Being a “foodie” in Japan

I have always considered myself someone with moderate to high interest in food in general. I love trying different cuisines from all over the world. I also love preparing and cooking different dishes. My entire family and extended family including aunts and uncles, and cousins and grandmas all seem to love eating, all types of food. I was lucky to be born into this family with a mother who loves to cook and entertain others as well as my sister who married a chef who is really interested and great in creating dishes with unique flavors in creative combination of ingredients from all over the world.

自分はいつも食べることがかなり好きな人間だと思っていた。世界中のいろんな料理を試すのも大好き。調理をすることも好きな方。おばさん、おじさん、おばあちゃんもいとこのみんなもなんでも食べることが基本的に好きな家族に生まれて来た。ラッキーなことに、母親は食べることはもちろん料理、人を集めてパーティをして喜ばすのも大好き、それから妹は世界からのいろんな食材を取り入れてクリエーティブな料理を好んでやる素敵なシェフと結婚した。

Japanese cuisine showcases its strength in dishes with wide variety of locally produced fresh vegetables and fish. Many traditional dishes use stew style preparation called “nimono” or stewed stuff. If you prepare nimono with the 3 “S” ingredients; Sake (rice wine), Shoyu (Soy sauce) and Sato (Sugar), whatever you cook automatically turns into a very flavorful country style dish. You can make these country dishes with inexpensive ingredients such as onions, carrots and potatoes or any kind of squash or pumpkin. You can also add any of your favorite meat, poultry or fish in the nimono. Other traditional dishes include sliced raw fish fillets called sashimi or sushi, which is basically sashimi combined with vinegar and sugar flavored rice. Noodle soups such as udon, soba and ramen are staples for lunch or dinner. These are just a few examples of traditional Japanese dishes you will find anywhere in Japan.

日本に代表的な料理というと大体は季節モノで国内又はローカルで生産された新鮮な野菜や魚を取り入れることを重要点とする。伝統的な料理の多くはシチューのように作る『煮物』。煮物を格安の野菜(玉ねぎ、人参、芋、カボチャ等)と三つの”S”のつく調味料(酒、醬油、砂糖)を使って煮詰めるだけで美味しい里料理が出来る。好みで肉や魚を足してもいい。その他の伝統料理には生魚を切っただけの刺身や寿司、ヌードルスープのうどん、そば、ラーメンなど。これらの伝統料理は日本中どこでも味わえる。

When you visit pubs in Japan called “izakaya”, there are usually dozens to a hundred of delicious items on the menu, some of which may only be available seasonally. If we have 4 or 5 people in the party, we can easily consume 10-15 items from the menu which are all shared as family dinner style. That way, we can all have a few bites of each dish and talk about it while we eat and drink some beer, sake or wine. It is like creating our own “table buffet” with things we want to try.

日本で居酒屋に行くと、大抵は何十種類から多いところで百種類もの美味しい料理が勢揃い。その中で季節限定のものもあるだろう。平均4−5人で行くと10から15種類の料理を頼んで家族であろうがなかろうがみんなでシェアしていただく。そうすると、全ての料理をひとふた口食べられ、ビール、酒、ワインなどを飲みながらそれぞれの料理の批評をする。まるで”テーブルビュッフェ”を食べたい物で並べるよう。

Dishes from Ajimuso (味むそうの料理)

Just the other day, we went to a place my mother frequents with her pingpong friends after her practice, on a weekly basis. This izakaya is located under a train station, very noisy, small, old, but gets regular customers like my mother and her friends and many many others. They’re not supposed to be serving alcohol and supposed to close at 8p every night due to the semi-lockdown state that Osaka is still under. But no one complains for their not following these orders because the place is always packed with the loyal, and regular customers, who have been fans for years or even decades. I’m not a food journalist, but this would be a place representative of many old timer izakayas in Osaka. Every dish is tasty, cheap and fast. For all of these variety of dishes plus some beer and sake to accompany the flavors, the bill came out only $25 per person, which is a bargain!

