Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Izakaya (kind of) Log: BEER SAURUS Ikebukuro

I say "kind of" because to me an izakaya is a smaller affair, and this definitely feels more like a western style bar. Which is no sin, and I thoroughly enjoyed the place, it's just a slightly different kind of restaurant than I typically look for here.

Japanese breakfast!

I figured it'd be fun to cook up a traditional breakfast. It came out quite well.

The fish is salted, broiled buri (Japanese amberjack), the miso soup just has tofu and scallions, the sauce is soy sauce and lemon juice, and the veggies are Japanese cucumbers pickled in salt, sugar, and a dash of mustard powder.

The fish broiler is a pretty nice little appliance that I believe I'll be making more use of in the future. Probably the immediate future.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Another webcomic, in a slightly different vein

I recently burned (well, no, spent, and well) a few hours going through the archives of this one, which is less comedy and more fantasy/drama.

Unsounded: A Graphic Novel by Ashley Cope

Very interesting story with its own sort of magic/mythology, and at least one character that's extremely easy to hate but (so far) grows at least a little bit in the course of the story. So that's something it's got going for it, in addition to gorgeous art and coloring. And engaging dialogue. And good pacing. And excellent backstory. And...

Well, you should probably just read it.

Izakaya Log: 二十二坪 (22 Tsubo)

On my first foray into searching for 居酒屋 (izakaya, small traditional Japanese style bars), I found this absolute gem in Wasedatsurumakicho, just east of Waseda University and right down the street from my apartment. I've closed this one half a dozen times since finding it, and spent many an hour speaking broken Japanese and broken English with the extremely friendly patrons.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Tokyo!

It's a bit disappointing, though not unexpected, to have a very snowless Christmas. But it's still my favorite day of the year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Kind-of-recipe: Easy tempura-inspired frying batter

After quite a bit of trial and error with flour, corn starch, and potato starch (mostly with an egg wash), I figured I'd try tempura in my search for the perfect fried food, even though it's a pain. Based on this blog post, though, I tried a cold mix of water, flour, and starch, and so far it's worked extremely well.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

End of Term, Christmas in Tokyo, and Creepy Christmas Carols

My class finished the first beginner level at Kai on Friday! The interview part was a lot of fun, and the grammar and kanji tests weren't too bad. The sakubun (essay) test predictably sucked -- mostly because for some reason I can speak reasonably well but can't manage to do as well when writing the same things -- and the "speaking" test, in which we spoke with Japanese volunteers in groups, felt really contrived and forced. Overall, though, it was good, and I think the tests did a good job of evaluating our grasp of the material.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Movie review: Interstellar

Rating: 6/10

I didn't go into this with high expectations, but it still managed to disappoint; the problem is that it's so good in some ways and so very poor in others that it ends up giving itself a great setup and then tripping over its own feet.

My biggest complaint may be that, once you know the whole plot, it becomes clear that the entire thing is impossible, not just because of the shabby physics, but because... well, I'll leave it for the body, since I don't want to put spoilers before the break.

Warning: This post contains spoilers! Do not read it if you haven't seen the film and want to be surprised.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Microwaves? Ha! We don't need no stinking microwaves.

The humble, ubiquitous microwave was one of the things I'd hoped to avoid getting in my attempt to preemptively unclutter the kitchen and save room for other things. After a while of being unconvinced that it'd work at all, I believe I've found a workable solution.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I hate webcomics.

Every time I find a great one I end up losing at least one night of my life going through the archives.

Latest: Manly Guys Doing Manly Things

Also worth mentioning: The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

Lamb curry and the Wonder that is the Rice Cooker

Lamb is one of those things I never tried until I was out of college and had gotten big into cooking Indian food. When I finally cooked with it, I don't think I cooked with anything else for a couple months.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Garlic Cheese Bread from a Fish Broiler

Worth noting: Our fish broiler has not (since the last people lived here, possibly, anyway) been used for fish. Or for anything else, actually, so there was no lingering odor to worry about. It's pretty much just a little (REALLY little) oven that's directly below the burners with heat only from the top, typically used for (gasp!) fish.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Would you like your hot water warm or cold?

One of the little things I ran across the first time I was here, a few years ago with a friend, was the fact that our weekly apartment in Osaka had a little control panel you had to use to activate the water heater if you wanted, you know, hot water.

