Glad to see 2012 is off to a great start for so many of you.
I know sushi is popular in the US and many of you have had the chance to experience good sushi, and even some of you have been to Japan to give some a try here. Usually, Ryan and I go to the conveyor belt sushi place, which is pretty darn good, but technically considered fast food. I hate to say this, but their "fast food" sushi is better than a lot of the sushi I have had in the States. Not to mention, the typical plate with 2 pieces of nigiri or a roll with 6 pieces is about $1.40 a plate. I am not sure a deal like that with quality and safe sushi could even be found in the US. But, every once in a while a nice big, fancy sushi meal is in order.
Just before Thanksgiving, Ryan and I went to a sushi place near the base called Kiku Zushi. I should probably mention that sushi is usually spelled zushi in Japan.
The place was packed, so Ryan and I took the seats up in the front at the sushi bar. When the chef stepped away I took a picture of the lovely creation he had just made and placed out for the waitress to pick up.
Look at all the nice, raw fish, ready to go. There are even scallops in here. Can you spot them? I'll give you a hint, look for the scallop shells.
This restaurant not only had sushi, but also traditional Japanese food and set menus. Ryan does not eat shrimp, and the traditional meals almost always come with tempura shrimp, so he went with some sushi. It was definitely pretty looking on the plate.
He also ordered some yellowtail, which is his favorite.
I decided to order a set meal. Set meals (also known as menus) are very common here. You order a set menu/meal and get everything pictured, many times all coming on one tray. My meal started with some miso soup.
This was my set menu. It came with sushi, some tempura, and of course the miso, which I pictured just above. You can also see the dipping sauce for the tempura.
This was crab, salmon and shrimp nigiri, with a tuna roll and a cucumber roll.
Tempura is a batter fried method of cooking, and in this case is a shrimp, leaf of some sort and a slice of kabocha (Japanese version of a pumpkin).
This was a yummy sushi dinner and I hope to go back sometime. Of course there are hundreds of places to get sushi around here.
Next up I wanted to share some cultural activities that I took part in. The Airmen and Family Readiness Center (AFRC) on base holds "classes" each month on a variety of cultural activities. If you remember in the past I did sakiori weaving and glass blowing, both of which were through the AFRC, so these are all similar types of activities. They have cooking classes too, and I will post on those soon.
This class was on the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Much of this originated in the times of samurai warriors, and the traditions have carried on into present day. I by no means remember much of the exact details of everything that goes into this, but it is a big thing here and is very fancy with lots of little pieces that you need to know and understand. We did this very informally and in a fun setting to see what it is like. We learned a little about the history and the items used in the ceremony itself.
In the pictures below I am pretending to be the hostess and I am serving Mayu, our fantastic cultural instructor.
Notice I am in my gym clothes. Yeah, I went to the gym directly from this class.
I should also mention I am not a huge tea fan, but I did give this a try. The tea used for the tea ceremony is called matcha. It is a green powdered, very concentrated, and can be very expensive for the good stuff. This is what is used to make green tea flavored goodies and have them be so brightly colored in green. The powder is added to make the tea, so it does not involved any tea bags or leaves.
Oh, and they drink from big bowls, not little cups.
Here goes nothing!
Like I said, not my favorite, but I am getting used to it.
While I am sharing some pictures about cultural activities, I will take a moment to point out that I live in Northern Japan (not quite as northern as Hokkaido, but still up there) and we do get a bit of snow. After living in Las Vegas for 5 years and the Azores for 2 years, this is quite a shock to the system. I have stocked up on winter wear and gear and the dog is loving it. But, it can snow a lot and go from a clear view out the living room window to something resembling this picture.
With that in mind, I will now share with you pictures from a cultural trip we took to the 9th day market. What am I getting at? It was figgin' cold outside and this market is held outdoors. What on earth were we thinking signing up for this trip?!?!?
Now, maybe you are wondering what the 9th day market is and why it is called this. This is a farmer's market, not too far from the base, that is held on every 9th day. So this means 3 times a month and the day of the week always varies. It is held on the 9th, 19th and 29th. Hence, 9th day market.
So we quickly wandered though the market making fast decisions about what to buy. In this picture you see they have bowls with apples. Aomori prefecture is home to most of the apple growing in Japan. Each bowl here is being sold for 500 yen, which is about $6.60. This is actually really cheap because you can pay 500 yen for one giant apple around here. I should mention these are by far the best apples I have ever eaten.
Yep, it was darn cold out there.
Here are some veggies. They come from a local farm.
They also sell some prepared foods, which is very common for markets. This is hard to see, but in the far back row is tofu on a stick. In fact, all of these are vegetarian treats on sticks. I was most shocked by the block of tofu, with a sauce on it and placed on a stick. I didn't get one that day, but I do plan on trying this in the future.
Last up, a variety of produce for sale. All the produce is organized in these bowls. You pick the one you want and then they put it in a bag for you. The only thing I wound up buying that day was tangerines, but you can bet that I will be going back there again.
QUESTIONS: Do you have a year round farmer's market near you? Have you ever been to a tea ceremony (from any culture)? Do you prefer nigiri sushi or maki rolls?
Next week Thursday Thoughts will be back. Still getting back into the routine after the holiday break.