Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spotted! On the Courts and at the Garage Sale

This picture itself is owed an entry all of its own.  Ever since it started getting cold here and people started getting sick, these carpenter's/nurse's/terrorist face masks started showing up on everyone.  Apparently, when one is sick in Japan, the polite thing to do is wear one of these babies to keep your germs from spreading.  If I get sick I absolutely refuse this!  It just seems like too much.  People would wear these on their scooters in Delhi and that made sense because the pollution was so terrible and I guess the masks would keep the pollution out... but ugh, no way, nah uh, I'll not wear one!
I was "volun-told" that I would be participating in a prefecture-wide tennis tournament where all of the high school teachers in the area play some friendly games of tennis against each other.  Ashley (who I work with at Higashi high school) and I decided that the best way to try and pass the day would be to fulfill our expected role of being loud, obnoxious foreigners.
A rare photograph of me all around!  In athletic gear, making cheerleading signs.
My butt.  Watch out Kim Kardashian!  I lent my camera to a five year old and she took about fifteen pictures of my butt playing tennis.  I think she has a real future in celebrity photos!
In action! 
My fellow English teacher's incredibly cute daughter (the butt photographer), Kanako, offers me some of the bento her mother packed her.
No eight hour group school/office event would be complete without the bento. The school/office orders them for everyone and it's pretty nice to sit around together and chow down.
He thinks so too.
The bento before it is unsheathed.
Also, no hard day of sports would be complete without the office/school drinking party at the end!  We all gathered for my most favorite food in the entire world, shabu shabu.  This delicacy is thinly sliced beef or pork that you swish through boiling broth for a few seconds until it is cooked, then dip in mouth-watering ponzu sauce and scarf down!  I swear, there is no food like this!  At this restaurant we had unlimited meat (dish after dish appeared before us) and unlimited beer which is the way that it always should be!
Dipping the freshly cooked pork into sauce.
Swishing the pork around to cook it.  The onomatopoeia in Japanese for the sound of swishing the meat in the boiling water is sha sha, hence the name shabu shabu for the dish.
A plate of raw pork.  I never thought I would be so in love with pork.  In America a pork chop has always tasted like sand to me - so dry and flavorless!  But in Kagoshima they have a special kind of black pig called korobuta which is treated royally all its life before making an appearance on the table and I have never had a flavor quite like it!  I am sold for life.  The quality of meat in Japan is generally amazing, and though they usually eat a lot more fat on their meat that we do in the US and A, it is definitely worth it.  Because you eat a smaller quantity of meat here, the higher fat content seems to balance out.
You can throw these veggies in the boiling broth to cook while you are scarfing down pork strips and then eat them with the pork in the sauce.  The thin, white mushrooms are enoki and have a nutty flavor that is great with nearly anything.  I am sure you can find it at any Asian grocery store - try throwing it in your miso soup!

The Next Day: Trip to a small town in search of a fabled "antique fair"
Fall in Japanese countryside is incredibly pleasant viewed from the train.
I dragged/convinced my friend Mayumi to try checking out an "antique fair" that was advertised in one of the English newsletters that Kagoshima prefecture publishes monthly.   I think she thought it was really amusing that I would want to look at or spend money on old Japanese things as no one under 60 in this city seems to have any interest in antiques.  But I had such high hopes! It was in a town forty minutes away by train - that is how desperate I am for something like the thrift stores/antique fairs of home.  I will take a train for nearly an hour to attempt to find it.
The "antique fair" was disappointing.  Mostly very pricey Ming vase looking items and samurai swords.  No one loves their old shit quite like Americans, and I am constantly reminded of this sad fat wherever I may be outside of the motherland.  No novelty items, old photographs, brooches or any of the kitsch that one would hope for at one of these gigs.
A taxi driver gets some shut-eye.
I found America in a town called Ichiki.
A girl on the train home gets some shut-eye.
Finally, the NYTimes.com tells me that Venice is flooded.  What is it like to live on an island city that is slowly sinking and flooding every once and a while to remind of the sinking?  I really appreciate and relate to these guys.  Just look at those beautiful wine glasses and expressions that say some Italian version of "eeey, so whaaat?!" as they feast despite or because of the flood.


vanessa said...

the photos of you two walking down the street look like antm stills of the girls going on go-sees. by the way, have you been keeping up? it got boring.

and, i am jealous of all those bento boxes.

Suki said...

yur so into shut eye. i am 2. i also like America in japan.

Jenni Stapor said...

Hello! I don't want to seem weird but I was just digging online to show a friend Kagoshima Higashi High School because I visited there about 4 years ago for a homestay and found your blog! How is Higashi doing???? Are you on the JET program or something, because I'd love to go back there again! If you ever have time, could you e-mail me??? Thanks so much! My email is jlstapor@vt.edu - I'll try and follow your blog now!

Thanks again,