Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Ok so what is an okonomiyaki anyways (see picture above)? It is a pan-fried Japanese dish cooked with various ingredients. Okonomi means "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki means "grilled" or "cooked"; thus, the name of this dish means "cook what you like, the way you like". In Japan, okonomiyaki is usually associated with the Kansai or Hiroshima areas. In Hiroshima, the ingredients are layered rather than mixed together. The layers are typically batter, cabbage, pork, optional items (squid, octopus, cheese, etc.), noodles topped with a fried egg and a generous dollop of okonomiyaki sauce. In town there are various (by that I mean 1 million or more it's pathetic really) restaurants who specialize in this dish.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a work party in an okonomiyaki restaurant. I say lucky because now that one of my superioir left I'm officially the only foreigner left in the office so I did not expect to be invited. I guess all my effort in trying to say something (always grammatically wrong) payed off. Another cool part about the restaurant was their unique way of serving beer for ten people (see picture below):

Now isn't this effective or what? Please proceed to pour your own beer please!!! Overall I had a really good time with everyone and tried my best to fit in...including doing a karaoke song in Spanish after dinner. Hey what not? I have no idea what they are singing anyways so why not reverse it once in a while?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Back in the day in an island in the Caribbean Sea

I recently joined the Facebook networking service (http://www.facebook.com/) which lets you connect (in some cases re-connect) to your friends. Facebook is nothing new. I had previously rejected invitations to join but I recently received an e-mail from a high school friend letting me know that a 10 year reunion is in the works so I joined. To my extreme surprise everybody and their mother, father and cousins has joined this service and we are now all connected in the cyber world. If my high school classmates could find me in the Japan, I am convinced they can find ANYONE. It's only a matter of time before they get you too!!!
I am very glad to see how everyone's lives have turned out so far. Many people are moms, dads, married, lawyers, doctor, studying for their Masters or PHDs and/or working in companies all around the island or in the US. It's really crazy to think how we all started in the same place and ended up scattered all around the globe. As a result of all this reminiscing I began to look through my old pictures and found this one when I was Nicole Richie skinny in 1997:
This picture was taken in a amusement park the summer after High School when I went to visit Orlando in California. Check out the Wayne's World car in the background (Wayne's World...party time...excellent !!! Note: you can proceed to bob your head up and down now, if your too young to remember these movies please look it up in wikipedia.org). Then it lead me to ask myself (after receiving 10,000 e-mails from old friends asking me the same questions) how in the world did we end up A) Married to our High School sweetheart and B) in Japan? I don't really have a concrete answer for that. It can simply be explained by 2 one-way tickets, one from Puerto Rico to Michigan and the other 4 years later from Michigan to Japan. I guess your just going to have to meet up with me sometime when our paths cross again to fill in the blanks. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, they already have.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Beer Garden

Orlando and I got the opportunity to go to one of the beer gardens that have opened up for the summer around Hiroshima. Basically they take the top of the department stores and put some some tables and chairs outside and serve some beer and everyone is happy. This seems pretty normal except nothing is normal around here!!! We decided to go to this particular Beer Garden because it had a big Budweiser sign on the first floor. Hey it's Budweiser, how can you go wrong? Actually many thing can go wrong. First of all the menu was completely in Japanese so I just started blurting out random food (chicken, french fries, beef) and the waitress would tell us if they had it or not. After a while we started noticing that they would bring food to the other tables and for some reason (this will remain a life long mystery) started singing and dancing after they placed the food on the table. So as the nosy foreigners that we are we started to point at the table next to us and order the same thing in order to figure out the big mystery. These are the things that we discovered:
1. If you order french fries they bring them in a brown and proceed to sing and dance while shaking the bag.
2. If you order some sake they will come and do another song while squeezing a lemon (for your drink).
3. If you order an egg (boiled) they would sing and dance again but at the end they would break the egg open on your head. Since you are now "hurt" by this malignant egg they place a band aid on your four head.
Needless to say I have never laughed harder in my life. No wonder I was only able to take 2 pictures. Every time I would try the "head Budweiser girl" would come along and tell us that taking pictures was not permitted. Hey I would not want anyone to have proof of these "interesting entertainment" either.
Secondly they had Budweiser girls wearing the same lack of attire they wear in the US except these chicks where so skinny they could not fill them in!!! They are basically spandex with a Budweiser logo on. Hello those outfits are skin tight and they still had space to wiggle around!!!
Last but not least they had this guy singing karaoke songs with the Budweiser girls "dancing" (at least they thought they where dancing" to the music. I really think the kids in the elementary school in front of our apartment building could have done a better job. The picture is blurry because of the movement but you get the idea.
All I can say is that this was truly a ONLY IN JAPAN experience.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tokasan Festival

This weekend Hiroshima held their annual Tokasan Festival. People put on their Yukatas (summer kimonos) in order to go downtown and enjoy food, parades, summer bon dancing and games. It was very similar to "Las fiestas patronales" in Puerto Rico, except they served all kids of weird food!!! Yes they had my favorite: octopus!!! love it!!! Not!!! What ever happened to good old hamburgers?
People line up at the Tokasan (Enryuji) Temple, a mixed Buddhist and Shinto temple/shrine, which is adorned with red lanterns to pray for good luck by throwing a money offering into the shrine's coin box and clapping their hands.
Here are some people praying inside the temple.
On Saturday night we went to hang out and check out the festival. Along the way we found some of our friends in the middle of the mob of people. Now look carefully at the picture because this is how you properly wear a Yukata.
On Sunday I decided to join my neighbors in the fun and get dressed up. This is my best attempt at wearing a Yukata. Please feel free to laugh because I had no idea how to put this on, so my neighbor's mom (who is 100% Japanese) fixed it up before we left.
Here I am with the kids. Arent they the cutest (besides your own children) you have ever seen?
The kids had a blast and so did I!!! Everything was new and fun to them. We even had a chance to join in the bon dancing, here is a video:

I can't take a video of myself so your just going to have to imagine how "well" I followed the steps. I did find out one thing in the process, that the steps are simple because the yukatas are so tightly wrapped that you can bearly move!!! I guess I'll have better luck next year.