

They’re too sour, almost like a lemon, which is why the sushi master told us to just eat the peel. It tastes nice, is healthy, and is a great way to clean your palate after eating tons of raw fish.

Is this how kumquats are usually eaten? Maybe everyone knows this stuff already except me…

Eat those peels.

– Harvey

JLPT Audio Study Tools

Heads up for more study tools to fill your Japanese needs!

The Japan Shop now offers mp3 files you can use with your iPod or other mp3 player for studying the JLPT vocabulary sections.

PlaySay JLPT 1, 2, 3 and 4 Core Vocabulary Audio Download Bundle at The Japan Shop

You can also purchase them per JLPT level, but you get a discount if you buy them in a bundle.

I imagine the JLPT 2 vocabulary will be the most popular file!

PlaySay JLPT 2 Core Vocabulary Audio Download

I have never tried these, but I think it would be a great way to study for the vocabulary section of the JLPT. Some of the vocab, especially in JLPT 1, is so rare that you’re likely not to learn them even if you read Japanese magazines everyday. This is a sure way to hammer the words you need for the test into your head.

A great feature of these files  is that the word in Japanese and English is displayed on your iPod as you listen to the file. Thus if you’re really hardcore, you could listen to the English or Japanese, and then see if you can write the Kanji yourself.

You could also simply play the file, without using the headphones, and watch the Japanese and English go by, allowing you to sneak in some studying even in places where you aren’t free to take out your headphones. Stealth studying. Gotta love it.

Also, the file uses stereo to play the English in one ear, and the Japanese in the other. So you could take out just the left headphone and only listen to the Japanese, and see if you can recall the English without the prompt. Or, I guess you could just pause it after the Japanese is spoken… But anyway.

One downside to these files though is that the vocabulary list doesn’t give you any context at all. Just the word and it’s English equivalent. I would have liked them to include at least one sample sentence using the word in the audio… So to make up for that you might want to use Google or your dictionary to look up how the word is actually used.

Try playing it while you sleep to subliminally learn Japanese vocabulary… Tell me if it works.

Happy vocabulary-ing!

– Harvey

Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary at The Japan Shop

Just a quick heads up! To all you Kanji geeks out there.

The Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary is available on TheJapanShop.com now. Kanji whee!

In addition, for those of you who have the incredible GW9600 Sharp electronic dictionary (like me) you can get the same Kanji Learner’s Dictionary on an SD card to load into your electronic dictionary. Sure, the dictionary itself costs a lot more in digital format, but hey, it’s crazy convenient… and for something as laborious as learning Kanji, a little convenience goes a long way!

Not only that, but the expansion card for the GW9600 is specifically made for English speakers learning Kanji. Most other expansion cards for the GW9600 target the Japanese market, but not this one. This one is just for the gaijin! There is a video online explaining the dictionary and it’s features, so sure to check it out, it’s well done.

I was already at an extremely advanced level when I discovered the Kanji Learner’s Dictionary so I have only used it in passing, but my friends who are slogging their way through all 1900+ of the jyoyo Kanji right now swear by it.

Speaking of Kanji, did you guys know there is a application called ‘Kanji Box’ on Facebook that let’s you study Kanji for specific JLPT exams? I just found out this week. It’s fun when it’s not crashing!

Happy Kanji-ing!

– Harvey

I have a wasabi plant 4 CRISIS

Wasabi crisis alert!!!

This is what the water looks like after one day.

To attempt to revive Mr. Wasabi we pulled it off the peg that holds it in this water dish and washed out the hole. Apparently it was getting sort of… rotten… in there. That can’t be good.

I’ll have to take Kitty’s advice and start talking to it more often…

Come on Wasabi. Hang in there! Hang in there!!!

– Harvey

I have a wasabi plant 3

Hey I still have a wasabi plant!

After just 1 day of sitting in it’s water, the water gets this greasy looking film on top of it. It almost looks like someone has spilled vegetable oil into the water or something.

I’ll try to get a picture of that gunk for next time. Do any other plants do this? I guess this is why the water needs to be changed daily!

I notice I’m getting some whithering little sprouts on the side, but the main three stalks are going strong.

Go wasabi. GO.

Should I trim this or something? What’s what deal?

– Harvey

Yuba. The film on top.

The Yuba experience.

The rectangular metal plan below contains a very fluid (having low viscosity if you will) liquid made from nigari (苦汁) and soybean milk, the same stuff that Tofu is made from. The yellow citrus on the right is a Yuzu.

The hotplate is heated slowly so that the liquid does not boil should rarely bubbles at all.

After it has heated for a while, a thin film will form on top of the liquid. This is called Yuba. You can work your chopsticks around the edge of the pan to break the film free of the sides. Then…

You gently pull up, and out comes the yuba! It’s very thin, so you can repeat the process more than a dozen times before you reach the end of the soybean milk and nigari. There were 6 of us at the restaurant, and we were able to enjoy the yuba right up to the end of our meal. It takes about 10-15 minutes to get another yuba film ready, so it serves as a way to pace the meal to let everyone enjoy the conversation. It’s really a great experience! Just don’t burn your wrist on the side of the pan while digging out the yuba… like I did.

You dip the yuba into a soy sauce, and fine grated yuzu peel before eating it.

Grating the yuzu is fun. As is pulling up the yuba. A fun and delicious meal! What more could you ask for?

Once you get near the end of the meal the waitress will usually come in to ask if you want to continue eating yuba right down to the bottom fo the pan, or if you want to turn the remaining yuba into tofu.

I’m actually not sure what  is done to turn the remaining yuba mix into tofu. Maybe they add more nigari? Maybe they turn up the heat so it all solidifies? Maybe both? My wife doesn’t know either. I’m sure the internet does… But I’m too lazy to check

Places that serve Yuba will usually have an entire menu of yuba related items. The picture below is one of those, some Yuba soup.

Just curious, has anyone ever eaten Yuba outside of Japan?

Yum…

– Harvey

Japanese Tea Shop in Shiga

I went to a tea shop in Shiga-ken, in the Shigaraki area last month. We went by car from the station after a failed attempt to visit the Miho Museum. (It was closed! ARGH!) I couldn’t tell you how to get here off the top of my head, but if anyone really wants to know, let me know in the comments and I’ll get the info from my friends. It’s way out of the way and only accessible by car.

The shop had three tables like this. The kettle contains hot water to make tea.

Preparing tea as we browse the sweets menu.

This is called kusa-mochi. Kusa means “grass”, and mochi as you may know, is the Japanese sticky rice cake. It was insanely delicious. The outside is crisp, but the inside is melty-stretchy-sticky hot. The “grass” that is mixed with the mochi is called yomogi. (蓬 or 艾, my dictionary says there is a phrase, よもぎのような髪, which literally means, “hair like yomogi”, and has the meaning of “unkempt hair.” Awesome.)

This is “zenzai”, which is a famous Japanese dessert you can usually find around any traditional sight-seeing area in the winter. It is a sweet (oh so sweet!) soup with anko (sweet red beans) and mochi inside. Excellent, especially in the winter!

If only photos were edible.

– Harvey

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