Making Local Crafts and Japanese Fast Food

I have been keeping myself busy doing a variety of things offered by the Airmen and Family Readiness Center on the base.  They offer a lot of cultural activities and classes, so I have been taking advantage.  Some are free, like my basic Japanese Survival Class.  However, there are others that cost money because we go out into the local community and have to pay the locals for their services.  It's been a lot of fun.  I have made some cool crafts and met some nice people.

The first activity I signed up for was Sakiori weaving, which is a craft that is specific to our region in the Aomori prefecture.  To do this we visited a local studio at a nearby resort (and onsen, but I will explain those later) and had some experienced weavers teach us the craft.
This is some hard core weaving since you actually get strapped into the loom.  I picked these colors for my the base of my placement.
Then I picked these colors (actually the one with the flowers I never used) for the weaving portion.
Here you can see I am working with the teacher, who spoke no English, so thank heavens for our Airmen and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) guide/translator, who is really been a great help to me with many things.  If you look closely you can see I have a strap around my back and a strap tied to my right ankle.  By swinging my leg back and forth between weaving the thread through would control the actual weaving because this made the base strings move up and down, in that in between motion that allows the weaving to take place.  Hopefully that made some sense.
In between each pass with the string you would have to use this wooden bar to get the string down tight. Then the next step was to swing your leg out or in and have the two panels with the base threads swap places, and in essence, weave for you.

Check it out:
It turned out very nicely and I am super happy with this.  It was also a ton of fun and if the A&FRC offers this again, I am definitely going back.
So there you have it.  We went from these balls of yarn-ish fabric, woven with some threads on a loom, to make a placemat like this.
This craft, Sakiori weaving, is actually a very skilled technique and a local craft that people from all over Japan will come to our region just to purchase, and they are very expensive pieces.  I saw smaller pieces for sale locally that cost more than I paid for the class.  Of course those were much nicer than mine, but still, it was obvious they are pricey items in the region.

Before I get to the next craft, which was a few weeks later, I will share some pictures of Japanese fast food options, which I must say beat out American fast food any day.

The first is technically fast food sushi.  It is from a chain of conveyor belt sushi restaurants known as Kappa Sushi.  Conveyor belt sushi is more or less your fast food sushi in Japan, but it is cheap, fun, and actually good quality.

This is a tofu pocket filled with rice, also known as bean curd filled with rice, and it is really good.
Here is some yellow tail, which we always get.
This is salmon with avocado, and what we think is onion, although it could be shaved diakon (giant Japanese radish).
This is also a salmon sushi.  I think this is the grilled salmon, but that have 2 that are very similar, so I do get confused.  No biggie, I will eat both of them!
Here is some crab sushi.  Delicious!  Yes, you can get crab sushi, with real crab, at a "fast food" establishment.  I will also point out that each plate only costs 105 yen, which is about $1.40 a plate, so you can see why we like to go here often.
I thought this place was really interesting, so I am including these pictures before I forget to share them.  This store reminded me of like a Harry and Davids or Williams Sonoma.  They had cookware, and then they had these gourmet looking mixes for everything under the sun.
I would love to by them, but the directions are in Japanese.
They had two nice displays here with candies and chips, some dried foods, and other cute snacks, so of course we bought some to try, and I got some for my sister too for a nice food package.
I even found some 100 cal packs.  Even the Japanese are following this trend.
That store was in the mall, so I find myself wandering around it often.  Also in the mall is Mos Burger.
The burgers are nowhere near the size of something you would find in the US.  Personally, I like that about Japan.  They seem to still have a handle on portion sizes.

I ordered the fish burger without the mayo.  The Japanese love mayo.  It is an extreme love, I am not kidding, and I hate mayo, so I am constantly wiping it off my food.  So here is my cute little fish filet sandwich.
Ryan enjoyed a cute little burger.  This is definitely a good place for a quick snack when you are in a hurry.
Don't laugh, but we found these cool gummy things that you can stick places, like windows or where ever.  We thought it would be funny to get the mermaids and place them on the shower wall (which is a light blue) so it would give the effect of being under water with mermaids swimming by.  Possibly cheesy, but a fun idea.  Now we just need to stick them in there.
Time to share the next craft.  This was glass blowing at a local studio.  I have actually driven past this before and never would have known this was a glass blowing studio.
This is the inside by the front.
Here are some sample bowls.  We were actually there to make drinking glasses.
Here is the studio where we worked.  There were 6 of us total, and that included our A&FRC 'guide" Mayu, who is the same person that took us for Sakiori weaving.  She is awesome!  She is also my Japanese language teacher.
I went first because mine was first on the table.  Basically I was voluntold (not familiar with's totally a military thing...however some of you with kids may realize you have volun-told someone to do something before too).

