July 14, 2017

A Golden Opportunity

This day trip to Tokyo was one of my last before moving. I had just given myself a DSLR for my birthday and needed to be inspired to learn it. My travel companion was remarkably patient as I fiddled with my new toy its first day out of the box. The gorgeous "Ginko Avenue," is located in Meiji Jingu Gaien Park and now hosts an annual Gingko Festival.

Ginko trees, or "ginan" as they're called in Japan, are hands-down my favorite tree. Lots of people get hung up on sakura, but ginan are equally gorgeous and an enormous part of Japanese culture.

First of all, the female trees yield the horrifically smelly ginko fruit with a delicious pit. The ginan, or ginko biloba nut, is packed with minerals and is especially tasty grilled over charcoal and accompanied with an icy cold beer.

Second, the trees turn a spectacular golden color (if you missed the pics, this is a good time to scroll up,) in the fall. A bright golden ginan tree is one of mother nature's limited edition crayons that is magificent, and brief.

Third, the shape of the ginan leaves are also the shape of the hairstyle, oicho worn by some sumo wrestlers. If you know me, you know I love sumo. 

So case closed. The ginan tree rocks. 

If you want to learn more, check out how I cooked it.



Welcome to Wherever You Are

Holy cow, where to start?

It's been a weird trip, these last two years. We left one of the most densely populated areas of Japan, Kanagawa Prefecture, and moved way, way down South to a much smaller, exceptionally slower Iwakuni.

I chose this picture taken in the mountains near our home. This remote train station overlooking a valley of flowers visualizes exactly how I see this place. I thought it fitting for my comeback post.

The last two years in a nutshell? I landed an amazing job and started exploring the hell out of this region. I visited Taiwan and South Korea. I learned traditional Japanese pottery. This chicken picked up a frog for the first time. I have met some wonderful friends that I will have for life.

But all the while, I secretly longed to get the hell out of here as soon as possible. Then all of the sudden, at the ripe age of 38, I found out I had a bun in the oven.

Holy crap. Time to shift gears and reprioritize everything. Although I had hoped that time would fly by, my new perspective is that I want time to crawl. Every day is monumental. I'm alive. I have a child. I live in Japan. I need to make it all count--every single minute.

So, I put my 18 year career on the backburner, and embraced a new job that is the hardest thing I've ever attempted: motherhood. Although "M" keeps me on my toes, I miss the creative outlet that my career has always been for me.

So let's bring on the return of the blog! I've got two years of food, quirky Japanese stuff, and adventures to share with you. Crack open a chuhai and let's dig in.


April 9, 2014

Do it Yourself Kushiage in Yokosuka: Easy on the Pocketbook but Hard on the Waistline!

We just checked out a newish restaurant that serves kushiage in a new way. Kushiage is a popular dish that hails from Osaka (those crazy cats that brought you Takoyaki (Octopus Balls) and Okonomiyaki (commonly referred to as the Japanese Pancake.) 

Hi! I'm the dorky author of this blog. 

Okay, so first you check in at the front and tell them how many guests you have in your party. It's all-you-can-eat for 90 minutes and 2000Yen. Do you want the all-you-can-drink soft drink option? That'll cost you another 200Yen. If you want to get your buzz on, it's all you can drink draft beer (one hour) for 1,000Yen. 

There are two sections of kushiage sticks--vegetarian and meat. Vegetarians will love this place unless they're extremists (your frying oil is shared with your dining mates.) Sweet potato really holds together well under the conditions and the batter came out perfectly. The meat options are endless: chicken thigh, meatballs and nankotsu (cartilage); shrimp, shrimp balls, salmon, octopus, wienies, beef, pork.... 

Anyway, let's dive in! As our oil heated up, we built our salads, stocked our dipping sauces and piled our plates high with skewers.  We grabbed ours batter and panko bread crumbs to turn our boring kabobs into kushiage. There's also a pickled bar, salad bar, curry and rice bar and miso soup--all of it at a diner's disposal for 90 minutes.

Pictured above is a delicious pressed fish tube called "chikuwa." YUM! This tongue-in-cheek offering is a healthy food that isn't normally skewered, battered and fried but as with anything battered and fried---it was pretty freaking awesome! Other notables included takoyaki, shumai and miniature egg rolls. You know that guy on Blue Street that turns the fish-shaped cakes filled with red beans? Those were even available skewered!

Yumi is going to town but don't judge--she's with hungry child!

Once you've fried and dried (rested) your kushiage, you  then dip it in one of the eight sauces of which you obtained at the sauce buffet.

Frying action from above.

