Tag Archives: Japanese food

How snowboarding, soup curry, dog sledging, and onsens help me love the Japanese more

These last few weeks have been pretty packed. Mostly with fun stuff. I’ve relaxed in onsens, added a few more notches on my snowboard, eaten a whole lot of outrageously tasty food, and tried my hand at dog sledging.

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I spent a lot of the time with two of my friends, Richard and Peta. If you want to here more about the adventures I got up to and see some photos, you should check out this blog post: http://beautifulsilliness.com/2015/02/14/hunger-is-the-greatest-source/

And if you want to watch a video of us dancing like idiots:

So yeah, I have had a whole lot of fun recently. Now maybe I’m just trying to justify my regular onsen trips here, but I’ve been reflected a bit lately and think that all this fun really does have a purpose:

Snowboarding, soup curry, and onsens help me to love the Japanese people.

I don’t simply mean that all the fun stuff in Japan makes me love Japan. In fact I think that all the awesome stuff here could simply make you lust after Japan rather than love it (but more of that in my next post).

No, I mean that onsens and soup curry help me to love the people of Japan. They help to make me desire to do good here, to be generous, to share the good news, and to do it out of joy not duty.

They do so by becoming reminders for me–tangible, tasty, enjoyable reminders–of God’s love for me.

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I recently learned a great new Japanese phrase: 太っ腹 (futo’para). It literally means ‘fat bellied’ but it actually means ‘very generous’ or ‘big hearted.’ I use it now to refer to God’s grace, God’s ‘fat bellied’ grace.

All the stuff I’ve been j in the past few week, and all the fun and food that I will continue to enjoy whilst I’m here in Sapporo, they are all means of me enjoying God’s grace. Because I don’t deserve onsens, I deserve hell. The fact that I can enjoy chilling in a hot spring whilst soaking up the views of Hokkaido winter is an overflow of the amazing grace of God. It’s a concrete example of His undeserved and steadfast kindness. Because God gave His own son for me, to set me free from the weight of my sin, I can enjoy creation and culture, natural hot springs and unnaturally hot curry , without guilt, fear, or shame.

Richard Foster in ‘Celebration of Discipline’ notes that we often claim we’d love others better if only we had enough faith when the reality is,

‘Frequently our lack is not faith but compassion.’

I can only speak for myself, but those words wring devastatingly true for me. I need to be more compassionate. But I can’t create compassion just out of a sense of feeling guilty for lacking in compassion. It is only when I feel the weight of God’s compassion for me that my heart is changed.

‘We love because he first loved us.’

So as I allow God to care for me, it creates in me the kind of heart that wants to share that care with others.

As I warm my body in onsens I allow God’s love to warm – to melt – my heart to love others with that same love.

As I feed on God’s grace I become, in a small measure, like Him. I become ‘fat bellied.’ Filled up on God’s love for me so that I am then able to joyfully share that love with the people of Japan.

(And just in case you were wondering how well I did at dog sledging . . .)

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Japanese food: the good, the bad, and the natto.

I’ve been in Japan for almost two weeks now, and I’m finally feeling like I’m actually here. One of the things that has helped me feel like I’m in Japan (you know, besides from the two million Japanese people who live in Sapporo) has been the food I’ve eaten.

I guess I’m a bit of a foodie, because lots of the key things that define Japan for me are foods. So let me share with you some of the foodstuffs that are making me feel at home in Japan.

Like most countries, some Japanese food is all-round amazing, some of it is not really tasty in itself but somehow is really good, and some of it should be eradicated from the face of the earth.

In other words, with Japanese food you have: the good, the bad, and the natto.

 

The Good

I guess one of the least well-known Japanese dishes is ‘curry rice’ (カレーライス). This is a shame, because it is almost incontestably tastier than the better known dishes such as sushi or even – dare I say it – ramen.

For me curry rice has a real home-made feel to it, even if it’s from a restaurant with a vending machine. But curry rice that is actually home-made is even more amazing. Especially when the person who makes your curry shapes the rice into a map of the island of Japan you’re staying in.

Check this out.

Japanese curry rice in the shape of Hokkaido

 

The Bad

You have probably picked up on this by now, but one of my favourite things about Japan is canned coffee. I love it.

