a day in the park

The weather as been perfect lately, and to be honest I’ve needed some quality time to relax, so last weekend I spent all day Sunday strolling around Fukuoka’s famous Ohori and Maizuru Parks. The ducks and turtles are out playing; and the wisteria and yaezakura are beautiful.

Lazying about the park can be tiring though, so after a few hours of doing nothing but trying to get the perfect shot of a turtle, I went to my favorite restaurant in Fukuoka, Evah Dining. It’s a macrobiotic vegan restaurant, but their meat alternatives are so good I dream about them. I can’t recommend it enough to both vegans and meat-eaters. Please check it out if you’re ever in Fukuoka! (I never did get my shot of the turtle though…)

 

I also took some videos. If you want to see what the parks and restaurant are like, check it out!

 

Where has the year gone?

Wow, I have become super bad at blogging. My job now is way more involved than my last one, so I have been a lot busier during the week and a lot more tired when I get home. On top of that, the last few weekends have been crazy as well! So here I am on a Sunday night minutes before going to bed filling you in on my little Fukuoka life.

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that delicious umegaemochi, famous in Dazaifu, Fukuoka

A few weeks ago, a friend from Kagoshima came to visit, and we had some great food and good beer. We also went to Dazaifu to try to see some fall leaves changing color, but it wasn’t quite the right time to get the full effect of 紅葉 (kouyou-autumn colors/leaves changing color). Regardless it was a nice weekend!

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too concerned with the margarita to worry about the flash

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Christmas…disco balls?

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all veggie and bean burrito mmm

The next weekend, some of my best friends in Japan came to Fukuoka! We all went out Saturday night to the exact same places I went to the previous weekend, but it was so much fun. On Sunday, some of us saw the amazing Big Bang and the Yahoo Dome. Big Bang is always great, but their new album is amazing, and this year they are all looking especially beautiful (ok, fangirl moment over). I really really missed my Kagoshima friends, I’m glad some of us were reunited in my new home!

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same Mexican restaurant, different people to enjoy it with

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we sneaked a few illegal shots at the concert

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a little bar called Cable Car in Daimyo

Last weekend, one of my favorite people on the planet came up for some personal business (but also sort of to see me). I also had my first 忘年会 (bounenkai-end of the year party…I’ve talked about this before) at my new job. It was at a swanky hotel in Hakata and although I couldn’t eat hardly anything there, I had a blast (mostly because I drank A LOT of wine and also because my coworkers are super cool). We had a little karaoke session afterward and my friend even got to meet my coworkers for a bit. My old and new lives combined. So good. On Sunday, we went to Ohori Park to see their winter illuminations (I don’t know…is that a real English word? They were Christmas lights…), and we had good long talks about everything. It was amazing to have most of my friends from the first leg of my Japan journey (who are still in Japan) come see me here. But I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t exhausting! Keeping your apartment in shape for sleepover guests is hard, and having to be in a good mood for three weeks straight when you are me is even harder. I am so thankful for my friends though, and I’m so so happy I got to see them.

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I love where I am now. I am so much happier with my life and where it is going. But I do miss things about Kagoshima–and America. I miss all my friends and that feeling of community I had before. I haven’t been in Fukuoka very long, so I haven’t made a lot of close connections yet. Now that I’m eating plant-based, I miss American grocery stores that much more (haha…totally not important). I miss my family too, now more than ever I think. It may have something to do with the fact that I am not going home this year to visit, and I don’t know the next time I will be able to go home, but I also think it’s because I have fewer distractions now. Like I said, I am so much happier here. But now that I am so much happier and so excited for future possibilities, I’ve been thinking more about the other things that are missing. It’s almost Christmas, and I wish I was spending it with my friends and family back home, but I want everyone to know that I am doing super great here. Healthier and happier and just great. I will see all of you back in America soon enough. I promise you that.

Girl’s day

June has been good to me. Though it’s now rainy season and sunlight has been rare, I am definitely enjoying my final months here with my lovely friends.

I was invited out to Miyakonojo for lunch and a rock bath/sauna trip with two of the coolest ladies I know. We went to a restaurant called SLF and had an amazing four course meal. The salad was covered in local veggies and a perfectly paired blueberry dressing. For the main, I went with margarita pizza and it also did not disappoint. I ate the soup too quickly to take a picture. I’m sorry, it was pumpkin and delicious. Finally, I had a cappuccino and coconut gelato. Ahh, it was the perfect lunch.