Our apartment has it! I'm so inexplicably happy about this!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The kotatsu is already getting much more use than I expected

My girlfriend is always cold, so it's no surprise she's been using this most glorious bit of furniture liberally, particularly since I ordered a blanket for it recently. The fact that I'm also currently tucked happily into it is a bit more surprising.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

て form, ましょう, and suddenly I wish I hadn't tried to study so much before I came here.

We're currently learning some very important grammar lessons. The problem is that I thought I understood them, but apparently I either learned them slightly wrong or in a way that didn't come anywhere close to expressing their actual usage and flexibility.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kai's Dropbox videos are a little overrated

There's a good amount of information Kai keeps in their Dropbox account, to which students are given access based on their class level. This makes sense given that they expect about two hours (!) of daily study on your own time, something I simply don't do at this point, partially due to laziness, partially because I still know a lot of what we're learning, and partially because I have a whole lot of other stuff to do. But it does create... issues.

First term ends in three and a half weeks!

Yikes! I've definitely learned a lot, so that's good, but still... that means I've been in school for almost two months, and I've been in Japan for almost exactly two months. Two freaking months; wow...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Japanese on a computer is a bit different than English

Well, obviously, but more than I'd have expected.

Kanji is a pretty freaking complex character set; many Japanese words take more than ten strokes (lines, while writing/drawing a single character), and compared to the Latin alphabet, that's just massively complex.

If you consider the standard magnification many of us in "The West" use on our computers while browsing the web, it's easy to forget that some languages use characters that are way too complex to realistically get enough detail into the small space we allocate for a single letter.

I'm not really going anywhere with this. I just think it's interesting to note that, in some languages, it's basically necessary to view the web -- and documents in general -- with a larger font size than those of us who use less complex written languages are used to. It's something I'd never really thought of until I tried using web pages that use kanji but couldn't even tell if I knew them or not since they are often totally illegible at the text size I'm used to (particularly when they're bolded).

Christmas Plans!

Well, I'd initially intended to get on board with the Japanese tradition of eating KFC for Christmas... but in the end it was too daunting. Instead I'm doing more work and making a pseudo-KFC fried chicken dinner for myself, the lady, and one of her friends.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dodge Ram. Official truck of... Tokyo?

I see all sorts of cars here; of course there's a lot of Nissans, Toyotas, etc. But it's not at all uncommon to see Maseratis, Porsches, and less often but still not that rarely, Ferraris and Lamborghinis on the streets of Tokyo.

This, though, was a bit of a fun surprise.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Eating guts and "mottainai"

Had (yet another) great night out with some really fun people, one of whom is a friend from school, the others being his friends. We hit up a couple little restaurants in Asakusa and strolled around a temple area that was packed with interesting shops.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

This Week (So Far) in Cooking: Summary

Ground pork and miso (furikake), miso udon, pork and mushrooms, shiitake in soy sauce, pork and onions, spicy bite-size sweet and salty chicken thigh pieces, negimiso, and some experimentation with coatings for karaage. It's been a lot of work, but tasty.

Before I start posting pictures (for some), I wanted to put up a picture that keeps resulting in great amusement for me, having "Fresh Shiitake Mushroom Tsukudani" open in a tab often this week while waiting to make the recipe:

So it's not the most mature thing... sorry. But that's in character for me!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Midterm results: Top of the class!

Yep, first place! 197/200 points. There's one screwup I don't understand (need to figure out what's wrong), but the other two were stupid mistakes -- and I might as well have made each one twice, since I did proofread the entire thing after finishing but still missed them. Oh well. There were several people with 196's, so it's not like I blew everyone away, but it was still pretty cool.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

First midterm, little bars, a new messenger bag, and a rice cooker

We had our first midterm, in case the title wasn't obvious enough! It wasn't bad at all, a couple pages of kanji-to-hiragana/hiragana-to-kanji and then four pages of general grammar fill-in-the-blank types of questions. I'm itching to get the results, as I'm reasonably sure I did well, but I don't know how well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Negativity really hurts your quality of life

I'm sure this is obvious to a lot of people, but it's one of those things I keep having to relearn.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Saving the world, one technological innovation at a time.

