stranger in a strangeland (2)

November 17, 2018

i’m a sucker for good food.

and most of what I ate was tasty.  It reminds me of Melbourne (where I studied for a year) in that on almost all street corners you could get a decent cup of coffee (kudos to the Italians!), it was like that with food.  Not that the food wasn’t good in Melbourne (like New York, it clearly was influenced by the plethora of immigrants) but the food in Tokyo was something else (they have the most Michelin restaurants in a city in the entire planet after all).  If possible i prefer “cheap” grub (but like my sister says:  “Nothing is cheap in Japan) but i’m known for saving so i can spend for an “expensive” meal – i just value experiences over things.  To paraphrase Antony Bourdain:  good food is often simple food.

over there they seem to like their KitKat ™ (apparently this translates to the Japanese kitto katsu, meaning good luck or surely win   which explain its popularity) .  They’ve got the most assortment of favours i’ve ever seen:  strawberry, apple, Tokyo banana (a lot of their snacks have a combination of this fruit with chocolate), ube (purple yam quite popular in the Philippines) , wasabi (a type of Japanese horseradish), maccha (two variants of green tea – a “sweeter” one for the kiddies and a more intense one for adults),  miso (fermented soybean), sake(there were two variants of the rice wine alcohol:  Masuizumi or plum), and soy sauce.   Those were the ones we saw.  Apparently, there are also cherry; lemon; kiwi; mango; pineapple; maple; cappuccino; blueberry cheesecake; cookies plus; apple vinegar; azuki bean (more commonly known as the adzuki bean); apricot seed; baked potato; chocolate and  grilled potato; white peach; white and yellow peach; chocobanana; banana minis; bitter chocolate; i-stick (frozen dark chocolate);  pumpkin; baby pumpkin; sports drink; strawberry fromage (French for cheese); blueberry fromage, strawberry milk, French Bretagne milk; French salt; salt watermelon; fruit parfait; college tater (which i assume is a form of potato); double berry (a combination of blueberries and strawberries);  anko (red ben paste) and maccha; red bean paste; sweet bean paste; Yubari melon (a type of Japanese cantaloupe); Nasu Kogen (geographic highlands in Japan) milk; soybean powder; strong soybean flour; Houji tea (Houjicha is a roasted, Japanese green tea); jasmine tea; maccha milk; Muscat of Alexandria (a white wine grape variety); and brandy & orange variants. I’m guessing not all were ‘successful’ or that some flavours were only available for a limited time.  My philosophy has always been to try food – if you don’t like something then fair enough, at least you tried it (that’s why it took me awhile to taste rabbit because growing up I had them as pets – forget that they’re technically rodents).  I found the Tokyo banana and “dark” maccha okay but found the ube, wasabi, and “light” maccha too sweet (i suspect they were blended with white chocolate).  i missed out on trying the soy sauce and sake variants because of “quantity” issues.

we tried McDonald’s there:  not because we craved the familiar but because they are prone to localisation.  In the Philippines, they’ve got Fried Chicken (with rice if you want) and Spaghetti prompted (i guess) by the local competitor Jollibee (and as far as i know, the only place in the world where they are ranked second as far as hamburger chains go).  My wife & i had the Ebi (Japanese for shrimp) Fillet and my son had the Chicken Teriyaki burger. For dessert, we tried the Choco Pie (not the “white” one, the other one tasted like the hazelnut spread) and the Cinnamon Melts(it was good and “deconstructed” but i’m a sucker for a decent Cinnamon Roll)).

we ate at two places that our niece recommended: a sushi and a ramen place.  Both were “cramped” and my wife had to feed me (as I needed both hands to hold onto the tables there).  The sushi restaurant was like a sushi train in that there were no servers.  Instead, you ordered your item from a touch screen and it was delivered on one of three “tracks” (i think they must have corresponded to the price).  It was “good” and my son had seven plates.  i had more but “stopped” myself as i’m trained to eat a lot.  It was a “cheap” meal and you could tell as the rice easily separated from the fish (but i prefer sashimi from sushi anyway, although the hallmark of great sushi is supposedly the quality of the rice and not the seafood).  On the other hand. you had to pre-order your food from the ramen place using a vending machine.  you could even order the house ramen to take away – we didn’t as we didn’t want the hassle of dealing with fairly strict Australian Customs.  Both were off the beaten path and hidden away,  prospective patrons were unlikely to just wander off the streets of Shinjuku and the restaurants probably relied on word-of-mouth for custom.

i first had my taste of Uni (Japanese for sea urchin) at the “cheap”sushi place.  i also tried it at an “expensive” place.  Frankly, i’m obsessed with the uni  they serve in Japan.  It tastes different and MUCH better than the ones in the US, OZ or the Philippines (regardless of the price-point).  My working theory is:  since a lot more people order it in Japan so any stock doesn’t have to be stored for a long time so it is much fresher and, therefore, tastier.

i gained some weight because as my wife puts it:  what i had in a day, i’d usually consumed in a week.  She noticed more as she had to push me around.  It was not until i got back to OZ that the difference was obvious to me:  i became heavier there but at least the kilos seemed “distributed”, here i get a “ponch” on my tummy first.

aside from seeing the sights, we try to “eat like locals” when we can – i think it opens your mind further.  As Andrew Zimmern puts it:  “Food is a passport to adventure”.  And to paraphrase the late, great Anthony Bourdain: Travel changes you.