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After we headed to Miyakonojo Green Hotel for their stone sauna (岩盤浴). I had never been to a place like this before, and I am so glad the girls invited me. You change into a provided cover-up, drink some water, then lie down on the hot slab of rocks in a dark room that’s about 40 C (104 F). First you lie on your stomach for five minutes, then switch to your back for ten. They play light instrumental music, so it’s extremely relaxing, but staying in past 15 minutes isn’t recommended this time of year because you can easily overheat. In-between sessions, you can a break in an air-conditioned room and rehydrate. We did three times total and each time there was more and more sweat. But each time I felt lighter and lighter, like all the impurities and tension were leaving me. Afterwards you can shower, and they have necessary products like shampoo and body wash available. It’s said to have a lot of health benefits, and there were quite a few positive testimonials displayed in the lobby. It was an amazing experience, I highly recommend it if you feel like you need a detox or just want to relax.

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I’m trying so hard to save money for my future move, but I can’t pass up opportunities to see my friends and experience new things. I’m considering this day justifiable because of its therapeutic nature. I feel amazing! Make sure to check out these spots if you’re ever in the area!

Down to (Little) Texas

This summer, my best friend was kind enough to come to Japan and keep me company for 10 days. It was a much needed vacation and escape from Osumi, and we had so much fun.

We headed to Tokyo from Kagoshima on Friday, and that night we decided to check out Meguro’s Little Texas on a recommendation from some friends. I had heard it was a nice little place to grab some imported beer and chicken-fried steak and listen to country music, but I had no idea how much it would really look like a small-town Texas honky tonk. For those of you non-Texans out there, a honky tonk is a bar where one can two-step to local country music and do some beer-in-hand boot scootin’. That description didn’t help at all did it? No, why don’t I show you…Little Texas is surprisingly accurate, if not  little over the top.

 

 

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Barbed wire, road signs, and empty chewing tobacco cans? Check, check, and CHECK!

 

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The night we went was Bluegrass Night, and we were very lucky to hear the beautiful sounds of the talented musicians playing there. It was magical. We also had some nachos complete with jalepenos and a few frozen margaritas to wash it down. We later chatted a bit with the owner and he gave us onion rings free of charge. I definitely know where I’m going when I get homesick from now on!

 

If you’re ever in Tokyo and have a free night, check out Little Texas. Even if you aren’t from Texas. There is a music fee (I think it was about 2000 yen when we went), but the food and drinks are pretty standard. And the music is worth it.

 

To get to Little Texas and check it out for yourself, check out their webpage! The bar is about a five minute walk from Meguro Station.

The long awaited food blog

People often ask me, “Which do you like better, Japanese or American food?”

I prefer Japanese food, obviously. And I’m not just saying that because I live here or think American food is horribly unhealthy and not-so-tasty. So much of Japanese food (or food easily found in Japan) is delicious.

So I hate milk. And most dairy. I don’t hate cheese, but it does not like me. I’m also not a fan of red meat–or any meat for that matter. I can eat seafood. I love fish and shrimp and oysters, OH MY. And while modern Japanese cuisine is full of fatty animal products and sugar and all that, it is relatively easier to find healthy options (or foods without all those things I hate) in Japan. I think. I at least feel healthier eating Japanese food than I do typical American food, but I’m not really sure what’s right anymore. Either way, I’d like to share some of the foods I’ve eaten while in Japan. To the best of my ability, I will describe these foods and grade them based on their deliciousness, etc.

1. Sushi. The picture below is of various fishes and fillings for a temakizushi (hand rolled sushi) session. Sushi is one of my favorite foods in Japan because it is filling, easily accessible, and freakin’ delicious. Sushi is popular all over the world now, but I promise you it tastes best where it all began in Japan.

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Here we have crab sticks, Japanese-style scrambled egg (tamagoyaki), tuna, octopus, sea urchin (uni), and so many other fishes I don’t remember!

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This spread was also for temakizushi, which is really easy to do at home and makes for a wonderful dinner party!

sushi and tempura

sushi and tempura

***Helpful tip: for the last time, sushi does not mean raw fish or fish at all. Sushi refers to the vinegared-rice used. Raw fish is called sashimi.

2. Sashimi. Actually, I might like sashimi more. All of the flavor and none of the white rice. This spread included the standard types of fish and the meat from that little crab/lobster thing (sorry I don’t remember his name). It was so fresh that his arms were still moving. Not going to lie, it was a little unsettling at first, but the tastiness made up for it.