The thing is that canned coffee is, if I’m honest, not very good in terms of being coffee. And yet it is somehow amazing.

And like the curry rice, part of the great thing about canned coffee is the way it looks. By which I mean, the insane over statements that get printed on the cans.

Check this out.

A can of coffee

In case you can’t read it the claim for this particular coffee is,

“Gold Is A Premium Coffee With A Radiant-like Beauty Perfected With Premium Beans.”

Not a single word of that is true. And yet somehow it’s still really good.

 

The Natto

Again, you may have heard me talk – or rather rant – about natto in the past. I do not love it. For the simple reason that it is nothing more – or less – than condensed foulness.

I would post a photo to prove that point, but it’s hard to convey the depths of the horrendousness of natto through a photo. So I’ve made a video.

However, I haven’t edited it yet, so you’ll have to wait a few days for that.

But if you could watch the video, then you would have picked up that I have a cunning plan to get myself to like natto. Well, I say ‘cunning’ .  .  .  stupid is probably a better word.

See I tend to be quite vocal in my hatred of natto (as with anything, really) and this has caused me to be reprimanded on several occasions by natto-lovers. I have been informed that natto is simply an acquired taste, and that to reach the necessary level of acquirement it is necessary to eat natto at least ten times.

Now I try to be a trusting, outgoing kind of person so I have decided that I will give this ten times natto thing a shot. By my count I have now clocked up five attempts at eating natto, leaving five more bowls of the slimy, smelly skunge before I am able to either eat natto with some degree of enjoyment or not eat it with a clear conscience.

 

And there you have it: Japanese cuisine making me feel at home in Sapporo.

What about you? Do you have foods that you love/hate about Japan, or anywhere else? Or foods that make you feel like, “Ah, now I am really here!”?

What’s The First Thing I’m Going to Do When I Get Back to Japan? Eat Ramen!

Now that it is confirmed that I’ll be going out to Japan this May, my brain has been busy running through the things that now need to be done. These tasks are mostly tedious, and so I have allowed my mind to dwell on some of the stuff I’ll do once I get to Japan.

First on that list is deciding what the first thing to do is. As in… anyway, when I get to Japan the first thing I will do is: Eat ramen.

Well, obviously the first thing I’ll do is grab some canned coffee, but that won’t take long. My first proper action will involve locating ramen, and of course some gyoza to accompany it.

Let me explain briefly what I’m talking about.

Oh, you know about ramen? You had some at Wagamama?

You know nothing of ramen!

Ahem… what I meant is that the difference between the ramen you get in Japan and the stuff on offer in the UK is roughly equivalent to the difference between real-life Mt. Fuji and a badly-drawn triangle.

Me eating ramen with my friend Takuma

Enjoying some ramen and gyoza with my good friend Takuma. A bad photo of some good food.

Anyway, in case you really do know nothing of ramen, it’s essentially noodles in broth, except much more exciting than that sounds. The broth is what makes the ramen. Deep, rich, and in all other ways very tasty. It generally comes in 3 flavours: salt, miso, and soy sauce, which incidentally is my order of preference. Throw in some quality noodles, some sliced pork, a bit of chopped up veg, and a half-boiled egg for good measure and you have yourself a meal my friend.

Almost. A bowl of ramen is not complete without a plate of gyoza on the side.

Gyoza are dumplings. But again, such a translation fails to do them justice. They are bite-sized bundles of delight. I defy anyone to sit before a plate of steaming gyoza and remain an atheist. They are irresistible proof of divine benevolency.

Interestingly, ramen and gyoza are both originally from China. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. But they are one of the most popular dishes in Japan. Kinda like the way us Brits have adopted and adapted curry to our tastes.

A fair few of my Japanese friends have traveled overseas. And when they get back to Japan they invariably seek out a ramen restaurant as soon as possible. I understand why: Ramen is – in case you hadn’t gathered this already – amazing!

But enough about me, what about you? If you’ve spent time in Japan, or elsewhere, what’s the dish that you really crave? And if you do know a restaurant in the UK that sells Japan-level ramen, please let me know!