Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hot! Hot! Hot!

In English, 'Hot' can be temperature hot but can be spicy hot, too, whereas in Japanese those 2 words are different.

However, I once had a proper experience those 2 words really came together.

It was summer in 1997, when we had friends from Germany, Holland, Turkey and Canada, so it was a fairly international party at home.

Those people all had Turkish link, so I was trying to make 'Yogurtlu Kofte' from my Turkish cooking book. But I had never dealt with fresh chili peppers especially green ones before so I had no idea what they could do to me.

I was innocent and ignorant so I opened them one by one with my hands and got rid of seeds inside, yes, one by one with my hands.

My food was actually lovely, everybody complimented but by the time people started to say 'it's beautiful', 'really nice!!' etc. my hands started burning.

It was a real burn, at least that's what I felt. While people are enjoying the food in the living room I was in agony putting my hands in running water in the kitchen.

I thought, our Turkish friend may know how to cure because I got this through Turkish cooking. So I asked him what to do.

He told me that put good amount of yogurt around my hands. OK, so I did.

That seemed be working for the first 20 seconds but as soon as the yogurt gets a bit warmer, it was the same so I had to put more yogurt every 20 seconds.

In short, yogurt does only work as good as running water and you can not touch anything with this smelly white stuff on your hands. So basically, it's no good at all.

I still wonder how people deal with chili peppers? Is there better solution than yogurt or running water?

Monday, 12 September 2011

One is sorrow, two is joy...

My husband always looks for another magpie rather religiously if he finds one. 

It's a bit like kids in Japan hiding their thumbs when they see a funeral car, well at least when I was a kid, all my friends did it.

I know it sounds quite weird but it is/was believed if you do not hide your thumb when you see a funeral car, you will not be with your parents when they die. Well, there are quite a lot of 'you can not be with your parents when they die' in Japanese superstitious and this one was one of those. I kind of understand the theory behind it. In Japanese, thumb is called 'parent finger (Oya-yubi)' so if you hide your parent fingers, they are not taken away by the funeral car...

As a kid you don't really know what it is like 'you can not be with your parents' thing, but all my friends religiously hide the thumbs. 

I guess 'one is sorrow, two is joy' seems to be rather simple and innocent.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

It is not a holiday suites.

Following the Umeboshi story, I am going to talk about rice.

When I'm going to buy rice, I usually take suitcase since I usually buy a packet of 10kg of rice and it is quite heavy to carry back hanging from your arm.

Japanese rice in UK are usually imported from California or very few of them are from Italy. They are not something you can buy at any supermarket and you really have to go to Oriental food store so I prefer buying a big packet rather than getting them every couple of days.

Japanese students in UK, who automatically believe that buying Japanese rice in UK is totally decadent, tend to buy pudding rice as substitute. I don't know where it has been started but by word of mouth pudding rice is the closest to Japanese rice among those you can buy in a normal supermarket.

Now I have to clarify to all Japanese students in UK.

Pudding rice is nowhere near Japanese rice. And rice ball made of pudding rice is pretty disgusting. Also pudding rice is quite expensive compare to proper Japanese rice you can get in oriental supermarkets.

So DO NOT buy pudding rice unless you are making rice-pudding, which I think generally is disgusting, too.

Packman Return

My love for Japanese food is sometimes too much and quite often too overwhelming.

Quite a many years, I made Japanese rice everyday with my Japanese rice cooker and ate it at least twice a day with a couple of 'Umeboshis'.

Umeboshi is authentic Japanese pickled plums. I was quite fussy about the quality so I always calculate the number of Umeboshi left in the fridge and try not to eat them all till next visit to Japan.

One day, a friend of mine brought a bucket of damsons from their garden, so I decided to make my own Umeboshi.

It is really a painstaking job and takes several months to complete the process.

Sometimes they need to be in special alcohol, juice or salt, and sometimes they need to do sunbath. If it rains, they need to be taken in the house. I wonder if it may be easier to have a cat.

