January 2010

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Those famous realistic plastic food models aren't just used for restaurant displays in Japan. They are used for dietary and nutritional education in hospitals as well.

Just a quick note here: If you are the Kristina Johnson who won the Just Hungry Menu For Hope prize EU25 (check the winners' list) please get in touch via the contact form :)

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If there's one thing I don't like about Japan, it's that everywhere you go, there are constant reminders to do this, don't do this, go here, go there, and so on. When you're going up or down an escalator, a high pitched polite (usually female) voice tells you to watch your step, hold your kid's hand, stay within the lines, don't put pointy things like umbrellas between the steps, and whatever you do, don't get your long hair caught somewhere (!). On a bus, not only does that high-pitched female voice (probably not the same voice, but they sound alike) tell you what the next stop and the next next stop are, but the bus driver usually repeats that information right after it's been announced. The female voice also tells you to not stand up until the bus comes to a full halt, don't smoke at the bus stop, give up your seat to the elderly...blah, blah blah, every 3 minutes. And as for the trains... it's enough to drive one batty. You just have to tune it out, if you can. I'm sort of trained to listen to and obey public transportation announcements (since they actually mean something in Switzerland) so I'm having a hard time.

Which somehow brings us to today's Cool (or in this case, wacky) item: Mammoth meat snack!

Mammoth meat snack!

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Soy milk bottle with nigari packet

During my stay in Japan, I thought I'd feature some cool stuff (or things that you all may find cool) that I've seen. Here is a bottle of soy milk or tounyuu (豆乳) that I got at a shop in the local Tokyuu line train station (or in other words, it's not like a special brand or anything).

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I'm in Japan! I'll be here for the next three months. I am here primarily for two reasons: My mother is in hospital; and the bento cookbook photoshoot will commence next month. But of course I'll be filing plenty of reports on what I've done, not to mention eaten, here! I'll be taking and uploading photos every day, which you can follow here on flickr.

The photo above is of dinner last night with family - a seafood nabe and a sashimi assortment. Delicious and so simple, and not at all easy (or inexpensive) to recreate properly outside of Japan!

Keep reading In Japan! →

Long time readers of this blog may know that I have an obsessive interest in certain foods. Near the top of the list of these is Marmite, the viscous, salty, dark brown yeast spread from Britain. Heck, I even have a category for it. Here's my review of a fun book of Marmite facts.

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The more I study old Japanese customs, the more I am impressed by the logical thinking behind many of them, even when examined with modern eyes. One of these the custom of partaking of a bowl of nanakusagayu on the seventh day of the New Year, which supposedly started in the Heian Period (around the 12th century), in the refined court of Kyoto. Nanakusa means seven greens, and kayu (or to use the honorific term, okayu (お粥)), is rice porridge. The Imperial Court, now in Tokyo, still has a nanakusagayu ceremony on the morning of January 7th.