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 [1.19] Conversation Partner, Food, Sugimoto Bar Last updated 
17 Feb 1999 

Conversation Partner, Okonomi House 19 Jan 1999
Today I met my Japanese conversation partner. At the beginning of the semester, we received "conversation partner" application forms from the JCMU office. Applying for a conversation partner was optional, but if you wanted one, all you needed to do was fill out the form with your name, hobbies, and level of Japanese known.

The office matched us up with Japanese college students who applied for English conversation partners. My partner is Takayuki Nagao-san, an economics student at Shigadai uninversity (only a few miles down the road from JCMU). Takayuki-san also takes English class at JCMU.

We met after class, and at first both tried to communicate in Japanese. Unfortunately, high-speed everyday Japanese is not too easy for me to understand, and so Takayuki-san (normally you'd call a Japanese person by their last name and then "san", but I use his first name) switched to English and I tried to use Japanese.

Takayuki-san's hobbies are computers, visiting temples and shrines, and watching movies (that's what he wrote on his form). We first went over to his dorm to talk for a while (he has a car, which is nice). I watched some Japanese TV (which, during certain programs, you can hit a button to switch to an English audio channel), saw Takayuki-san's computer, and looked at what kinds of things he kept in his room (books, foods, utensils, etc). When it was time for dinner, we picked up one of his friends from down the hall, and headed just down the street to the Okonimi House.

I told Takayuki-san that I would like to try different Japanese foods, and that I like just about everything I eat. He suggested Okonomiyaki, which is a cross between an omelet, a pizza, and a pancake. To make okonomiyaki (yaki means fried), one first takes eggs and mixes them with a flour-based mix. Next, various meats and/or vegetables are added (just like pizza, there are many possibilities). Some ingredients one could choose from: beef, ham, pork, squid, shrimp, scallops, octopus, mochi (rice dough), cheese, green onions, corn, onions. The batter is then poured onto a heated surface where it is fried like a large, thick pancake. After the egg is cooked throughout, the okonomiyaki can be topped with any of the following things: dried fish flakes (which "squirm" in an odd manner when heated; I think they're called kezuribushi), seaweed powder, mayonnaise, cheese, mochi, hot sauce, okonomi sauce (similar to BBQ sauce, but sweeter and less tomato-ey).

Sometimes you cook okonomiyaki yourself at your own table (each table had a built-in frying area), but you can also have the restaurant cook it for you, and just use your table to keep it warm (which is what we did). To eat it, you simply cut a chunk off with your chopsticks and transfer it to the plate in front of you.

My particular okonomiyaki had ham, cheese, mochi, fish flakes, seaweed powder, and mayo. Here's a photo. It was delicious!

Miscellaneous Food 21 Jan 1999
Here are some foods and snacks I took pictures of for the fun of it:

"Favorite Flavor" Cracker Mix - This particular snack food has many different things in it. It mostly consists of rice cracker-based stuff, but also has (from what I could translate): peanuts, cookies, seaweed, dried green peas, sesame seeds, sea slug, fried mochi rice cake, squid, and shrimp.

Curry Crackers
These crunchy crackers are flavored with curry seasoning. Normally "curry" in Japan is a beef (or other meat) gravy sauce spiced with curry powder and eaten with rice. These crackers are coated with the same seasoning.

Karintou (Fried Dough Cake)
Yes, I know they look strange, but they're actually good. They're crunchy fried dough "things" flavored with molasses.

Yakisoba & Onigiri Snack
Yaki means fried, and soba means (thin) noodle. A common dish in Japan, yakisoba contains noodles, chinese cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, pickled ginger, seaweed powder, and a semi-sweet sauce (I don't know yet how the sauce is made). The onigiri label pictured here says "shiichikin mayoneezu" (Sea Chicken & Mayonnaise). I think Sea Chicken means tuna, but I'm not sure. Onigiri can contain many things, but this one is a big rice triangle wrapped in a thin sheet of seaweed, with a dab of tuna and mayo inside. This whole "meal" came from Lawson Station, as you might have been able to tell from the chopstick wrapper.

Ohagi (rice/bean sweets) (view inside container)
These consist of rice and azuki an (sweet red bean paste). The top two have rice inside and bean paste outside; the middle two have bean paste inside, then rice, then soybean flour outside; the bottom two have bean paste inside, then rice, then seaweed outside. These were purchased from the same street vendor you saw in [1.12].

Conversation Partner, Japanese Restaurant 22 Jan 1999
I saw my conversation partner today. Since we both have a class at JCMU that ends at 3:00 PM on Tuesday and Thursday, we usually get together (writing retrospectively) on those days and do something. Today he took me to a Japanese restaurant called Sato for a tempura meal.

When we entered the restaurant, we were offered a table. We took our shoes off before we sat down in the booth. Here's why. (Hint: my toes were very warm when this picture was taken.)

Tempura is basically "lightly breaded fried stuff." Normally a tempura meal will have fried seafood and vegetables (for example: prawn (large shrimp), Japanese squash, Japanese eggplant, carrot slice, green bell pepper, seaweed strip). Tempura is not supposed to be heavy or greasy, but fresh and light. With the meal we also had a "side order" of yakitori (remember: yaki means fried; tori means chicken in this case). Yakitori is almost like a chicken shish-kebob with a soy-based sauce on it. In this picture you can see the tempura meal and the yakitori.

The meal included the tempura itself, a bowl in which to dip the tempura before you transfer it from the plate to your mouth (filled with... you ready?... tempura dipping sauce), some kind of chilled tofu (I think) in a lightly sweet broth, pickled daikon (daikon is a mild, giant radish about as big around as your upper arm and about 18 inches long), miso soup (fermented bean paste soup), and, of course, rice (here's Takayuki-san eating his rice). The meal also came with o-cha, which is Japanese green tea. I think the total bill was about $17 per person (splitting the yakitori price). Dining in Japan is expensive (and this is a halfway cheap restaurant)!

Sugimoto Bar 22 Jan 1999
Thursday is "foreigner"/JCMU night (as you may have read before) at the Sugimoto Bar. I don't go every Thursday, but I did go this Thursday. Here are a few pictures I accumulated:

Goofin' Around
Pictured: Tom Acker, Brian Pitaniello, Bob Trombley.

Cherokee Magic (step 1)
Cherokee Cain makes his secret concoction he calls "Cherokee Magic." He won't reveal the recipe.
(See the sign that says "Do not forget to pay!"? In this bar, you drink however much you want, and then you tell Sugimoto-san at the end of the night how much you drank and pay him for it. Interesting way of doing things. What if you lose track?)

Cherokee Magic (step 2)
The finished mix. Cherokee says, "Here we have Cherokee Magic. Some say there's a little bit of fairy dust in every sip." Yes, he does say this when he's sober, too.

Cherokee Magic (step 3)
Let's see if the locals like it...
(Pictured in center: Junko, Ritsuko)

Sugimoto-san Himself
Here he is making some shrimp kebobs.

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