Wednesday, March 30, 2016

This is Not a Drill - Hanami is Upon Us.

Last week Mac and I walked to the park and we were met at the entrance by a row of food trucks and a man juggling swords while balanced upon a unicycle.

I turned to Mac for my best Rafiki impression:  IT IS TIME.

Hanami season is upon us!  For the un-indoctrinated, Hanami/ 花見  means "flower viewing,” and it is one of the most popular celebrations in Japan.  Hanami celebrates the blossoming of the cherry trees (sakura/ 桜) throughout Japan, and it is celebrated by simply taking a tarp out into the park, finding a spot under a cherry tree in bloom, then settling in to enjoy the out-of-doors while drinking.  

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, immediately following Valentine’s Day, stores everywhere dedicate whole sections of their shop to everything pink and flowered.  Starbucks has a Sakura Frappuchino (though they only run the special through the 15th of March, which is before any of the trees start blooming and I fail to see the point in that…#marketingFAIL), KitKat puts out a Sakura KitKat for the month, and Mac?  Well, Mac gets a new bandana.*  So were were ready for the celebration, is what I’m saying here.

Real Men/ Dogs wear pink.

The bigger parks in the area which have cherry trees also set up the park during these times like a festival site; lots of food trucks, and beer tents, and random entertainment (see above re: juggler on a unicycle because I was 100% not making that up)

Last year, we didn’t get much of a chance to celebrate Hanami, and I didn’t talk about it on the blog much, because we were still trying to get our house fixed and unpacked and moved back into it from Okazaki.  So I’ve been really soaking up the sunshine this past week over in the park. 

Who am I kidding: forget sunshine, I’m soaking up the kebabs.

The Mister and I have a deep love for Turkish Kebabs.  Judging by the number of Turkish Kebab shops in the area, we’re not alone.  But during the Hanami celebration, there is a Turkish Kebab truck right in the park.  It’s as close to delivery Turkish Kebabs that we could get.  And the Turkish man who owns that Kebab truck, adores Mac.  So the first time we did a lap through the food truck court to figure out a snack, he waved us over and promptly threw Mac some chicken.  

It was pretty much over for us after that.  What I’m saying here is that we have had Kebabs at least once every day this past week, and there always seems to be  a little container of meat that the kebab man had saved for Mac on those occasions.  I’m pretty confident at this point that I could close my eyes once I got to the park and Mac would just drag me straight to the Turkish Kebab Truck.  I supposed there are certainly worse things my dog could be taught.

What’s your favorite food-truck dish?  
Tell me in the comments!

Sort of related note:  I’ll be getting to a few more Hanami gatherings in the next couple of weeks bringing FREE SAMPLES of KitchenQuePasa Hanami Cookies with me - so if you see me out and about, don’t hesitate to flag me down.  Specifically, I'll be at the Nagoya Adventure Club's Hanami Party this Saturday with Pink Grapefruit Meltaways and Mint-Chocolate Wafers

Speaking of, I’ve got some cookies to bake, aaaaaand then it’s probably time for a kebab.

today’s little language lesson
すみません、二つ ロール ケバブ 辛くない お願いします。
sumimasen, futatsu ro-ru ke-ba-b, karakunai onegaishimasu.
excuse me, two kebab rolls, not spicy please.


*Mac almost always wears a bandana when we’re out in Nagoya, because I have found that people interpret dressing you dog up as a sign that your dog is not vicious and terrifying.  So… bandana.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Making major life decisions "...based solely on a couple of hooters."

She looks like how I imagine every exasperated celebrity looks
when rabid fans run up and interrupt their day for a selfie.
Way way back, before the beginning of time I had agreed to move to Japan with The Mister and the Critters, I did an internet search.

You see, the Mister had come home that day and said “hey, you know that one time the company sent us to Mexico for a year?  What if… they did that again.  But this time… to Japan... for three years?

And I said something to the effect of “I AM NOT MOVING AGAIN YOU DOODIE HEAD HUSBAND OF MINE GET OUT OF MY FACE.”  Then I found a corner to rock back in forth in while visions of once again putting ALL our crap into boxes bounced through my mind’s eye.

I’m very mature, you see.

After I was able to come out of my box-crazed trance, I comforted myself in the warm glow of my companion; the internet.  I searched for interesting things to see in Japan.  And while I’d like to pretend that I was most attracted to Japan’s beautiful appreciation for culture, it’s immaculate and breathtaking shrines, or even Japan’s impressive attention to detail and hand craftsmanship in day to day life… I’d be lying.  
The first thing* that stood out to me, the thing that started the snowball in my head of “okay, maybe I can move internationally again”… was an article about Owl Cafes.

That ball got rolling pretty fast after that, just based solely on a couple of hooters. 
(a sentence I sort of just needed to type for the sheer absurdity of it all.)

Cafe culture here is varied - and my love of coffee has lead me to explore several.  You’ve got your standard Starbucks, handy because they’re all smoke-free and ’normal’ to my American sensibilities.  Then there are cafes that allow you to bring in your dog, which obviously I’m a big fan of.  Then there are cafes which are clearly more set up to handle businessmen - a little brusque, and more or less like walking into a brick of cigarette smoke (but they have a breakfast service where you get toast and an egg included with your cup of coffee).  Lastly, there are the critter cafes- those establishments that serve coffee, but that you really go to because they’ll let you drink that coffee while you hang out with a weird animal.

