As a foreigner in Japan, you’re prone to be asked whether you like natto. Or, most likely, whether you “can eat it”. You may wonder what’s the deal with this stuff? Well, in a nutshell, natto is made of fermented soy beans, and strictly speaking rotten food (however, so is yogurt ^_^). The problem is that the powerful smell makes you believe in its rotten state quite easily. And the taste … let’s say it can be an acquired taste. Furthermore, eating proves to be quite difficult, due to long strings that emerge when you try to lift some of the beans. You can recognize people eating natto from a distance, because they make this typical, circular movement with the chopsticks in front of their mouths, trying to get rid of these strings. Take a look at the pictures to get a better impression. Now, to the big question: Can I eat it? – during my first stay in Japan with a host family, I didn’t have much choice, and somehow got used to it; later, each visit to Japan has been accompanied by eating it at least once, wanting to give it another try. (It’s definitely better than yogurt.) Recently, however, I surprised (and slightly scared) myself with the realization that I gradually develop a liking for it. In fact, I bought several packs already, eating natto for about every other breakfast during the last two weeks – together with some fruits, green tea, and white rice, if available. The first three pictures display my “morning natto”, followed by one from a restaurant where we ordered natto mixed with pieces of raw tuna.
In Tokyo, we went to a special eel restaurant; pretty secluded, tiny, a real insider tip. The food was great, too, all in all a real wonderful experience … however, I wouldn’t order again the stuff you can see on the 5th pic: Sake (rice wine) heated together with a piece of roasted eel. The taste was strange, naturally pretty fishy, and tolerable if you didn’t breath in while drinking. The smell, however, was another story. :-) On the other hand, after we bravely finished the sake, the piece of fish tasted wonderful.
Then, two shots from the symposium (cf. the Kusatsu entry): As typical for Japanese events, attendance is obligational, but sleeping through it is totally accepted. So, after spending most of the nights partying, this was a common sight. However, I have to laugh every time I see that pic, so I decided to share it with you. Next, I guess I have to explain this “cocaine photo”… well, we were fooling around a bit, and some of this white powder got spilled – actually, it’s “Pocari Sweat” powder, used for making this popular (though too sweet) soft drink by yourself.
On a particular crowded day, we chose to leave the cafeteria, just take our food outside and make a kind of picnic. Nothing special, but fun. Then, one of the parties at an izakaya (Japanese-style pub) near our dorm. Looks like Kiwa-san on the left never can sit still ;-)) The following photo was taken during one of our many visits to a sushi restaurant (kaitenzushi): Comparing my 5 plates in the front with the 14 of someone from our group looks kinda ridiculous, doesn’t it?
This green drink from the 11th picture tastes exactly as it looks like (which is not a good thing): A wild mixture of carrots, apples, grapes, radish, green pepper, celery, green peas, asparagus, kale, cabbage, pumpkin, lemon, and other stuff (all in all 24 such ingredients). Whoever invited this unfitting medley of fruits and vegetables should be shot! There’s also a red variant of that juice, but I don’t really want to know what’s inside that one. Ahh, well, I’ll have to try it eventually (you know me; if there’s something new and unknown, I can’t resist), so I’ll acquire this unwanted knowledge in time, too. Update: After drinking some more of it, I about got to like this green stuff (I don’t really need the red one again, though). Next is a photo of bread backed with fish eggs (mentai). It tastes better than it looks like, but too salty, if you ask me.
The last row shows two photos with stuff from Akihabara: The first one is an arranged picture with something that is supposed to look like one of these “adult manga books”, but in reality is a package of cookies. The second shows a vending machine (mostly) with actual food instead of drinks: curry noodles, buckwheat noodles, etc. Crazy? Yes!! Last one of today’s entry: Not a photo, but an ad I found at the Yahoo Weather page: Is this boy pushing up his glasses, or does the image depict a rather crude, yet well known gesture?