What were you thinking, Suntory?

31 01 2010

Chocolate milk flavoured sparkling water. Think: smells like chocolate milk, tastes like chocolate milk mixed with lemonade.

Benno liked it, but Lara thought the combination was just wrong.

new combination of soda and chocolate flavour

Give me “Fe”

27 01 2010

I was feeling a little iron deficient today, so I decided that for dinner we would have a ‘Give me iron curry” like this one.

I used 4 large potatoes, 1 cup of uncooked red lentils, 100g of cooked spinach, an onion, some carrot and some curry cube mix and pre-mixed curry powder. Served with brown rice and 20g of chopped parsley, each serving (by my rough calculations) has 11.64mg of iron. That is 35% of the daily pre-menopausal female recommended iron intake (33mg).

Add to that breakfast of oatmeal with a banana and fortified soymilk (another 8.26 mg for 1 (american) cup of oats) and snacks of cashews (1/4 cup 2.1mg) and sesame seeds (4T 2.0mg) and that makes 24mg of iron.

Add in lunch (left over curry with brown rice) and there’s 35.64mg of iron in a 3 daily meals/snacks. (Although the male daily iron requirments are only 14mg a day – it’s not body builders that need high iron diets, it’s women with babies).

It’s a pity postgraduate nutrition degrees take 2 years of full time, full-fee paying study otherwise I might just consider it…

Tokyo FAIL

26 01 2010

After work on Saturday we both headed into Tokyo on the express bus. Benno bought a new toy, a metallic blue Nintendo DS with a kanji learning game, a dictionary and Zelda. We ate some vegan soymilk doughnuts from NY Doughnut Plant near Akihabara station. Benno at a Yuzu orange flavour and Lara ate a Fruits Tomato from Kochi. Interesting.

We met up with Shannon and Lucy and went to find Hanada Rosso…only it wasn’t where we thought it should be. There was only a bike shop featuring a bright pink bike. Benno inquried and Hanada Rosso had moved…FAIL…so we caught the train again to Harajuku where Hanada Rosso now lives. We ate burgers (with mustard and mayo) and ‘fish and chips’ with parfait and bancha.

Afterwards we joined the girls for some Karaoke. Emma was kind enough to let us stay at her house overnight. She has a lovely, warm, modern apartment.

The next day we were planning on seeing Avatar in 3D with Emma in Roppongi Hills. But the session we were planning on going to had already sold out by 11am so we choose another time but unfortunately had go to on our own :-(. In the meantime we bought a kg of cashews, got lost, were filmed in the background of some drama, walked lots, misread the  vegan pockeguide and caught the subway to a restaurant that wasn’t open on weekends…FAIL…and struggled to find lunch until we bought some vegan bagels from Bagel & Bagel in one of the subway stations. There are lots of vegan bagels to choose from. Plain, Sesame, Pumpkin, Potato Pepper, Soymilk & Edamame, Blueberry, Cinnamon Raisins, Maple Walnuts, Vanilla. Yay! We had to rush to get back to the cinema on time, and somehow Lara lost her subway ticket…FAIL…only to have the nice inspector give her a new ticket to exit the gates free of charge.

Seats in Japanese cinemas (or at least at Toho Cinemas, Roppongi Hills) are allocated so there’s no point rushing in for the best seats. We ate Cobs popcorn sent to us from Andrew and Emily while watching the movie with our 3D glasses. It was in English with Japanese subtitles. I thought there would be more foreigners there. I regretted eating the maple and walnut and cinnamon raisin bagels before going into the movie…FAIL…i had bad virtual motion sickness from about t=30mins until t=90mins where I had to take off the 3D glasses and close my eyes for a little while until my brain adjusted to the movie. From t=90mins until the end (3 hours later) I was fine and really enjoyed the movie.

We had about 35 minutes to get to the express bus to make the 6pm bus back to Kisarazu. We rushed onto the subway, transfered, got onto another line, exited at Tokyo eki, rushed through the eki to the Yaesu side, climbed the stairs and saw our bus waiting. Then a stupid Japanese man stopped us, asked us what stop we wanted to get off at, then pointed at the now departing bus saying “that’s the bus you want’…FAIL…so we had to wait another 40mins because of that man who then told us to move and wait elsewhere because he thought we weren’t waiting in the correct line…FAIL…after so many fails I was ready to leave Japan and never come back again.

We had some awesome burgers for dinner at home – thick bread with caramalised onion, soymince patties, tomato sauce, cucumber, lettuce, tomato slices, grated carrot, mayo and mustard. Then it was time for bed as school starts 7.30am Monday mornings.

Vegan Snacks in the Supermarket

20 01 2010

How to survive in Japan as a vegan:

1. Eat in vegan restaurants or vegan friendly (e.g. macrobiotic) restaurants. Other restaurants may not be so understanding and you may end up with fish stock (dashi) based dishes.

2. Cook yourself using raw ingredients. It’s easy to buy fruit and vegetables.

3. Eat snacks that have been confirmed as vegan. Oreos are not vegan in Japan, many snack products have fish, very few noodles/cup ramen are safe. Items labeled as “soy…” will probably contain dairy milk so they are not guaranteed.

