Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan

This post is part of the Blog4Japan campaign helping to raise donations for the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. Please share it and considering donating to one of the worthy local Japanese organizations responding to the disaster. This year will mark a different type of cherry blossom season. Usually each year as these transient beauties reveal themselves to the country the Japanese gather together with friends, family, and coworkers and party under the blossoms in a custom called hanami. It is by far my favorite activity in Japan, eating delicious food and drinking into the wee hours of the night celebrating life and beauty that we all know will fade shortly after. In fact it’s the short time period that makes us appreciate the beauty all the more. In the wake of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami the cherry blossom parties will be understandably subdued. But I Read full article…

How to Help Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami Survivors by giving to Japanese Organizations

This page is dedicated to helping the survivors of the Friday 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan by channeling international donations to local efforts. The earthquake and tsunami have caused extensive and severe damage in Northeastern Japan, over 9,500 people have been confirmed dead and another 16,000 are missing, and millions more affected by lack of electricity, water and transportation. The images of the destruction and suffering have shocked the world. However, with the World Bank reporting over 300 billion USD in damages and families torn apart there is a need for everyone to help both financially and emotionally. A few weeks ago I posted about my Experience During the Japan Earthquake and made a plea to my readers to spread the word about helping Japan recover. My wife is from Tokyo and we are both professional aid and recovery workers with the United Nations. We have seen Read full article…

My Experience During the Japan Earthquake

The Japanese Earthquake On Friday 11 March 2011 just before 3:00 pm the largest earthquake in Japanese recorded history hit with a magnitude of 9.0. I was in Tokyo at the time visiting my wife’s family. As I sat at the kitchen table, happily posting pictures of Japan on Facebook, the room began to shake. The quake started small, but with a sudden jolt. When the shaking didn’t stop I started to worry as the large cabinet rattled at my back and the light above me began to swing violently. I moved to the middle of the room, away from anything that could fall on me. The preparation drills tell you to get under a table, put a cushion over your head, and open the door to make sure you have a way out if the house collapses. You are also supposed to shut off the gas to prevent a Read full article…

Find Love, Good Health, Wealth and High Test Scores in Japan

In the last article we explored the Japanese trend of visiting “Power Spots,” areas where you can gather invisible energy. Whether you believe in Power Spots or not the act of visiting specific places to gain a certain type of benefit is a long held practice in Japan. Temples, shrines and hot springs are the most commonly visited. Natural areas are usually associated with one of them and are where visitors focus their prayers when venturing out into rural Japan. Much of what people ask for are physical rewards. While I’m not sure praying for wealth is the best use of your time, there are thousands of places all over Japan that cater to physical and spiritual improvements. If you are heading to Japan and you have issues with health, love, and money, need to pass an exam, could use a bit of healing, or just want to get rid Read full article…

Power Spots: Japanese Spiritual and Travel Craze

Gain Energy, Luck and Happiness through Travel to Power Spots Want to get married, become rich, get rid of a little evil, or do away with that ugly wart? It’s as simple as visiting a Power Spot. One the biggest trends in Japan last year was the rise of Power Spots, and any type of travel associated with them. Power Spots are supposedly any place where you can receive invisible energy that can help you achieve all your life’s dreams, whether they be material or spiritual. This is of course not a new concept in Japan, as the Japanese have ascribed specific powers to temples and shrines for thousands of years. Shinto beliefs also stress a spiritual aspect to nature,  inhabited by millions of gods. What is new is the packaging of all such Power Spots into one large mixture of your favorite spiritual energy dogmas. A little Feng Shui Read full article…

