Since I live in Japan, I figure I should take advantage of the opportunities that I have here and learn as much as possible about the culture. One thing I like to do is sign up for at least one free culture class on base each month. Here is a little about the activities I have done over the past 2-3 months.
First was a cooking class. The main ingredient was mochi. You may be familiar with mochi. It's a pounded, glutinous Japanese rice cake. My guess is that you are familiar with having this as more of a dessert or sweet treat, possibly filled with red bean paste or similar. Well, there is also what I call the cooking form of mochi. I wish I really knew more about this, but from what I gather, this is used as an ingredient and is a bit different. It's definitely a pounded rice cake and very, very dense.
For this class we used it as part of a soup, and then enjoyed it heated and basically plan. For the soup, we started by cutting up some veggies. Here we have carrots and lotus root.
These are fried tofu skins. They are sold like this in the store and are used by stuffing them. In this case, we stuffed them with mochi.
Here is the mochi. It probably looks different from what you have seen called mochi, at least for me, it is different.
See, we stuck it inside the tofu skin.
Then we used toothpicks to seal it shut.
More veggies, and I am really sorry, but I have no idea what this is.
Then we started boiling the broth along with some pieces of the tofu skin.
Then we heated some mochi over the stove top.
Next up we cooked some mushrooms, which were to be used with a steamed custard that our teacher whipped up in just minutes. I should point out that our teacher is a fantastic cook and is the owner of one of the most liked restaurants in town. She owns a steak house which, from what I gather is hibachi style cooking. I am hoping to go there sometime soon.
I thought these were cute. They are seasoning packets and they have fish on them so they make fish broth.
Here you can see the mochi filled tofu skins are cooking in the soup.
Here is our teacher starting the savory egg custards.
She cooked them in just minutes. This is definitely new to me. I have never seen it made this way. Have you?
Here it is steaming.
In the meantime the mochi was still getting hot and somewhat gooey.
Then we added some greens to the soup.
Ok, since the soup was not vegetarian, I just watched that part, and then they gave me some plain mochi, which I ate with soy sauce. Not bad, but very, very chewy.
Here is the finished soup. I think just about everyone that tried it really enjoyed it.
Then she served the custards, which were garnished with mushrooms.
So, these next 3 pictures aren't really from a cultural class or activity on base, but I had to share. I guess going to the mall could be considered a cultural activity, right?!?! We always look at these desserts, so one night we went ahead and bought the sampler box. Fantastic!
The main reason was that we wanted to try the chocolate lava cake. It was so good. True to Japanese fashion, this was not too sweet.
Any guesses what these are?
These are hot coffee drinks from a vending machine. Actually, they are from the vending machine in our building. It's kind of funny that you can get hot beverages from vending machines, especially where you live. I like it!
Next up for classes was a kimono dressing class. The process of dressing traditionally, in a kimono, is not easy. In fact, it is very complex. For this class we were shown how to dress in yukata, which are cotton, summer kimonos. I actually have one at home, so it was good to learn how to put it one. The regular kimono is similar, but it comes with a few more pieces, I think (including undergarments).
Here are a few pictures of me in the yukata. Pardon my hair, it was later at night so it's pulled back, but pretty much all over the place.
It was really fun and they had a huge turn out.
The last class I have to share for right now was Koto class. Koto is a traditional Japanese 10 string instrument, similar to a harp, and it turns out originated in China. We went to the teachers house and she gave a group of us a lesson. It was a lot of fun. I am definitely interested in taking more lessons.
Here I am, ready to play.
Here is our class after we all had fun learning to play koto music.
Needless to say, I am having a blast living in Japan and learning all about Japanese culture.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever had mochi? Do you play a musical instrument? Have you ever made a steamed custard?