Dangerous Bicycles

June 21, 2008

Let me start today’s post with my two cents worth about driving bicycle: Depending on the time, this is a troublesome venture in Japan. If your timing is bad, you’re facing masses of Japanese people packed together, running around without looking left nor right. It’s like pushing a stick into an ant hill … only that you are the stick. And you’re the size of the ants. And the ants are half blind, not attacking you, but bumping against everything and apologizing. Hmmm, I just realize this might not be the best analogy ever. OK, OK, it sucks. But you get the picture. 😉 Well, you know, I generally love Japanese, but dealing with them in a traffic situation can be quite annoying. I really wish they’d pay more attention to their surrounding (which would also allow them to go/drive faster, and still being save). I’m speaking about pedestrians and bicycle drivers here – especially the latter ones are quite often extremely slow, which allows them to crash against other people without much damage, but also hinders me while driving. Sometimes, I want to enlighten people here by explaining that bicycles work much better if you apply at least some pressure to the pedals – then, they tend to actually move forward, even if there is no downward slope of the road. They are pretty neat inventions, if you know how to use them.

In the past, I posted quite some pictures about food. Meals from restaurants, stuff I prepared myself, or just strange things you can find at supermarkets. As for the latter part, let me tell you the normal procedure: It naturally starts with going shopping – which is something I don’t necessarily like in Germany, but here, I totally enjoy being able to buy lots of things that I don’t get back home … and, in the best case, things that I don’t even know (yet). If this happens, I’m normally just buying it, then at home having to look up the kanji in a dictionary to understand what I actually bought; then, a search in the Internet begins, to find out what I can do with it.
One of such “supermarkt hunts” resulted in getting hoya … Check out the 6th picture. I found the English translation “sea squirt” (in German: “Manteltier”. Whatever). When seeing it on display, I had to buy it immediately. Well, after quite some searching, I found two recipes: The first possibility is to cut it open and eat the yellowish part raw. The second is to fry this piece. So, at first, I tried it raw, of course. It had a very strange taste … a bit bitter, a bit sweet, hard to describe. But fried, it tasted somehow similar to scallop, therefore pretty good.

After a lot of searching, I finally got something that shouldn’t have taken me that long to find: grasshopper, fried and seasoned with soy sauce. They look great, taste nice, and are simply fun to eat. After serving some of them at a small party at my apartment, I brought the rest to the lab with me the next day: Well, even though they’re supposed to be a not-too-extraordinary food here in Japan, we had heaps of fun. Some people were reminded of their childhood, some tried the grasshoppers curiously for the first time, and some plainly refused to eat insects. I had a somewhat similar, but generally more positive reaction when I bought roasted fish bones some weeks ago: Strangely, people have less problems regarding them as food, even though they really are garbage, if you think about it. However, I had to admit that they turned out to be a great snack: Very crunchy, a bit salty, tasting like fish – what else could you wish for? As a side note: While writing these lines, thinking back to the described and similar events, I’m getting the impression that due to my presence in Tsukuba, even some of the Japanese here broaden their horizon by eating some strange or interesting Japanese food for the first time. Well, what can I say, I’m good at finding such stuff ^_^.



  1. Finally you found Grasshopper!
    The last thing from Tsukuba must be ‘oil of frog’.

    I am really glad that you also like it as well.
    Until when do you stay in Japan. I am looking forward to talk to you again soon!

  2. “Dangerous Bicycles” blog was really good!!
    It is so true and it has such a good tone that I could not stop laughing as I read it. The guy that was sitting next to me (NIC) even asked me if I was OK….
    May be some people over here do not have proper obstacle detection and avoidance algorithms, or the priority of such processes is very low ^^ (may be the sensing is not good as well).

    May be life would be better with less liquorice and sweet bean cakes and with more milk products eh??

    Your blog is really nice!! See you around!!

  3. [@Mayumi]
    Yeah, right. I’m expectantly waiting for this “toad festival” on August 3rd – can’t wait to see what this is all about. ^_^ Shall I bring you some “frog oil” when I return to Germany? 🙂

  4. [@Luis]
    Thanks for your nice comment. I’m always glad to hear that people like my blog. Though I can’t really subscribe to your other comment – more milk products? NEVER! What a bad idea. ^^ And don’t say anything against the sweet beans – they are great, hehe.

    See you!

  5. Yes, please!!
    Frog oil says “it cures all of your skin problem”.
    I am very interesting how it works 🙂

  6. […] the title, let me start this entry with some more words about Japanese oddity… In this previous entry, I complained about Japanese bicycle drivers – mainly about their slowness. In Tsukuba, there […]

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