Tasha's Oriental Journey
Ministry in the morning, followed by a lovely lunch that my friend Azusa (she has no Kanji in her first name, by the way, because she's named after a river, so just Hiragana... nice and easy to spell!) spoilt me with. We went to a restaurant whose name means "Young Bamboo," and I was greeted by the sound of running water. The restaurant was SO cool! The tables were arranged so that they formed a large square around three pools that formed tiny waterfalls into each other, with a large fish-tank at the end. I ordered raw fish, and only half way through my meal did I realise the fish had literally been swimming in front of my very eyes just moments before. Still, never mind; it was better to eat them fresh than anything else. It reminded me of the time when I first watched "Finding Nemo"... can any of you remember how reluctant I was to eat fish for months after that? Yes, I know I'm strange... but then that's why you love me, right?! And then I had a special treat: I was invited to sit in on an English lesson as a native guest, and meet some Japanese English-students! They were around ages ranging from between 8 and 10 years old, and were very sweet. Wednesday is the day that is used as an open-day, where parents can sit in on their children's lesson, and newcomers can observe what happens. They sang songs and played games, and then I was asked to read a story! It was fun, because I've always wanted to read to children... but I didn't know the story or any of the characters, and had to go through it quite quickly, AND never got any practice, so unfortunately wasn't able to do any funny voices or anything. But to make sure they were listening their teacher played a game with them, where they had to identify parts of the story and choose the correct answer. It was so rewarding when they all knew what was happening; I can see why people teach, now (I never could before; screaming brats running around a classroom, not listening to a word you say and just being disruptive - WHY put yourself through that out of choice?!). That evening we went to dinner at a brother and sisters' home (the Shimizu's, but their Kanji is different to Hiroka's and so therefore although pronounced the same, has a different meaning). They have a little son who we call Daichan, and he looks like the cartoon character "Ampanman"... does anyone know the character? He's really big over here, but I'd never heard of him before! [Honestly, let me know - send me an email or something.] For dinner we had a traditional Japanese dinner, and there ere lots of things that I tried that I've never eaten before. Things like certain roots of plants that are unique to Japan, a kind jelly that looks like it was alive once but is actually made from vegetables/plants, and more. And then I got to make TAKOYAKI! It was so much fun! The family had a special hot-plate with rows of inverted-half-spheres set into it, and next to that were a load of cocktail sticks. First, we greased each half-sphere (sorry, brain's gone dead and I don't know what else to call it) using an oil-soaked tissue and chopsticks, of course. Then we poured in the Takoyaki mix, which was very watery, adding one piece of decapitated (hee-hee, as if it didn't sound weird enough) octopus to each one. Then after 5 minutes, using a cocktail stick we skimmed each half-sphere round the sides and turned the mixture over so that it made a ball. Once it was cooked on both sides we served them on a plate with Japanese fruit-sauce, mayonnaise and big dried fish-flakes, with dried seaweed to finish it off. I don't know what you're all thinking but I'll tell you right now: they taste amazing! While all of this was going on Daichan was flicking the octopus pieces out of the hotplate by mistake, and then trying to help us flip the mixture over... it was quite hilarious. Later on, we had strawberries for desert, and then played 'Jenga.' He tried so many times to get the pieces out, and then when the tower fell over he got scared, cried, and wanted to go to bed, kawaii-so (poor thing)! But seriously, look at the photo and then at a picture of Ampanman, and tell me what you think!