Student Blogs/Erica in Japan

I’m half Japanese on my mother’s side so I stayed with family for the first week. At night, there are so many bugs! Bug spray and ムヒ(like anti itch but it actually works) are heavily recommended.

I stayed with my grandma for the first few days and she helped me out with so many things! I also stayed with my aunt, uncle and cousin before heading to school for orientation week. I took this time to get acclimatized to things, learn Japanese style cooking and getting used to biking in Japan.

a panoramic view of green mountains against the sky in Nara

View of Nara, near where my grandmother lives

Shopping

When you’re shopping, a lot of the products look so unfamiliar, even going to places like the drugstore or the supermarket. If you don’t have family in Japan to help you, there are things you can do through the university like speaking partners and home-speaking partners. They’re native Japanese people that you can pair up with and organise times to meet and talk about any issues or just to have as a friend, give you advice and it’s a chance to practice Japanese. Even if you have family here or are doing home-stay it is still a great idea!

My grandma helped me understand many Japanese norms such as hanging your washing outside (which I find weird) and taught me some simple Japanese recipes. As I’m staying in residence, I’ll have to cook for myself. If you’re planning on cooking for yourself, it would be a good idea to look up some Japanese recipes beforehand because those ingredients will be easier to find in the store. For example, before leaving for Japan I became obsessed with the drink kombucha. However in Japan, kombucha is a completely different drink than it is in North America and one which I really don’t care for. You just can’t find the particular kombucha I’m used to. What I’m really saying is have a backup plan when it comes to food and expect things to be a little different.

Cooking aside, there are so many types of food here! Certain areas in Japan are better known for particular dishes. Around Hiroshima, they have ‘okonomiyaki’ (similar to cabbage pancakes and they typically have pork in them) with fried noodles. Those particular pancakes are usually called Hiroshima style okonomiyaki. I ate a Kansai style okonomiyaki since I am currently living in the Kansai area and these don’t typically have fried noodles.

Food

Kansai style Okonomiyaki being cut and Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki being brought to the table.

If you go to Kobe, which is fairly close to Hirakata you can get Kobe beef. It’s up there in price but it’s really good and popular to try as well. There are many other unique foods that could be considered more regional that I recommend people try, like purple potatoes, yuzu, different types of udon, soba and sushi.

In general, if you are grabbing some ready to eat meals at a grocery/department store there are things like ‘tonkatsu’ (pork fried with panko), ‘korokke’ (potatoes mixed with other things and fried with panko), ‘karaage’ (fried chicken), ‘tempura’ (fried things like shrimp or vegetables) and ‘teriyaki’ (usually chicken or beef cooked with teriyaki sauce).

Festival foods are also a must try. There are several festivals year round and they’re always fun to go to. One of my favourite festival foods is baby castella, which is like mini cakes.

And just to make you hungrier here are some photos of other food that I’ve been eating so far:

yellow shaved ice in a bowl

Kakigouri in Nara at Nara Park

 

a bowl or ramen noodles

Ramen in Nipponbashi

 

a bowl of sabo noodles with chopsticks resting on the side

Abura Soba in Hirakata-shi

 

a stack of large fluffy pancakes

Pancakes in Osaka

There are many other amazing things to eat that I haven’t even mentioned and still have yet to try, but I am so looking forward to it!

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