Congrats to Kisenosato on winning the Spring Basho!

Good morning everyone,

It's looking a 50% chance of rain today...probably just enough to annoy my laundry plans...ha ha! The rest of the week will see a mix of sun and clouds and daytime at or just below normal for this time of year (13C-16C), but overnight lows will be warmer than average from Thursday, so hopefully I'll be able to ditch my winter clothes for my commute to and from work.

 A taped-up Kisenosato came from behind to win the Spring Grand Sumo tournament in dramatic fashion, defeating ozeki Terunofuji twice on Sunday and becoming the first newly promoted yokozuna to win a championship in 22 years. Takanohana was the last to win a championship in his first tournament as yokozuna.

After suffering a fall on his left shoulder on Friday, Kisenosato was ineffective the following day, when his second straight loss allowed Terunofuji to take the lead. Needing a win on Sunday to even their records at 13-2 and force a championship playoff, Kisenosato somehow survived while his opponent slipped to the surface.

After Kakuryu dispatched fellow Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji to end the tournament's regularly scheduled bouts and leave both men with 10-5 records, Terunofuji and crowd favorite Kisenosato returned to the ring.

The first Japanese to be promoted to yokozuna since 1998 with his championship in January, Kisenosato surrendered a solid belt hold to his opponent. But Terunofuji clung to his grip too tightly and it proved his undoing as the yokozuna tipped him over to earn the victory.

"I'm speechless," Kisenosato said. "There was something at work that was more than my own strength. My only thoughts were on concentrating and executing."

The crowd, firmly behind him from Day 1, erupted when Kisenosato locked onto Terunofuji's arm and threw him for the final victory, and the emotion was not limited to the spectators.

"I was on the verge of tears," said sumo elder Tomozuna, the sub director of the Japan Sumo Association judges department. "To come out on the 14th day in pain, that was huge because he never let up (by forfeiting that match and resting). His posture in both bouts (on Sunday) was bad, but his body never stopped."

Hopefully his promotion and victory this tournament will mean he is a proper rival for Hakuho...and I hope that both he and Hakuho will be healthy for the next tournament. A rivalry between those two would be great for sumo!

Have a great day!


What does 'konnichiwa' really mean?

Good morning everyone,

Did you get any rain last night? We didn't here in Koi, but now they are calling for rain tomorrow. I guess it's just because it's spring that the weather is so unpredictable...well, that or they are just throwing darts at a dartboard...if you do trust them, they are saying that it'll be around Thursday when we finally start to experience warmer weather. Till then, you'd better keep your winter jackets handy.

Today we’re going to talk about Japanese greetings and what they really mean.

Just as in English, “Konnichiwa” or “Good day” is a greeting that is technically an idiom with a complex and near-forgotten past. Just as English language greetings tend to stem from bastardizations of foreign loan words and/or full sentences that have been gradually shortened over the years, “konnichiwa” is actually a shortened version of a full and meaningful greeting, because, if anything, human beings are a lazy sort with a bad habit of cutting corners whenever possible.

Konnichiwa,” back in the day, was actually the beginning of a sentence that went, “konnichi wa gokiken ikaga desu ka?,” or “How are you feeling today?” (今日はご機嫌いかがですか?)

Building on that, it’s easy to see that the traditional Japanese greeting in the evening, “Konbanwa“ is basically the same thing, but with “this evening” substituted for “today” (今晩はご機嫌いかがですか?).

When it comes to mornings, we deviate slightly with “ohayou” or “ohayou gozaimasu“ depending on how much you respect the recipient of the greeting (when it comes to my neighbours, they get nothing but a curt, “ossu.”), which is spelled in Japanese, “お早う,” or, literally, “It’s early!” Again, humans being the lazy things we are, we can’t be bothered doing anything more than exclaiming about the ungodly hour every morning, so this is understandable.

There’s even more word origin fun to be had with Japanese greetings/idioms:

“Arigatou” or “Thank you” is spelled something like this in Japanese: 有難う, which, taken literally, means, “It’s hard that this exists.” In other words, you’re expressing gratitude for someone doing something difficult or going out of their way for you.