Inside Tokyo's Red Light District Kabukicho

As far as red light districts go, Tokyo’s Kabukicho near Shinjuku station is relativity tame. Unlike Amsterdam there are no pot houses (aka “coffee shops”), prostitutes are not for sale in windows like a pimped out version of a holiday display, and at only 600 square meters it’s not even that big. What Kabukicho lacks in overtness it makes up for in subtlety and uniqueness. I spent a day walking around during the day time, but come after 6 pm and the streets are packed with partying salary men showing business associates a “good time” and getting hammered. Sounds enticing doesn’t it. What type of clubs exist in Kabukicho? The area is dominated by small drinking holes, DVD shops, peep holes, and host and hostess clubs that cater to lonely husbands and wives who need a little attention from well dressed, flirtatious professional conversationalists. If you are expecting the run Read full article…

Nanakusa Gayu (Japanese Porridge or Congee with Seven herbs)

This post is by Kay, who writes the K’s Kitchen section of Todd’s Wanderings. She also happens to be Todd’s lovely wife! This is a special and traditional dish that Japanese eat on January 7th with the wish to get rid of evil and bring health. Also, there is a connotation for resting your stomach after eating heavy and rich Osechi Meals over New Years. The porridge/congee is cooked with seven kinds of herbs: (Japanese parsley (seri); Shepherd’s purse (nazuna); Jersey Cudweed (gogyō); Common chickweed (hakobera); Henbit (hotokenoza); Turnip (suzuna); and Daikon (suzushiro). They are seven herbs which represent spring. For your reference, there are seven leaves for autumn but they are for decoration not for cooking. To be honest, this is not a very tasty and attractive dish as it is, but I like the significance of this custom and the idea to rest my stomach after eating a Read full article…

Yakibuta Recipie: How to Cook Japanese Marinated Pork Loin

This post is by Kay, who writes the K’s Kitchen section of Todd’s Wanderings. She also happens to be Todd’s lovely wife! Todd and I spent our New Years in Japan stuffing ourselves with my Mom’s cooking. New Years in Japan is a very busy time, especially in the kitchen as we have to get ready for our New Years meal. This year my Mom welcomed the help and I rolled up my sleeves, put on the apron and got to cook with her after being away for New Years for 3 years. Osechi-Ryouri is a traditional Japanese food that Japanese eat for New Year’s. It is said that the tradition started during the Heian Period (794-1185) but originally came from China. Osechi-Ryouri is comprised of different dishes, such as: Nishime-cooked vegetables such as carrots, bamboo shoot, konjac, Japanese taro potatoes, and lotus root Datemaki-process product made of white fish Read full article…

Just after WWII the Japanese economy was in shambles and there were few Japanese products floating around. The area outside of Ueno Station in Tokyo quickly became famous for its ameya, candy, that represented the American black market products that could be bought there. Today the street known as Ameya Yokocho, or Ameyokocho for short (not that much shorter actually), is still a crowded and bustling market area. Besides the normal clothing, bags and electronics shops dotting the area there are still traditional market stalls selling assorted Japanese foods from octopus to dried seaweed. The whole area of Ueno is considered part of the Shitamachi (lower section of Tokyo) and was populated and frequented by the working class. While that distinction has faded with time, the liveliness of the area hasn’t and especially during the New Years Ameyokocho is packed with bargain hunters getting shopping for ingredients for the traditional Read full article…

How to make Japanese Gyoza (in Chinese Jyaozi/ in English Potstickers)

This post is by Kay, who writes the K’s Kitchen section of Todd’s Wanderings. She also happens to be Todd’s lovely wife! “What is your fiancé’s favorite food?” This was one of my hen night questions. ‘Gyoza!’ (normally called potstickers in English). I got the answer right and at the same time I became determined that I had to cook this dish very well all the time! [Todd here, isn't Kay a lovely wife?! I am a lucky man.] Well, the truth is that I also love Gyoza, but the problem is that we can’t buy the Gyoza skin in Kosovo. If we want to eat something we have to find a way, so I started making Gyoza from the scratch! If you have a Chinese (or Japanese/Korean) store near by, you can simply buy the skin (it is much easier and takes less time). In Japan we usually fry Read full article…

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