Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bye Bye, Magic

There is a dull pain in my heart. In less than 24 hours we will be leaving Owase. Strangely, we have both been taken ill these 2 days. Maybe it’s because we have been worn out by the frenzy of farewell parties and packing over the last few weeks. Maybe, as Erik puts it, it’s because subconsciously, we do not want to leave.

The past year has been magical for us. To leave the magic behind is tough. But I believe we will be able to relive this magic again. Someday.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It’s hard to say goodbye

In 2 weeks, Erik and I will be leaving Owase, our home for the past year.

It’s not easy, because there are a number of people whom I have grown to love during our time here and whom I know I may never get to meet again for a very long time.

It gets even harder when the kids I teach start getting emotional about my leaving. Every time a school holds a farewell ceremony for me and the kids and teachers are singing at the top of their voices, I find myself trying very hard to fight back the tears.

I was most touched during the farewell ceremony at Kata Elementary School, when the kids did a public recital on what they have learnt to-date in my English classes. Particularly memorable was what the 5th graders did - an imitation of what I had previously taught them for self-introductions (basically spoofs of Ponyo, Obama and myself). How I wish I could video the entire event. It was the best farewell gift they could ever give me, by remembering what I had taught them.

During the last 11 months, Erik and I have experienced the purest of hearts, the kindest of souls and the most innocent of smiles. We’ve met many people who have gone out of their way for us not because they want anything in return but because they genuinely care and want to be our friends. We’ve led a back-to-basics life, deriving pleasures from simple hobbies, dinner parties and stunning sceneries, which is in stark contrast to our fast-paced, often materialistic culture in Singapore. These are my favourite memories of Owase.

13 more days, and we shall continue to cherish every moment, before it’s time to say goodbye.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The best sushi in the world

Owase is known to have some of the freshest and best seafood in Japan, and it is of no wonder that the best sushi is also found here. We’re not talking about sushi found in the kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) shops, but the real stuff served in the real sushi bars.

Since ala-carte orders at such sushi bars usually come at killer prices (sometimes up to 70,000 yen for a meal), the most cost-effective choice is to go for the sushi moriawase (mixed sushi), which are usually priced from 1,000 yen for for the lowest quality and smallest portion. The top quality deals start from 3,000 yen. Extremely reasonable prices, I think. Note: “lowest quality” in Owase equates to “top quality” in many places, including the Japanese cities. Even our Japanese friend from Osaka (where conveyor belt sushi originated from) attests to the fact that sushi in Tokyo and Osaka cannot beat the ones you find in Owase’s supermarkets. As for Singapore’s case, I think “lowest quality” in Owase would be equivalent to the “highest quality” you can ever find in the city.

After trying out some of the most popular sushi bars in Owase, we've decided on our favourite – and that is Hana Zushi 華ずし. For its’ lively ambience, extremely friendly and generous owner/chef and lady boss, and its’ great value for money.

The art of making great tasting sushi requires great skills. In the most delicious sushi bars, the sushi chef dips his hands into ice cold water before shaping the rice to ensure that his body temperature does not affect the temperature and texture of the sushi. Hana Zushi is where you can find such a chef. His hands are as red as a lobster from the constant contact with the icy water, and maybe that is what you call professionalism – something that we really admire.

At Hana Zushi, we’ve tasted the best of sushi – including abalone, hon maguro/kuro maguro toro (tuna belly of black tuna, or commonly known as the original tuna and the king of fish. For the record, a black tuna is often auctioned for millions of yen in Japan), and most recently, live akaashi ebi (translated as red legged shrimp) sushi. To be honest, we had the fortune of eating these delicacies without really having to pay for them. All thanks to the wonderful owner, who seems to just want his customers to have a good time.

That’s not all. Hana Zushi serves a mean chawanmushi too – so good that to say it is gourmet is an understatement.

If you are a sushi or chawanmushi fan, come to Owase and you will understand the world of difference.

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The extremely friendly owner/ chef. 



Left: Hana Zushi branded teacup; Right: the heavenly chawanmushi.



Colourful and gourmet sushi.



Left: “Live” red legged shrimp; Right: Hon maguro toro (black tuna belly).



The TanTans and friends enjoying every bit of their “live” red legged shrimp treat.

Witness the freshness for yourself!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Japanese English Jokes!

We just had dinner at our favourite tempura restaurant and these are some of the jokes our elderly Japanese friends told us:

When a Japanese tells you “Agetofu” (literally: fried tofu); he or she is trying to say: “I get off” in English.

When he or she says “Saito Shingu” (literally: Saito family’s worship items); he or she is trying to mean: “sightseeing” in English.

When he or she says “Hota imo ijiru na” (literally: Don’t tamper with the picked potatoes), he or she is trying to mean: “What time is dinner?” in English.

Here's another common joke: Whenever I go, "I will show you...", kids would exclaim "shoyu!", thinking that I am talking about soy sauce.

And this is what I tell my kids when I teach them days of the week.

Monday: Manjyu (Japanese bun) Day.

Tuesday: is Tuesday. I couldn’t think of anything funny.

Wednesday: Ue (up there) nesu Day.

Thursday: Tasukete (Help!) Day.

Friday: Ebifry (fried prawns) Day.

Saturday: Satsuma imo (sweet potato) Day.

Sunday: ichi, ni, san (1, 2, 3) Day.

Just for laughs!