Let’s talk about my favourite topic: FOOD!

I love food! I love talking about, I love eating it and I love watching cooking shows (especially MasterChef hehe). I don’t love to cook myself but it’s fun too, sometimes. As some of you know, I don’t eat red or white meat, which means e.g. beef, pork, chicken and turkey. I do eat seafood and I love especially fish.

Before coming to Japan I heard that I might have hard time in finding vegetarian food and it has been partly true. Although I thought it would be even harder than it has been. In Finland I am quite used to find at least one option from the menu that doesn’t include meat, here it has been harder to find restaurants that would have that kind of an option. There are restaurants that are clearly meat-oriented but luckily there are also restaurants that have atleast a seafood option. I have to say that the vegetarian dishes that I have eaten here have been some of the best vegetarian meals I have ever eaten! Sometimes it has been really hard to find something I can eat (and enjoy at the same time) and I can tell you, don’t let me get too hungry.. :-D that is not a pretty view to look at!

The first times I went to the supermarket, I just wanted to run away and start eating fast food. The supermarkets can be overwhelming. All the sounds, packages with cryptic language and the unidentified food can make you want to crawl back to your home depressed. Somehow I got over this and was able to find some recognizable ingredients and cook at home. I’ve made so many shopping failures and thrown money straight to garbage that I’ve lost my interest to buy anything new lately. But this is how my healthy food basket looks like:

Food basket

Basically I’ve tried to keep my diet versitile but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve eaten lots of eggs, tofu (there are many kinds of tofu), salmon and shrimps in order to get some protein, and vegetables, potato and rice to get healthy carbs. For snacks I’ve been eating lots of nuts, “bulgarian yogurt” (I have actully no idea what it is but the taste is similar) and some bread and “cheese”. I reaaallly miss the Finnish bread because the variety is so much bigger. Here one can find only white bread, and the cheese for bread is like processed cheese slices (yuck). Luckily we have a small grill which makes the sandwich eatable. It was also hard to find what to eat in the mornings but I found a killer brekkie: cereal (unsweetened), milk and a banana. It was also surprisingly hard to find cereal that is unsweetened.. and just couple of weeks ago I realized that the milk that I have been drinking here (the cheapest hehe) is as “fatty” as the fattiest milk sold in Finland. And I really like it! Maybe I have to believe my grandmother and continue drinking the fatty milk. :-)

I’ve noticed that the Japanese eat lots of tempura fried food, and also usually there are some nice looking fishes that one can buy from the supermarkets. Also very specific to all kinds of stores that sell groceries is that there are lots of different kinds of snacks. I mean like quite a few shelves of only sweet and salty (and some undefined tastes) snacks!

I have no ideas what these fishes are but they look delicious. Nice colours!

I have no idea what these fishes are but they look delicious. Nice colours!

Lots of tempura fried delicacies!

Lots of tempura fried delicacies!

Here are some pics of foods that I’ve been enjoying (sorry they might already exist in some posts):

Some things that I really miss are proper bread, real cheese, quark, oatmeal, Finnish Karelian pie and dry apple cider. I haven’t had a real oven here so I also miss food that is cooked in the oven. But soonish I’ll be able to eat all these delicacies! I also miss making smoothies!

I also bought my personal chopsticks. Cool, ne? I engraved one of my life philosophies to the chopsticks: “Hyvä ruoka, parempi mieli” which means basically “Good food, better mood”. They didn’t have the Finnish ä letter so I had to make a small change to the phrase and put oishii in stead of hyvä. Oishii means delicious or tasty in Japanese.

My personal hashi (chopsticks)

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Second last week of the year 2014

Yeyy finally my holiday started. Of course it doesn’t feel same as if I would be in working life and my holiday would start, but I am happy to have a break from school.

