It’s White Day…

No, it’s not a holiday.

In Japan, March 14th is White Day and on this day, all the guys who received chocolates and presents from girls on Valentine’s Day are supposed to give back a present to them.  I’ve heard that this custom has also spread to South Korea and Taiwan and parts of China.

When I was in elementary school, White Day didn’t exist in the part of the Japan I lived in.  I think I remember hearing about it once I was in high school and, by the time I was in my early 20’s, it was part of the culture.

After moving down here to Kyushu, I was surprised to learn that the concept of White Day was started by the president of a confectionery company, Ishimura Manseido, which is a big company here in Fukuoka.  He started selling sets of marshmallows.

Why marshmallows?  Well, his company made sweets which were made with sugar and egg yolks.  The egg whites were originally thrown out.  The president thought that was wasteful and made a new creation using the egg whites with sweet potato paste inside.  (Marshmallows with yummy stuff inside.)

So, when he came up with the idea of White Day, his company used the egg whites and made smaller, bite-size marshmallows.  His idea first became popular in the Fukuoka area and spread across Kyushu, then to the Kanto area (where I grew up).

And, of course, when the company started making money for White Day, other companies followed suit.  One started making special white chocolate.  Another started selling cookies.  (Yes, the sweets and boxes and wrapping paper… all white.)

Nowadays, the guys will buy anything from jewelry to candies to clothing to pottery to give back.  (Pottery is unusual, but it’s what one of my friends got this year.)  And the men probably spend more money on return gifts than the women spend on Valentine’s Day presents.

Maybe that’s true in every country… 🙂

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Dreaming of Warmer Weather and Clearer Skies…

It was another gloomy and dreary day today.  Got up, had to pass out some information about an upcoming community meeting to the households in two blocks I’m in charge of (another thing I’ll have to write about someday)… came home to take care of the “zoo”.

After giving one of the birds some medicine, it started acting strange.  Poto started fluffing up, shaking his head back and forth, opening his mouth… then he threw up once, then again and again and again…

Yes, at this point, I was freaking out!!  I was PRAYING that there wasn’t going to be another bird death… if that happened it would be another in less than a week!  😦  While being in panic mode, it was odd because I’d never seen a bird throw up before.

Anyway, Poto needed to go to the vet for his medicine refill.  So, got his cage and off we went.  He actually started singing in the car, so I felt a little bit better.  (Only a little…)  Arrived at the vet, only had to wait a few minutes before we were called in.  While Poto was getting weighed, I explained about his nausea.  The vet said it sounded like he had just eaten too much just before I gave him his medicine.  (Whew…)  She proceeded to check inside his mouth, his ears, the color of his beak, his wings, his heartbeat… then his one foot.  He had had a wound on it, but it was clear and the vet gave him a clean bill of health.  (BIG sigh of relief!!)

After getting home and getting settled, I sent an update text to his “mom”.  She was happy to hear he’s better.  (I was just happy that I wasn’t having to send a, “Something terrible has happened to one of your birds…” message!)

So, today hasn’t been as blue as yesterday, but as I sat down in front of the computer, I started to think about my mom whose is in Hawaii at this very moment.  Kept thinking how simply wonderful it would be to be able to blink a few times and instantly be there, zooming on the freeway, listening to some great classic rock tunes (maybe some Cream or Fleetwood Mac), driving up past Schofield Barracks, up to the North Shore to Giovanni’s to get some garlic shrimp.

Man, I need a vacation…  (~_~;)

A Steak Lunch and Songs from the Past…

Well, it’s another rainy day here in northern Kyushu.  Saturday was the only day in the last week and a half that was actually nice and sunny.  Yesterday, rain.  Today, rain.  Forecast for tomorrow, rain.  Not great weather when one needs to get laundry done.  (And, no, I don’t have a clothes dryer.  They aren’t common like in the States and other countries.)

Yesterday, I got a call from a good friend of mine.  She knew the weather was going to be bad today and asked if I could take her around to the ¥100 shops to look for pieces and parts for handmade jewelry.  (This girl has more talent in the tip of her pinkie than so many people around me put together!  I’ll have to write a post about all the things she can do one of these days…)

So, we drove around to several ¥100 shops (or Dollar stores) and she found what she needed.  Seems she’s going to be teaching a class about making resin jewelry and needed supplies.

Once that was done, we decided to go and get a bite to eat.  We did the usual, “Where are we going to go?”  She and I tend to go to the same four or five places, which doesn’t bother either of us in the least, but today, she said she wanted to eat steak and had heard about a rather good place nearby called Western.

One step inside Western was like taking a step back in time.  There were empty beer bottles on the window sills.  There were American flags hanging here and there… wagon wheels were used to divide sections of the restaurant.  Framed photographs of cowboys and Old West towns were hanging on the walls.  The only odd thing about the place was that the utensils we were given were chopsticks, which my friend and I giggled about.