TBC

 

 

 

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last night I woke up from a dream and couldn’t breathe and get back to sleep – had to sit-up to facilitate the airflow.  I think I experienced what I can only describe it as my first “panic” attack – it felt similar to one of my claustrophobic bouts. Maybe I’m just “slow’ but after nearly a decade after my unnamed ABI, it was my first dream that I could remember where I was “disabled”.  Maybe it was acceptance or realisation. Or (seeing as it’s been really cold lately) I only do half of my daily exercises.  Or the news feature on assisted dying and how close Victoria is to passing draft legislation.  Regardless of what brought it about, my family is better off with my pension, so I better continue to suck it up. I’m really tired – I just need my “second wind”.

power up

April 19, 2017

had a recurring “nightmare” last night about people seeking any shelter they could find.  What’s weird is that I have a different dream each time I get up from bed but for some reason it just continued where it left off.  I thought I was not really bothered by the threat of nuclear winter but it looks like subconsciously I am.   This just illustrates how, often, control is not in one’s own hands.  Like my mum used to say:  you’re ok but other people might be “crazy”.

back to the future

October 21, 2015

Marty McFly is supposed to come back today. While this is just a movie, there are few things we can take from this.

Sure, most futurists would think it foolish to specify a date but a target is often necessary to achieve most things. Not everything will come to fruition as evidenced by the movie but it is important that we strive for our goals. Making things explicit comes back to accountability. It announces our intent and helps track our progress – it tells everyone and, more importantly, ourselves if we are meeting the schedule. A timetable is one of the conventional requisite yardsticks for measuring “success.”

Most people do not provide a reasonable timeframe. Deadlines need to be realistic and achievable. Estimates need to be based on experience – our own or from a trusted source.

Sure, certain things matter and are important but we should learn not to take our endeavours too seriously.

i knew you were trouble

December 8, 2013

we lost a great man in Nelson Mandela. Our generation did not live in Gandhi nor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s time – Tata Madiba was our example of peaceful resistance.  That we lost him is sad – what saddens me more is that there is not enough like him.

Rolihlahla is the name his father gave him and is isiXhosa and colloquially means “troublemaker.” Until 2008, he was even branded a terrorist. Maybe he caused headaches to the Apartheid establishment but because you have always done something does not make it right.   Forget tradition, he had right on his side.  I think Australia was right to lead the boycott – they had witnessed first-hand the adverse effects on the Indigenous people.

He was given the English name of Nelson by his teacher – for reasons were not certain of.  It reminds me of how in my “old” country you used to not be able to be baptized unless you had a “Christian” given name or how the Spanish had “forced” us to adapt last names that sounded like theirs.  Why are people so afraid of the “other”?

My favourite quote of his is:

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

I think we should all endeavour to be the best that we can be.

what dreams may come

August 22, 2013

a former computing student of mine has a gig in America as a back-up singer to Lea Salonga – she has one of the  best voices I’ve ever heard.  It just goes to show you: it’s shouldn’t be about what the family thinks is best but rather about what the child actually wants.  Admittedly, it’s hard for any parent seeing their child struggle but they need to learn to be supportive and respect the child’s happiness.  Sometimes the best of intentions have unintended consequences.

It’ not always just about what they’re good at or what’s expected of them but truly what they’re interested in.  As a case in point, my son is strong in maths but he seems to us more inclined to the arts.  Anyway, it’s early days and his proclivities may still change – we just need to expose him to different things so that he can make an “informed” decision when the time comes.  They say if you enjoy what you do, you never  work a day in your life – I think you subconsciously put more effort in to what you do.  Not everyone is “lucky” enough to know what they want to be when they grow up.

I think my neurologist might be on to something with his “modified” gap year where his kids need to be gainfully employed for at least half of the time. If I were to “consider” it, there would be some mods.  I think 3 months should be spent in industry while at least 3 months should be involved with the community.  They should travel overseas to broaden the mind for some “informal” learning.  While there, they must partly support themselves and try to learn the local language or dialect. Ideally they should live in 2 countries:  one with a developed and another with a developing economy so that they can see the differences for themselves in everyday life. During the course of the year, they can take different topics online for free so that they can “better” determine which direction they want to take next.

I hope I don’t eat my words when the time comes – people and minds can change =)

nature and nurture

July 22, 2013

we realised last night that our son leaves the balat for last – saving the “best” until the end.  We found it amusing that he’s like me, his aunt, and his cousin. Like my dad says: “genes.”

There’s a debate whether where you come from (nature) or what you’re exposed to (nurture) is more influential.  Ultimately for most  parents, they just do their best.  You’re not simply a “slave” to your genes (those “tiny letters” are very influential though) but the decisions you make are just as important.  What you inherited from your parents is a starting point and not the final conclusion (as some believe).  You can build on what you have and be conscious about certain things.  While it’s true that a fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, with some “luck” and effort you can “hack” your life.

My son is more into the arts (although he doesn’t struggle with maths.)  My wife and I have a bachelors and masters from La Salle in computing- she even got her doctorate.  That said, I did pass architecture at UP but chose computer science instead; and my father-in-law was both an architect and civil engineer.  I’m also interested in design and currently taking a Ph.D. in another field.  In an interdiciplinary work environment, I think our proclivity for science is a boon for him rather than the bane it was once.  I don’t expect him to be a doctor, lawyer,or engineer but whatever he’s passionate about.