You Me and a Tanuki

Another Reason Why I Love Japan: You Get a Block of Dry Ice When Ordering Ice Cream To-Go

Japan has some of the best customer service in the world. We recently ran a story about a convenience store worker who packed our writer’s purchase so that the cold and hot drinks wouldn’t touch. This is just one of the many examples of the attention to detail that is given by workers in Japan. Sure, sometimes you land up having to wait five minutes at the department store while the clerk wraps every individual item (and the line of people behind you slowly creeps past the front doors), but this level of service is nothing short of amazing.

On my most recent visit to Baskin Robbins (it’s simply known as “31 Ice Cream” in Japan), I was shocked by the level of service I received after ordering a single cup of ice cream to-go. Most astonishing was the small block of dry ice that was placed on top of the ice cream to prevent it from melting on the way home.

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Cooking Rice on a Campfire is Easier Than You Might Think【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every weekend for a new post or read more on her website here!

When I went on a camping trip last summer with the junior high students that I regularly teach, there were many things that surprised me. For example, we lit fireworks (sometimes firing them at each other), took a night walk to a creepy overgrown shrine, and stabbed snails at the bottom of the sea.

But the thing that caught my interest the most was the way they cooked rice while camping.

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Six Crazy Things I Did Because I Was Cold 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

Japan is cold. No, I’m not talking about the people; it’s the weather that sends a chill down my spine. No insulation, central heating, or double-paned windows, and in most public buildings – schools included – there’s no hot water; modern Japanese construction ensures that you will feel every bone-chilling drop in temperature once November rolls around.

When the mercury dips below freezing and there’s nothing to stop the cold from leeching in to your home, sometimes you have to take drastic measures. And when you’re backed into a (freezing cold) corner, it makes you do some crazy things… like wrap your entire house in bubble wrap.

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Eating Our Way Through Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

For Christmas 2012, my husband and I headed off our island and spent Christmas in Tokyo. We set aside a few days to mill around Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, and a few other places, but the main event of our trip was going to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. The only problem was that we chose to go during one of the busiest times of the year: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So what do you do when everyone in Tokyo came to Disneyland, all the Fast Passes are gone, and you have to wait at least an hour to ride a three-minute ride? Eat everything in sight, of course.  Take a look at some of the awesome and unexpected food you can find in Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.

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Mayonnaise is EVERYWHERE in Japan【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

If you are a mayonnaise hater, stay out of Japan.  You wouldn’t think it, but the good ole American companion to Wonder Bread is a staple of down home Japanese cooking.  From potato salad to lotus root smothered in mayonnaise, at least in Chibu, you can’t sit down to a meal without some mayonnaise-based dish on the table.  Aside from being a main dressing for side dishes, mayonnaise is squeezed atop traditional Japanese dishes such as okonomiyaki (Japanese “pizza”), takoyaki (fried balls of dough with squid in the middle), yakisoba (a noodle dish), and many kinds of katsu (fried meat).

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Organic Christmas Lights? No, it’s Persimmon Season in Japan 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

Starting around the beginning of October, houses and trees throughout the neighborhood are dotted with orange orbs.  It’s kaki season; time to eat some persimmons.  The little fruits almost look like Christmas lights in the daytime, lining the rafters of the houses.  They sway back and forth in the strong sea breeze and are susceptible to being stolen by the crows that lie in wait for an easy meal.

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“A crazy man is coming to school today and he’s going to try to stab us”: Japan Takes Code Red Drills to the Extreme【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

I remember during my school days in the United States, we would have a “Code Red” drill once a year where we practiced the proper protocol in the event a gunman came to school. We were taught the proper way to build a barricade using desks and chairs in our classroom, the best place to build it, and the different announcements and signals that we could expect to hear should such a situation occur. But the thing is, there was never an actual gunman or anyone playing the part of a gunman during the drill.

In Japan (or at least in my area of Japan), they do Code Red drills a little differently. First of all, in the Code Red drill scenario, there is no fictitious gunman, instead there is a fictitious crazy person trying to stab people. Read More

Fishing for Squid in Japan【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

It’s squid fishing time in Chibu and when the waves aren’t too high, the horizon is sure to be speckled with the distant light of squid fishing vessels.  Sometimes there are so many boats out at sea that it looks as if dawn is breaking.

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Picking Up Women Day, Grilled Meat Day, and Masturbation Day: Special Days in Japan 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

Did you know that July 4th was Pear Day and October 8th was Tofu Day?  If you live in Japan, you may have seen special sales on Yakiniku (grilled meat) on August 29th, Yakiniku Day.   Read More

Privacy Please?【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

From my experience, there is very little privacy in Japan compared to the US.  You want to take some time off during the summer break to go on a vacation?  You better write down where you’re going and for how long so that information can be distributed to not only your boss, but everyone in the office.  Make a big mistake at work?  You’re purposely going to get scolded about it in front of your coworkers.  A close family member passed away?  You’re going to have to make a public announcement about it whether you want to or not (at least that’s what I was forced to do at work when my grandmother passed away and I had to suddenly go back to America).

The oddest invasion of privacy that I have ever encountered here in Japan is always during the yearly health examinations. Since I’m a public worker, once a year I am required to have a full physical.  This sounds awesome, I get a free health check-up and I don’t even need to make an appointment.

Wrong, it is awful.

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It’s Just Like a Handshake… 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

I have encountered many things in Japan that prompted me exclaim in disbelief, “that did not just happen!”

For example:

“I did not just see a guy peeing on the side of the road”

“That bunch of strawberries does not cost $20!”

