Osaka Vicki

Props to the person who can identify the artist on the spot.

“VICKI! I–I THOUGHT I HEARD YOUR VOICE!”

Giant art on the sides of buildings in Osaka.Gotta love it.

UPDATE: Brian from GaijinBash.com correctly identified the artist as Roy Lichtenstein [wiki link]

– Harvey

Kushikatsu in Juuso

I randomly found an amazing Kushikatsu shop in Juuso (十三) in Osaka the other night.

The name of the shop is 珍寿 (chinjyuu) , and the owner has been working kushikatsu for 55 years. He started when he was 17 years old, right out of junior high school and he never went to high school. He later met his wife, and they have been making kushikatsu ever since.

The current shop is extremely small. I counted 8 or 9 chairs around an extremely small counter. Very homely.

Smoking and eating kushikatsu for 55 years… He even lived through the war… I think this guy may be immortal!

He proudly told us that in his day, you had to live in with the kushikatsu master you were learning under. He would wake up, clean the shop, cook some kushikatsu, clean up again, and sleep at night right in the same building. He has been working in his current place in Juuso for about 8 years, and before that he has worked in various places around Osaka, including the Hankyu Department Store. He says that most all of the people making Kushikatsu at the restaurants in Hankyu were his students (弟子) at one point.

You may notice that he is wearing a beret. He showed us an old black and white picture of himself in a cooking studio wearing the beret as well. He says it’s his trademark and he wears it because he is making “art food”. The couple has been featured on TV countless times.

He was quick to point out that his kushikatsu is cooking (料理), unlike the kushikatsu in other places, like Shinsekai which is just a side dish (おかず) . He told us that in Juuso you can tell which shops are cooking shops (料理) and which just serve side dishes (おかず) by the material used for the curtain (のれん) hanging out in front of the shop. The cooking shops have hemp curtains, and the others have cotton curtains. The cooking shops, like his, are much more expensive, but have higher quality food. Sure enough, his stuff was delicious!

When you enter this shop, you don’t order anything. Only your drink. Which can be a little tricky because the grandmother who takes the orders is extremely forgetful… Or maybe she was drunk. I’m not sure. She asked the three of us for our order about 7 times… So 1 wheat shochu with water, one potato with hot water, and one sake? No no, 1 wheat shochu with hot water, and 2 potato shochu with cold water… We went around a few times. It was funny.

Once you sit down the couple starts cooking your kushikatsu one by one in a predetermined order. They place them on your dish as they are done. When you’re full, you tell them to stop, and you pay for what you ate. The order is on the menu there, they just take you from the top left all the way around. They say that if you come on an empty stomach, you can easily do a full round.

Get this, there is even desert at the end! We had desert ice cream kushikatsu with a strawberry inside. It was amazing. Imagine a strawberry on a skewer, covered in icecream, and then covered again by the breaded fry stuff that is on kushikatsu. You have to bite into it quickly, or you’ll burn your tongue on the hot oil before the ice cream has a chance to cool the outside. Also if you wait too long the ice cream on the inside will melt!

It was delicious.

The sauce that the skewer (the kushi) is pointing to as they set down your food indicates which sauce you are supposed to use with which kushikatsu.

The lady was quick to point out that two of her sauces are blends of more than 20 different flavors. Even the salt uses 5 different types of salt!

By the way, Juuso has a reputation for being one of the more dangerous parts of Osaka, so I asked the master about it. He said that it used to be dangerous because there were a lot of yakuza hanging around in the area. These days though, it’s illegal to even talk about yakuza dealings, so things are much better.

So go give Juso kushikatsu a try!

Here is a Google Maps to the shop. The address is also located on that page…

Yahoo Gourmet info here. Hot Pepper map here.

By the way, the place is not cheap! I think it’s worth it though, the food is great, the owners are talkative, friendly, and interesting, and it’s got a really deep Osaka atmosphere!

Update:
Here is a site with the address and whatnot.
http://tabelog.com/osaka/A2703/A270302/27000978/

– Harvey

Mos Day Plants

Hey everyone.

Yesterday, March 12th, was MOS Burger Day all across Japan.

I still had to work…

My wife happened to go to MOS Burger though for lunch, and was presented with this wonderful MOS Day present.