Scientist 1: We've harnessed the power of the SUN! AMAZING!
Scientist 2: But what will we do with this most spectacular of achievements?!
Marketing department: Leave it to us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chicken and Mushrooms with Oyster Sauce

Loosely based on this recipe from

Toothpaste #1, according to a foreign dentist!

The first time I came to Japan, I picked up toothpaste, and it was this brand -- with the same Serious Foreign Dentist promoting it! Not the most logical reason I've ever had for buying something, but then probably not the least, either.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Muscleman! (Japanese Kinkeshi toys)

I saw these randomly in Tokyo and freaked out a little bit. I used to get them in the US when I was a kid!

Turns out they're actually from Japan. I don't remember the ones I had working as erasers (but then, my memory is terrible, so who knows), but it's pretty wild to learn that not only are they still around, they were originally from here anyway. Crazy!

Karaage (Japanese fried chicken)

Fried chicken is amazing. I don't care if it's Kentucky fried or Japanese fried or whatever. In Japan, the fried chicken served as a bar snack is typically chunks of breast or thigh meat rather than the drumsticks we tend towards in the US.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

General update and random pictures

It's hard to believe it's been over a month since I got here. Every day still feels really long, but things aren't nearly as stressful as they were, since most of the major stuff is out of the way. School is ramping up the difficulty, but at least there's still routine there, which is nice.

Korean-ish pork, mushrooms, and bean sprouts

Some day I'll go back to actually using recipes instead of just doing random stir fry. Probably.

Halloween in Tokyo!

So far, while I like the curriculum, my favorite thing about Kai is my class. I'm the only one from the US (a very strange thing for me); I think we have two Brazilians, three Swedes, a Spaniard, a Mexican, an Indian, and two Taiwanese. I've never had so many friends from all over the place; I love it.

Here we have me (the cowboy; fitting), three gentlemen from the class (representing Sweden, India, and Brazil), and two lovely Japanese ladies we met at the rooftop Halloween party we attended.

Walking to School

From my apartment to the language school, it's 2.5 km. Which is a fair bit of ground in a really, really dense city like Tokyo, so I figured I'd take at least a few pictures of what it's like.

Current Gyoza Overview and Recent History

In the five weeks (holy crap, has it been that long?) since I got here, I've made around 130 gyoza. That's not including the experimental shumai-wrapper attempts I made, which numbered about 20. The actual number might be higher, too, just based on looking at these pictures a couple weeks later.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Emergency vehicle drivers are either very polite or very indifferent in Japan

Well, for a fact, I know they're polite (or, at least, they seem to have extremely polite requests recorded in order to gently urge motorists to get the hell out of the way... please). Watching an ambulance go down the street can be interesting, as I do believe I've heard them switch on and off recordings asking people to move over and let them through.

Aside from that... it seems like unless they are using their sirens or Calm Japanese Woman Recordings, no one really cares. I frequently (as in daily) see pedestrians crossing the street in front of police cars and ambulances running their lights, as well as traffic not for a second considering yielding to these vehicles when they don't have the right of way.

I'm pretty sure I see these vehicles driving around normally without their lights on, so either I'm wrong about that (entirely possible), or there are very different rules/laws/expectations here about police and EMS.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Groceries, prepared food, discounted meat, and sales every day of the week

I imagine I've mentioned, more than once, that one of the most exciting things about moving here for me was the fact that the grocery stores generally tend towards fresh, seasonal ingredients. It's true, and fun! But there's another angle: There's a massive amount of prepared food ready. I don't mean bad convenience store donuts. I mean fresh sashimi and sushi, I mean recently-grilled chicken, I mean deep fried shrimp like something you'd get at a restaurant.

And at some point during the evening, guess what? The remaining stock goes on sale. Increasingly aggressive sale.

Of Laundry and Drag Queens

Our balconies, which are typical in Japan, have little brackets that are intended to host poles for hanging and drying laundry (clothes dryers are not normal here). The particular ones I bought have a name that uses an onomatopoeia meaning "sparkle" and a phonetic version of the word "pole."

Sparkle Pole is funny enough, but because of the way Western names are transliterated into Japanese, Google Translate decides it means... and I couldn't make this up, I'm not clever enough...

Twinkle Twinkle Little Paul.