You can see on the table that we have some colored glass laying out with papers.  Those are our drawings.
The teacher got our glass ready for us.  We did do some work, but he helped us a lot, which was a good thing.
You can see that it is exceptionally hot inside there.  This is where the glass came out of.
Here is the initial piece of class, and it is very hot.
Here I am about to make my first puff of air into the glass and get the bubble started.
Then it has to keep rolling around because otherwise it would just droop.
Here I am blowing a bigger bubble for the opening of my glass.
Look at me go!
Now the teacher is shaping this for me.
Like I said, it needs to keep rolling, so this is a rolling machine that can do that for you.
Here is my glass before the color was added.
Here you can see that as the machine was spinning, the teacher was twirling some colored glass onto my clear glass.
Then I had to blow on it a little more.
I also got to help in the shaping process.
Here I am rolling it to keep it from drooping.
Here I am actually making the top of the drinking glass flat.
Now I am opening it up wide enough.
After I was done, my glass had to cool overnight, and we could pick them up on base later on.  Here is my finished product:

Not too bad!

It was a lot of fun and I think I plan on doing more of these activities when I can.  I find that it is usually newcomers that sign up for these because you get the calendar when you check in to the new base, but I plan to just keep checking the calendar online.  I have one more Japanese lesson, and then a tea ceremony scheduled already, and I think I will also sign up for the next level of Japanese.  Never in a million years would I pass on free Japanese lessons.

Lastly, this is one more fast food meal.  This is from the mall that was next to the glass blowing studio.  I ordered udon.  This is just your basic hot udon in a broth.
I also got this.  Does anyone else think this looks like tempura cantaloupe?
I will admit that was my first thought.  Nope, this is tempura kabocha.  I know they have kabocha in the US and it is popular.  I just learned that kabocha translates to pumpkin.  Obviously this is not what we think of when we hear pumpkin.  We think of the big orange ones that we use at halloween.  In Japan they do not have those, so this is a Japanese pumpkin, and the only thing they call a pumpkin.  It is so good!

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever done some type of weaving?  Ever done glass blowing?  Have you tried kabocha?  Do you ever eat fast food, and if so, what do you get?


Amanda said...

Wow those classes look like fun! I wish our base did cultural stuff like this! I'm totally jealous of all of your sushi. It's hard to find here in Italy & super expensive when you do. :(

Gina; The Candid RD said...

I swear there was a show all about this weaving technique once when I Was a kid. I remember it really well, and I remember thinking it looked easy but that it was probably REALLY difficult!

I would love to try glass blowing one day. I think it's so neat, and the end products are always so pretty.

I love your mermaids (NOT cheesy at all, as long as they are behind the shower curtain! I love it). And, I only WISH America's portions were that small. Wouldn't that be nice!?!?

Ameena said...

You really impress me with your ability to embrace whatever culture you immerse yourself in. Really, I am so inspired!

The food looks delicious - It makes me want to visit Tokyo again!

Andrea said...

I once did some weaving, and it wasn't easy... I love all the activities you are doing in Japan! The placemat and the glass turned out great!

There is a Japanese mall nearby, and we like getting food there when we are in the mood to get takeout.

Special K said...

That looks like an ab machine. Dangerous for this special k, because I lack a ton of coordination!

I saw glass blowing once the last time I was in Venice (15 years ago). What fun. Do you usually do these things with Ryan, on your own or with friends?

sophia said...

MOS BURGER!!! I love you I love you I love you! I love that place!!! As you already know, I do eat fast food. It's lovely once in a while. i wish I had more Japanese fast food chains around here though.

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