Anyway, after all sorts of hassle, here you are, Umeboshis are done!

The taste...mmmm...it's just about OK.

I think I will go back to my old counting Umeboshi life, yeah, I think so.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Wat's cider?

I know what cider is now but I didn't know 16 years ago.

In Japan, 'cider' is lemonade and 'lemonade' is proper lemon juice.
So I didn't dream that cider is alcoholic drink.

Who and how people decided to call lemonade 'cider' in Japan but if you order 'cider' you will get sweetened sparkling water in Japan.

But at the same time, I wonder why English people decided to call the sweetened sparkling water 'lemonade'? It tastes million miles away from 'Lemon'.

OK, then you may ask what we call cider in Japan.

We call cider 'apple alcohol'!

Could it be any clearer? Perfect!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

A Reserved Seat...

Recently, I had a friend from Paris visiting me.

He loves taking pictures around and he wanted visit somewhere not too touristic. So I took him around the places I love.

First of all, we walked through 2 woods near our flat then went into a path, which used to be used as a railway.

It was incredibly nice day and in summer time, the path is generally covered with full of green.

So it was a bit of surprise to find this chair all in sudden.

What is it for? I don't know.

But in any case, it was brilliant contrast of this white in the deep green.

Hope the chair is still there, even if it is totally meaningless.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The very first water melon in UK!

I've lived in London for nearly 16 years and it is probably the very first water melon I have bought in UK.

How lucky! I found a little heart in it!

It may be weird to the Westerners but Japanese people actually put salt on water melon as it makes the natural sweetness stand out better.

It really works! Try it at home!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Does North really have to be the top?

When I started living in London, I really didn't have any idea why you need to know which direction is the North, South etc., why tube stations have to indicate 'Southbound', 'Northbound' instead of name of the destination.

In Japan, we rarely use North or South to indicate directions to get somewhere. Usually it should be which station, and when you come out from the station, right or left and 3rd corner at convenient store right and so on. You really don't have to know where is the North.

In Japan even maps are not necessarily pointing the North. If you see a map on a wall around a station, for example, it is most likely pointing the direction you stand rather than North, which is very confusing for non-Japanese.

So, it is not only me but quite often, Japanese people do turn around a map to point the direction you stand (otherwise you have to turn to face the North all the time). And this is one of those things Westerners do not understand at all!

When I get lost somewhere in UK with map in my hand and if I ask English people for direction, then they always say:

You got lost because you turn the map in that strange way!

Not really! OK, I got lost but it is not because I turn the map in 'your' strange way. It is perfectly reasonable for me...

Monday, 9 May 2011

Happy Big 70!

I've just been to My friend's big 70 party the other day.
He is a Japanese journalist always with a very fair viewpoint and I have learnt quite a lot from him.

For long time, nobody knew how old he was. Since he had a red pass for London Transport, it was obvious that he is over 60, but I was not sure if he is early 60s or late 60s or even older than that...in fact I did not care, it doesn't really matter, does it?

At the party, he gave a speech. He said 'I never told anybody about my age apart from my wife'.

He got a point. In Japan, people are really age conscious. All the interview pages in a magazine usually indicate 'John Smith (45) said blah blah blah...', and the number in the brackets is the age.

My friend carried on 'If Japanese people get to know your age, they start looking at you as the age rather than who you are. If you say you are 36 years old, then people start looking at you as a 36 years old man. If you do not state how old you are, then people will look at you who and what you are, not a 36 years old man, or a 45 years old man but just as you are'

The age of 70 is something my dad really wanted but could not go beyond and I always thought that it is really really far away like some other planets.

But if this friend of mine is 70, and apparently he is, it may not be so far. It may not be another planet, but it may be somewhere like zone 5, I could go quite easy by my Oyster.

And seeing him, I don't feel too bad about going there now.

