Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Salad for breakfast

For breakfast today we had leftovers, salad, chicken sausage with cheese, and three kinds of bread. Normal bread that was toasted, raisin filled bread and some bread that looked like a bagel but was filled with potatoes and bacon. I wouldn't call it bad, but I wouldn't call it good. It was just kind of strange to me. The salad (sliced cabbage in one bowl and salad in another) definitely seemed out of place at the breakfast table to me.

Okaasan and the mochi machine.
So today I'm making mochi with my host mother. Mochi is a Japanese sweet from what I understand. To make it you need a special kind of rice mochi kome or mochi rice. First you steam the rice and then you pour it into this machine which kind of looks like a washing machine and you let it beat it until it is a ball that looks like dough.

Konoko, red bean paste and daikon radish mochi I made with Okaasan.

After that you have to make sure your hands are wet and then pull off little pieces and roll it into a ball. This is harder than it looks because the dough is really sticky and doesn't like to pull off. After that we put toppings on them. Some of them had Kinoko (which was something nutty), red bean paste (which was called something like anoko?) and the third set had ground daikon radish on top with soy sauce. The daikon one was really well, radishy and I managed to finish it out of politeness. I loved the other two though and ate two of each! It was really fun!

The daikon radish mochi.

Tokyo International Anime Fair is held at the end of March. I'm very excited to hopefully be able to attend this year. It takes place March 23rd and 24th this year with entrance fee being 800 yen (around $9.50) in advance or 1000 yen (~$11.50) at the door. I've only ever been to Kumoricon prior to now, so I'm extremely excited about the chance to attend.

Something else I'm being amused and irritated by is the fact that all of the websites I like to go to, such as Google, Amazon, etc. all redirect to the Japanese version. I can easily direct back in most cases, but it's hilarious to see Japanese advertisements on Youtube.The most annoying part so far is that I cannot access Netflix in Japan. Sad day. No Doctor Who for me. :(

While I'm thinking about it I wanted to mention some more aiplane/airport stuff that I neglected to mention in my previous post.  When I deplaned, I think that's the term, at Narita airport I was expecting someone to point us the right way, but there was no one there just signs, in Japanese of course with arrows and then an English guide word such as customs. I felt like a sheep being herded as I ended up just going with the crowd and hoping it was going the right direction.

The view from my window.
Eventually I followed the crowd and signs, praying I wasn't lost, and ended up at immigration. I thought I would be standing in line for ages. But the line went by in less than 10 minutes. I was shocked. On the plane they handed out two short forms you had to fill out and then at immigration you turned in the first one which was basically your name, where you are going, how much money you have. They look over the form, scan for your finger prints on your index finger, take a picture then put a sticker in your passport next to your visa. If you have a work form, to allow you to work in Japan, the process is the same, but they have to take the form, enter something in the computer and then add an extra sticker. Oh! I almost forgot to mention, they give you your residence card at this point too. I've edited a couple things out of mine, but this is the basic idea.

Japan Residence Card. Issued at immigration at the airport.

After that you follow yet more signs until you reach the baggage area where you wait forever for your baggage to show up so you can claim it. I should mention at this point that I ran into a lady from the airplane again. Turns out she is also from Oregon and she first came to Japan 25 years ago and has been teaching at University here for the past 15 years. It was nice to have a fellow Oregonian, or PAC-12 member as she said, who I could talk to. Anyways, we ran into each other again at baggage claims and then she helped me with the customs form and helped me through customs since I made a mistake and on to help me find Ayumi and her father.

At the airport I wanted to exchange my money so I went to the exchange shop which was pretty near to my terminal. The first thing I want to mention is that the form you have to file is entirely in Japanese from what I recall. Basically all you need though is your name, an address where you will be staying, your flight number and how much money you want to change and what currency you are converting from. I did notice at the counter that Travelers Checks have an exchange rate of 2 yen more than cash, but as I only had cash, there was nothing to do about it. You pass your form through the window and drop your money in the tray provided. Then the teller will count it, calculate the exchange rate and give you your money and a receipt. Another thing worth noting is that it is much cheaper to change your money in Narita than at previous connecting flights. I exchanged $350 at San Francisco at the money changer and though I was only supposed to have a $9 fee I ended up with only $297 worth of yen. In other words, I was missing about $40. Kind of a rip off, but I came out with hardly anything for a fee at Narita. Moral of the story: change your money in Japan and make sure you know all the associated fees in advance.

Something else worth mentioning is that my back is killing me. This is worth mentioning because the reason it is so is from sitting on the floor so much. I'm used to chairs and couches, so sitting on the floor for hours at a time is a recipe for disaster. It goes without saying that I sit at the table as much and as long as possible. Doesn't help that my family keeps urging me to sit at the kotatsu, to do it the Japanese way.

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