This is a quick post to share a couple of very short videos of my family’s Japanese New Year. The first video shows “Daifuku” or “Anko Mochi” being made. The second video is a brief clip of “Sukiyaki” being cooked by my father in-law. It’s been a bit hectic here with all the preparations, cleaning, cooking, etc. I will be writing a Year’s Retrospective post in the coming days. Let me wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR 2023. Thank you for all your support this year. よいお年を！(Yoi o toshi o!)
Thanks so much for reading! You really are Amazing!
In Japan, most people change their car tires in winter. They call them “studless” tires or “snow” tires. A lot of husbands take on this challenge themselves, probably “encouraged” by their wives. Other saner people drive to the local “gasoline stand-o” and pay a professional to do it. I’m one of the “encouraged” people and take on the job of replacing 8 tires twice a year. It’s one of those jobs that you keep wanting to put off until the weather is just right, you know, forever next weekend.
This year, the first snow to fall in the city came before I’d changed my tires. So I had to drive to work this morning in the snow with my regular tires still on. My wife was panicking a bit, giving me a shovel as well as the number for a taxi in case I got stuck. I was all bravado, “it’ll be fine!” But secretly hoping everything would be okay. I set off 30 minutes earlier than usual and guess what? Everything was fine! I took it easy and drove safely and arrived at work unscathed. To be honest, I didn’t feel any difference between the fabled studless tires and the regular ones. Hang on a minute. Is it really a clever con by tire companies and gas stations?…. “NO!” everyone in Japan screams. You gotta trust the science, right?..
Anyway, I’ll stop boring you with my tire-d story and share these pictures with you. It wasn’t a BIG snowfall. That usually hits around New Year. But this was the scene this morning around one of the public schools I work at.
After a three-year break due to the “virus of unknown origin,” the summer fireworks festival returned last Sunday. I was delighted to be given front-row tickets by a family friend. My daughter was back from Kyoto for the summer holidays so we all went down to the local harbor together to enjoy the show. It was a lovely night, a little cooler than it has been and fairly windy. Fortunately the wind was blowing away from us.
The hanabi show began at 8pm and went on for 45 minutes. That seems to be the norm in Japan. I’m so glad they decided to stop playing music during the show a few years back. It’s so unnecessary and spoils the natural atmosphere in my opinion. But maybe I’m old fashioned? I’d much rather hear the BOOM of the fireworks and the spectators’ “oohs” and “aahs”, especially the childrens’ voices. Do they play music at the firework displays where you live?
There were a mixture of single big fireworks and choreographed clusters, as well as attempted shapes such as hearts, rabbits, smiley faces and characters. The town where I live is only small so it isn’t one of the more famous Japanese Hanabi displays. You can find more information about those here.
Here is a short video I took with my smartphone. It’s from the last five minutes of the show. Please enjoy.
I’ve recently got hooked on a hidden gem of a TV series. It’s a Japanese slice of life drama called ‘Shinya Shokudo’ which translates as Midnight Diner. It started in 2009 and five seasons have been made so far, with Seasons 4 and 5 having a slightly different title: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. These recent seasons were produced by Netflix and this is where you can find the show. But be careful because it’s easy to start watching from Season 4 and completely miss the first three seasons.
Midnight Diner is about a tiny Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo that is open from midnight to 7 a.m. It’s run by a man who everyone calls “Master”. He has a very limited menu with only one dish, a kind of pork stew, and three drinks: beer, sake and shochu. But he will prepare any dish the customer requests, so long as he has the ingredients. The customers order the kinds of dishes that you don’t usually get at a typical Japanese restaurant. They are often comfort foods more commonly prepared at home. Each dish has a special meaning to the customer and we usually learn the customer’s story during the episode.
My first trip in 2 years, it felt so refreshing to travel again. 🙂 You can see Osaka Castle in the distance. The cherry blossoms are blooming at their peak here. It’s been 20 years but they still blow my mind. After walking round the castle grounds, we ate some delicious Korean food in the city. Then we took a train to Kyoto for shopping and dinner in a craft beer bar. It’s wonderful to meet up with my daughter! ❤️
Thanks for reading!
Wakizashi- *Hey Mister Blue Sky, why did you have to hide away for so long?*
I try to keep this blog focused on book reviews but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on YouTubing. This is coming from a “newbie’s” perspective and is not meant to be read as advice. Because after all, what do I know? I’m making this up as I go!