Apparently they give outo plants every MOS Day. Nice! This one is a 松葉牡丹 (matsubabotan), which seems to be some kind of pine tree.

I’m going to put the seed in the dirt… And put water on the dirt… and I’ll let you know if anything happens.

Time to give the green thumbs another workout!

Wasabi revenge.

– Harvey

Homestay in Japan with Volunteers for Peace

I got a question via the Talk2Me form from a reader who plans to go to Japan with Volunteers for Peace next year.

I had never heard of Volunteers for Peace, and wouldn’t even have expected Japan to be an option for a program like that, so thanks for the info! Has anyone reading ever met anyone who has done this program? I’m curious! Remember a while back we tried to gather up other possible ways to get to Japan for some time? This should be added to the list.

Unfortunately¥ the reader forgot to leave their email address…  so I can’t contact them back directly!

So if you’re reading this, drop your email address via the Talk2Me form again and I’ll get back to you.

Anyway, there’s another option for anyone looking for a way to spend some time in Japan while doing good!

– Harvey

Interpretation is Hard – Fate is sealed

Well,  things didn’t turn out as I hoped!

Actually, it’s funny.

In Japanese there is an expression that is extremely apporpiate now.

「大どんでん返し」(dai donden-gaeshi)

どんでん返し is when something totally unexpected happens, something so crazy that it is the OPPOSITE of what you would normally expect.

Anyway. This is crazy.

My wife was selected for the PeaceBoat translation position, but I wasn’t!

It’s crazy, because she was totally expecting not to pass. I however, thought I had a chance. I always knew that it would be harder for me to get through, because on the boat Japanese to English interpretation (my strong point) is needed less than English to Japanese… But with the double exam, and the follow-up call with the director… I really thought things were going well.

Oh well.

I didn’t get any clear reason as to why I wasn’t selected. Which, I’m not really surprised about. Japanese usually don’t specifically point out areas for improvement in people. Then again, if it were America I’m sure they would have simply only contacted those who were selected, and just used the lack of contact as a way to tell those who were not selected, “better luck next time”.

In fact, the letter I received was filled with  complements and how they had to make such a tough decision and yada yada yada.

So anyway. Blah. If our schedule works out, my wife will going going around the world on Peace Boat! And I guess I’ll have 3 months to do my thing, whatever my thing at that time happens to be.

Uncertainty! Gotta love it.

I’ll try this again when I get another 3 months of free time in my life…

I’m not too bummed though, so no one worry about me!

We now return to our regularly scheduled JapanNewbie blogging.

– Harvey

Okinawan Dancers in Shimoda

I have actually had these pictures for quite some time, but never got around to posting them.

These are from an Okinawan dance performance that I saw… in Shimoda (on Honshu, far from Okinawa). I love how colorful their costumes are. I have been many places in Japan, but Okinawa is one of the places I have yet to visit. Some day…

I’m not even sure if these performers are actually from Okinawa – but they very well could be. Anyway, doesn’t really matter does it!

In case you missed it back in 2005, here are some Okinawan dancers in Osaka!

– Harvey

Interpretation is Hard – The Aftermath

Well, my 2nd interpretation test for the Peace Boat translation position is complete!

I did much better on the Japanese to English interpretation portion this time. Much, much better. I would have passed myself. The English to Japanese was difficult, but I also handled it much better than last time I believe. The Japanese to English topic was global warming and the resultant rising sea levels potential effect on Japan, and the English to Japanese topic was about the effect of global warming on the agriculture industry in Mali.

A lot of the farming vocabulary had me grasping at straws. Some words that saved my life were… 肥料 (hiryou) for fertilizer, and 井戸 (ido) for well, like, water well. Words I never use in my daily life, but I picked up in school. Yay for academics huh?

Anyway, after the test I got an email from the staff and said they would like me to speak with the director of the program on the phone tomorrow. Maybe it’s a final check to see if I’m sane and sincere!

Anyway, no matter what happens, I’m really glad I handled the Japanese to English interpretation so well. A little practice goes a long way.

I’m not even 100% sure my schedule will allow me to do the PeaceBoat when the time comes… but if it does, I’m on it!

That is… Assuming they want me.

Thanks for all the encouragement JapanNewbie readers!

– Harvey

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