 Yumi had quite a few of the Japanese wieners. Oh wow, that's a nice play on words there....

Anyway, this restaurant is not big and since it's new--it's packed. I recommend going during the week. I don't know if this place is good for toddlers as they might want to stick their digits in that frying oil. Kids will definitely enjoy the chocolate fountain and husbands will love the all-you-can slug beer dispenser.

I recommend this place! Go! Fry! Eat!

Location: 8th Floor Moore's City (Yokosuka Chuo Building) 

July 31, 2013

Engrish: The Florist Edition

You know what? This one is so wonderful that I am going to keep quiet and let the beauty of Engrish wash all over you. 
Okay, really quickly--the misuse of "it's" is driving be bonkers.
That is all.

Location: My Favorite Flower Shop in Uwamachi, Yokosuka.

July 29, 2013

Engrish: The Car (Kuruma) Edition!

Is this technically Engrish? I think so! The use of an English word or phrase in a situation such as the naming of a model of car when it is totally opposite of what they probably intended is definitely Engrish. 

So here we have three of my favorites: Cocoa, Diva and Naked. I think the only model that would stand a chance in hell of being sold in the USA would be Diva and it would probably have a very specific, and narrow, market. Now Cocoa and Naked? I have no clue what they were going for, but hey--thanks for the giggle during my morning commute!

By the way, if you're just joining the fun and don't know what Engrish is, please visit the almighty wikipedia  for a quick lesson.

Location: Yokosuka

July 28, 2013

Sell Outs: Leo Dicaprio

Fresh off his Django Unchained success, Leonardo can be found brightening up the liquor aisles in Japanese supermarkets. He's the current spokesman for Jim Beam. What is funny about this instance is that I asked (in terribly broken Japanese,) if they threw away the poster afterward. The stocker immediately removed it from the box and handed it to me. After about ten thank you's and five bows, I left with a rad souvenir, a new blog post and hey--I'm totally a loyal customer now.

If you've read this blog in the past, you're familiar with "Sell Out" posts where I share western celebrities that are pushing products here in Japan and probably getting paid enough money to buy a small island. So why do I do it? Simple--I find it amusing! Back as early as the 80's, some of them would get flack for advertising cigarettes in Japan during a time that the culture in the states was shifting toward anti-tobacco. There seems to be a stigma with A list celebrities and advertising in the 'states, but it is very accepted here and thus more common. Finally, I don't see Leonardo pushing Jim Beam in the states would go over as well as it does here but what do I know.

Location: My (now) favorite local market, Yokosuka.

July 26, 2013


If you enjoy the photos on this website, check out my Instagram at user name RamenForBreakfast. You'll have to download the free app of course, but it's a totally fun way to see what your friends and entertainers are up to.

Have a tasty day!

 Do you want to tell him or should I? 
You know what? On second thought, I take that back. Props to this "ogi-san" for having the balls to push around a CHIHUAHA in a PINK dog STROLLER! See how I did that just there? Three offenses. Not only do I admire the tough-guy expression on his face but I also love that in Japan, this is a totally normal. 
Location: Yokohama

Engrish: The Toilet Paper Edition

Aah, the beauty of Engrish!
 It's not that I don't understand the advertising; it's just that it's so opposite of American advertising. I'm sure the Penguin brand is suggesting that the herb or leave-infused wipes will bring a chilly Antarctic-feel (or wherever the hell penguins come from,) to your tush. And I'm guessing that one of the Fruit Basket brand rolls will provide you with the scent of grapes or peach while you're, um, doing the business. But this American finds the idea of mixing delicious fruity smells with ahem--the nastiest of ones--simply gross.  It's subtle cultural differences that I love about living in a foreign land. You can only be bowled over by so many temples, crowded subways and crazy fads for so long.
Location: My local supermarket.

January 30, 2013

Best & Worst Things I've Recently Eaten

Freshly shucked Japanese oysters in a ponzu sauce served with lemon wedge, grated daikon and spicy daikon garnished with a shiso leaf. BEST thing I've eaten this year!

Tuna Soup with miso and lucky eyeball. In all fairness to the dish, the soup was definitely not the worst thing I've had this year (that would be the fermented squid guts tossed with mashed umeboshi,) but that's another story. It was definitely the scariest looking thing I've forced down. The eyeball socket wasn't bad, nor was the skin that had separated from the eyeball. The eyeball was tough to swallow. The texture is like many an organ but it didn't taste bad, just a little mind-over-matter playing with my gag reflex:)

If you like food photos, check out my instagram feed: http://instagram.com/jessica_in_japan/