つい最近、母が卓球友達と練習後週一のように訪れる場所へ行った。この居酒屋は小さいし古くて、キレイとは言えず、電車の駅の真下にあるのでうるさいしけれど母のような常連さんたちで毎晩賑わう。緊急事態宣言なので8時に閉店するとかアルコールを出すなとかいう要請が飲食店には出ているがこの店は気にしていない。昔からの常連さんがほとんどだしクレームをつけるなんて人はいない。自分はフードジャーナリストとかではないが、この店は大阪にある居酒屋を代表するような場所。全ての料理がうまい、早い、そして安い。5人で12-15種類の料理を平らげ、お酒、ビールとワインも全部含めて一人2500円だった。

If you are a foodie in Japan, and you eat at a different restaurant every single day, it would take over 71 years to make it to every restaurant that exists in just the city of Osaka alone (in 2016, there were at least 26K restaurants in the population of 2.6 million in Osaka-city according to Google. That means one out of every 100 people owns a restaurant) I think this goes to show how much people like to eat out and experience different tastes created by different minds and skills.

日本で食べ好きで、毎日違う飲食店で食事するとすると、大阪市にある全ての飲食店に回るのには最低71年はかかる。(Googleによると、2016年度に大阪市には2億6千人の人口そして約2万6千軒の飲食店が存在していた。ということは市民100人につき飲食店一軒の割合だというこになる。)これだけ日本人はいろんな違った技術と才能で作られるいろいろな料理を好んで求めているということなんだろう。

Ancient Neighborhood, Traditional Customs (古代地域と伝統習慣)

My great grandmother Matsue moved to this neighborhood over 100 years ago and birthed and raised my father’s mother, who birthed and raised my father in this neighborhood. They were some of the first settlers in this area in 1920 when my grandmother Midori was born. My sister and I were born and raised here also and I left for the US when I was a junior in high school to begin my new adventure.

私のひいおばあちゃん松江さんは100年以上も前この地域に引越し、おばあちゃんを生み育て、父もこの場所で生まれ育った。何故この地域に引っ越して来たのかは不明だが、1920年におばあちゃんが生まれた頃にこの地域に存在した家は数少なかったという。そして私も妹もここで生まれ育ったが、私は高校2年の冬に新しい冒険を始めるために渡米した。

I have never appreciated this neighborhood as much as I do now. For as long as I have known, the neighborhood had a neighborhood association like HOA where the residents communicate via a bulletin board (yes, it is still the “physical” flyers and lists). Currently, I don’t know the existence of an app like Nextdoor in the US, which could potential be very useful here. The first thing I noticed in the neighborhood that was addressed in a very organized manner was the trash management. Unlike what I was used to in the US, it was more than two categories of trash (general and recyclable) but there are several categories in the recyclable itself. There are pet bottles (plastic bottles with no lid as lids go into another category), cans, glass bottles, cardboards, newspapers, other papers and flyers, clothing, and food packages/labels/pet bottle lids, all separated and collected on different days. Talk about being organized inside and outside the home!

このエリアに住むことを最近までそんなにありがたいとも思わなかった。私が知っている限りこの近所は町内会というものが存在し(アメリカでいうHOA、又は家主会)、住民は回覧板でコミュニケーションをとっている。現在ではアメリカでNextdoorとかいうアプリやメールグループ等があるけれど、こちらの町内会は昔どうり回覧板が回ってくる。そして始めにこのエリアで気づいたことはゴミの管理。アメリカで慣れていたのとは違い、こちらはリサイクル物も細かく分けられる。ペットボトル(フタとラベルは外してパッケージと一緒に)、缶、ガラスボトル、ダンボール、新聞、その他の紙類や広告、衣類、それから弁当や、食物が入っているプラスティックのパッケージ。全てを別々に分けて、別々の日に回収される。整理整頓に関してはウチの中、そして外でも徹底されている。

Mom and Ms. Yoshioka (母と吉岡さん)

The next thing I noticed is the people who have been here in my neighborhood for decades. Ms. Yoshioka has been here since I was 2. She is 85 and her husband is 88. She takes care of her husband who has had dementia for the last 8 years, full time. She is the neighborhood “den mother”, who likes to be a bit nosey but with good intentions. She has practically become one of our family members, very aware of what is happening in each of our lives. She also loves playing with our kids and Himeko and join our parties that we have on the street in front of our houses. She always brings her own drinks and a few dishes to the parties and loves to share fruits and veggies or whatever she may have extra at hand. She is definitely a neighborhood gem.

