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Yakiniku party for two

The Japanese display a giddy fondness for the 'insert food here party'.  Said gathering might involve but two people and the title food, however, if you call it a party, it's a party.  Although it's really not.  Anyway, what's in name?  And who cares what it is when it involves yakiniku, the theme of tonight's, errrm, 'party'. Off all the things that Japan has 'borrowed' from other countries, be it language, Zen state of mind, medicine, engineering, green tea, English teachers, cheesy weddings ... the Korean form of barbecuing meat has to be my favourite.  It's typically something I'd go out for (there's a Gyu-Kaku near the crib, and a thousand other yakiniku joints near work).  Sometime's of a Saturday night though, you just can't be bothered to go out.  For those times when the lethargy hits then, you want to get yourself a hot plate combo.  Like this ... ... so that you can have yakiniku from the comfort of a sofa.I've used the hot plate for a number of Japanese classics; yakisoba, shabushabu, sukiyaki, and winter-warmer staple, nabe.  All fine dishes, even when subject to these culinary-stunted hands, but all of them pale in comparison to yakiniku.For tonight's 'party' for two, we hit up the local supermarket and walked out with a bumper-size pack of 牛肉バラカルビ / gyu-niku bara karubi  (1280 g for around 500 yen - fairly cheap), 250 g of ホルモン / horumon (intestines and other normally unwanted bits - 200 yen), and some cuts of American 'prime' beef (331 g - 1,000 yen).  If this sounds expensive, it could have been so much more had any of tonight's beef come from Japan. We flavoured the カルビ with a cheap yakiniku sauce before 'BBQing' it, and finished it off with a one-time-serving packet of ジャン(焼肉んのたれ) which I'm told is much fancier.  For the sake of adding a bit of veg to help 'process' the meat, we threw in some cabbage, pumpkin, and mushrooms.  OK, so the hot plate can't really compete with open flames and hot coals, but it does a pretty sterling job nonetheless, and remains a legitimate yakiniku option.  It doesn't half stink out the apartment though!!NB; the volume of meat in today's yakiniku party was just about too much for us to get through comfortably!

Gift Giving Guidelines in Japan

Giving gifts are an incredibly important part of Japanese culture and presents are given for so many different occasions. In fact, gift giving in Japan is taken so seriously that it's not only seen as common courtesy, but a social obligation as well. Of course, like any gift giving culture, there are a certain number of rules that one needs to follow. So let's take a look at some of the etiquette involved in presenting presents to all types of people for all types of occasions.If you're a visitor to Japan who plans on giving gifts to someone, a small present or souvenir from your hometown is greatly appreciated. And because Japanese people receive gifts all-year-round, it's best not to overload the gift-receiver with too many trinkets. Therefore, something edible from your home country is probably the best gift you can give. The price of the present is also not as important as the meaning behind it. However, expensive gifts will still be appreciated (and are not viewed as a forms of bribery). It's a good idea to avoid gifts that include the numbers four and nine, as well as potted plants, lilies, lotus blossoms, and camellias - as there are a number of superstitions involving these gifts.The presentation of the gift is also often as important as the gift itself, so make sure that any present is nicely wrapped. Although the color of the wrapping has become less and less important in modern Japanese culture, you can still use this handy guide to really impress your Japanese friends. In many countries, we often give gifts at the beginning of our interactions. But in Japan, it's far more polite to wait until later in your meeting to present the gift to your host. This not only shows politeness before jumping in, but it also highlights how much you value your relationship over the gift. In terms of actually handing over the gift, it's best to use two hands and insisting on the present if the recipient refuses. This is because it's often polite in Japanese culture to decline a gift at least once or twice before accepting. You should also say the words "tsumaranai mono desu ga..." (つまらないものですが・・・) This literally translates as "It’s something boring, but please accept it" - a phrase that once again highlights the importance of your relationship over the importance of the gift itself.If you are on the receiving end, then remember not to immediately rip the gift open as soon as you receive it. You see, in Japanese culture (unlike Western cultures) it's more polite to wait until you are in private before opening a gift. If the gift in not wrapped, then it's good to thoroughly thank the giver for the gift. Once again, it's polite in Japan to refuse the gift once or twice before officially accepting it. However, not many Japanese people expect you to know this, so don't worry about it too much. It's also common to reciprocate gifts that were given for special occasions - even if the return present is given months later, it's still considered better to be late than never.

