Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hanami 花見 in Osaka and Beef

The weekend has passes, Hanami season in Japan has officially begun and my vacation is grinding to s slow halt. Sunday involved me heading into Osaka and taking part in my first Hanami party. In a nutshell, Hanami is Japanese for "flower viewing." The cherry trees are beginning to blossom and to ring in this seasonal change, people all across Japan throw blue tarps on the ground under the cherry blossoms, fire up their bbq's and get pissed!

On Sunday afternoon, some local Kansai-based video bloggers (including myself) got together at Osaka Castle Park and had a little party.

People doing the "Hanami" thing in Osaka-jo Koen.

More Hanami in Osaka Castle Park.

Here's my Osaka Hanami contribution to You Tube!

Hanami in Osaka 花見

Last night I joined some coworkers for some Yakiniku 焼き肉. Yakiniku is basically Korean-style bbq! It was all you can eat and it was spectacular. I'm pretty sure that this as only the second time I've eaten this type of food in Japan.

Some great beef about to be grilled!

This yakiniku restaurant is located in Amagasaki, close to the JR Amagasaki station.

Yakiniku (焼き肉 or 焼肉), meaning "grilled meat", is a Japanese term which, in its broadest sense, refers to grilled meat dishes.

Today, it commonly refers to a Japanese style of cooking bite-sized meat (usually beef and offal) and vegetables on gridirons or griddles over flame of wood charcoals carbonized by dry distillation (sumibi, 炭火) or gas/electric grill. In North America, China and Taiwan, Yakiniku is also referred to as either "Japanese barbecue" or "Korean barbecue" [1][2] due to its Korean origins.

It is thought to have originated from horumonyaki, a dish of grilled offal, invented by Korean immigrants in the Kansai area after the Second World War.
Wikipedia....read more.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Yakitori and an Osaka Hike

Tonight I tried my hand at making "yakitori" 焼き鳥, やきとり. Yakitori is basically Japanese grilled chicken on a skewer. I added green onion, onion and green pepper as well. I also added some yakitori sauce. Lately, I've been becoming more interested in cooking new kinds of food. I'm also curious about trying new varieties of food here in Japan. AND, for the strangest reason, i can't stop thinking about ramen noodles!

The uncooked yakitori. Prepared at "Chez Kevin."

The yakitori sauce I told you about. Purchased at my local Daiei supermarket.

The final product. Cooked yakitori as seen just before Mai and I destroyed it!

Yesterday was a great day for a hike. I hoped on the train and went to Osaka, where I met up with another You Tube vlogger. We bombed around Osaka Castle Park on bikes and then were off to Nijo-san (Mt. Nijo) for some hiking.

The Osaka Mountain Men...post-hike.

Here's my video about the hike.
Osaka Mountain Men

See the original here.

Hanami 花見 and the WORST Pizza ever

Spring is in the air and the cherry blossoms are coming out to play. It's time for people all around Japan to head to their nearest park, spread a blue mat on the ground, fire up their bbq's and get pissed under the cherry trees. This yearly activity is called Hanami 花見 which literally means "cherry blossom viewing"

In this video, Japan's most famous vlogger Tokyocooney explains a little more about what Hanami is.

Life In Tokyo: Vlog #19 Hanami - Cherry Blossom Viewing

Now Tokyocooney organized the first You Tube Hanami party in Japan last year. It was held in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. I was in Canada freezing my ass off when it went down. I won't be able to make it to the second annual You Tube Hanami party which takes place tomorrow in Tokyo. I am not alone though and several other Kansai-based You Tubers can't make it up there either. We've all decided to band together and have our own little Hanami party at Osaka Castle Park tomorrow starting at 1:00pm.

On a food related note, I saw a video about pizza in Korea today that almost made me bust a gut. It was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.

If you've ever had the chance to live or visit Japan or Korea, you might notice that they do some very "interesting" things to their pizza. In Korea, when you order a pepperoni pizza, it's common to have it arrive with corn on top! Pizzas often come with mayonnaise, sweet potato and a variety of other "undesirable" toppings. Often the sauce has no spices, and the cheese is rubbery and of VERY poor quality.

I really appreciated this video:
Making Korean Pizza

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beef Soup and North Korean Missiles

This will probably be my last post about my recent trip to Korea. I'm of course back at home here in Kobe and it's time to start filming different aspects of life in Japan again. I'm having a lot of fun filming and editing "food" videos these days so I'll probably make another one Saturday. Tomorrow, I'll be hiking a mountain between Osaka and Nara Prefecture. I think it's called Nicosan. It will be my first time there and I'll be hiking with fellow You Tube vlogger, spydermurphy.