Which makes me think RuPaul is going to be drying my laundry. And while I try to be an open-minded guy, I'm just not totally sure I'm comfortable with a black 6'4" 53-year-old drag queen waving my laundry about while Tokyo walks by and gawks from the street.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tokyo Sakura House Higashi-Nagasaki B Review (tl;dr: Don't rent here)

First off, Sakura House building Higashi-Nagasaki B, conveniently located not far from Shinjuku, comes in between 65,000 and 76,000 yen (around 600-700 USD) per month. At least, if you believe the website, the advertising, and the employees (which I and many others did). Unfortunately, out of the 30,000 yen deposit, you are entitled to get at most 20,000 yen back. That's about 90 USD that's essentially extra rent, so these actually cost closer to 700-800 USD assuming a one-month stay, even if you leave everything spotless.

I'll go over my experience there point by point, in no particular order.

Bluetooth in OS X seems to suck, especially with Parallels. Also, Parallels sucks.

Background: I run OS X because I have a MacBook Pro. I have a MacBook Pro because there's just nothing that compares to it... but I work in Linux, so I run Parallels, which is a pretty nice virtualization software. Basically, this means I have Linux running as a program in OS X, the way you'd run Microsoft Word in Windows. Just... more useful.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Still no comments!

Just to put it out there: I think I've mentioned that I'm keeping this blog as a resource for other people who consider making or decide to make a move like the one I've made (from somewhere not-Japan to somewhere is-Japan), but this isn't a repository of facts. It's just me talking about my experiences.

I'm happy to talk to the internet, whether it talks back or not, but if any of you -- whether I know you or not -- have questions, comments, or contradictions to offer, please do feel free to throw them at me. I'm here to learn, and that learning can come from any number of sources; if I say something that's obviously stupid or even just slightly off base, the only way I'm going to correct that point of view and avoid encouraging other people to make the same mistakes I'm making is if someone points them out.

So if you just enjoy reading the blog, great! Please continue! But if you disagree, or if there are things I've missed and you think they're important, please do chime in. Anything from support to (constructive) criticism/correction is entirely welcome and appreciated.

Edit: And, of course, there was indeed a comment here that I hadn't seen because there doesn't appear to be way to get notifications unless you turn moderation on, which I've now done. Sorry!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Arashi (嵐): The Digitalian

My lovely girlfriend requested that I pick up a copy of this album today, as it was just released in Japan. I did so, despite a minor issue involving the fact that Tsutaya apparently runs stores that are entirely devoted to rentals (CD's, DVD's, and even manga) and does not feel like differentiating between them in their Google Maps or corporate entries.

Paying bills... at the convenience store?

Yes. "Convenience store," in the US at least, is a benign but constant misnomer: The only thing convenient about them is that you have to fill your vehicle with gas with some regularity and there's always one of these right there, so you can... I don't know, buy junk food and frozen pizza after you pay at the pump. Japan does things a little differently at the "kombini" (my transliteration to romaji is different, but neither is either correct or incorrect, and I'm set in my ways).

Recent cooking: Chicken curry, orange chicken, pork and bean sprouts

As I get used to the possibilities (and limitations) of using what's available locally here, I've put together a few familiar dishes with what's at hand as well as some that are new to me. It's fun working with what's at hand, and I think it'll end up making me a better cook.

Wok: Seasoned. Iron turner: ...oops.

I seasoned my (cast iron) wok! Well, I continue to season it. Mostly when I'm bored, but not just then, because my perverse kitchen fetish means I find it mesmerizing.

Don't judge me.

Ack! Delayed posts!

The lack of updates is largely due to school, lots of cooking, and the final phases of my address changes (in addition to getting a lot of work done) kind of pushing the blog away from the front of my mind. But it's back! I have several updates, so there should be a few posts coming.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My first batch of gyoza in Japan!

I love gyoza! And I've been making them for so long that I'm really spoiled on them, so getting them at restaurants -- even in Japan -- has so far been a universal let-down. Fortunately, they're not all that complicated, and I finally outfitted my kitchen to the point where I can make them here.

More Kappabashi: Filling out the kitchen supplies

I hit up the Street of Happiness again with the intention of almost-entirely-stocking the kitchen; unlike most of my trips so far, I ended up coming back with everything I set out to get. Score!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Refrigerator! Kotatsu! Zafu! A great day for furniture!