It was really a lovely party and I felt quite happy with the balloons on the way home.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Fish Easter Monday

I understand that in Britain, or any other Christianity countries, 'Fish Friday' is generally known.

However, for us Japanese, it is 'Fish Everyday'!

So we went to our local pub to have fish & chips today, on Easter Monday.

The food was beautiful as usual and the weather was gorgeous.

But I found a group of little ones protesting to me having fish on Easter Monday...


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Let's Picnic

Something I hardly did when I lived in Tokyo and I do quite often in Summer in London is picnic.

It does not have to be proper eating or drinking but just take some drink and picnic sheet to our local park and literary put up your feet.

Yes, just chill out...till you get....

extremely poor football players kicking the ball towards you...

Friday, 1 April 2011

Kate M?

One day a lady I work together at my client's office was putting those little frags up.

OK, Royal wedding is coming very soon, and we share a bit of celebrating mood.

But still now, if somebody says 'Kate M', I automatically think 'Kate Moss'! I know I am not trendy at all!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Say Cheese

Everybody knows what it's made of.

It was 'Super Cheese' yesterday, apparently 30 percent brighter than usual, yummy!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Thiking of Japan...

One of the things I miss about Japan is the season of cherry blossom.

Somehow, the blossom in London is much earlier than one in Tokyo. May be they are different kind of cherries although they look identically the same?

In Japan, it is traditional that people do picnic under cherry trees. Some people even bring a Karaoke set and have a sing and drink session in a park.

In a month or two, cherries will still bloom even in this devastated situation in Japan.

I wish cherry blossom will ease people's feeling and they still have a little bit of room in their mind to appreciate the beauty...

Has the cat got your tongue?

Well, he certainly is innocent.
I could not found your tongue in his paw.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

We may all be just a grain of sand but remember what a massive beach is made of

Most of my friends who live outside Japan are hugely frustrated for a last couple of days.

We want to help our own country but how?

It was the same for non-Japanese people around me. They kindly asked me for 2 questions. Firstly if my family and friends in Japan are OK, and secondly, if there are anything they can do.

In case you share the same feeling, please spread this link below:

British Red Cross: Japan Tunami Appeal

This time, Japanese Red Cross was so slow to react 'coordinating with other organisations'. Meanwhile, British Red Cross started asking for donation for Japan.

Nevertheless, I don't think it has exposed in the UK media as much as it needed.

I know that Japan is not known as the world poorest country, and maybe that is why UK media is not aware of the necessity of the appeal.

But please remember, how much ever the country seems to be wealthy, the truth is that there are thousands of people in Japan, who are shivering on a freezing school hall right now.

It will take a long long time to get everybody recovered physically, and equally if not more importantly, recovered mentally. In order to go through the long long process, they obviously need money.

Please do not get it wrong. You do not have to give money, please do not feel guilty for that! Just talking about it to people around you can be big enough!!
(But if you could donate, please do not forget to tick the tax relief, if you are a UK taxpayer, that can be counted, too)

We all could do something from where we stand at. It is a matter of awareness.

Pic: Independent on Sunday. Brilliant! Thanks.

Friday, 11 March 2011

It shakes us all where ever you are.

The news about Japanese Earthquake was a real heartbreaking for all of us who live outside Japan.

In reality, people I know in Japan were incredibly calm. From the morning I received normal business mails from my clients and there was a certain temperature difference between what you see in BBC News and Japanese people's mentality.

Apparently, even in Tokyo, there have been constant shakes for last 12 hours, and Japanese TV kept warning where a big shake comes in a minute.

So I gave a ring to my mum just to make sure she is OK as she lives on her own.

She went...

Yeah, yeah, I am fine, I've gotta go out for my Karaoke group meeting in a minute...

Obviously, it is a totally different story in Northern part of Japan. There is fear of massive fire, Tunami and Nuclear plant leak. And looking at a whole village just wiped away literally in a couple of seconds was a real stabbing pain.