Gochisousama,” the traditional phrase uttered after a fulfilling meal, and spelled “ご馳走様,” in Japanese literally means, “You ran around!” It sounds weird to an English speaker, of course, but it’s meant to recall a hard-working chef hustling to and fro to prepare a meal.

Itadakimasu,” the phrase one is supposed to say just before tucking into a meal, on the other hand, is spelled “頂きます,” or literally, “I take!” While it sounds a little blunt and self-serving in English, it’s not hard to understand that this honorific phrase is used to express gratitude to the chef or host.

konichiwa2

 

“Otsukaresama” is a greeting you’ll hear a lot around Japanese offices, schools and any other place where people work hard. The Japanese, “お疲れ様,” literally meaning, “You look tired!” The 様 part, which appears in a lot of these greetings/idioms, is hard to explain in English, but it stems from the Japanese の様 (“no yo,” or, “as if”), which denotes an observation on the part of the speaker.

konichiwa3

“Omedetou,” (“Congratulations!”) is a more complicated word, and even after some research and asking Japanese friends, we still aren’t entirely sure of this word’s origins. But, it appears that it stems from the verb, “mederu” (愛でる), “to treat importantly,” combined with “itashi” (甚し), “very.” In other words, you are acknowledging to someone that their accomplishment is “very important” to you. Note that the current kanji characters used for this, “お目出度い,” are actually what is referred to as “ateji” or kanji characters assigned to fit the sound of the word, rather than the other way around, and have nothing to do with the word’s meaning/origin.

Tomorrow, we'll look for the history behind some common English expressions...if I remember...

Have a great day!



Taimeshi recipe

Good morning everyone,

What happened to the weather forecast? Now they are suddenly calling for rain tonight and into tomorrow? When did that change? If you're planning on going out later tonight, you might want to bring an umbrella just to be safe. The rest of the week is looking like a mix of sun and clouds and the end of the week may see highs in the high teens...again, I'll believe it when I see it.

 ‘Taimeshi’ red sea bream and rice is the key to celebrating almost anything in spring

The love of seafood has deep roots in Japan, and it can be interesting to trace these back in history. Where fish are concerned, long before tuna was king, Japanese sought out tai.
Although there are more than 200 species of fish that take the name tai in Japan, most of which belong to the sea bream family, only one bears the name madai, meaning “true tai.”

This is the red sea bream (Pagrus major), historically the most prized fish in the country. The tai family in general and the madai in particular have been eaten in Japan for at least 5,000 years, as archaeological excavations of prehistoric sites have revealed.

One clue to how popular the tai family of fish has been in Japan is the kanji for tai, 鯛. The component on the left side of the character means “fish,” while that on the right side indicates “around,” meaning that it was available all around the country.

White fish like the sea bream were considered to have a refined taste, and were traditionally preferred over oily fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon up until the last 100 years or so.

The madai is the most popular of all the tai year round, but demand reaches a peak during this time of the year, when it takes on another name, sakuradai meaning “cherry blossom tai.” This special name is a hint for would-be diners: in spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom, madai make their way to shallow waters in order to spawn, making them especially easy to catch.

But Japan’s connection to the madai goes deeper still. The word madai also sounds like medetai, which points to all things festive, auspicious, joyous and so on, recommending it to the pun-loving people of the Edo Period (1603-1868) for serving at festive occasions of all kinds.

Although spring madai remains highly prized, it is actually tastier in late winter, when the fish has fattened up in preparation for spawning.

At New Year’s it is common to simply grill the whole fish as-is, but eating it raw as sashimi is ideal during this time as well.

While spring madai is somewhat slimmed down, it is still packed with flavor, so the ideal way to enjoy it is as taimeshi, meaning cooked with rice. Taimeshi is most famously known as a specialty of Ehime Prefecture, where there are several noted variations on the theme of madai combined with rice.

This recipe for taimeshi utilizes precut pieces of madai instead of the whole fish that’s traditionally used. The fish is lightly salted and allowed to rest in the refrigerator for at least a few hours — an extra step that really brings out the umami of the fish.