I posted my last Korea food video today. My wife and I ate something called "gook bap" 국밥 (soup with rice) one night will in Busan. the restaurant we at at was right behind the Save Zone store in Haeundae. We actually had "sogogi gook bap" 소고기 국밥 whcih is beef soup with rice. It was great and of course at 3,500 won, cheap. Lots of veggies and not greasy at all. Also, just a little heat (spiciness).

Sogi gook bap 소고기 국밥 in Busan (Haeundae Beach area).

Here's my latest food video about the gook bap.

Asia Eats: Kevin eats Sogogi Gookbap 소고기 국밥

You can see the original here.

Oh, and of course, in non-Kobe related things, people all around Japan are getting a little freaked out since North Korea (sworn enemy of Japan and vice versa) are planning to test 2 missiles within the next few days. These long range missles will probably be launched over Japan. Some cities in Northern Japan are actually conducting emergency drills since they expect falling debris from the missiles!

Read more on JapanToday and Canadian CTV News.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Food and Music

Another lovely day of vacation is upon me. I'm madly editing videos, but unfortunately my ancient laptop is causing me more frustration than anything. For some unexplained reason, it refuses to render videos once I've finished editing them. Hopefully the problem will resolve itself soon!

Lot's of things happening this week. Of course, the ONLY news on television here in Japan is the Japan's extra inning victory over South Korea to win the 2nd WBC. I'm assuming that there are a LOT of pissed off people over in Busan, where I just was. I didn't watch the game myself. I was out yesterday afternoon attempting to shop for new running clothes, but there were crowds of people gathered around every television in shops and in windows, watching the baseball game. I had no idea how obsessed Japanese people are in general about baseball. People REALLY love it here. I suppose they have the same relationship with baseball as many Canadians dowith hockey.

One of the big things about my recent trip to Korea that I enjoyed was the food. this trip had a lot to do with food. I ate a lot and took a lot of pictures.

Here's an example of some of the cool and expensive food you can find in Korean department stores. This squash, filled with sweet potato and dried banana was for sale at Shinsaige Department Store in Busan. It was a very swanky and upscale joint! I thought this stuff looked wonderful.

Here's a picture of an AMAZING taco, just before I inhaled it. It was made at a shop named "Taco." The shop is located close to Haeundae Beach and is a favorite with the local expat population. I used to go here all the time when I lived in Korea. My wife was the first to notice though that the size of the taco has decreased quite a bit. I suppose that in these hard economic times people are trying to save a buck and make the food smaller.

Here's a clip of me playing drums. My former band mates got together and we played a gig at Soul Trane in the PNU are of Busan.

Hermit Kings at Soul Trane - Come Together

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Japan wins World Baseball Classic

Japan beat Korea 5-3 in extra innings.

Premium Beer with Fiber

"Smooth & Light premium beer exclusively designed for well-being of young generation."

Stylish Beer with Fiber

I saw this crap in Korea when I was there last week. I of course simply had to buy a can and try it. As you can imagine, by the can and the brilliant logo...and the fact that they're proud of the "fiber" thing; it was indeed crap. Did I mention it tasted like crap?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Plane Crash in Tokyo

As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife and I returned from Busan, South Korea yesterday morning. As we approached Kansai International Airport we hit a lot of turbulence. It was a really windy and stormy day in Osaka and Kobe and our landing was a little hairy. I personally hate that part of any flight. Taking off; no problem. The flight itself; no problem. The final approach and landing, no matter how good the weather, a problem. It just scared the crap our of me every time. So, after that hairy landing and then our bus almost getting blown off the bridge that connects Kansai Airport Island to the mainland, I was really freaked out this morning when I turned on the television and saw this:

Japan cargo plane crashes

So, I've spent a few hours today editing some of the footage I took while in Busan.

One thing I've been interested in doing and now am, is making a series of videos about all of the great food I have the privilege to eat while living over here in Asia. My videos are about food from Japan, Korea, China, etc. They seem to be getting a very positive response. I suppose everyone likes eating!

Here's my first "Asia Eats" video from Korea.

Asia Eats: Kevin eats Bibimbap

I'll also be posting videos of my former band playing.

Oh yeah, apparently, while we were in rainy Busan for a few days, it was sunny and in the 20's (Celsius) here in Kobe!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Back in Japan

My trip to Korea is all over and now it's time to lick my wounds and let the healing begin. Fun it was, fun indeed! Too much fun at times. A good "liver punishing" is all part of the "Korean Experience" I suppose. I was in Busan with my wife for four days and we got back to Kobe this afternoon. We had an amazing time with all of our friends. I'd have to say that there were three main highlights to the trip:

1. The Hermit Kings reunion show (that's my old band).
2. Hanging out with all of my old friends!
3. Korean food (we ate a lot of great stuff).