次に気づくのは近所に住む人たち。隣の隣に住む吉岡さんは私が2歳の時この場所に引っ越して来た。85歳の彼女は88歳の認知症の旦那さんのお世話に忙しい毎日。彼女がこの辺りの”オカミさん”。なんでも人ごとを知りたがり、でもそれも善良心から来るもの。みんなのお世話をするのが好きで、私たちの家族のこともよく知っているのでまるで家族の一人のよう。子供たちと遊ぶのも好き、そして表道のパーティにも飛び入り参加する。その時は持参でドリンクや簡単な野菜料理なども作って参加する。彼女は本当にこの近所にはとって欠かせない大切な存在だ。

When we first moved here in April, we were technically “quarantined” in our house for two weeks. As soon as the home arrest period ended, we went around our neighbors on our block to introduce ourselves and took them each a little gift of okashi (rice cracker treats), which my mother had purchased beforehand. This has been the ritual for the neighborhood and probably any neighborhood in Japan (at least in the old neighborhoods). It’s certainly good to know the names and faces of the neighbors for safety and comfort reasons.

4月にここへ引っ越した時、私たちは2週間家で”待機”させられた。その2週間が終わってまもなく近所まわりをし、母が用意したお菓子を持って挨拶に出た。こういう習性は日本では特に古い地域では当たり前。近所に住む人たちの顔と名前を知っておくことは安全性や住みごごちを良くするにもプラスだと思える。

My house and my sister’s house side by side (我が家と妹の家が隣同士)

This neighborhood along with many old neighborhoods in the city and more in the country side, has been dealing with issues with vacant homes as the population has been declining since 1990’s and people have been purchasing new houses. Home renovation and remodeling is not as popular here in Japan and it is the area that needs more attention and funding to combat this issue. The land values have been increasing in the area where I live due to the proximity to all things business and entertainment. I am also interested in this area of revitalizing the neighborhoods that are starting to deteriorate due to the increase of vacant homes. But first, working on getting to know my neighbors and surrounding neighborhoods give me plenty of things to do.

最後に一つ思うことに、この近所も枠外で無いが、日本の特に古い地域にはどんどん空き家が増加している。その背景にあるのは1990年あたりからの人口の高齢化、少子化、その上新築の家を好む若い世代。古い家の改装やリモデルはこれまで人気に欠けていたが、これからどんどん重視し、資金をかけていくべきだと思う。自分の住むこの辺りはビジネス、エンターテイメントの中心地で立地が良く地価は向上する方向にある。ここ10−15年で空き家が増え始めているこのエリアに新しいエネルギーを注いでいけたらと自分にも興味がある。しかしまずはじめはこの地域の住民、そしてカルチャーの観察、経験から始めていきたい。

Twins Do Run in Our Family (双子はうちの家族に多数)

My only sister had her identical twin boys 21 years ago. I fell in love with them and all I ever wanted was twins since then. Identical twins are NOT said to run in a family, only fraternal twins are. So we don’t have any other twins in our family. Victor’s immediate older brother and sister are twins (fraternal because they’re different sex) but obviously Victor and I are not related so that doesn’t really count. Twin pregnancies happen only 2% or less depends on the region, even rarer for identical, boys and in Japan. Added to this fact, to adopt twins is even more rare than having twins (since someone who is having twins would have to be willing to adopt them out). You also won’t see too many inter-racial couples adopting and then, moving overseas. All of these factors considered, what we have here is super uncommon, and we can’t say that this was just a coincidence, luck or accident.