“That lady did not just ask how big my husband’s thing is”

But the one that takes the cake, something I’ve said (on several occasions) is “that kid did not just stick his fingers up my butt.” 

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Whole Lotta Fish 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

If I ever have a craving for fish, I just have to stand out in front of my house and wait for a fisherman to drive by (which won’t take too long since I live on an island).  Last Monday I was waiting outside with my husband to be picked up for a work party when the taxi driver (who is also a fisherman) drove by.  He stopped his little K-truck and asked if we wanted some fish.  I said yes and he proceeded to fill a plastic grocery bag with around 20 flying fish, 4 long scary looking fish, 3 or so pokey fish, and a weird purple/blue crab (sorry, he said the names in Japanese so quickly that I didn’t manage to remember them all.  Any fish experts, please tell me what they are in the comments section below).

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Coffee, coffee everywhere but not a drop to drink (that’s any decent)【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

You can get coffee just about anywhere in Japan thanks to the millions (yes, millions) of vending machines littered around the country.  ”How convenient,” you must be thinking.  Yeah, if you like drinking awful coffee.

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The Problem With Everyone Knowing Where We Live【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

My husband and I live on a five square mile island with less than 600 inhabitants. To make matters even cozier, most of our island is mountainous so the houses are clustered together on the coasts where any flat land is available. As a result of our close proximity to our neighbors and the fact that we are the only two foreigners on the island, everyone knows where we live.

This is a great thing most of the time. People often come to our door to give us extra vegetables from their garden or fish they caught. When Khoa and I stayed on the island during New Year’s, the principal of the elementary school saw the light on at our house, figured we were home, and invited us over for a big New Year’s feast.

However, there is a downside to the entire island knowing our whereabouts.

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The Best Sushi We’ve Ever Eaten【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

Hidden down a road, a little ways away from the main port of Nishinoshima, Shimane prefecture, is a tiny sushi restaurant.

From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. Approaching the front of the establishment, you can even see the owner’s laundry hanging to dry in the upstairs window. But inside, Zen Sushi will amaze you.

A little mom and pop establishment, the owners prepare fresh sushi made with fish caught in the waters of the Oki Islands. Peering through the front windows, you can enjoy views of the turquoise waters that these fish call home.

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School Lunch in Japan 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

Ah, school lunch in Japan.  I’ve had some of the best meals served to me on those plastic lunch trays.  I’ve also had some of the worst.  You might remember my post from last week that talked about the worst school lunch in the world. But for the most part, school lunch in Japan is surprisingly delicious and enjoyable.

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Japanese School Lunch Fail【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

When I first got to Japan, I made a goal to try any food that was offered to me.  Sea snails (freshly cracked out of their shells and still alive), check.  Sea cucumber, check.  Shiokara (fermented salty squid), check.  I’ve encountered some of the grossest edible things I’ve ever seen, but stuck to my goal, tried not to think about the slimy mess in front of me, and ate the new food.

To up the ante on my food challenge, I told myself that I would eat every dish  that was served in kyuushoku (school lunch).  The main reason I took this challenge is that I think it sets a good example for the kids, who are made to sit at the lunch table until they finish every bite of their food.  Usually, completing my goal isn’t a chore at all.  I’ve had some of the most delicious meals I’ve ever encountered in Japan served to me in the lunchroom at school.  But it hasn’t all been easy.  I’m not a fan of shishamo (pregnant smelt fish) which are eaten with head, eyes, tail, bones…everything, intact.  As unappealing as shishamo is to me, I still manage to eat all of them when they are served in the school lunch.

Unfortunately, my undefeated school lunch record has come to an end.

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Take Me Out to the Japanese Ball Game 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

No peanuts, no cracker jacks, but a whole lot of other interesting food was available at the Hiroshima Carps baseball game in Hiroshima, Japan.

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Stabbing Snails at the Bottom of the Sea 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

The most shocking thing I ate when I first came to Chibu (other than salty fermented squid) was sazae.  In Japan, people go nuts over this delicacy.  In Tokyo, you have to shell out $3 for a single sazae.  In Chibu, they are not only free, they are everywhere you look.  Climbing up the side of the docks in the evening, hanging out on the ocean floor while you snorkel; there’s plenty to go around.  If you’re wondering what a sazae is, here’s a picture:

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Bull Sumo in the Oki Islands 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

Starting this week, RocketNews24 will feature blogs written by people living in Asia who we hope can offer a unique glimpse at the country they call home. The first of these is You, Me, And a Tanuki by one of our own writers, Michelle. Originally from California, Michille is currently one of only two foreigners living in a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan.  We’re still looking for more unique and interesting stories from Asia to share with the world, so drop us a line if you’d like to have your own blog featured on RocketNews24.

The Oki Islands, nestled in the Sea of Japan, have a tumultuous history.  Once used as a place of exile for fallen emperors, the islands have been shaped by its unique past and transformed into an area rich in traditional culture and events.  One such event is ushi-tsuki, or bull sumo.  Used as a form of entertainment for the exiled Emperor Gotoba and dating back to 1221, the tradition of bull sumo is still proudly preserved by the local people of Oki.       

Unlike the famous “man vs. beast” bull fighting of Spain, Oki’s bull fighting pits bull against bull in a fair battle of brute bovine strength.  The match is over when one bull gives up and runs away and neither bull is injured in the ring.  There are even weight classes and bulls of comparable weight fight against each other.  Humans are present in the ring, but only play a supporting role facilitating the fight. 

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