I have been thinking what I could do...there is nothing much. I just donated some money, that is all I can think of at the moment, not much, very useless of me. But if you could share any bit of my feeling, would you please spread the links below for me? Thank you very very much!


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Sushi, Geisha, Fuji-Yama

What a Cliche! We are all fed up with it.

I love Sushi and I do feel something special about Mount Fuji.

In one sense Mt Fuji is very close to me since it was always there over the window on sunny days when I was in Japan.

My home town is not so close to Mt Fuji but from windows at school or trains to get to school or work, it was always there, well, on sunny days.

So it was just one of those things you see everyday, nothing special at the time.

It was only after I lived in London for a few years,  I realised, came to appreciate, how special it was.

People do not appreciate what they have but only realise how precious it was when they lose it.

So, maybe, we all have to start looking up and start counting what we have NOW, don't we?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Matter of Gravity?

I love my bread-maker. Bread-making is pure science. When I open the bread-maker, it always fascinates me.

But sometimes, it is not only a matter of science but can be physics, too?

I wonder what the gravity inside the bread-maker was like?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Back to Blues

I am actually a kind of Birmingham City FC supporter, therefore, just to show my supportive spirit, I bet 3 pounds on BCFC to win for 2-1 on Sunday.

The odds was 25-1. So 3 pounds turned into 78 pounds.

I thought that the money, at least the profit of 75 pounds, should be contributed back to BCFC since I am a good, a kind of supporter.

So, I have sent the money to my nephew, 10 years old, an enthusiastic Blues supporter, who, I believe, would have no problems to spend it all on Blues, great!

That's how organic as I am.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

After the Festival...

In Japanese, there is an expression 'after a festival'. It's to describe a kind of emptiness and solitary after a big event. Would it be the same in English, maybe?

The other day, I saw hundreds of Chinese lanterns thrown on the ground in China Town.

I felt very much like after a festival...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Because They Have No Bones

I bought a banana hanger recently.

Apparently, a banana hanger keeps bananas fresh for longer. When bananas are hung rather than placed on the surface, they get ripen naturally and evenly then last days longer.

I know I may be a shallow victim of marketing but we will see.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Suspects

On the Sunday morning, somebody did ring our door.

I answered but no reply so I went down and had a look.

There was nobody around the door...apart from...

Did You??

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Coupe les poils du nez

I don't think I never saw any 'Hana-ge Cutter' when I was a child so I guess it should be relatively a recent invention. 'Hana' is nose and 'ge' is hair in Japanese so you can guess what it is?

I have happened to get 3 Hana-ge cutters in my life but none of them remained at me.

In Japan, it is a kind of joke prize for an office Christmas raffle and I have won a Hana-ge Cutter twice at those occasions.

First one was when I was still working in Tokyo so it immediately went to my male boss at the time, and he was so pleased to have it, good good.

Second one was when I was working for a Japanese publisher in London and it went to my husband immediately and he was quite happy to have it, good good.

After a couple of years, I accidentally dropped my husband's Hana-ge cutter on the bathroom floor. That was it. It's gone quiet forever.

Yes, it was my fault, I admit that. So when I was back in Tokyo, I went to an electric gadget shop to buy a new Hana-ge Cutter for my husband.

There were about 20 different kinds of very similar Hana-ge cutters lined up, but something strange was going on there.

Only 4 out of those 20 were actually named 'Hana-ge Cutter' properly and rest of them was labeled 'Nose Hair Trimmer' in English!! Produced by Japanese manufactures for Japanese customers, but why English? What's wrong about Hana-ge Cutter?

I felt angry about this pretentiousness. It's like selling them labeled 'Coupe les poils du nez' in Harrods London...well, thanks for Google Translation.

Anyway, to protest this pretentiousness, of course, I refused to buy anything labeled 'Nose Hair Trimmer' and did choose one from this limited range of 'Hana-ge Cutters'.

So that was the 3rd one.

Now, my fear is that Hana-ge cutter may not survive for long. They are definitely facing extinction.

