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Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween post - お化け (おばけ - obake - Monsters/ghosts)

Halloween (ハロウィーン) is nearly upon us, which in Japan is as much of a big deal as it is in Australia (or perhaps even less). Like Valentine's Day, it's mostly a curiosity turned commercial holiday. Decorations and costumes have appeared in shops and jack-o'-lanterns and "trick or treat" signs have sprung up here and there, but apart from that it's all a bit of a non-issue. Don't think that means Japan doesn't have its fair share of scares, mind you - there's plenty of ghosts, demons and monsters to go around, ハロウィーン or no. So in the spirit of the scary season, let's find out what goes bump in Japan's night.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Japaneats その6 - 焼肉 (やきにく - yakiniku) - Japanese barbeque

Hot food would have made me sweat just to thinking about it a couple of months ago, but we're clearly past the tipping point of 秋 (あき - aki - Autumn) and are crossing into cloudy, wintery days. Like 焼き鳥 (やきとり - yakitori - grilled chicken skewers), 焼肉 is based around the roaring heat of open griddles and scalding hot food, which are both starting to sound very tempting as the mercury drops. So what is 焼肉, where is it from and where is it going? On your plate, if you're quick enough - grab yourself a pair of tongs and try not to burn yourself.

Friday, October 15, 2010

コンビニ (konbini) - Convenience stores

Like the ubiquitous 自動販売機 じどうはんばいき – jidouhanbaiki – vending machines), an extraordinary number of コンビニ dot Japan's landscape. While we may understand the basic concept of a convenience store or deli, a コンビニ is something else entirely, offering a range of services that go way beyond the humble choc milk and sausage roll. They’ve become an economic and social staple; by some counts there are more than forty thousand of them in the country and it doesn’t take long before you start feeling a few more wouldn’t hurt. They're also one of the only places you'll reliably find a rubbish bin!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Japaneats その6 - 焼き鳥 (やきとり - yakitori) - Grilled chicken on skewers

Now that the weather is starting to cool down, the grills are being fired up and we're getting back into all the lovely hot food of the colder months. If you need somewhere to hole yourself up from the rain for a bit, you might want to seek out a good 焼き鳥 spot. You'll know it by the blast of hot air and mouth-watering smells as you open the door, the cluttered little collection of tables and the bellows of "いらっしゃいませ" (irasshaimase - welcome) as you walk in. 焼き鳥 itself is about as old and uncomplicated as food gets  - as soon as we figured out sticks and fire, I'm sure the chicken was only a matter of time.

Friday, October 1, 2010

学校の生活その5:体育祭 (がっこうのせいかつその5:たいいくさい - gakkou no seikatsu sono go: taiikusai) - School Lifestyle 5: Sports Festival

Another major school event on the Japanese calendar is the 体育祭, similar in some respects to the sports/athletics carnivals we have at home. Like comparing school fetes with the 文化祭 (ぶんかさい - bunkasai - culture festival) though, the difference is really in the scale and level of commitment. Students and teachers spend weeks beforehand rehearsing to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Aside from the intricacy involved and pride in the event itself, this may be because some of the events are very dangerous; others are just rather strange. The ones that tick both boxes are probably the most fun of all!