You may remember I brought The Mister to a bunny cafe in last spring.  We realized pretty quickly that men… don’t really go to critter cafes.  It’s totally set up to be a super cute time with lots of snuggles and pink and stuffed animals.  Thus, when I was out for a walk a few months ago and saw a sign for a new Owl Cafe, I knew KP2 would be a much better suited partner in crime.  

We arrived to the cafe, and after having to be let in by one of the staff (because I was too excited to see live owls to look at the kanji on the door and see it was a “pull” not a “push”), we were invited to sit next to a large sculpture of a tree.  Upon each branch perched a different, large species of owl, calmly watching the Cafe’s patrons.  There was one larger owl seated on a perch next to the Cafe’s window, who was more enamored with watching the birds fly by outside (admittedly a bit sad…), and a fence-post-style perch on the opposite wall which featured four smaller owls of differing species.  To the front of the cafe two more perches hosted a Great Horned Owl and a Snowy owl.  The lady staff member approached us and explained that you can pay to visit the cafe by the hour.  Coffees were included in the price, and were self-serve from a coffee vending machine in the back corner.  Pictures were encouraged, but no flash.  And if you really liked one of the birds, you could wear a falconry glove and have that bird perch on your arm for a few moments at the end of your visit.

Here’s how I felt while soaking in all that info:

KP2 wasn’t disappointed in the experience by any means, but I think she wasn’t ready for me to be snapping the 600 photos I took (I really did take 600.  Sorry not sorry.)

Here are my highlights:
The owls were all well cared for, and the lady staff member CLEARLY sincerely loved each of the birds.  And the birds were genuinely fond of her.  She snuggled with the snowy owl.  SNUGGLED.  

The Snowy Owl was the star of the place.  I suspect because she looked, obvi, like everyone’s favorite mail-delivery owl, Hedwig.  I head a lot of hushed exclamations while we were there “Ah!  Ha-Ree Po-Ta!(sound it out, it’s adorable, promise.)

To that effect, Shirotama (the Snowy Owl, yes I did learn all their names don’t judge me), was selected to sit on a young lady’s arm for pictures.  She didn’t hold the owl’s tether quite firm enough, and Shiro-tama decided to take a quick fly.  She landed over by the post with the 4 smaller owls, and I nearly peed my pants at the reaction of this little one who easily quadrupled in size out of fear:

My favorite owl was the Barn Owl: Torimochi.  She advertised (and prominetly features on) the cafe's twitter account.  I can’t.  She’s SO BEAUTIFUL.  And whenever the owl lady would come over to her, she’d cock her head in such a way that she looked just like she was smiling.  Notice me, Torimochi.  I want to be your friennnnnnndddddddd.

Long story short, when we originally sat down, I was all “oh, we have to pay for a whole hour?  I doubt we’ll be here for more than 20 minutes, this place is small.”  And then a little over an hour later we were sort of lingering over leaving.  I really enjoyed it.  And it was my entire bucket list for Japan.  So… I guess 'thanks for all the fish?'   Nah, but that was cool.  I’ll be back.**

What critter would YOU go ga-ga for if they had a cafe?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson:

*The second thing which piqued my interest?  The Fox village.  Don’t worry, I’ll get there.

**I have been back since.  So many times, in fact, that my FREQUENT FLIER CARD (it’s a real thing I’m not even joking) is 1 stamp from a free visit with Torimochi!

Friday, March 11, 2016

You know you’re starting to assimilate…

Listen, I am fully aware that I am an American living in Japan.  It becomes clear from the face of the barista every time I take my to-go coffee out on the street and sip from the cup as I walk.  It’s clear in my inability to squash my giant American feet into the adorable shoe selections I find in shops.  And it’s also pretty apparent in how poorly I speak Japanese. Cause, whah, guys - my Japanese isn’t awesome.

But sometimes I find myself doing things here that I simply wouldn’t be doing if I hadn’t lived in Japan.  Things that my mum (who’s visiting Japan at the moment!*) has noted as silly.  I present said things here for fun and posterity.

10 Things That Signal You’re Officially Getting Used to Life in Japan
(things which I definitely do)

I am pleased as punch with this purchase!
  1. You respond to most conversations with a tight-lipped “un!” and a head nod.
  2. You have enough packets of travel tissues stored up to stuff a taxidermic elephant.
  3. You walk into the street without paying any mind to cars because you have the light and are a  pedestrian.  
  4. (unless it’s a taxi.  taxis follow laws for no man.)
  5. You have purchased a pair of collapsible chopsticks that you carry with you just in case you are at a place that has those shoddy wooden chopsticks.
  6. You immediately assume anyone who is taller than you (at a whole hot 5’7”!) plays professional basketball.
  7. You don’t watch the weather forecast on tv so much as you check in for the laundry forecast to say it’s a good day for your pants to hang dry on the balcony.
  8. You have a favorite Daiso, because you know some are better stocked than others.
  9. When you’re out and about, you ball up your trash and put it in your bag to throw out back at home.  Because you know better than to bother looking for a public bin.
  10. You bow to everything.
I did not draw this, but I have DONE this.
Credit goes to Ms. Mary Cagle of
Check out her comics about living in Japan!
Is there something you do in Japan that you 
wouldn’t do otherwise which isn’t listed below?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
Watashi wa amarini mo ōku no tisshu o motte imasu

I have too many tissues.

*yes!  mom's here, which explains the delay in blog post this week... and will likely cause a delay next week as well.  bear with me, this can only be fodder for good posts down the road.