Wednesday, February 25, 2009

KitKat bars flavored with red beans? Yes, it's true!

Hello! Recently I learned that Japan has several different flavors of KitKat bars. I'm not sure how this bit of information slipped by me since I seem to spend a fair amount of time in the candy aisle at our local convenience store. The only reason I can think of is that I might have glanced over the packaging as soon as I saw the word "KitKat." I mean, if there are all kinds of wonderful Japanese candies to try, why on earth would you waste your time with a KitKat bar? After doing a bit of googling, I discovered that there are many flavors of KitKats all around the world, and a nice person over at flickr has compiled a photo album of some of the varieties:

Seiko brought me a gift of one of the KitKat bars flavored with Japanese red bean paste. The taste was unusual---not quite what I was expecting. Not bad, not great. I'll be on the lookout for more flavors. I promise.

Oh, I can't end my blog today without sending birthday wishes to my nephew Henrik. He's 14 today! Or tomorrow, what with the time difference. Argh. You know what I mean!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Shrine for the Happy Cat? I'm not sure.

Illuminated display during the day

Illuminated display at night

A cool wood-carving that we saw on display at this little bookstore near the restaurant

Mr. Owl

This is called "easy patchwork." Easy? I don't think so.

Glove puppy

Not sure what inspired me to put a shamrock on his bottom other than I thought it was cute because Zach is Irish.

Hello! I hope everyone is having a great Friday. I finally uploaded our photos from our Valentine's Day dinner last weekend and thought you might enjoy seeing our outing to the town of Gotemba at the base of Mt. Fuji. We went to a German all-you-can-eat buffet (strange choice, I know!) arranged by the base tour folks. The restaurant is located next to a park, which apparently puts together an illuminated display every year from January through March. The weather happened to be freakishly warm (Zach wore shorts!) on Saturday, and as a result, the poor plum blossoms around town are confused and starting to pop out. The weather is now back to its chilly ways, and today we got rain.

I also wanted you to check out a couple of my latest craft projects. The first is a picture that I made from a kit that I bought at the Yokohama quilt show. It's name translated into English is "easy patchwork" but I wouldn't call it easy, and this is probably the only one I will make. The surface is covered with an adhesive, kind of like tape, and you cut your shapes from fabric and press them onto the surface with a sharp, pointed tool. It's not so hard with the large pieces, but once you get into the smaller and tighter areas, things start to get frustrating. Or at least they did for me. I was also working with directions in Japanese, relying heavily on photos and illustrations to get me through. Sometimes this was easy, and sometimes it wasn't. I should have asked Seiko or one of my other Japanese friends to translate them for me, but I was too impatient as usual.

The other project is a dog that I made using a pair of gloves from the 100 yen shop. It's from the book Sock and Glove by Miyako Kanamori, a Japanese woman. It is now available in English if any of you are interested. She also recently came out with a second book called Happy Gloves, which I also own and recommend. The projects are so cute and easy. I made this little guy in a couple days, working on it off and on when I had time.

Okay, that's it for today. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Entrance to the snow monkey park

Because there is the situation...

Oh, I had to make sure you saw this. My day started off with this lovely, wonderful roll shaped like Anpanman. To my surprise and delight, it was filled with chocolate pudding!

Zach is making sure that everything is safe ahead.

"Does the monkey see me?"

This monkey was too busy searching for food pellets thrown out by the park staff to notice me, thank goodness!

And this one too!

View of the mountains surrounding Nagano

Cute tiger I saw along the way

Zenkoji Temple

Hello! We had a very busy day on Saturday, taking a five-hour bus trip (one way!) to Nagano, where the 1998 winter Olympics were held. Our mission: to see the snow monkeys bathing in the natural hot springs at the Jigokudani Monkey Park. And the monkeys did not disappoint. Yes, it was a long bus ride and a bit of a hike in to the area where the monkeys hang out, but I thought it was great to see them up close. They have a live webcam, so you can all see them if you wish. Here's the address: We were told not to the stare at the monkeys or they would try to attack you, and we also were told not to feed the monkeys either. I was surprised at how close we got to them. The caretakers of the grounds threw out food pellets around the area so the monkeys were digging for the pellets in the snow when we got there.

The area of Nagano is just gorgeous, and I took some nice pictures of the surrounding mountains. It made me miss Washington a lot. They grow a ton of apples in this area of Japan, and we saw many apple orchards covered in snow along the way.

The second half of our tour included a stop at the Zenkoji Temple. It was a very busy place on Saturday, and we had difficulty hearing our tour guide, who was soft-spoken. As a result, we had no idea why we were all guided down this dark staircase and into a tunnel that was absolutely pitch-black. I held on to Zach, who was in front of me, and I just slid along the floor (you have to take your shoes off in temples in Japan). I kept asking, "Why are we doing this?" and no one around me could tell me why. At the time I kept thinking to myself, "What if there was an earthquake right now, with all these people underneath a temple, in the dark, in a tunnel/maze thing, and no idea how to get out?" Of course, I kept my crazy thoughts to myself until afterward (I wasn't about to start a stampede!), but really, how could you not think of it? So, do you want to know why we went on this little trek? Apparently the metal Key to Paradise is hanging on a wall along the way, and you are supposed to touch it to gain enlightenment and a future in paradise. Neither Zach nor I touched the key, so no paradise for us I guess! There was no way I was going back down into that corridor of creepiness to find paradise, and Zach wasn't volunteering either.

I hope you enjoy our photos from the trip. It was another great day in Japan!