Friday, April 24, 2009

Cooking Gyûdon (牛丼)

Although most of the time I have lunch and dinner at the University I would like to learn how to cook so I can make better food and probably save money as well.

One thing that I don't eat often in the University is cow meat so I went to the supermarket to buy some. It is funny to see that they cut meat so thin that it looks like Spanish "Jamon". I didn't follow any recipe but I just found that what came out is quite similar to Gyûdon (牛丼), a typical cheap Japanese fast food!

I cooked some onion in low fire and then added two eggs in order to resemble a sort of sauce that I have tried in a dish at the University.

So here is my made-up dish haha. Please don't make fun of me :). When I cook I don't like following recipes but trying to use my intuition. Somehow during my life I've get used to this learning-by-mistake procedure. In this case, the food was tasty and I could enjoy it with a Manga that I found on a bench.

Next day I made a variation and I cooked it with rice. After cleaning well the rice I boiled it for 25 minutes or so with low fire because I wanted it to come out sticky so I could pick it up with the chopsticks. It was surprising that I was successful on it so maybe this sticky properties are something inherent in the Japanese rice. Normally, Japanese have a machine called "suihanki" that cooks the rice almost perfect.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Osu Kannon with Eiichiro-san

On Sunday, after going to church in the morning, I went to meet my friend Eiichiro in Nagoya's Osu Kannon district.

I met Eiichiro two years ago in Oxford (check this and this posts) during Summer at the same English school. I told him that one day I would see him in Nagoya and here I am :).

He is a very fashionable guy and he likes to follow the latest trends on clothes. For example, he told me that now the strives pattern is becoming very trendy.

After walking around a shopping centre we went to have lunch and we ordered a typical dish from Nagoya that was really tasty.

Then he took me to his parents' incense shop. There is a big temple nearby that I already visited two years ago which is probably one of the main clients. Eiichiro's parents were very very nice and they invited me for a coffee and gave me the incense boxes in the picture above. Please, check their website if you are interested.

They also took me to their house where they have a tea room with tatamis. In that room, they celebrate every Tuesday the famous tea ceremony and I'm invited to participate. It sounds very interesting.

Finally, we said our goodbyes and hopefully we will meet again soon. Now he is in a nearby prefecture (Mie-ken) on a training course for his work. As I had a ticket for the whole day I went to Nagoya's main station where there is a big electronic shop called Big Camera. The devices that I liked the most were small pocket televisions that you can take anywhere and watch TV on them. Now more and more phones are also including digital TV here (including an adaptor for the iphone).

Monday, April 20, 2009


Last Saturday I made a trip by train (with JR) to Hamamatsu to meet my friend Raul. The travel time was a bit more than an hour and all the trains were very punctual according to the timetables on the Internet.

Raul started to study Japanese at the same time as me some years ago in a Karate gym run by my teacher Hattori-sensei. At the time we both dreamed about coming to Japan so it was really funny to meet in Japan. Now he is married to a Japanese woman and probably he will stay in Japan for a long time.

Hamamatsu is mainly an industrial city so there wasn't too many touristic attractions. We just met there because he lives in Shizuoka city and Hamamatsu is half the way for both of us.

Probably the most important building is its castle built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose rule marks the beginning of the Edo Period.

Tokugawa Ieyasu lived here from 1571 to 1588 and I remember my sensei talking about him during our classes of Japanese. But I'm terrible with history, dates and so on..

There is a small museum inside with armors, a miniature city and relics of the period like katanas, arrows, etc.

From the top of the castle there were some nice views of the city. The main building is a skyscraper called Act City Tower Observatory which is close to the station. It was designed to resemble a harmonica. Unfortunately it was closed on Saturday but you can go up there and see the views.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Easter in Japan

Last Sunday (April 12th 2009) was Easter and I went with two new friends from Poland to a catholic church near Nanzan University (the University where my Japanese teacher studied).

It was really interesting to see so many priests and people from all around the world gathering to celebrate the Easter mass. There were people from Africa, Europe, Asia and America.

There was also a huge variety of age, from little children to old people. At the entrance we received some pamphlets with the lyrics of the songs and the religious readings both in Japanese and English.

After the mass finished there were cute Japanese children at the exit gate wearing white dresses and giving away the typical Easter eggs to all the believers.

When I went back to my residence I met by chance my Korean friend Kevin (although this is not his real name I can call him Kevin because I can't pronounce his name well hehe). He said he was going with one guy to a Korean Christian-protestant church for the Easter celebration so I decided to go with him!

The Korean church was much smaller than the catholic one but on the other hand very familiar. They gave us Korean lunch for free and then the mass was quite interesting, especially the first part where they were singing Christian songs and showing the lyrics on the screen like in a Karaoke (there was a guitarist, pianist, drums and chorus so it looked like a concert!). As for the speech I borrowed a walkie with headphones and a Korean woman translated the priest words for me to Japanese. I learned some words in Korean also like how to say "yes, no, sorry, thanks and it's hot!". (Note: I will update this when I find out how to spell those words properly :D). At the end of the ceremony they also gave me another Easter egg where it says "Jesus reborn" and "Congratulations" in Korean language (well, I think so :D).