I’ve recently started doing more“livestreams” on my channel. This has been a real challenge for me because I’ve always considered myself a listener more than a talker. I take after my mum in that regard. When you do a livestream or a podcast, you have to be able to waffle well. Some of the people I watch on the platform can talk and talk like there’s no tomorrow. I’m hoping this is something I can learn or at least get better at doing with practice. Is talking a skill? I guess so. Just ask any actor or public speaker.
Anyway, I think I’m improving, but the main thing is I’m really enjoying it. In the last few livestreams I managed to get a (very) small audience. I’m talking around five or six viewers, but they’ve been coming back for more. This is much more satisfying than talking away to nobody! But I will happily do that if I have a topic to waffle about. The best thing about the audience is they usually drop comments in the “Live chat” which gives me more to talk about. It also provides me with some great info or recommendations regarding the topic(s) I’m blabbing on about. And there’s a rewarding social side to it, too. It can feel a bit like being out in a bar or cafe chatting with friends or strangers who may become friends. Remember those halcyon days?! But I’m waffling.
It’s traditional in Japan to make mochi for New Year. I want to share this very short video with you. It’s my family making anko mochi. We use a special kind of rice called mochigome, which translates as mochi-rice. The anko is made from sweet red bean paste. You put it in the center of the mochi and roll it all into a ball.
The anko mochi are delicious. But take care not to eat too many. You might get stomach ache like me 🤣
Thank you for reading. I wish you all a very Happy New Year and all the very best for 2022!
-Wakizashi, *enjoying a wee dram of Scotch whiskey from Islay*
It’s December 26th as I type this. I hope you all are having a very Merry Christmas wherever you may be. Last night, Mrs. Teahouse and I went to her parents’ house for a very memorable Christmas dinner. I posted a “Short” video about it on my YouTube channel. It was a wonderful meal, the first time I have enjoyed this particular dish in a while. Please let me know what you think. And share what you enjoyed for your festive dinner or lunch. 👺
Coming from the UK, I’m not used to the unique experience of eating crab. There’s definitely a skill to how you go about it. I think this was my most successful attempt so far, and there have only been a few. Even Mrs. Teahouse’s father was impressed; almost. 🤣
Peace be upon us all!
-Wakizashi, *up early listening to the hail hammer the windows*
We had a home-party for my daughter tonight. She is back home from uni for the summer holidays 😁. She took a PCR test and it was negative, as I expected. 😎
First, we went to see The Suicide Squad, just released in Japan today. Me and Holly really enjoyed it! Great music, cool visuals, completely bonkers comic-book fun! My daughter was half-closing her eyes at some of the OTT violent & gory scenes. It’s the first time I have been to the cinema since I can’t remember. The cinema was half-full, which surprised me to be honest. I expected only 10 or so people, but there were over 40 there. (Small town, small screens!)
On the way back home, we picked up some incredible sushi from one of the best sushi restaurants in Yonago. The fish was fresh, rich and delicious. The wasabi was kick-ass!🔥
Heading home soon to play some classic Wii Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Galaxy 💓 We switched on the Wii the other day and were delighted that it was still working. We just needed new batteries for the controllers. Playing Mario for the first time in a long while reminded me just how good the game design and mechanics are. Nintendo truly are geniuses when it comes to gameplay.
Hope you are all genki and looking forward to the weekend! It’s warm and rainy here and we’re expecting the same for the coming week. 😕☀️☔
Thanks for reading!
-Wakizashi, *recovering from a sushi overload. Lucky, I know!!*
I watched the recent EURO 2020 (really 2021) Final between England and Italy during an unusually long thunderstorm that hit the area I live early Monday morning, July 12th, 2021. I wanted to share this short video I made after the game. It shows some of the crazy weather we sometimes experience in Japan. This usually happens during the typhoon season in September, so this was an early and unwanted surprise.
We had so much rainfall that the local rivers were very close to flooding. Thankfully, they didn’t flood, but it was touch-and-go for a while. Usually, these kinds of storms pass through the area and move on. This storm wanted to stay! It started at around 3 am and ended just after 12 noon–a crazy 9 hours of thunder, lightning and heavy rain. Seeing the recent flooding in other parts of Japan, as well as Western Europe, you have to wonder how “natural” this weather is?