Holy crap am I excited! I'm putting the picture above the cut. That's how excited I am.

Another interesting meal: Marinated "Bacon Block"

Last night I had intended to try out a recipe I found on Cookpad, but since I couldn't find pork belly at the grocery store I hit on the way home, I went with something called "bacon block."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apparently textbooks at Kai aren't included in tuition.

When I went to college this was the case as well... but this isn't college, and I don't remember reading or hearing anywhere that there'd be additional charges for books. Until yesterday, of course, when the teacher informed us we'd need to bring exactly 8,992 yen to class today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Pedo-Meter Strikes!

Not sure if I mentioned it, but I picked up a pedometer at the end of last week. Today was the first day I took it to school, so here are the stats!

  • 7050 steps
  • 5.6 km
  • 369 calories burned
Granted, these are not going to be exact, but I did check the mileage against Google Maps, and it seems to be getting very close (both on this trip and another I tried it out on over the weekend). This is a typical trip from home to school and back again, including a very slight detour to hit the grocery store for a bit of chicken.

Not too bad. I like my intentionally-built-in daily exercise. :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Spicy pork, onions, and mushrooms

It's Typhoon Week #2! Not that that's particularly relevant to this post, but it's kind of the big news here.

This week I picked up some mushrooms and an onion with the intention of getting some chicken to go with them; however, I didn't end up finding a really small portion of chicken, so it's a nice little 199 yen package of shabu shabu pork instead. Really can't wait until I can buy larger cuts and actually save them; the fridge should be here on Thursday!

Android phone review: Sharp Aquos Crystal from Softbank (tl;dr: Don't buy one)

Unfortunately, as with most Android handsets, this has to be taken in the context of the bastardized version of the operating system the carrier provides. Considering I know nothing about distribution in Japan, I also can't say for sure whether the faults in the OS as it's provided are Sharp's fault or Softbank's, though I strongly suspect the latter.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Two weeks in and already the police are after me!

Earlier today someone rang my doorbell (i.e. called me from downstairs, we actually have a dedicated phone on each floor so we can answer "calls" from the front door). They said "Bic Camera," among many other things I didn't understand; I was expecting a visit from them to check dimensions for a clothes washer I wanted to buy, so I let them in.

Just now, someone else -- whom I wasn't expecting -- rang it. So I inquired a little, in brief and poor Japanese, and managed to pick out the word "keisatsu." Police. Well I don't REMEMBER doing anything wrong, but I should probably let him in anyway...

Apartment update: New Wireless Router (also, major appliances)

I haven't exactly considered shopping around a viable option, so my purchases to this point have been almost entirely based on necessity and availability (I certainly didn't bother looking for reviews on the futon I bought; it came with everything you need to sleep on, and that was exactly my one criterion). My washer, fridge, and router purchases were no different... and while the former two were on the pricey side, the last was pretty inexpensive.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

First (partial) week of Japanese language study at Kai

I haven't said much about it, which shouldn't be interpreted as there not being much to say. There's just been so much else going on that it's hard to get everything down, and this works well as its own post.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Quick and dirty pork and mushroom stir fry

As I continue not having a refrigerator, I keep on buying single servings of meat to saute up in the wok. This came out pretty well despite my failure to pick up all the ingredients I wanted... but I think, in the medium term, remembering toilet paper and forgetting garlic may be OK.

KitKat (seasonal): Pumpkin Pudding

One of the many food-related things I enjoy about Japan is their obsession with KitKat. Part of it comes from the fact that the Japanese pronunciation sounds like a common motivational phrase, but part of it has to be the awesome creativity (and sometimes just plain strangeness) that goes into the flavors, ranging from tame green tea to... well, pumpkin pudding. There are many stranger ones, but this is where I'm starting.

Ceiling cat is watching you...

...attempt to acclimate to an unfamiliar culture.

One of the more pleasant parts of my Sakura House stay, this guy spent a few afternoons sunning himself on a shed behind the share house.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Kappabashi: A street full of culinary happiness

If you're not into cooking, Kappabashi probably has little to interest you. If you are, though, holy crap -- it's a gold mine.

Serious Wok is Serious! New cooking implements and their first adventure

This morning I strode the length of Kappabashi twice in the name of finding a few important things for the kitchen... the most important things, that is. And find them I did.