I started my holiday by getting a hair cut because my hair needed that really badly. My friend asked if I’d like to go to a hair dresser with her and of course I said yes. She knew a good place and most importantly she was able to help me to express my hair cut wishes. Most of the people working at the hair salon didn’t speak much English except the owner surprised me with his good English language skills. My Japanese hasn’t improved much but maybe I could had been able to get a some sort of a hair cut if I went to a hair dresser alone but I am very greatful that my friend took me to that place. The staff were really nice and getting the hair cut was a nice and interesting experience. Most interesting was that I suppose in Japanese hair salons there is one person washing your hair, one person doing the hair cut and in this specific hair salon the owner was checking once a while what the hair dresser was doing. In the end when my hair was being dried, there were two people blow-drying my hair hehe. While getting the haircut we were chit chatting in Japanese and English. That was fun!

This week I also spent my first Christmas abroad and I actually liked it. Although I missed my family and friends. On Christmas Eve there was a dormitory Christmas party, but on Christmas Day we had with our little group a “Christmas meal” during the day and in the evening we had a little get-together where also Santa came to visit us. We decided to go out for a Christmas meal because it would be too challenging to cook Christmas feast here for almost 10 people. So of course we went to have the feast to our favourite restaurant in Seta – Indian / Nepali restaurant Taj Mahal. That food is so heavenly good. In the evening we had lots of snacks and sweets. I also made Finnish rice porridge that is a traditional Christmas dish. Of course with almonds ;-)

During the weekend I ate takoyaki, and yesterday we went to party to Kyoto. It was my second time that I tried takoyaki and it actually is yummy. I just have a small issue with octopus that takoyaki usually consists. Takoyaki itself is really tasty but I can’t say I enjoy the chunk of octopus that is hiding inside the tasty ball. It is also possible to ask takoyaki without octopus but I wanted to try the original version. Bravely I ate all octopus. The flavour of octopus is not bad but just the looks and the texture… Later I tried takoyaki also without octopus.

Yesterday we went out to party in Kyoto. It was a good night even though we didn’t find a club with a proper dance floor. I really wanted to dance (even though I am a poor dancer) but it is almost impossible to find a club with dance floor that is open late (like until 3-5am). We tried Luca because we’ve been there once before but suddenly they had only one area open which doesn’t have the dance floor. Apparently there is a club called King Amila that is open late, and I also googled a club called Metro. The first doesn’t sound to be a good place and no one has ever mentioned about Metro. So now I officially give up for the search of a all-nighter good party place in Kyoto. Every person and every internet forum says that if one wants to party one should go to Osaka (if living in or near Kyoto). We had still a blast and one of the highlights were our selfies :-D

 

Couple of my friends from Finland are coming to visit me so I might not write anything here for two weeks. So Happy New Year!! :-)

Tokyo the Heartbreaker

I was in Tokyo last weekend and that trip was just perfect. I anticipated that trip sooo much and now it is over. Sigh. I fell in love with Tokyo! I have never been in a city like that before – extremely hectic and crowded. I have seen the traditional side of Japan in Kyoto and in Tokyo I saw the modern side. I love both but because of the big contrast trip to Tokyo was rousing.

After screening all the different options how to get to Tokyo we decided to fly there. There are night buses that cost around 5000-6000 yen (price depends on your luck) one-way and the travel time is 9 hrs. There are also different Shinkansen trains (bullet trains) and the cheapest one-way ticket is around 10 000 yen and the travel time is around 3,5 hrs. We decided to fly and the total cost (two ways) was around  15 500 yen (110 euros) and the one-way travel time is around maybe 6 hrs (if there are no hinderance).

We were in Tokyo from Friday to Monday which was enough for me. The city is so busy and even though we tried to take it easy the city wore us down. Surprisingly though the distances are actually quite tolerable. Districts that we visited were Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tsukiji, Odaiba and Akihabara.

On Friday we went first to Roppongi, and visited the Mori Art Museum and Tokyo City View Tower. The area is very modern and it is also known for its nightlife. In the Mori Art Museum we were able to visit the normal museum and with some extra fee we were able to also see a Tim Burton exhibition. One of the themes in the museum was relational art which was so nice. There were pieces of art from an artist, Lee Mingwei, who involves ordinary people in his art. For example his piece of art “Moving Garden” wants people to take a flower and give it to someone who they don’t know. I took a flower and gave it later to an older lady who was seemingly surprised and glad after receiving the flower. We also went to see the city view from the top of the roof (open space), and also from the inside of the Tokyo City View. Ahh.. The open space, cool breeze and the amazing view.. I want to go back.. Then we found a mexican restaurant where I ate a tasty nacho platter and thinking of it now makes my mouth water. Because I haven’t been eating much (or enough hehe) nachos, cheese or other spicy stuff the restaurant made the day just perfect.