Saturday, April 18, 2009


When I was done with Jiyugaoka I went to take the subway to the next stop (I had a ticket valid for the whole day).

By chance I met my new English friend Julie who was going with some friends to make a barbecue at Meijo Koen, a nice park 11 stops from Nagoya University. She offered me to come so I said "why not".

I bought some meat at the supermarket and took a new "daily life" picture of it :P.

Close to Meijo Koen there was a baseball match (most popular sport here in Japan) so I decided to take some shots. To be honest I still can't see what's so funny in this sport.

Under the cherry blossoms there were lots of Japanese cultivating a very nice tradition called hanami (which comes from hana=flower miru=look) which consists of going with your friends to eat and drink under the pink blanket of cherry flowers.

We also had our own hanami thanks to Julie and her friends who brought a barbecue, food and joy.

As the weather was really nice I went around to take some shots. This flowers look unreal but they were very real!

And I'm very proud of this picture because I was brave enough to pick my camera, point directly to that couple and take a shot without getting embarrassed hehe. I think it's much better than my tomatoes!

Near to the park there was the Nagoya Castle. It is not the real one (which was destroyed) but still looks great.

It was a very nice day so I even managed to ask someone to take a pic of me. Unfortunately my eyes were closed, shame! :P

Jiyugaoka 自由ヶ丘

After visiting Suemori's castle I took the subway to the next stop in the Meijo subway line: Jiyugaoka 自由ヶ丘

Actually this place has nothing touristical to see, but showing daily Japanese life is also interesting in my opinion.

I passed by this school which really looks like in the animes. At the traffic light there was this funny button to cross the road. Please compare it with the shot that Maria took at Madrid (which recently won a second prize in a photograph contest!).

As a daily life photographer I have to learn how not to get embarrased of taking pictures of people. Most of the time they look at you with an evil eye and I hate it. In the pic above I took the easy way hehe a policeman from the back while putting a fine.

In these two shots I improved a little bit, but I was pretending that I wasnt taking any picture hehe. Lawson is one of the 24 hours shops that exist in Nagoya (others are 7 eleven, family smart for example). They are very useful because you can buy food and other stuff there at anytime of the day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Suemori castle - すえもりじょう(末盛城)

Sometimes when you wander around without any fixed destination you get nice surprises.

The other day, when I was walking away from Motoyama's central avenue I arrived by chance to some stairs and a symbolic gate.

I was intrigued enough to go ahead so I went upstairs and I found the map above and a sign saying:

Suemori Castle Site

Lord Oda Nobuhide (1508-49) built this Castle here in 1548. The following year, his third son Nobuyuki (?-1558) became the castle lord, but was defeated in the battle of Inogahara where he fought against his elder brother Nobunaga (1534-82). It is said that the castle was doomed to abandonment in 1559.

It was nice to discover such a magic place only a few minutes away from that crowded crossing that I talked about in the previous post.

A woman was there using this kind of ladle that my friend Mitsue-san already showed me how to use, when we both travelled to Kamakura, two years ago.

After that, she started praying for sometime in front of the temple. I didn't want to ask her about her problems so we just had a shallow conversation ("this is a famous place" and the like).

Finally, I decided to return to Motoyama station. On the way back, the houses and streets seemed to be even more beautiful than before :).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Motoyama (本山) - Nagoya

Motoyama (original mountain) district is located close to my University, right in the next stop of Nagoya's Meijo subway line (in counter clockwise direction).

At the centre of Motoyama, there is a big crossing between two main avenues where one can find different shops, restaurants and also a pachinko-karaoke called Shinsekai that I went to with some friends the other day.

Perhaps the most interesting building is the Matsuzakaya commercial centre which has several floors of shops. In the basement there is a big supermarket with fresh food (vegetables, fish, meat, etc). On the first floor you can find sort of delicatessen products of high quality (and price!). On the upper floor there is a 100-yen shop (each article costs 100 yen), clothes shops and the like.

Although it is a wide avenue, there is not as much traffic as you would think. Probably one of the major reasons is that the bike is really a popular means of transport here in Nagoya. Having a bike here is close to having a car in the sense that you need a plate and you can't park it anywhere but in the designated areas. I have seen many times workers in charge of ordering the bikes so there is more parking for everybody :).

If you walk away from the main avenue you will see the typical small houses and narrow streets that are all over Japan. This streets are really quiet and calm, they remind me a lot of the animation series that I used to watch when I was a child.

In particular I love all those wires and cables above our heads. The sign in the picture (and the ground in the opposite direction) contains a very useful word: tomare (とまれ - 止まれ) which means STOP :).