Shochu – 100 yeas of solitude

My father-in-law loves to drink. The last time I visited he was proud to give me a taste of this Shochu called 百年の孤独 (hyakunen no kodoku).

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Hyakunen no kodoku is a shochu from Miyazaki prefecture and is made from wheat (麦). I’m no shochu expert, but wikipedia says that this shochu has a fragrance more like a western whisky than a typical Japanese shochu. From what I remember, it was pretty strong. (It’s 40%) We had it on the rocks.

The name Hyakunen no kodoku comes from the famous novel of the same name, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The in-laws said that back in the day it was inexpensive and easy to get your hands on, but one day Emperor Hirohito visited the production location, gave it a taste, and said he liked it. From then on the shochu became extremely popular. Now you can only get it in shops in Japan that have put in specific orders for it. You won’t find it in a regular supermarket or corner sake store – apparently. It seems that one bottle will cost between 6,000 and 10,000 yen. Here you can get it for 6,800 yen (Japan Only).

Anyway, that’s the extent of my shochu knowledge on 百年の孤独!

Related Links:
百年の孤独 on Wikipedia

– Harvey

Particles on Sale This Weekend Only

The price of the Japanese 101: Particles App has been reduced to $3.99 for this weekend only! After this weekend it will return to the regular price of $5.99.

On Sale This weekend ONLY for $3.99

The sale will automatically end on Sunday some time… whenever the iTunes Store auto sale mechanism decides to turn it off. Probably midnight Eastern Time, but I’m not sure.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably already heard about the sale, so get it while it’s hot!

Also in case you missed it, Japanese 101: Particles was recently reviewed on Yonasu.com! He doesn’t like teal greenish blue… I’m going to fix that soon…

– Harvey

Updates in the Works for iPhone Apps to Teach you Japanese

Hey everyone!

We’ve got some significant updates in the works for two of our most popular iPhone Apps, Japanese 101: Numbers, and Japanese 101: Particles.

Currently with more than 140 exercises!
Covering BIG numbers in a "yen" context.

Both of these Apps take a listening-focused approach to drilling your particle usage and large number recognition skills. You can read more details about the Apps on the iTunes Store.

In addition to adding more content to both, we’re going to be adding a new fill-in-the-blank quiz format to the Numbers App.

(I’ll also add the fill-in-the-blank feature to the Particles App eventually if I can figure out how to deal with multiple particles being OK answers to a sentence… even if they would change the meaning… Oh the things I ponder…)

These apps include plenty of exercises, each with native Japanese audio, and Nihonjin-certified explanations. The Particles App is also perfect for sentence mining for your SRS, or simply for quizzing yourself while you’re on the go.

Take a peek if you haven’t already, and let me know what you think in the comments if you’re already using them!

Happy studying, and look forward to the updates!

– Harvey

New Music on HearJapan – Eccy + Shing02

New music from Shing02 available on HearJapan!

This album was just released Wednesday April 28, (40 minutes ago as of writing!) so it’s fresh off the press.

Eccy and Shing02

Here is the album description straight from HearJapan:

EP compiling numerous artists’ remixes of the Shing02 collaboration from Tokyo beatmaker Eccy’s 2nd album – halo:ten. Eccy broke into Japan’s hip-hop scene with his first collab with Shingo, and the two have done it again with a very different, but equally powerful and lifting, abstract hip-hop masterpiece. Eccy’s bubbling basslines and swooping synths are transformed into a variety of different styles, by producers including frequent Shing02 collaborator Yakkle, the electronica-styled Notuv, hip-hop/dub experimenter Eemu, and the innovative Sato. A great release that fans of the featured artists definetly won’t want to pass up, and one that offers a wonderful demonstration of the variety abundant in Japan’s underground.

Check out this older song by Shing02 for a taste of what his music is like.

This track is hot. The title is 400, which is the number of characters that fit on a Japanese genkouyoushi 原稿用紙, the standard blocked paper that students use to write essays on. Often assignments in Japan will be given as, fill up 2 sheets of genkouyoushi, or something. Anyway, in his lyrics he alludes to the fact that a lot can actually be said in 400 characters. Some powerful listening comprehension practice for ya. Good thing it never gets old!

Here’s another great song from that same classic album.

Enjoy!

– Harvey

Yumomi at Kusatsu Onsen

I had never head of this Yumomi stuff before I visited Kusatsu Onsen.

Kusatsu Yumomi Team

They do this show at an onsen called 熱の湯 (netsu no yu) where the water temperature is naturally 52 degrees Celsius. The practical purpose of this Yumomi activity is to bring the temperature of the hot springs water down to a point where it can be used to bathe. Even back in the day when it was still used people would only get in the water for something like 2 minutes before having to get out to avoid becoming… well… cooked.

Nowadays the 熱の湯 onsen is not open to tourists (as far as I know), but they do the yumomi show a few times a day for all the tourists in the area. It’s definitely worth the visit!