Karee-meshi: Instant cup curry and rice

I'm a fan of cup noodles, for their convenience and the taste too. However, having noodles all the time can get boring, so this item of an instant cup curry and rice caught my eyes as it seems to offer a change. I gave it a try, and the result was.... interesting.This little quick meal is sold for around 200yen, and is available in most supermarkets and convenient stores too. All you need is some hot water and a patience that lasts around 5 minutes before you can dig in.Open the package, and you can find a block of Japanse curry, some "beef like things", and some rice that looks like space food.While the curry tastes pretty good after a quick stir, what I couldn't get over with was the space rice. It felt like some air-dried rice that got soaked up with hot water, not in a good way. For a quick meal, it tasted not bad, but if you're looking for some fluffy rice, the instant cup rice option is still not that feasible yet, unfortunately.

A Unique Way to Apologise - no bloodspill required

Committing suppuku (ritual suicide) seems a bit of an extreme way to show remorse for a mistake or wrongdoing to me. Thankfully a creative Tokyo confectioner, 3rd generation owner Yoshihisa WATANABE, came up with a slightly less life altering way to offer one's apologies.  Enter, the seppuku manju, a Japanese-style sweet produced by confectionary company Shinshodo.  Sinshodo is located in Shimbashi, Tokyo, near a stone monument marking the place of death of Lord ASANO Takuminokami.  Asano-san was ordered to commit ritual suicide after attempting to his instructor with a sword.  He killed himself in a garden what was not too far from the the stone monument erected in 1940 in 4-chome Shimbashi, on Hibiya-dori. The popular "seppuku manju" is made with a red bean paste oozing out from a crisp outer shell.  Biting into the sweet, you discover a soft, chewy white mochi (sticky rice cake) in the centre.  Visually, the sweet is a representation of the bloody deed.  These days, business people who need to apologies to a client for example, will produce a box of these sweets to show their remorse. Traditionally, the most common form of ritual suicide is harakiri, also known as seppuku. Harakiri (腹切り) and seppuku (切腹) are both written with the same characters.  腹means "belly" (stomach) and 切 means "to cut".  Harakiri is a slightly less formal way to refer to seppuku. ShinshodoHours: 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM (open until 5:00 PM on Saturdays).Closed:Sundays and holidaysAddress: 4-27-2 Shimbashi; Minato-ku, Tokyowww.shinshodoh.co.jp/

How to prepare for Spring in Japan?

Spring in JAPAN!Finally the spring has arrived in Japan with the sakura blooming everywhere. Most of the foreigners like the spring of Japan. But have you prepared to celebrate it effectively? Here is some good tips for the foreigners:1. First of all, you have to wear the spring fashion dress. Mostly the light color dress are considered as spring dress in Japan.2. Use light bags.3. Use light shoes.4. Eat 'Haru Yasai".5. Do not wear heavy dress anymore (Winter is over!)6. Well, you have to use umbrella sometimes but not like rainy season or hotted summer. So use light umbrella.7. Start outing and outdoor activities including lunch at outside of your dining room.8. Change your hairstyle as spring comes.9. Prepare for the coming summer and ready to go to beach.10. Finally, try to reduce your body weight at least 2kg/month from now to Summer!

Plastic food displays vs Real food displays

I saw this on the street the other day and I'm not sure how I feel about, so I'd like to get some opinions...The small soba shop put some food displays outside, showing the meals of the day.I'm used to seeing the plastic displays, as you can see with the bowl of noodles on the top left. But everything else was real food that they cooked up and wrapped.On the one hand, it's nice that I get to see exactly what the food looks like before ordering it, so I wouldn't blame the too-good-looking plastic models when the results come out differently. I understand it's also impossible for them to purchase those expensive plastic displays for every dish they have.On the other hand, seeing the wrapped up doesn't look appealing, and more importantly, it feels like a taste of a few perfectly cooked up meals to imagine that they will toss them out at the end of the day.So I'm not sure where I stand on this non-issue. What do you guys think?

Umaibou....shi?

You might have heard of or even tried the popular children's snacks, umaibou. They are these rice sticks with various kinds of flavour seasonings, and I like them too much.Only very recently, I found this spin-off product that they have.The umaiboshi snack!Being a fan, I, of course, bought one for testing.They are all star shapes, and I find them surprisingly adorable! This chicken-curry flav snack tastes exactly the same as their stick form, the only difference is the shape, but it does make the texture more interesting when you chew through them.They are rather rare, from what I see, so snatch one for a try next time you see it!

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