The following snacks we have at our local Apita supermarket. They are vegan and tasty. In addition, zensai, dried mochi, jams, peanut paste, red bean jam and gyoza wrappers are ok. Tofu is mostly ok, but be careful with pre-fried tofu. Breads almost always contain milk- go to a proper bakery and check the allergy labels to find dairy and egg free bread. There is only one vegan loaf at our local Apita bakery.

January Grand Sumo Tournament

18 01 2010

On Sunday we went to the sumo again.

In the morning we had no luck finding doughnuts at Tokyo eki (they rotate the flavours and there were no vegan soymilk doughnuts that day) or soy icecream at a Seiyu supermarket.

Feeling a little dejected we bought some yatsuhashi wrappers and ate red bean mochi on the way to the sumo stadium.

Around lunch time we settled into our seats to watch the junior ranking sumos compete. In one match a much larger opponent (maybe 60-80kg heavier, at least) landed on a smaller sumo’s knee. He looked to be in pain and the knee was probably broken as he got carried off.

There was lots of throwing – the judges were landed on several times and the front row of seats was a dangerous place to sit with sumo falling off the dohyo and rolling over the first 3 rows.

At 3pm the middle ranking sumo paraded in their aprons – one had a Hello Kitty embroided on his. By 4pm the highest ranked wrestlers had started and all seats were filled. We listened to the English commentary on our radio. The last few bouts were full of tension as the sumo wrestlers stood throwing salt, stretching and psyching each other out. However, the final match was over in about 5 seconds with a quick defeat.

After the sumo we met Emma and had dinner at It’s Vegetable, a Chinese/Taiwanese vegetarian restaurant.

Kisarazu at sunset

15 01 2010

Mt Fuji at sunset. That day we even experienced some rare snow flurries falling at around 3.30pm. The large flakes were gone as soon as they came.

I was researching about Japan’s energy sources today for class. 30% of its energy comes from its 55 nuclear reactions scattered around the country. 60% of its energy comes from imported natural gas (from Australia) and other fuels. Fuutsu, a couple towns south of here, has (the world’s?) largest gas power plant.

One thing I miss is the feeling of being environmental. It’s really hard to feel like you’re being eco – everything is covered in plastic, electricity (heating and cooling) usage is huge due to lack of insulation, most food (apart from rice) is imported (giant food miles), organics are hard to find…


7 01 2010

On our epic local train journey home from Hakuba to Kisarazu we stopped off at Matsumoto to visit the famous Matsumoto-jo.

While I was disappointed that it wasn’t covered in snow like every building was in Hakuba, we were still able to enjoy the pigeon-mountain on top of the castle.

Looking across the inner moat at Matsumoto-jo.

Nagano-ken Snow Monkeys

6 01 2010

After the first day of skiing we went to a local onsen to soothe our muscles. But after 2 days of beginners skiing it was time for a break from sore knees, shoulders, ankles, cold toes and fingers. We caught a couple of local buses from Hakuba to Nagano and beyond to the Jigokudani Monkey Onsen Park.

“Wild” Japanese monkeys live in the park and when it is cold they like to hang out in the hot spring onsen. It was a 30 minute walk up the mountain along slippery ice/snow paths before we could reach the monkeys in their natural surroundings. There were two film crews filming the monkeys and one of the teams interviewed Benno in Japanese about where he was from and his experience of visiting the monkeys… maybe he will be on Japanese TV?!

The monkeys were really cute and quite tame (they didn’t mind cameras pointing in their faces). Although some of them had their grumpy faces on display the day we visited…

There is a “Monkey WebCam” set up outside the onsen that takes photos every hour and posts them online. We got caught being uninteresting at midday. You can see the monkeys too.

When we came back to the hostel the snow had piled up and in some places we had to walk through almost knee-high powder snow. So soft, but so cold and wet.

Skiing in Hakuba

6 01 2010

As the train ride went higher north and into the Japanese Alps we started seeing snow covering the houses and rice fields. By the time we reached Hakuba it was heavily snowing, everything covered in a couple metres of snow and several degrees below zero.

It was totally magical to see snow (and in such huge quantities) for the first time. Looking out the window of the hostel we could watch the snow falling and building up on the rooves and gardens outside.

We booked a group ski lesson with Evergreen for our first morning skiing, but we were the only 2 in the group so it was like a private lesson. Richard took us up to Hakuba 47, to a beginners slope that was at the top of the mountain. It was snowing all day and so the powder was soft to fall on when it was too hard to turn or stop on the slope… 🙂 Then he took us down to Hakuba Goryu and we went down the beginners slope outside the Escal Plaza. Snowboarders came roaring down from the black double diamond that joined up with the beginners slope, but we kept on zig zagging slowly skiing down the hill… We didn’t fall over too many times, but the next day we limited ourselves to the same beginner’s slope in Goryu, and another (rather deserted) slope in Iimori that was flanked on both sides by tall, snow covered pine trees.

Evergreen were really good instructors and one of the only English ski instructors in Hakuba. K’s House Hakuba Alps is also highly recommended. Go say hello to Toshi and friends! We stayed at K’s house in Hiroshima as well and really love the clean rooms, great prices, new bathrooms, fully equiped kitchen, free internet and super friendly staff and guests. We could not love and recommend K’s enough!! Go stay there if you’re planning on going skiing in the Hakuba area – there are heaps of other Aussies and Kiwis that stay there so the atmosphere is really cosy and welcoming.