自分のたった一人の妹が21年前、一卵性の双子の男子を産んだ。私は彼らに溺愛し、それから双子が欲しくてたまらなかった。一卵性の双子は二卵性と違い、家系にあることは滅多にない。だから、自分の家系にも双子は他に存在ない。ビクターのお姉さんとお兄さんは二卵性の双子(男女の双子は二卵性しかない)だけれど、自分たちは血の繋がりはないので、それは今の話とは無関係なこと。双子の妊娠平均で2パーセント(一卵性の方が二卵性より珍しく、そして男子の一卵性、あえて日本ではアフリカや他の国と比べるともっと珍しいらしい)。この条件の中、日本人と黒人アメリカ人のカップルがアメリカで双子を養子縁組し、そして日本に移住するという確率など想像はつかないほど珍しいだろう。でもこのことは偶然、運、それともアクシデントかとも私には思えない。

I always believed that we, humans, create our own path. That is, we get to choose what we want in life and this alone is a confirmation that what we want and dream of can and do come true (*refer to my last post on Dreams Come True). What we don’t always have control over is HOW or WHEN it will come. As far as I’m concerned, I wanted to have twins for a long time but I did not get to say when or how they would come about. I must say that it could not have happened more perfectly or at better timing.

私はいつも人間は自分の道を作って行くのだと信じていた。自分の歩みたい道を選べる自由があることは夢を描き、それを叶えられるという証拠(*ドリカムのポストを参照)。自分にいつもコントロールできないのは『どのように』と『いつ』夢が叶えられるかということ。私の場合は双子が欲しかった、でもいつ、どのようにそれが叶えられるかは想像もつかなかった。でもこのタイミングといい、条件的にはこれ以上パーフェクトに起こり得ることはなかったと思う。

“Everything comes at the right time, place and sequence” by Luis Hay

『全ては正しい時間、場所、そして順番で起こっている。』ルイスヘイ

Dreams Come True

Dreams Come True is a Japanese pop music band who existed since I was 14 or 15, a while back. DCT was a band that carried me through many moments of my life. I started listening to them as a teenager full of hopes and dreams and on my way to finding the “love” in my life. Sure, I listened to other music and groups but DCT was the one that I listened to when I was happy, sad, bored, and whenever I needed someone to lift me up. I would listen to them while biking, working out at the gym and swimming (in my head that is). DCT is still the band I listen after 40 some years when I walk around town in Osaka. Today, they gave me an inspiration to write about them and my dreams while walking on a sunny, breezy, gorgeous Saturday morning. (ドリームズカムトゥルーは私が14か15歳ごろから存在する日本の人気のポップバンド。ドリカムは人生のいろんな出来事が起こる中私を支えてくれたバンド。青年になる頃の私、夢や希望をもつ自分、恋をし始めていたころの私を支えてくれた。他にも何人かのミュージックを聴いていたが、ハッピーな時、悲しい時、ひまな時、そして誰かに励ましを求めていた時いつも聴くのはドリカム。歩くとき、自転車を乗る時、走るとき、そして泳いでいる時も(頭の中で)流れてくるのはドリカム。出会ってから40年以上たった今も大阪の街を歩く時に聴くのはドリカム。晴れた、暖かく、そして涼しい風の穏やかに吹く今日、土曜の朝にインスピレーションをくれたドリカム。そしてこのブログを書くことにした。)

Dreams Come True has not just been the name of my favorite music band but it has been the “theme” of my life. I have been aware that dreams do in fact come true in real physical life because it has happened to myself again and again. Dream of going to America, dream of traveling the world, dream of becoming a mom of twins…. to say the least! Those may be the “impossible dreams” for some, but because these and other less significant dreams have pretty much ALL come true, I am a true believer now in DCT. I keep dreaming the “impossible dreams” still knowing that they or something better will come true. (ドリカムは自分の大好きなバンドの名前なだけでなく、私の人生の「テーマ」になっていた。

Family is What Matters Most (家族がこの世で一番大切)

This is a big topic. My family is and has always been very close, mentally and emotionally. Now we are physically close living right next to each other. After being away from my family for 30 years, having family is what I appreciate the most every single day.