Japanese train track safety is no laughing matter

If you've been on an airplane... ever... you've probably seen those booklets they tell you to look at, with the drawings of placid people happily preparing to be mashed to bits on impact or thrown screaming smiling from a disintegrating aircraft seven miles in the air.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The unique challenges of dinner in a new apartment

After school orientation today (it was pretty good; not really anything worth writing home, or to the internet, about), my first scheduled stop was the Sakura House place to pick up my famed SoftBank Bluetooth speakers. With them comfortably transported to Shinjuku (which was not nearly as crappy as moving the suitcase will be), I turned to Part 2: Continuing to stock the apartment.

New apartment adventures: Furnishings, step 1: Futon (with bonus)

After acquiring the key to our shiny new accommodations yesterday, I meandered my way through three different subway lines to Nitori near Tokyo Bay, which is where a friend suggested I go to find a futon. It did work.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Disaster Preparedness: Typhoon Edition

I don't really know how consistent the weather in Japan tends to be; in Minnesota, a storm will often last much of a day, while in Florida it'll easily fly in and out in less than an hour. I'd expected Tokyo to be more like Florida in that respect, being so close to the ocean... which is why I was a little perplexed at this storm having lasted from the time I woke up until mid afternoon.

Cooking at Sakura House: Porkshroom Eggs

Since I couldn't wait any longer, I finally went ahead and threw something together, just for the sake of not eating another meal of frozen gyoza.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Online Banking with Shinsei (or: I got my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring!)

If you're familiar with the midwestern US classic A Christmas Story (or if you're just really old), you'll likely smile at the mention of a decoder ring. Because it's funny, right? It's a cute toy for kids to play with. Except it's also a major part of logging in to my online banking interface.

Nothing says "working hard" like happoshu, ika, and inutomodachi.

Happoshu is beer. Well, except that it's not taxed that way. Apparently, in Japan, beer and beer-like beverages are taxed differently based on the amount of malt in them. I never knew this; it's very convenient if you don't mind light beer (as in the color and flavor), because it's much cheaper than "real" beer.

Also, squid is an excellent snack when dried, and goes great with beer or sake.

Furthermore, PUPPYFRIENDS!

Yes, we are working. Just... not exceedingly hard; it is Saturday, after all.

I guess I live in Japan now.

It's pretty obviously different from living in the US. Mostly because, you know, I'm surrounded by Japanese people and their language. But when it comes right down to it, I don't feel any different.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pole dancing! No, not me.

Last night I was invited by a friend to attend a "pole party" in Roppongi (Tokyo's largest foreigner/party district). She takes pole dancing as a class activity for fitness, which I have to say is a pretty inspired idea the entire world should take note of. There is simply no down side here.

Kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi), without the conveyor belt

These places actually aren't bad; I didn't expect much the first time I tried one, but the quality was high. This particular time (yesterday), I went with a couple friends of my girlfriend, one of whom is about to leave the country and was craving sushi before he left. Since they didn't have three adjacent seats at the conveyor belt bar, we ended up at a table.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Japanese elementary school: A little too endearing to be grating

At the share house (where I'll only be for another week, if things go well!), right across the street, there's an elementary school. I'm not a huge fan of children for the most part; noise, mess, and low attention span just usually aren't things I like. And there's a whole lot of noise going on at any elementary school; that's just how it is.

But... it's so hard to be a grouchy old bastard when they're so damn cute.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Our Japanese Apartment (or: Holy balls, that was fast, and it causes issues)

I arrived in Tokyo, wet behind the ears and squalling (for various reasons, read that how you will), on September 25. I met with my realtor, who had assumed I had no ongoing income and had to start his search over with the knowledge that I did (a good thing), on the 26th.

As of October 1: I have been cleared to rent a pretty damn nice place in Shinjuku.

Tasty, Tasty Responsibility: A most excellent lunch

What do you do when you're hungry and craving a beer but you're also not interested in going to a restaurant (and don't have the facilities to cook comfortably)?

