The Learning Process ft. Travel Plans

October 19, 2017

Halloween, Kamakura, Enoshima

November 2, 2017

Typhoons and Love and Umami

October 26, 2017
asakusa night

So I’ve finally decided that now, with the workload assessed, I can make my life a little more exciting again.

Friday (20th)

浅草

So I finally went to Asakusa, after being here for almost 2 months – even thought it should’ve been one of the first destinations I went to in Japan. At least, that’s the impression I get from somebody on TripAdvisor, who said (something along the lines of) “if you’re only in Tokyo for 2 or 3 days, make sure Asakusa is one of the places you visit.”

asakusa temple

Asakusa is basically a perfect example of how Japan mixes traditional culture with flashing neon lights and crazy tall infrastructures. It holds this beautiful Temple, which has many stalls around it selling everything from snacks to souvenirs (also, souvenir snacks). It’s also, naturally, flooded with tourists.

asakusa taiyaki magikarp

Magikarp is called コイキング, or “Koi King”, here

…at least, it should’ve been when I went, but it was the Friday before Typhoon Lan, which hit Tokyo pretty heavily on Sunday evening, continuing overnight into Monday. (22nd-23rd)

(How heavily? I found a branch on my balcony. I live on the 11th floor.)

So thanks to the threat of the typhoon, and the light rainfall, I was lucky enough to be able to avoid big groups of tourists and we got the place (mostly) to ourselves. Of course, there’s always a catch; most of the stalls were closed by the time we’d arrived. Except the most important stall of all – belonging to a Taiyaki vendor, and this particular one offered magikarp shaped ones (I haven’t played the games in years but I’m always going to love Pokemon…)

asakusa fortune telling loveI realise as well that I failed to explain exactly what Taiyaki are, despite having one as the featured image two posts ago – they’re a bit of a trick. They look like they’d be savoury, filled with fish, but they’re actually sweet – they’re pastries traditionally filled with red bean paste, but other options (ie. sweet potato, chestnut, chocolate, custard) are widely available too.

So did I spend an extra 30 yen/ 20p to get one shaped like Pokemon? Of course I did.

I also stumbled into a fortune-telling box for love… my particular fortune had a lot to do with the ocean, which I can’t help but feel relates to my nature as a Pisces?

We’ll see.

 

fortune

“It seems like something is present when you go sightseeing alongside rivers, or other places where water is present. It will be good for you to try to calm your heart, and move forward without a care. The colour black holds a hint for you today! PS. No good will come from purposefully not replying to a email!

Weekend (21st – 22nd)

It was Nicole’s birthday weekend, so in preparation for the evening we went to Shake Shack, on the terrace just outside Shinjuku Station. Shake Shack has only two branches in London, but it’s a pretty popular American burger & milkshake chain! (I feel like I’ve been learning about Japanese and American culture at the exact same rate while I’ve been here – not complaining.)

Of course, I went for the deep-fried cheesy mushroom burger with chips and a blueberry lemonade… I expected the same kind of sub par quality as I’d get at GBK or Five Guys at home, but I was actually super pleasantly surprised. (It may have only been because I went for the only vegetarian option on the menu? Also, I love cheese, and mushrooms, and deep-fried things.)

shinjuku shake shack

The blueberry lemonade was delicious too, of course

waseda don quijote

Best idea

We also managed to bake a vegan birthday cake (minus the chocolate pieces) in the rice cooker!! It was so nice to hear people being surprised that it contained no dairy or eggs.

There’s a lot of stupid things I’ve done in my life, but going outside during the build up of a typhoon is not one of them. So Sunday became “fat day” – aka. stockpiling sweets from the local Don Quijote, getting into pyjamas, and putting on a film in the common room. Thanks to the typhoon, classes on Monday morning were cancelled, so it was a guilt-free way to weather the storm.

There’s something calming about being inside a building, observing an incredibly violent typhoon. I kept waking up during the night on Sunday in the intervals when it sounded like my balcony screen was actually going to shatter, but even then I knew I was just being paranoid and I could head straight back to sleep. The feeling of true safety – knowing that, no matter how scary things seem, you’re undoubtedly going to be okay… is that not the feeling I’ve been chasing after my whole life?

Monday – Thursday (23rd – 26th)

I’m studying hard every day, but I know my limits – I know when it’s good to have a break, have a chat, take a few deep breaths… and then carry on forward.

fog rain

One good thing about a typhoon is beautiful pictures

I’m introducing miso paste now into practically every recipe, because seriously, how did I ever live without the flavour of umami in every single dish? I understand now that the thing I love about cheese so much is the umami flavour, so I decided to improvise a cheese sauce for a potato-mushroom-dish I created. Miraculously, the combination of miso paste, soy milk, flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg, garam masala and lemon juice worked absolute wonders… I’ll perfect that recipe at some point, but now I don’t need to keep upsetting myself over the lack of vegan cheese here.

I had my first meeting with my language exchange partner, and I blew myself away with how I was able to fluently hold a conversation. I’m just so happy with how far I’ve come. I still think to myself every so often about how mental it is that I’ve been in Japan for almost two months now – as if this is still some strange dream that I haven’t woken up from yet – but this experience has genuinely changed, and will continuously influence, the rest of my life.

This weekend is when the main Halloween celebrations are happening for obvious reasons, but the next hurricane is also due Saturday & Sunday… So if you don’t hear back from me next week, assume that I Halloween’d a little too hard.

Until next time!