これは大変大きなトピック。我ファミリー(家族)は今までいつも精神的、感情面では近く感じていたけれど、現在また隣同士で住むことになり、身体的に近くなった。ここ30年間海外生活をした後ということもあり、ファミリーの存在のありがたさを毎日改めて身にしみて感じる。

Niece Himeko with Maika (姪っ子ヒメ子と娘マイカ)

I appreciated family while I was away living in the US also. Without their support, life would not have been as meaningful. Now that I am here physically with them, the meaning it brings is indescribable. The joy and love that our twin toddlers brings to my parents, sister, nephews and niece bounces right back to me and fills me up like nothing else. This is what I was looking forward to experiencing when I decided to come home.

家族にはアメリカ在住の間もお世話になってたので大感謝はしていた。家族無しでは意味無しの人生だっただろうとまで思える。そしてこうして今、隣り合わせで暮らすことができ、一歳半の双子の子供が両親と妹家族にもたらす喜びは自分に跳ね返ってきて他には変えられないような生きる意味、エネルギーになる。これがまさに日本に帰省することを決断した時に一番楽しみにしていたことである。

We celebrated my sister’s becoming “independent” (妹の独立宣言祝い)

We have had family dinners like Thanksgiving 3 times already in the last two weeks since I have been home. Logistically, it is very easy as each family unit (myself, sister’s and parents’) make a few dishes each and can easily have 6-12 dishes on the table, which is a feast. Great time to finish up the leftovers too! We like to have drinks with our dinner and it is usually some combination of beer, wine, and chu-hai or vodka soda (lemon flavored). I would say the person who can hold their liquor the most is my 72 year old mother😅

ファミリーで集まって食べるサンクスギビング/感謝祭のようなパーティーをここ2週間でもう3回行った。論理的にも簡単、妹家族と両親が2-3ディッシュをそれぞれ作って自分も作るとあっという間に6-12種類の料理が揃い、ビュッフェスタイルのパーティー。残り物を片付けるのにもいいい。ドリンクも手持ちで大体十分なビール、ワインや酎ハイが揃う。家族の中で一番お酒に強いのはいつももう72歳になる母親😆

I feel so blessed to have such a happy, healthy and loving family to share life moments with.

自分は本当にこのハッピーで、健康で愛情たっぷりの家族が周りにいて、これからのいろんな思い出を一緒に作っていけることを心からありがたく思う。

The Journey Begins (旅の始まり)

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton (旅は良い仲間と一緒だと短く感じるーアイザック・ウォルトン)

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So it begins in a new land of the Rising Sun. The intention for this blog is to share what I experience in Japan after 30 years of being away and returning at the ripe age of 47.

旅の始まりは「日の出の国」から始まる。このブログのインテンションは30年海外で暮らした47歳のこの中年の私からの視界を元にした日本での経験をシェアすることです。

I titled the site “Beauty in Everything” in hopes that it will help me see the world through the lens of appreciation, love and inspiration in times of turmoil, trauma and increasing isolation.

このブログのタイトルは「ビューティー・イン・エブリシング」。現時代の混乱、トラウマ、孤独感の増えるこの世の中で全てを美しさ、感謝、愛のレンズで見れることを願いに込めたタイトルです。

Beauty is truly found in everything you see – we just need to focus, look, listen and feel – without preconceived idea of what it is.

美しさは全てのものに見つけられます。私たちはただ固定観念を捨てて集中し、観て、聴いて感じようと努力すればいいのです。

My hope is by sharing this as much and often as I can – I can help inspire others to find beauty in everything that they see.

私の希望はこのブログを書けるだけ書き、シェアして、それを読み、感じる事で全てに宿る美しさを見つけられる人々が世の中に増えていくことです。