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.