There are more videos of these event on our YouTube channel so go check them out.

They even let us try out some yumomi ourselves. Everyone loves some 体験 (taiken) time in Japan!

Let's Yumomi Together!

I have some more pictures of the Kusatsu Onsen area that I’ll be blogging eventually, so stay tuned!

Let me just say for a moment. I love onsen. The three things I miss most about living in Japan full-time are… the food, the trains, and the onsen. If you get a chance to visit Japan, try to arrange a way to visit an onsen. They’re fabulous!

– Harvey

Related Links:

Official Kusatsu Onsen website with an explanation of Yumomi in Japanese.

Kusatsu on Wikipedia

More Onsen on JapanNewbie:

Tatoo in the Onsen

Sunamushi Onsen

Luxury at Asaba Ryokan

Kanji Flashcards from White Rabbit Press

The nice folks at White Rabbit Press sent me a copy of their newly updated Series 2 Kanji Flashcards in exchange for a product review. I have to say, they’re mighty fine. My wife teaches Japanese on the side so these should be useful for her work. I’ll probably purchase the other volumes once they are available in the next few months.

The packaging is high class. I should have made an unboxing video! The cards themselves are also printed on high quality paper, and are glossy. I’m sure they would survive years of handling and even a minor spill, but I’m not going to test that theory.

White Rabbit Press Kanji Flash Cards

The front of the Kanji Flashcards show the Kanji in large font that is easy to read. You get the stroke order, plenty of example vocab that uses the character, and even “links” to similar characters. All the characters are numbered for easy reference. Also, note that the numbering on these cards matches the numbering on the popular White Rabbit Press Kanji Wall Poster.

Pretty fonts. Pretty Kanji.

Here’s a closeup of the front of a card.

Manly Kanji Close up!

On the back of the card you get readings and translations of the information on the front.

Back of the card

Series 2 of the other two volumes of the White Rabbit Press Kanji Cards will all be available by the end of the summer. Volume 2 comes out in May, and Volume 3 comes out in July.

It’s unfortunate that you have to purchase 3 volumes of this to get “all” the Kanji, but hey… that’s a lot of Kanji, and I’m sure no one will be plowing through all of them at once anyway. Take them as they come!

I also got a box of the Kana Cards. They are essentially the same concept, but of course focused on the Hiragana and the Katakana. Surely to be a great tool if you need to learn the basics.

Kana Flashcards

Anyone out there have these already? What do you think?

Happy Kanji-ing!

– Harvey

Cherry Blossoms at the Osaka Mint

Went down to the Osaka Mint (造幣局 zouheikyoku) to check out the Cherry Blossoms during my short trip to Japan a few weeks ago.

The mint opens it’s Sakura filled lane for a week or two every year to let people stroll through and view the wide variety of cherry blossom trees on display.

We caught some rain when we got there, but later in the day the rain let up so I went again with my camera to take some pictures.

Umbrella covered crowds at Zouheikyoku

It was tough walking through the first run because it was so crowded. Umbrellas poking my eyeballs out.

I went again though after the rain stopped and took these photos.

Crowds and Sakura in Osaka
I believe this is a type of Shidarezakura known for the "droop."
This years flower
Unique green Sakura, sorry I don't know the name!

I also shot a few videos, you can see them on our YouTube Channel. Here’s one embedded so you can have a peek.

And that’s a wrap!

Harvey

Monjyayaki in Tsukishima Revisited

Went to Tsukishima in Tokyo with some of my wife’s friends to eat Monjyayaki.

Japan is fun like that. There are certain areas in Tokyo that you can go to see tons of shops serving the exact same dish, though done in their own special way. I’ve seen places like this for gyoza, okonomiyaki, ramen, oden, chicken wings, and many other things.

Monjyayaki is kind of like a sloppy-half-done-lazy-messed-up okonomiyaki. Most people from Kansai will say that monjyayaki is interesting, but okonomiyaki tastes much better. I’ve never eaten monjyayaki in Osaka, but I’m sure there is a store somewhere offering it. Monjya tastes best when burnt. It’s also best to chose monjya with mochi in it.

Monjya Hazama

The place we went to was called Hazama. Our friends made reservations in advance, so I guess it’s considered to be one of the better monjya places in Tsukishima – I wouldn’t know. I’m an okonomiyaki man myself.

Hazama Menu

Basically to make monjya you mix up the ingredients, spill just the ingredients and not the soup onto the hot plate, mix it all up and stuff, make it into a circle, ad then pour the soup inside. The goal is to cook the soupy stuff until its a bit viscous. Then, mix it all together and chop it up.

Monjya phase 1

Here’s a video I took that night so you can see how it’s done.

More of our videos on Monjya and other romps around Asia can be found on our YouTube channel here!

Here’s a picture of the environment inside the restaurant.

Fun at Hazama

Related Links:
Monjyayaki in Tsukishima
Tsukishima: Home of Monjyayaki

Monjya Monjya!
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