Shinsei Bank, Outback Steakhouse, Izakaya, and Android connection sharing

Yesterday I decided I'd open a bank account, which I believe is the only major thing I have left to do aside from moving into a long-term apartment in Shinjuku, and the latter is temporarily out of my hands as the realtor deals with the application, guarantor company, and landlord.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Prepaid cash cards, Japanese local government, Japanese curry, and Tokyo apartments

While I didn't get everything done I wanted to today, I did get as many things done as I had planned, so that's kind of the same. Right?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Finally, my first night out. HUB, anime conversation, and taiko gaming.

While I have not been thrilled with HUB before (it's a self-styled British pub chain, and a hangout for expats in Japan), this time I was fortunate enough to be in very good company, with a gentleman I know from Minnesota and several of his Japanese friends, who have varying degrees of English prowess. Which always makes for a lot of fun and learning opportunities for everyone.

More walking. Oh, Tokyo. But also: Hot dogs and Engrish!

Today was fun; met up with a friend and... you know the quote. Long is the way, and hard, that out of Shinjuku pretty much just leads back into Shinjuku. If I had friends anywhere near the share house I'd really, really enjoy a day of not walking everywhere, but I don't think I'll get that for a while, what with all the bureaucracy I still have to deal with before school starts. Oh well.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another day, another few miles of walking, but also a phone!

Very much no thanks to the jerk at SoftBank Roppongi that told me yesterday he simply could not start a mobile service contract for me until I had an address on the back of my resident card (which they put there at a local government office, and which I'm trying to avoid doing until I have a permanent place, though that's not extremely likely at this point), that is.

Friday, September 26, 2014

First full day in Tokyo (well, this time, at least)

This was my schedule. Not that it was planned, but this is how it turned out.

I've landed! Well, last night. TOKYO!

I got in at 4:35 PM (sorry, 16:45; I really need to get used to that) at Narita. Despite my expectation that immigration would be a major hassle, due to having to pick up my alien registration card for my student visa, it went pretty smoothly; it took barely longer than it did when I came here as a tourist. So I do have my card, which is cool!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

One week to go.

In seven days I'll be... well, at this time I'll probably be bumming around LAX waiting for my flight to Narita.

My car has been sold (well, tentatively, but the only way it wouldn't go through is if I wreck it before I hand it over Monday morning) and we're trying desperately to find new homes for all the stuff in our apartment. It's... not going extremely well. The books have been sold or donated, and I've managed to get rid of one of my computers, but other than that no one seems to be biting.

This will probably end up meaning a pretty big donation to a local thrift shop.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Seasoned black beans with onion and tomato recipe

I love black beans, but they can be a bit bland on their own, and a little doctoring can make them much better. I happened to have a can of diced tomatoes and an onion, so I picked up a can of beans and winged it. The results were pretty good.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Carnitas (seared and braised pork) recipe

When I first started making "carnitas" it turned out the recipe I found (which was either this one or the same thing posted somewhere else), despite being quite good, was totally wrong. I still make it, but it's pretty much just pulled pork, so when I actually want carnitas I do them this way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wontalians! (wontons/gyoza, Italian style)

After being inspired by a gyoza recipe that included whole shiso leaves (something we unfortunately don't commonly find in Minnesota), I decided to use basil instead... and to swap out the normal Japanese style filling with something much closer to an Italian meatball. To those of you now saying I have an irrational obsession with well, I disagree. It's entirely rational.

Mie Goreng... coleslaw... recipe

After falling in love with Indomie Mi Goreng instant noodles (yeah, I definitely slum it for a quick meal once in a while), I tried making the seasoning from scratch, which was very good but not very accurate.

Not quite sure why it took so long, though, to actually try to make the dish it was supposedly based on (or at least named after). So I took a look at -- surprise! -- the NoRecipes version of this dish and tweaked the heck out of it for my own dastardly purposes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Got my visa. Just booked a flight to Tokyo!

This morning (bright and early; thanks, FedEx) I got my passport back from the Chicago consulate with my student visa in place. Woohoo!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crock pot beef and mushroom stew recipe

I'm not sure whether beef was cheaper when I was in college, whether beef is or was cheaper in Iowa, or whether I just wasn't quite so thrifty as I thought. Whatever the reason, I always had this in my head as a cheap recipe. Granted, I think it does still give you a pretty good quantity of food per buck, but it doesn't qualify as cheap.

All you really need for this is a crockpot and a can opener.