It takes some time for this dish to come together, but you’ll find the results to be well worth it. If madai is hard to find, this can also be made with other kinds of sea bream.


Recipe: Taimeshi red sea bream on rice

Serves 4

  • 200 g madai (red sea bream) or other tai (sea bream), about 2 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 300 g uncooked white rice (2 rice-cooker cups)
  • 1 20-cm-long piece of dried konbu seaweed
  • 300 ml water
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (cooking sake)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons usukuchi (light colored) soy sauce,
    OR
    1 tablespoon dark soy sauce plus ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 small bunch mitsuba herb, roughly chopped

Preparations begin at least a few hours ahead of the cooking time, ideally up to a day in advance. Begin by sprinkling the fish with salt on both sides in order to bring out its natural umami flavor. Wrap the fish loosely in two layers of paper towel and refrigerate until it is time to cook.

Rinse the rice in several changes of water. Completely submerge it in water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain into a fine-mesh colander, and let it sit for another 15 to 30 minutes.

To make the dashi (stock): Soak the konbu seaweed in 300 ml of water for at least one hour. Then, set the konbu and water over medium heat until the water begins to bubble but is not yet at a full boil.

Turn the heat off and remove the konbu seaweed. Leave out to cool.

Mix the dashi, sake, mirin and soy sauce together.

Next, heat up a fish grill, and grill the fish for a couple of minutes on each side until the surface is lightly charred. Note that there is no need to cook the fish through, as it will be fully cooked later. Take the fish off the grill and leave it out to cool.

If you’re using a traditional Japanese donabe (earthenware pot), put the combined dashi and rice into the pot and stir gently.

Put the fish on top of the rice, and place the pot over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Then turn the heat down very low, and cook for 10 minutes without stirring.

After 10 minutes, raise the heat to high for just 15 seconds, until you hear a crackling sound coming from the pot. Then, turn off the heat, and let the pot sit for 10 to 15 minutes to cool.

If you’re using a rice cooker: Put the combined dashi and rice into the pot and stir gently, then put the fish on top of the rice. Cook using the regular setting for rice.

Finally, flake the fish and remove the skin and bones. Gently mix the fish into the rice. Fold in the chopped mitsuba herb and serve at a celebration, or just to enjoy on a Saturday night. Or put it in a Tupperware dish and bring it to your favorite English teacher...

Have a great day!


Drunk mode

Good morning everyone,

Is it just me or does it seem like spring has stalled? I mean, it felt like it was on the way and now it isn't really getting any warmer. Last week didn't see the weather climb much and this week won't either-daytime highs will be between 13C and 15C all week and overnight lows will continue to be chilly at between 4C and 6C.

Too tipsy to type? One tap will find the way home for
you, plus tell you how much time you’ve got before your night out becomes an all-nighter.

Navigating Japan’s extensive train and subway network was quite a bit more complicated back in the pre-mobile Internet era. For example, if you were out with friends and wanted to know the time for your last train home, you’d have to first check the time the last train of the night pulls into your home station, either by actually going there or by consulting a thick book of timetables. Then you’d have to work backwards from there, estimating the amount of time you’d need for each transfer and readjusting the route if the first part of your journey home was on lines that shut down before the latter ones you needed to take.

Nowadays, though, all that hassle and guesswork can be sidestepped just by using a rail navigation smartphone app. Just open the app, switch over to its “find last train” function, type in the closest station to where you currently are, input the station closest to your final destination, and finally tap the execute button, and it’ll spit back the plan for your last chance to make it home.

By the standards of our technologically savvy modern era, that’s not such a difficult process. However, it can still be a tough challenge if you’re drunk, and, as it just so happens, a lot of the people who’re getting close to their last train of the night happen to be knocking back several cold ones with their friends. That’s why software developer Val Laboratory has added a new Drunk Mode to its popular Ekisupaato (from the Japanese word eki/“station” and “expert”) railway navigation app.

To utilize Drunk Mode, you’ll first need to register your home station (you’ll probably want to do this before you start sipping sake or pounding Yebisu Beers). Then, when you want to check on your last train, all you have to do is hit a single button on the app, and it’ll use your phone’s GPS to determine the closest station and show the route home, along with the time the train you need to be on is departing. Knowing that most people’s math skills don’t improve with alcohol, the results will even calculate and tell you how much time you have remaining until the last train leaves.