And the background music was mostly, of course, country and western music.  🙂

We ordered lunch specials and waited for our food.  As we chatted about this and that, I realized I recognized the melodies of every song.  My friend asked what the titles were and I told her I didn’t know.

“That’s unusual for you.  Plus, you’ve been humming along to almost every song!”

Then it struck me.  They were all familiar because my dad had known them!  🙂

I told her that so often he would hum or sing around the house, whether he was cleaning his desk (or more like rearranging the piles on his desk 🙂 ), chopping firewood out in the yard, checking on the veggies in the garden, or organizing receipts for the month.  And it was a very, very wide variety of music, everything from jazz standards to country & western to barber shop quartet songs to traditional hymns to music I listened to on the radio!!

As the music in the restaurant changed to the next song, my friend and I looked at one another as we both recognized the song… “Tennessee Waltz”.

“I’m sure he used to sing this one… right?” she asked.

I nodded and started to get teary-eyed.  (I still miss him something terrible…)

She smiled and said, “You’re so lucky to have had such a strong relationship with your dad.”

I nodded again… because I completely agree with her.  Memories of him are ones I would not trade for anything in the world!  🙂

That Yummy, Fluffy, Puffy White Stuff (^^)/

What is something (an edible something) that you could not live without?  Some type of food that if the doctor told you, “I’m sorry, but if you keep eating (fill in the blank), you will experience major health issues!” you’d continue eating it anyway?

For me, it’s POPCORN!!  🙂

That Yummy Fluffy White Stuff

That Yummy Fluffy White Stuff!!

I have loved popcorn for as long as I can remember!  Growing up, my mother made popcorn every Saturday night.  From 7:30pm, we’d be watching a show called “Quiz Derby”.  It was a 30-minute quiz show that we’d watch as a family every week.  It was a show like this…

At about 7:45, she’d go into the kitchen and start cooking.  You could hear her shuffling around, the “clank” of the lid on the popcorn pot (which was actually a tempura pot that she used for popping popcorn) and a few minutes later, you could hear pops… a few at first and then continuous stream of sound.

The quiz show would end and, just like clockwork, my mom would walk into the living room, sit down on the floor next to me with a BIG bowl of popcorn and our favorite Saturday night show would begin.

In my mind, it was like this:  popcorn = “Hachi ji Dayo! Zeiin Shuugou!” (“It’s 8 o’ Clock! Everyone, come together!”) and vice versa

For those of you who grew up in Japan, here’s a nostalgic clip for you.  For those of you who grew up in other places, this is the variety/comedy show we watched every Saturday night at 8pm.

So, through the laughter and singing along with the top-selling hits of the time, you could smell that wonderful warm smell and hear the crunch of popcorn!

Nowadays, there are so many different types, so many different flavors.  But for me… put it in a big bowl, just sprinkle a little salt on the top and… perfection!  🙂

Do you have a popcorn story/memory?  What’s your favorite flavor?

Corn, corn everywhere…

Those who know me well might be thinking, “Here comes a popcorn post!” after reading that title up above.  I LOVE popcorn, but we’ll leave that post for another day, another time.

I’m talking about whole yellow corn.

Let me back up a little bit.  Many times, it’s difficult for me to understand the surprise and shock people from other countries feel when they come to Japan for the first time.  Honestly, I envy it sometimes and wish I could crawl into their minds to see how THEY see this country.

So… back to whole corn… =)

One thing many people ask me is, “Why is there whole corn on EVERYTHING?”  It isn’t on every type of food you see in Japan, but some of the places/foods you find it on can be… odd, according to many.

(Oops… the cat stepped on the keyboard and “published” the post… continuing on…)

Let’s see, you can find whole corn on/in:

  • Pizza
  • Tossed salads
  • As a side to steaks, hamburger steaks, fried pork  (This is a rather “normal” one, perhaps.)
  • Potato salad
  • Sushi (“Gunkan maki” to be specific… it looks like a sushi roll standing upright.)
  • Ramen
  • Bread  (Literally “corn bread”, right?)  =)
  • Canned corn potage soup (or corn bisque)… may not sound very unusual, but this is a canned drink one can buy from a vending machine.  =)

I wish I had pictures to share with everyone.  (Something to add on later, maybe.)

To answer the question, “Why?”

Well, one point which is very important in the presentation of food in Japan is… color.  The yellow of the corn adds that bit of brightness like sunshine.  (Am trying to think if there are any other vegetables that are yellow… squash, maybe?  Can’t find squash down here where I live though.)

Another point could be the flavor and the “crunch”… the little bit of sweetness that fills your mouth when you bite down on a single piece.

It was completely by chance that the corn topic came up in one of my English classes tonight.  I was explaining to my students that finding corn on pizza is NOT a common thing in the States.  One student asked, “Why not?”

My thought exactly…  =)