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3. Noodle dishes. The first is udon. Udon is a noodle made from flour. It’s usually really thick, but thin varieties are also available. In my opinion, udon tastes the best with a soy sauce based soup, green onions, and a big slice of fried tofu. This is commonly referred to as kitsune udon (fox udon), and it looks like this:

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You can also have kitsune soba, which is a noodle made from buckwheat. It is also delicious, especially when followed by matcha dango, a sweet dessert made from sticky rice flour and matcha powder.

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Then we have ramen. Ramen is actually a Chinese dish, but has been made it’s own phenomenon in Japan. Ramen is super super famous, but it’s nothing like those 10 cent soup cups you can buy at the super market. It has a rich, fatty flavor that makes you feel like you’re getting closer and closer to a heart attack with every slurp. It usually has a pork base, and the starchy noodles soak up all the flavor. I rarely eat ramen and can never finish a bowl, but it usually tastes pretty good after a long night of drinking. philips vacay 085

4. Takoyaki, y’all. Takoyaki is a glorious food. It’s little pieces of octopus, green onion, and maybe ginger surrounded by a little ball of fried batter. It’s covered with katsuoboshi (dried bonito flakes), mayonnaise, and a special sauce. It’s like Japanese comfort food and I want to eat it everyday. The Texas State Fair needs to get on this. NOW!
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5. Pizza. Pizza?, you ask. Yes, pizza. Despite being (maybe) Italian, Japan makes pizza all its own. One of my favorite varieties here is seafood pizza. Standard crust covered with squid, octopus, shrimp, and maybe some scallops is the perfect pie for me! However, for those of you less thrilled by shellfish on your pizza, margherita pizza is pretty easy to find in Japan.

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6. Tonkatsu, or deep fried pork cutlet, is probably my least favorite food ever. I ate it once because I agreed to go to a specialty restaurant a while ago, and I’ve never gone back. This particular one included cheese and miso paste. For someone who isn’t a huge fan of pork to begin with, this greasy slab of pig and cheese was torture. I wanted to die for a good 24 hours afterward. This is definitely not for the weak of stomach. stuffs 020

7. Matcha sweets. Above you can see a picture of matcha dango, but that’s really just the beginning of desserts using Japanese green tea powder. Ice cream, cookies, chocolate, cake…you name it, it probably exists in Japan. Oh! Matcha KitKats! My mouth is watering.

Matcha ice cream is so so good. I don’t even know how to describe it.

Obviously, Japan is a far more exciting culinary experience than one blog post can accurately show, so I hope to post more in the future! I haven’t even told you about school lunch yet…not to mention torisashi!!

See you next time! ^-^

Japan Adventure: PART TWO

Boy, has this been a crazy two weeks months! Sorry about the lateness. So, where did I leave off? Kyoto. Right. After Kyoto/Osaka, we flew to Fukuoka via the ever-cheap Peach Airlines. We actually got in pretty late, and we were staying in a new hostel that closes its front desk at 9, so we got our keys from a little pouch waiting for us at the front desk. This place, part of the Khaosan chain of hostels, was super nice. Our room was a private double bunk complete with a shower and toilet! And it was well air-conditioned! I definitely recommend it if you’re staying in Fukuoka.

Anyway, we were really hungry, so we walked to Hakata Station and went to eat at the only Mexican food restaurant I know of in Kyushu. It is so good. We had some drinks and tacos and even chatted with the employees a bit. Despite the fact my brother knows zero Japanese, he managed to impress the waiter with his height and Spanish skills. Man, people here are awesome. If some weird giant who didn’t speak English went to America and try to do the same thing, he’d probably be greeted by squint-eyed stares and a few cold shoulders. Japan, guys. Japan.

After parting with our new friends, we headed back to the hostel and went to sleep. The next day, we took the bus to Dazaifu. Dazaifu is a pretty well know town in Fukuoka that has some nice historical sites and really delicious grilled mochi (umegaemochi 梅ヶ枝餅). We did get a bit lost trying to find some ruins, but overall I think it was a nice morning!

After Dazaifu, we went back to the city and headed to the beach! Fukuoka has quite a few beaches, but as we were without a car, we chose the most convenient rather than the most beautiful. Momochi Seaside Park is where we ended up, and it wasn’t actually that bad. But oh, is the beach scene in Japan different. Most girls were either fully clothed or wearing shirts over their swimsuits. The guys mostly looked normal I suppose, but most people were huddle under tents or drinking under canopies. That I can relate to. I will never understand going to the beach to tan, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do that here! It’s expected, but definitely different from what I’m used to. We hung out in the sand for a while, then decided to get out of the sun and get some food. As we were sitting down, a reggae-ish group came up to the stage and played a short set. With the food, the booze, the sound of the waves, and the music playing, it felt like a beach back home in Texas. I definitely got sunburned, but the nostalgia made it worthwhile.

