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!

 

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Spring in Japan

Last week was peak cherry blossom season in Fukuoka. I hadn’t really had the chance to do proper hanami (cherry blossom viewing) before this year, so naturally I did it three times to make up for all the years I’ve missed. I must say, nothing beats hanami season in Japan, especially when the weather is nice. Everyone packs up their tarps and barbeque pits, prepares food and drink to share, and heads out to the parks around Japan to soak up the beauty of the cherry trees blossoming flowers. I like to think people do hanami because they want to be one with nature and treasure this fleeting flower, but I think most people do it so they can get drunk in public in the afternoon. Either way, it’s my favorite season in Japan, and I am so glad I finally got to experience it in full.

 

By the way, I uploaded a cherry blossom vlog to my brother and my channel, Kori & Philip.

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.

Quarter of a Century

bday outfit

bday outfit

I recently celebrated my 25th birthday!! Yay! OK, so birthdays in the third world really aren’t huge achievements until you’re 85 or so, but 25 feels big. I’m a real adult now, all fully grown and perfectly me. It feels amazing.

I’ve heard from some people in this country that 25 is the age by which you should be married…or at least seriously thinking about it (totally BS btw…who actually believes that?). If you know me at all, you’ve never really expected me to get married any time soon. Up until a year and a half ago (estimate), I was certain I would never get married. Now I’m open to the idea, but I’ll also be okay if it never happens. Which is great because I haven’t been on a date in FOREVER.

I am about 90% okay with that though. I’m 25 and awesome, and I really don’t think I need a man to tell me that. Unless it’s my dad. Dad, I need you to say I’m awesome. Anyway, I have some time left before my eggs shrivel up and die, so I can patiently wait for all the cute romantic things to happen again. I’m not stressing.

So, back to my actual birthday. I spent my birthday eve with my favorite people in the eastern hemisphere, and we had a great time. There was a moose and a golf game involved. And horrible karaoke singing. And lots of hugs. It was magical, and I am so lucky to have such kind, amazing people in my life. And almost no one important to me forgot to wish me a happy birthday! I do wish I could have seen my family and friends from the US too, but overall it was a great time. I am so excited to see what 25 holds for me!
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presents!

presents!

dinner AND golf

dinner AND golf

Night at the Aquarium

Tokyo, naturally, is full of exciting things to do. I’m a little bit glad I don’t live there, though, because I’d never have any money. There’s just so much going on.

One night during the week, my friend and I decided to go to the Art Aquarium set up in the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall. We bought our tickets before at 7-11 and got a drink discount. The day event does not serve alcohol as far as I know, but in the evening, it turns into a “Night Aquarium” complete with adult beverages. On the weekends they also have live music!

I told a lot of people I was excited about the Art Aquarium, and they laughed at me. Maybe they just didn’t understand what it means. The exhibit, called Edo Eco, takes Edo era lantern shapes and designs to create artistic fish bowls. Then the bowls are filled with interesting goldfish and lit with colorful lights. Everything was so well thought out and very modern. Each of the aquariums had their own unique features; some distorted the fishes bodies, and others were simple, allowing the fish to shine. It was, for lack of better adjectives, so cool.

 

 

 

The Art and Night Aquariums run until September 23rd and the entrance fee is 1000 yen. Be sure to check out their website for more information!

Taking it Easy and Traveling Alone

The end of April/beginning of May is a wonderful time in Japan known as Golden Week, because of the many public holidays.  Half of the holidays are on weekends though, and there are working days in between holidays, so it’s only so exciting. I didn’t take any additional time off, but I did have a nice four day weekend to do whatever in Japan.  I decided to be completely uncharacteristic of my shy and needy self and went alone. Oh yes, I took a four day vacay all by my lonesome, and it was amazing.

 

Okay, so I did spend one night at a friends house watching trashy dating shows, but for the next three nights, it was just me, myself, and I…

I took a 4-hour bus ride to Fukuoka Prefecture and eventually made it all the way to Kitakyushu, a city in the northern tip of the island I live on. I didn’t have much planned, so I just wondered around the city for a few hours. If you’re going alone, slow walks through popular areas are actually really nice. When you’re alone and not in a rush, you notice so much more of what is going on around you. I did feel like people were judging me for aimlessly walking around alone, but after a while I JUST DID NOT CARE. I was on a date with myself and was completely absorbed in my own world.

 

 

Krispy Kreme!

 

One night I stayed in my hotel to watch a movie, eat Krispy Kreme donuts, and have a bubble bath. I learned that I need more bubble baths, but I probably could do without Krispy Kreme.

 

 

I do think it’s a good idea to see the city and what other people do there and then pamper yourself. But it’s also nice to get away from it all.  I left Sunday morning for the Yahata district of Kitakyushu and later got on a bus leading to the Kawachi Fuji-en  (wisteria park) tucked into a mountain side. The bus stopped earlier than I thought it would, and long story short, I was left to walk 4 kilometers with a woman older than my grandmother. I asked if she was okay, but she kept her pace better than I did.

on the way...

on the way…

We talked a bit through our tired breathing, and once there, she offered me tea, food, and her photography skills. Her kindness nearly brought a tear to my eye, and I am still thankful that we could spend an hour or so together.

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We lost each other after a while, and I spent more time wondering through the wisteria taking tons of pictures (including shameless selfies) and smelling those sweet sweet flowers for quite a long time. The park is up a hill and from the edge you can see a lake. Despite the crying babies and giggling couples, it was totally peaceful. And stunningly beautiful. And none of the couples walking under the hanging flowers made me want to vomit. Instead I was happy, that in that moment, they all seemed happy. Maybe some of them would get what we’re promised: a life of eternal love and happiness. I was just happy thinking of that possibility. Which is sappy and dramatic, but I guess that’s who I am now. Oh, Japan, how you’ve changed me.

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2014-05-04-19-22-17_deco IMG_20140504_135813 so pretty

 

After the marathon trek down the mountain and back to the train station, I headed back to the city and shopped. And then shopped some more. Boy, did I shop. I think I got all my therapy sessions in. Natural relaxation, retail, sugar…yup all there. How many times can I say amazing before it loses its emphasis?

mini treat-yo-self haul!

 

 

BUT you know me…I won’t lie to you. I did experience of few moments just short of existential meltdown. Being alone did make me realize that a lot of times I am alone in Japan, and though I do appreciate solitude, it is nice having someone you like around for the times you want to hear another person’s voice. I did experience moments of intolerable longing, moments where I thought I could collapse from all the injustice of the universe. But, I didn’t. If there was only one thing I could take away from that weekend it’s that I do like myself…I love myself, and though I wish there were times I didn’t have to be away from certain people, I know I can do it because I love and appreciate myself just as much as I love and appreciate them. Or more. I’m pretty alright, you know? I don’t think that’s conceited or narcissistic. I think it’s sort of necessary to being sane in a foreign country when you so often feel alone. Beyond that, it’s so so necessary for me right now. I’m glad I could spend a few days alone to help discover myself and notice all those things that have slipped by before. I highly recommend you do the same sometime. It’ll change your outlook. And, of course, it’s amazing.

 

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the warmer weather all you Northern-Hemispherians. That’s a word right? See you soon!

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! ^-^