Friday, 18 February 2011

New little friends

Niboshi is dried anchovy in Japanese. It is one of the authentic ingredient to make fish stock in Japan.

And in fact it is not bad to eat as it is, too. Because of its rich calcium, it is recommended especially for children and pregnant women to eat them regularly.

I started eating them since I got into serious calorie watch after my trip to Japan for this New Year. You never dream how shocking it was for me to find out I was nearly 20kg heavier than I was when I came to London in 1995.

So now I have given up all chocies and biscuies, instead, these new friends came into my life, oh welcome!

BTW can you tell there is a little rebellion going on in my little friends in the top pic?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Yes, I want a pocket tissue.

When I was in Japan, I never bought pocket tissues.

Pocket tissues were not something you buy but something you were given in a street. They are used as advertising boards just like match boxes 30 years ago.

When I was an university student, I even once did the job, handing out pocket tissues on the street.

We were gathered at Kayaba-cho, Tokyo's biggest financial town, at 6.30 in the morning (!) and instructed who we should give those tissues to and who we should not. On the each package, there was an advert of a major trust bank.

Quite obviously we had to give those away to 'MEN WHO LOOK LIKE WORKING IN THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY' not middle aged women carrying Chinese radishes or leeks sticking out from their shopping bag. So we did, we did give those tissues to men in business suits and did not give them to women unless we were asked for.

OK, tissues have to be passed their target, their potential customers/clients rather than somebody who need them for hay fever. I know, I understand that.

But I feel a little bit left out nowadays since I am not given any tissues any more when I am back in Tokyo. I have to admit that tissues are not around as much as they used be before the recession in late 90s. However, there are still a few about telephone clubs, travel agencies, pachinco shops etc.

Somehow, people can tell I am not their target any more, even though, I do not carry around Chinese radishes or leeks sticking out from my shopping bag. Maybe, I don't look young enough, not pretty enough, not gullible enough, or maybe I don't look Japanese enough!?

Anyway, I still enjoy the privilege of receiving a pocket tissue at a post office counter or till in a shop where it can not be any clearer that I am their customer. Good.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Do you know how to find out how many segments you will have in your orange before peeling the skin...

Just count this bits here...

I was fascinated to find it when I was a little child.

Just a little tip to get your kids eat more fruits...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

L for...

The tulips I bought MYSELF for Valentine's Day are now slightly open.

Apparently, I like flowers witch contains letter 'L' in the names.

Tulips, lilies, daffodils, bluebells, dahlias, lavenders, marigold, alliums, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. etc...

Monday, 14 February 2011

Precious Circle

I never had any desire to buy expensive stationary till I got this beautiful Smythson notebook. It was given by Selfridges Press team when I worked with them.

On the yellow front cover it says 'NOTE TO SELF' and on the back cover there is also silver lines 'MADE EXCLUSIVELY FOR SELFRIDFEES'. Isn't it witty?

As I started carrying around this notebook, I came to feel my cheap and cheerful old pen looks so shabby next to this shinny notebook.

So I went to a department store, first time ever in my life to have a look at pens delicately lined up in a glass display! Then it was so easy to fall in love with this Cross pen. It seemed to be a perfect marriage with the notebook, too.

I was so happy to carry them in my bag wherever I went.

But then, I couldn't help remembering I once had a beautiful Tiffany pen long time ago. It was a delicate slim silver plated pen given by one of our clients. I loved the pen and had it always in my bag. However, silver is not known as a strongest material.

The pen got so many scratches, got dented, got rusted and finally lost....


So this is it. I bought this pink leather Cross case matching my pen.

I am perfectly happy now about the new stationary set in my old shabby shopping bag, honestly.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Valentine's Eve

Just popped around Columbia Road and bought Dutch tulips.

40 of them for a tenner, how good!

I also got a beautiful Rob Ryan book.

Aren't they perfect Valentine gift for myself? Happy!