On Saturday we went to the Shibuya area where I was finally able to meet my furry hero, Hachiko. That has been one of my highlights during my stay in Japan :-D Hachiko is situated next to the Shibuya metro station. Also Tokyo’s busiest square, “Time Square”, is in Shibuya. I’ve read that hundreds of thousands of people cross that one intersection every day. Later we continued to Shinjuku district and specially to the Harajuku area which is known for its crazy fashion people. Sadly we saw only few extreme fashionistas. We also visited the “red light district” which is called Kabukicho. That was so lame hehe! Maybe we were too early there because we were there around 6pm and didn’t see anything special. Just many “gentlemen clubs” and also places for women. Unfortunately the pictures and advertisement (pics of men) for women didn’t attract me.. I know I am picky..

On Saturday night we had a girls’ night out and decided to head to the famous nightlife area which is Roppongi. We took the last subway to that area and planned to party until morning and we were quite successful. I think the bar was called Muse and we stayed there until we decided to get something to eat and head back home.. Muse was very entertaining haha. I think that bar is called a “meat market”. I’ve never seen Japanese people show so much interest in us than there. And just in general we noticed that Japanese people in Tokyo are more eager to have contact with us and are not afraid to speak in English. Anyway that night we met lots of people and people who were interested to talk with us. Perfect night!

On Sunday we went to the “nerd district” which is called Akihabara and we just strolled around the streets and visited the consumer electronic stores. This might sound strange but we also visited a sex shop :-D it had many storeys and it was very inviting hehe. That was a strange visit.. I will not say anything more except if you find something similar just go in… After the nerd district we went to see the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba. The way to Odaiba with monorail was amazing! Very mesmerizing view!

On Monday I was the only one who fought strongly enough and woke up early to go to the Tsukiji market. Although I didn’t see the tuna auction the visit was interesting. I’ve read that one should go really early there because everything is over after 9am but when I tried to enter the fish market at 8:30am a guard was running after me saying that I am not allowed to enter… I was confused.. I tried to put my cutest smile on and ask kindly that where is the fish market and he pointed the direction I was trying to go.. then I asked that when can I go there and he said that after 9am. So I was very confused! Later when I went there I saw many signs that said that a visitor shouldn’t be inside the market area before 9am. Anyway I seemed to be almost the only foreigner inside, and it was very fascinating to watch the workers’ and the customers’ trading, and the fresh and living sea creatures were also interesting. I am surprised that I didn’t find myself under a forklift because they were driving around wildly.

Aahhh.. I just want to go back.. the atmosphere in Tokyo was mesmerizing and I definitely want to go back. Here are Tokyo’s pros and cons in a nutshell:

Pros of Tokyo

  • More relaxed Japanese people (superficial insight)
  • Modern buildings
  • Lots of buzz everywhere
  • One can just go and stroll around and be spontaneous
  • Big variety of clubs and bars
  • Many interesting museums (that I didn’t have time to visit)
  • Many interesting districts
  • English-speaking people!
  • People watching!
  • Metro system was easy to use

Cons of Tokyo

  • The streets are so lively and full of interesting stuff that it is hard to find places
  • Sometimes there are too many people in one place
  • A bit expensive restaurants (but not more expensive though than in Finland)

Some pictures:

I also recommend our hostel to people who like budget accommodation. Aizuya-Inn was very affordable and convenient!

So in conclusion, I loved Tokyo :-)

Perfect weekend and perfect Monday

Last weekend was just perfect! Nothing really special happened but I was on a good mood most of the time. On Friday I went to an event which was organized by another university and they provided us with free bowling. We met some other foreign and Japanese students. Friday ended with a tasty platter of nachos, rum & cola and girl talk. Also the great result of the ‘equal marriage law’ voting made me happy and proud of my home country Emoticon Facebook Peace and Love If you want to know more about that read this.

