University of Wisconsin–Madison

My Japanese Oke (fish bucket) List

For February 8, 2018, United States time zone

February 8, 2018, Japanese time zone

I think I’ve adapted to the 15 hour time difference. This said, I’m a hard core night owl so maybe my body thinks I’m finally accepting its natural time clock.

It’s 21:30 in Japan, or 6:30 in the United States. The wave of sleepiness has just begun to hit.

Or its the extensive meal of tempura, miso soup, tuna sushi, seaweed, and raw tuna/squid/salmon/suzuki/tai with rice kicking in, recently eaten at the Monterey Yokohama hotel. The same hotel we are staying at tonight.

I could see myself getting used to the food lifestyle. Although it is heavy on fish and even pork, my stomach hasn’t fought me on it yet, despite me being a vegetarian for many years.

With an apparently adaptable stomach and a certainly curious appetite, I’ve made it my goal to order everything off the Japanese cuisine menu. Meaning, everything that is of interest or different from food in the United States that I can fit into my body in a week’s time. For example, there are McDonald’s and Starbucks everywhere, but I’m sure a vanilla bean non-fat almond milk light whip extra shot frappechinno (not my order) is no different in the U.S. This said, there are some differences, like how the Japanese McDonald’s has a shrimp burger.

McDonald’s in Japan

What I’m talking about is the sweet potato latte (time to up your game Starbucks), or the natto—I’ll get back to this gem later.

Sweet potato lattes, anyone?

There are many new flavors to try, and the ones that keep resurfacing are strawberry milk, matcha (my all time go-to), sweet potato and chestnut. I’ve begun a small addiction to anything matcha flavored, and you can never go wrong with strawberry milk yatsuhashi (a small mochi-like snack cut into triangles with sweet beans). I just bought a box of some flavored “cherry blossom.”

Speaking of addictions, I am a natural-born coffee lover. At home in the U.S. I work at a coffee shop and could not get more excited about a warm cup of joe in the morning. Correction—the warm cup of joe in the morning is the only thing that gets me out of bed and makes me look slightly less like a cave woman.

Although the Japanese tend to wake up with a small cup of roasted green tea or green tea, the endless amounts of vending machines littering the streets and subways offer up many varieties for every coffee-lovers needs.

I’ve made it my goal to try every type of coffee.

The vending machines here are also quite different from those in the States. For my first vending machine experience I decided to try a royal milk tea, which I’m pretty sure is like the equivalent of a black tea and milk.

When I popped in my yen and selected my drink, my tea came out hot!! I was shocked!

Apparently the vending machines here offer warm and cold drinks. It’s perfect to warm your hands while walking on colder days.

They also offer soup! This was a huge surprise as well. Although there’s almost always corn soup, an addicting but simple soup with a thick corn broth and corn, some vending machines also have pumpkin and bean soup. I haven’t tried them yet (mentally adding this to my bucket list), but I assume they’re in similar fashion to the corn soup: a thick broth with beans/pumpkin.

From the left to right is: hot chocolate, corn soup, pumpkin soup

I’m trying to drink as many unfamiliar vending machine (or other) drinks as I can. So far I’m a fan of calpis and pocari sweat. I would maybe describe them like a sweet skim milk? I’m the polar opposite of anyone who can down a glass of milk at dinner, but these seem to do the trick.

Calpis, my favorite

Sahyo has been my guide to everything food and culture so far. I’ve been absorbing as much as I can about the Japanese culture.

Including the good, the bad and the interesting, such as natto. It’s basically a sticky bean that smells horrid. It doesn’t necessarily taste so bad, but you have to have the right mindset going in. Apparently it’s super good for you, since it’s just fermented soybeans, so I’ve been swallowing despite the taste. The natto we always had came in packets with smaller packets of mustard and horseradish. Most people put it over rice and eat it for breakfast. Sahyo said her dad eats it every morning.

The stringy half-loved, half-hated natto

Here’s what else we ate with breakfast: white and brown rice, rice soup (which is like watery rice, and what I was told is eaten when sick, kind of like America’s chicken noodle soup), miso soup, seaweed, pickled vegetables (honestly one of my favorite Japanese foods), tofu with sweet soy sauce, dumplings, dried seaweed and black tea. This is for the first photo:

SO. MUCH. FOOD.

Second photo is: scrambled egg, has brown, tomatoes and cabbage, root vegetables, a portion of an omelette (which is way sweeter than typical scrambled eggs), dried fish, mochi, sweet bread, a very very soft boiled egg, yogurt with flavored gelatin cubes, and the little package in the middle is natto.

Still eating
Drinks were tea, milk, sweetened yogurt milk and juices (I carrot of course)
It was hard to think about food after this

To extend my knowledge beyond food, I’m hoping I’ll dig up some facts on the temples and shrines of Japan. In my cultural anthropology class from last semester I learned a lot about famous anthropologists who worked primarily in South American and Central American communities. I’d like to learn more about Japanese culture and its history, and make comparisons from this.

We’re visiting some temples soon and I could not be more excited!

I was told this tea is super healthy for you!

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