Should it already be past the time when you can get home by rail, Drunk Mode displays the consolatory message “Unfortunately, you’ve missed the last train…,” accompanied by an anthropomorphic train carriage either chasing after his missed ride, so that you’ll at least have a little cuteness as you start your search for a capsule hotel or a 24-hour manga cafe to spend the night in.

▼ If your inebriated mind can handle it, at this point you may also find yourself wondering who or what rides inside the pink train that rides inside the gray train.

Drunk Mode will ordinarily be part of Ekisupaato charged premium mode, but between now and April 2 can be used for free as part of a special introductory campaign. The app itself is available for both iOS and Android devices.

The creator of Drunk Mode says the function’s genesis was his own numerous experiences missing the last train home after going out drinking. However, while Drunk Mode handles the typing and station settings for you, you still have to be able to see straight enough to understand what it’s displaying. “It’s for people who’re comfortably drunk,” explains the developer, “not for people who’re totally hammered.”

What do you think? Have you ever wished you had this app? Ha ha!

Have a great day!


Moana-themed sushi coming to Sushiro

Good morning everyone,

The weather this week is looking ok...nothing too bad-there's no rain or snow in the forecast, but nothing to get too excited about either. Every day is looking like highs will be around 14C or so with overnight lows still a bit chilly at 4C or 5C. The good news is that we are supposed to get cherry blossoms from March 28th and I'm going to a hanami party on April 2nd...assuming the weather is nice, it should be a good day. The only problem is that it's a potluck party...I have no clue what to take...any ideas?

While the rest of the world has long since had the opportunity to see Disney’s latest animated movie Moana, Japan has only just recently released the film in theaters...it was released on March 10. In celebration of the acclaimed film, nationwide kaitenzushi chain Sushiro has released a special limited-time menu in collaboration with the film, taking inspiration from its tropical setting.

▼ Kids will also receive Moana stickers, and the chance to win other Moana goods!

With sushi starting at only Y100, and featuring popular Hawaiian flavors like ahi poke, it’s a great way for moviegoers to continue their Moana experience after the movie.

▼ Ahi poke sushi

A sushi twist on a traditional Hawaiian favorite. The raw tuna is marinated in sesame oil and soy sauce before being piled atop sushi rice and a leaf of lettuce. The whole thing is finished off with a whipped cream topping and a sprinkling of bacon bits.

▼ Hawaiian roast beef sushi

 

Tender slices of roast beef are topped with avocado, onions, and an onion-based dressing.

▼ Cobb dressing shrimp sushi

Shrimp, onion, and bacon-bit sushi, drizzled with a spicy cobb dressing.

▼ Spicy garlic shrimp sushi

It’s hard to go wrong with garlic shrimp. This particular garlic shrimp also carries a tangy spice of curry.

▼ Spicy swordfish cutlet burger (Y280)

Juicy swordfish is breaded and fried in-store, sandwiched between rice-flour buns, and paired with crispy lettuce and a spicy curry-flavored sauce.

▼ Cobb salad (Y180)

Lettuce topped with chicken, avocado, and shrimp, drizzled with tangy cobb dressing, and sprinkled with crunchy bits of bacon.

▼ Coconut berry pancake (Y280)

From the pancake specialty shop VERY FANCY comes this delectable dessert of sweet, fluffy pancakes made with ricotta cheese and meringue. The pancakes are topped with mixed berries, coconut cream, and drizzled with a berry sauce.

▼ Coconut shaved ice (Y280)

For a cooler, yet equally satisfying dessert, the shaved ice is flavored with condensed milk and coconut cream, and is topped with vanilla ice cream, berries, berry sauce, and mango sauce.

Sushiro has come out with a number of tasty dishes in the past, but we’ve gotta' say this time around is looking like one of the best so far! Whether it technically counts as 'sushi' is up for debate, but who cares about that as long as it tastes good, right?

Have a great day!


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