On Saturday I had first a date with myself. Something that I haven’t done in Japan and what I need occasionally. Me time. I went to MOMAK which is the National Museum of Modern art. After that I walked to the downtown and had a soy latte which I drank by the Kamo river while enjoying the warm breeze and sunshine. After that I went to see the new H&M which was opened on that Saturday. I don’t know what was I thinking when going there because it was just packed with people.. but at least I found a shirt!

This was my favourite piece of art in MOMAK:
Yuzo Saeki’s ‘Back Street with Advertisements’ (1927)

This picture is from the MOMAK homepage. I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of this painting. There were few pieces that one wasn’t allowed to photograph.

After the great me time I went to a dormitory party and managed to stay awake and party all night. Perfect ending for the weekend! (On Sunday I was awake for 7 hours :-D)

And this day, Monday, started in the best possible way. I slept well, I got two packages delivered to my home, and my only class was cancelled! I got a present from my sweet friend ❤ and the jacket that I ordered a week ago. After I noticed that every shirt and jacket that I’ve tried here in Japan are too short from the sleeves, I decided to try to buy a jacket from an online store. This is the jacket that I got:

Bellfield Duffle Coat. http://www.asos.com

This weekend was just what I needed. Honestly, living in Japan hasn’t been as “easy” as I thought it would be. 99% of the day I feel ok and happy but then there is always a moment when something destabilises my good mood. A culture shock. Even still after three months. Almost everyday. But this is what I wanted when I came to a totally new environment and culture – an unforgettable experience.

PS Muumi mug collectors: do you think these Muumi mugs are worth of anything? KFC edition. :-D

Muumi mug, KFC

Adaptation and settling down

Hey,

This week has been about adaption and getting some necessary things done like registering my address, ordering a name stamp (which we will use in stead of a signature), paying the rent & deposit and learning the general rules of the dormitory, buying a bike and a data SIM card. Next week we will have our orientation of the university and after that I hope “the normal life” will take over. Now I feel like I am in a blur stage because I don’t feel like I am on a holiday nor that I am at home. Never thought of saying this but I need to have a some sort of a routine :-b

I am overwhelmed about the SIM card options in Japan.. the right SIM card depends on what your needs are. One can have a SIM card that has both the internet and the voice call support or just the voice call support or just the internet. One can get a fixed contract or a prepaid SIM card.. and I think there are also some restrictions for tourists like not be able to purchase whatever SIM card. Also you need to check if the SIM card works with your phone. IPhones should work fine but one could have problems with Samsung phones.. I have a Samsung phone of course. Anyway, we will see during the weekend if my phone will work with the data only SIM card. I will let you know..

The grocery store is at the same time an exciting and a frustrating place. Buying the fresh food like vegetables and fish is quite easy, although I can’t tell what the different fishes are but at least I can recognize if it is fish or not. It gets harder with the packages. I am sweating here like a pig most of the time so I thought I found tissues that I can use for wiping the sweat off my face. The package said in English “powder sheet” which sounds encouraging. Well, they were wet tissues.. I also thought I bought sliced mozzarella cheese. I thought it is mozzarella because I could see the colour of the cheese and the package has Italian flag’s stripes and the package was in the middle of the cheese shelf. Well, still don’t know what that is :-D it doesn’t really taste like mozzarella or cheese and it doesn’t melt in the sandwich grill or in the microwave…

One thing that also surprised me is the recycling. You have to recycle everything and you have separate garbage bags for different types of waste. There are burnable garbage, non-burnable garbage, waste paper, plastic containers with a special recycle mark, cans, bottles, plastic bottles with a special recycle mark (PET), milk cartons & batteries and also door-to-door trash collection with additional fee. You can’t of course take the garbage bags out whenever you want because there are fixed days for the different garbage. And you have to take them out between 5am and 8:30am. This can be challenging!

2014-09-12 11.59.09

Japan’s biggest lake, Biwa, is a 5 minute walk away from our dormitory.