After two days in Fukuoka, we headed home to Kagoshima. I was probably more excited to be in Kagoshima with my brother than in any other place. We got in on a Friday evening and met some of my friends in the city for dinner. I was actually a bit worried about getting back to Shibushi though, because I couldn’t drive and my car was at a shop getting inspected. My previous arrangements fell through, but luckily a very amazing person offered to give my brother and me a ride. We had to take the ferry from Kagoshima to the Osumi side, and the ferry terminal is not exactly convenient to get to from this person’s home. Not to mention it was getting really late. However, this particular person is pretty awesome and insisted it was no problem.

My brother and I made it back home, I set up his futon, I worried about him sleeping on the floor, he said a place to sleep is a place to sleep, he lied down, he said, “This is nice,” and we were out. The next day we picked up my car from the shop and went on a mini drive through Kagoshima and Miyazaki. I thought my brother would think the south was boring, but he loved it. He told me he wished we had just come here for the whole time. Kyushu is quite beautiful, but you never know what a 20-year-old boy will like.

After our drive, we headed to a city called Tarumizu to see my host family and go to a summer festival. We met at mom’s house and were greeted by many friends and a full temakizushi spread. They had unagi, y’all. Both my brother and I were in heaven. He did say it was hard for him to hear so much Japanese and not understand anything, but with good food and a lot of smiling, you don’t really need words.

Following dinner, we headed to the festival. The fireworks were shot from a platform in the bay, and the display over the water was perfect. I’m really glad he got to see Japanese fireworks and experience Japanese hospitality. I think I scored a few points on that one.

The next day, we headed north to Kirishima to visit the Open Air Art Museum. For a museum in the mountains of rural Japan, it was awesome. Just look at the pictures (coming soon).

I wasn’t able to take pictures of the gallery works, but they too were great.

It was so so hot that day, so we decided to spend the afternoon at a swimming hole/waterfall. I enjoyed it, but I think my brother felt awkward. He had experienced his first real encounter with “the stare” and it got to him. I can talk about this later, but it has never really bothered me. When it happens, my first thought is always, “is there something on my face?!” But for some people, “the stare” is soul crushing.

Anyway, we cleaned up and met my host family again for sushi! Again, my brother was pleased both with the food and the kindness of my friends. Afterwards, Yumi gave me a bag of small traditional gifts for my brother to send home. She’s a dream, I’m telling you. Perfect.

I don’t know what my brother did on Monday because I was gone at the prefectural driving center all day getting grilled about my seemingly fake Texas license (more on that later). That night we stayed a friend’s house near the airport and got up early for his departure.

My brother tends to be reserved in his emotions, but I feel like he had a good time. I know I made some planning mistakes and the trip could have been so much better, but my brother got to see a piece of my new life and that felt really good. Helping him out and getting us around Japan gave me more confidence in my language and communication abilities as well. And him being here somehow solidified that I do live here, and I could live here for quite a while.

After his trip, he told me he is dying to travel again and that he may soon be studying abroad. I’m just really proud of him, I guess. Not everyone has the means to go abroad, but at the same time, not everyone wants to. There are plenty of people completely content with staying at home forever. For me, traveling and living outside of America has taught me so much about myself and the world. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

If you have the chance to travel, to visit a family member in another country, do it. Forget about the money, and just do it. There’s nothing better you can do for yourself, I think.

Kori in Korea: This is So Not Japan

Much to my mother’s disappointment, I went to Korea over Golden Week. Let me tell you, I was super excited, and the fact that it was sort of a secret made me all the more anxious to go. I left Tuesday night of GW for Seoul with the one and only Anya, and we stayed for about a week. Boy, was that too much time.

I’m not saying Korea wasn’t fun. Looking back, I really did enjoy it. But because we stayed in a hostel with some rather inconsiderate girls and because I don’t speak Korean, it was an interesting experience. On top of the lack of sleep and language barrier, Korea just simple is nothing like Japan. I’ve grown to love Japan, despite its quirks, and Korea just doesn’t live up (in my eyes). So with that, I would like to show you a few pictures from my trip and explain why the K and the J are so very different.

Seriously, what is this?

Seriously, what is this?