Friday, September 5, 2014

And it's here! The Certificate Arrives.

My certificate of eligibility arrived today! So that's pretty awesome; I'll be filling out the final application tonight and sending it along to the Japanese consulate in Chicago tomorrow morning.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Honey Lemon Chicken (via

My favorite source of recipes, by far (and ironically), is Marc Matsumoto's Today one of the things I'm cooking is his Honey Lemon Chicken, the recipe for which was posted on his column rather than his own blog.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I'm not so good at the waiting game

Two days (well, closer to one day if you're in Japan, I suppose) before we're supposed to hear back regarding my Certificate of We'll Let You In Temporarily, it's getting very hard not to send pleading emails to my school (they'd go out constantly if I thought they'd help).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Flappy Golf for Android

First off: I love video games. I'm just not very good at them.

It's usually my girlfriend who plays them; we spend a lot of time with her on the PS3 and me either just watching or futzing around on the tablet (I enjoy my Nexus 7). We both play RPG's, but I'm more into turn-based JRPG and strategy (e.g. the Final Fantasy series before XIII and the Disgaea series) and she's a bit more on the action side (the Mass Effect series, Skyrim, etc).

Having done a bit of Android development, though, I have a pretty significant interest in finding what I'd call good mobile games -- that is, games with actually involving gameplay and decent revenue models I don't mind paying into -- both to play such games and to learn from them, so that if I ever end up making a more involved game, I'll have an idea of what works and what I personally enjoy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Curry nabe (Japanese hot pot) recipe

After being inspired by this Cookpad recipe, which suggests dry frying Japanese curry roux  (S&B linked here because it's the one I use) to bring out their flavor and then using the resulting happiness as a broth for nabe, I figured I'd try it out as comfort food for my girlfriend, who has her first interview for a job in Japan tonight via Skype.

Full Disclosure: Unless you find Japanese curry roux unbearably attractive and/or you simply cannot live without the comfort of my witty prose, you might want to skip this one. The ingredients are quite good, but the curry roux does not, in my opinion, make a great nabe base. I'm posting it anyway because I took pretty pictures and it'd be a waste to let those precious bytes go to waste.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Starbucks: Minnesota versus Japan

Partially unrelated: My first job, in high school, was working at a Starbucks in MN. I loved that job! I say partially unrelated because if I'd never worked there, I'd probably always avoid it in any country, since it's just another chain. Since I remember it fondly, though, I do stop there occasionally.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Miso Pork and Mushroom Nabe (sort-of recipe)


I made this for dinner tonight after being inspired by a friend's recent interest in nabe. It's a very common Japanese dish, particularly during the winter; you can get it at some restaurants, but it's more often sort of a comfort food home-cooked meal. It's convenient and very easy, particularly given how awesome it can be and how much you can mess with it without screwing it up.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Shrimp and Cabbage Gyoza Recipe

I love to cook. When we have people over, I very often decide to whip up a batch of dumplings/wontons/gyoza/whatever you prefer to call them; it used to be eggrolls, but a few of those will fill you up, while it's much easier to munch on gyoza all night while enjoying beers and company.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

No Flat Place for Tired Feet

This entry is titled in mocking 'homage' to a film I did not like at all. So if you don't know what it refers to, or if you know but haven't seen it... and if you value the advice of some jerk on the internet... avoid it. You're not missing anything.

Minnesota Pelau Recipe (my variation on a dish from Trinidad)

Just wanted to get this out there; it's a recipe I've been using for a long time, based on something I saw on Food Network combined with some recipes I found online and a lot of improvisation and iteration. This is one of my favorite dishes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

False start!

We'll be in Tokyo next Thursday!

But only temporarily.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Long Trip to Taking A Long Trip

On Applying for a Student Visa

Kai's application procedure must be started almost six months before the term starts.

While I doubt this is unique, it does seem a bit nutty... but then, when you consider that the school has to run your materials through their own internal bureaucracy then jump through the Japanese government's visa hoops, then have you jump through the Japanese consulate's hoops in your home country before you can be admitted, it's a bit more understandable.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


First off: Thanks for reading!

As an American guy working towards studying Japanese language in Tokyo later this year, I'm hoping to make this a record of whatever I manage to get myself into while I'm over there (and perhaps the process leading up to it).