Notes:
◊ Japanese customer servants say multiple times “arigato gozaimasu (thank you a lot)” (which is the only Japanese sentence I understand from what they are saying)
◊ Japanese customer servants seem to talk a lot in Japanese although I don’t understand anything what they are saying, except arigato gozaimasu
◊ It helps a lot to know at least one word in Japanese if you want to find something or check if the product is what you are looking for
◊ The Japanese are starting to wear autumn clothes. It is around 29 degrees during the day. I am still sweating in my summer clothes :-D
◊ The cars drive on the left side
◊ The water is drinkable but the taste is a bit grassy and muddy.
◊ Chocolate is good, and the best beer so far is Asahi with silver label

A slightly awkward tourist

Hi,

I’ve been here almost four days and little by little I am getting used to the idea that I will spend the next five months here. Somehow it has been hard to grasp the thought of me spending next few months here. Maybe it is because the environment is so different from what I am used to. But I really like it here :-) no big culture shocks or irritations so far.

The locals have been really nice! So sweet and helpful although not many have been speaking English (except our super nice tutors). The communication with the Japanese has been a mix of words of English, Japanese and hand signs. 

Other things that I’ve noticed so far: the streets are clean, you can see many people wear Kimonos (the traditional Japanese garment), green tea has been utilized in many products (cake, chocolate, ice cream, and so on), at tourist sites you can taste many products and Japanese queue like the Finns (yey!!). I didn’t expect to see so many people wearing Kimonos because I thought it is a very special garment that is worn rarely. Japanese wear a Kimono when they have special occasion (e.g. a date or a classy party) or when they just feel like dressing up and going for a stroll.

I also found some things where I need some practice. I found that sitting at a low table is extremely difficult and painful for me, haha. Add to that a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup. I got a new meaning for hot. I sweat like a pig.

We went to visit Kiyomisu temple that is one of the oldest temples in Kyoto. On the way to the temple there are many stands for tourists that sell lots of kitsch, souvenirs and sweets. I didn’t try yet but the most fascinating was a cucumber on a stick. Also sweets made of potato was quite strange but actually really tasty.

At the temple one could pray for lots of things in many ways and of course I also tried to pray for a wish. I paid 4 yens (0,03 euros) for that wish. At the temple one can get rid of problems by writing them on a piece of paper and putting it in the water where the paper and the problems will fade away. There was also a Jishu Shrine which is called “the Cupid of Japan”. There young singles can pray for a boyfriend or a girlfriend in many different ways which will bring love to their life. I didn’t try that, yet! :-D

 

 

And I found an adaptor that works, yey :-)

-Jaana

Konnichiwa!

Hi and hello,

Here’s a short update how I am doing. I am pretty OK except I am still dead tired. I couldn’t sleep much during my travel from Finland to Japan and last night I slept 14 hours. So yes I was tired and still am.. Maybe tomorrow I will feel normal already. But I am super excited still :-)

 

Summary of my travel to Japan:

– Bus: I took a bus from my parent’s home city to Helsinki-Vantaa airport. It took 4 hours..

– Flights: I flew first from Helsinki to Milan 3 hours, then I flew to Hong Kong 11 hours and from there 4 hours to Osaka.

– Train: I took a train from Osaka to Kyoto (around 75 minutes) with the help of nice Japanese students of my school and in Kyoto station there was a person waiting for me and we took a taxi to the dormitory.

 

I had a bit misfortune with me. I lost my laptop at the Hong Kong airport 30 minutes prior boarding time. I realized that I left it somewhere near me couple of minutes too late because I couldn’t find it anymore. So I tested right away how nice and helpful Asians were. And luckily the staff was very helpful and we found the laptop. Someone from the staff collected it right away when it was left alone. I was so relieved!! They have lots of announcements that do not leave your luggage alone. So kids, try to sleep before you go travelling..

Another misfortune is that my adaptor is not suitable for the plugs in my dormitory although the package said it should be. So I will write more later and send some pics. I borrowed an adaptor from another exchange student.

 

Here’s what I bought from my first trip to a grocery store:

20140904_175647

I think I bought chocolate, noodles, salad with a dressing, blueberry yogurt, unripened cheese with flavor of black pepper, bananas, bread, soy souce, chips, alcoholic beer (there was loads of 0% beer) and something green staff in the middle.

 

I’ll write more later. Bai Bai (bye-bye)!