1. Japan is cleaner. I will not lie to you; I’ve seen people throw empty bottles and trash into the bushes in Japan. It happens. But to counteract that, I’ve seen many more people, including security guards, cleaning staff, and even just nice old men cleaning that trash up. In Korea, apparently, people just line the buildings with their half drunken beverages. Japan:1 Korea: 0.

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2. Korea is really into its idols. Again, I’m not saying Japan doesn’t fall victim to idol syndrome as well (the number of times I’ve seen an Arashi member on an ad for something is uncountable). BUT I’m pretty sure Korea does it better. KPOP group members sell everything from pasta to skincare. They’d probably make idols sell condoms if the country wasn’t so censored. It’s honestly a little ridiculous, but who’s complaining. Not me.

Young men dancing in Myeongdong

Youths dancing in Myeongdong

DJ Dance Party… in Myeongdong

Guess where these sexy behinds are…

3. Korea knows how to party. I’m pretty sure this kind of little “Night Festival” that was held in Myeongdong only makes the trash problem worse, but man was it fun! Dancing in what is technically a street in Seoul’s touristy shopping district was probably my favorite part of the trip. Everyone in attendance (small children and old ladies included) got down to the music spun by five DJs, and a few local dance groups used the night as practice. It was really cool see young people test out their moves in front of shop windows…and just generally check people out. Score 1 for Korea. Also, Japan sweetie, can you do more of this? Thanks.

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4. Korea has palaces. Japan has the Imperial Palace where the Emperor lives, and I’m sure it’s lovely. Unfortunately, his family lives there, so it’s like the White House. Seoul, however, is home to (I think) 3 historic palaces that you can explore. This particular one is Gyeongbokgung. It’s a huge complex featuring a museum, zodiac statues, and a new fermented clay jar exhibit (YAY!). Okay, Japan has castles, so really this isn’t that cool. And Japan has freakin’ awesome World Heritage shrines and temples. I could spend a week in Kyoto alone looking at that stuff. So in this respect, I guess Korea is a little like Japan. It’s got that whole Chinese influence thing going on, ya know? Palaces are pretty beautiful though, so if this post seems overly negative, it’s not! Ten points to Gryff…Korea! Just joking, only one point.

5. OMG PDA! I didn’t realize how weird it was not seeing people sucking each other’s faces off until I thought it was weird to see people sucking each other’s faces off*. Korea, unlike Japan, is actually pretty okay with public affection. I saw couples feeding each other at Pizza Hut, walking with their arms around each other (as opposed to the popular Japanese pinkie hold), and even lovingly making out in the street. I wanted to puke. Only joking (sort of). I think I’ve gotten really used to people keeping their hands and tongues to themselves in public, so it was very bizarre to see that again. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It’s probably one of those things that I would appreciate more if I wasn’t single. *exaggerated for effect

6. Man, say “excuse me” I don’t speak Korean, so I wouldn’t know what “excuse me” was if I heard it, but when people run into you or step on your feet and say nothing, you know something’s wrong. Japanese people are some of the nicest in the world I’m sure, and Korea people are just…normal I guess. Pretty American…as in there are nice people there that will help you carry your heavy bags up stairs or direct you when you look lost, but for the most part, people just carry about their lives.

Onigiri-type thing with egg in it!

Onigiri-type thing with egg in it!

80% of this was super spicy!

80% of this was super spicy!

CHOCOLATE TOAST

CHOCOLATE TOAST

7. FOOD: It’s spicy. I prefer Mexican. Dukbokki is good with pizza. The end. Japan wins.

Classic-comfy.

Classic-comfy.

8. WHAT are you wearing?! Korean people, for the most part, dress nothing like KPOP stars. I saw a good hand full of people each day decked out in some pretty nice clothes, but the overwhelming majority paired their trendy tops and dresses with tennis shoes. Usually, these were New Balances. Just regular ole New Balance running shoes in bright colors. I saw this girl in what appeared to be a nice vintage dress….and tennis shoes. This is not the eighties. Those shoes aren’t even cute.

Okay, that about sums up my week in Korea. There really are some awesome things that I love, like the millions of coffee shops and good, affordable skincare products. I also didn’t mind eating at On the Border. I would like to go back to Korea some day, but I think I’ll study a bit more about it before I go next time.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and you learn from it. Korea is probably really awesome to visit from America, but I did experience a bit of weird culture shock. But then again, maybe I’m just being pessimistic lately because I’m still getting fat and it’s starting to bum me out.

Also, keep a look out for a post with photos from my trip! またね!