We were staying at the Novotel along Haeundae Beach. Although the weather was nasty pretty much the entire time we were there, it was still nice to be so close to the water.

On Friday night, the Hermit Kings had their reunion show at Soul Trane in PNU (Pusan National University) area. It was cool. It was the first time I've played drums in almost 2 years.

Of course, a major part of any vacation is the enjoyment of food. We had some great stuff and I took a lot of footage. I'm planning to start making more "foody" videos on my You Tube Channel from now on and later this week I'll post a few about some of the awesome food I had in Busan.

Check out this little treat I picked up at the duty free shop. That's right! Soju chocolate. I'm pretty sure it will be nasty, but I had to buy a box.

Here's a little taste of what I saw in Busan!

Cool Machines - Korea Short Video #2

More videos and pictures to come in the next few days!

Monday, March 16, 2009

China Town Snacks and St. Paddy's in Kobe

For all of you out there who are not on any sort of vacation,let me first begin this post by apologizing. I am now officially on vacation and started the whole thing by going to work this morning. What? That's just plain stupid Kevin! Yes...I realize that, but I had to tie up a few loose ends I left on Friday. By 11:00am I was on my way to downtown Kobe and, more specifically, Chinatown.

I simply love little outings to Chinatown. Whether with my wife or by myself, a chance to sneak off to Chinatown for some great street food always puts a smile on my face. Kobe's Chinatown is known as Nankinmachi and is located in the Motomachi area of downtown. STreet food is plentiful and affordable; a great combination.

At lunchtime today, I went there for something called Guo Bao. In a nutshell,Guo Bao is a steamed bread and sweet pork sandwich. I've read about it online and some folks refer to it as a Taiwanese pork sandwich.

Here's what the little beauties looked like. They were 400yen each at this shop, but I bought mine for 200yen at another shop further down the street.

Good stuff.

I of course took the time to make a short video blog about the occasion.

Kobe Eats: Kevin eats Guo Bao

Check out the original here.

I'm tossing around the idea of doing a more frequent food based vlog. Of course my BusanKevin channel is all over the place, but I'd like to do more food-type vlogs.

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. From what I gather, aside from a parade in Tokyo yesterday, it's not really much of an event here. I'm sure at the local foreigner pubs, there will be a lot of folks, but I'll celebrate at home with a can or two of Guiness.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

I'll be off to Korea on Wednesday morning so I promise to take a lot of cool footage and post some entertaining vlogs on my You Tube Channel.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Almost time for Korea

One day of classes left and then it's pretty much all said and done. Friday is Graduation at my school and then it's time to relax for a few weeks. I'll be siting in Busan, South Korea in exactly a week from now. I'll be there for 5 days and plan on a reunion show with my old band "The Hermit Kings." The majority of the original band is still there and we'll play a gig at an undisclosed (I will disclose it as soon as I know) club in Busan.

Life in Kobe is still great. The weather is warm and Prime Minister Taro Aso still has a gruff voice and wears too many pins on his suits!

Today, during my break I wandered through a neat little neighborhoodclose to my school. I say "neat", but then again, I still consider most little neighborhoods in Japan "neat."

An Old Japanese House

Although I have no burning desire to become reacquainted with Korea's "famous" drink, soju, I do plan on reminding myself just how bad Korean beer really is! Luckily the Korean won is in the toilet at the moment (not so good for all of the ESL teachers there), so my Japanese Yen will go really far! That's a lot of cheap beer and grilled beef!

Soju. Some of what Korea has to offer that I'll pass on!

Galbi. Some of what Korea has to offer that I ABSOLUTELY love and plan to fill up on! Galbi-jibs of Busan...here I come!

Although it was again a slight change from my normal style of video blogs, I recently posted a video I called "Fear." It was another attempt at a "light" video. It has gotten a great response so far. Hope you enjoy!


You can see the original here on my channel.

Now, it is coming up on St.Patrick's Day all around the world and here in Japan. The Japanese really love the drink of course and are quite fond of Irish style pubs and Guiness as well. I'm not sure exactly what happens in Kobe or Osaka on St. Paddy's Day, aside from he various pubs holding parties. Since I'll be heading to Busan the following morning, I plan to just stay home, have a few pints of Guiness in the comfort of my living.

Here's a little about what you can do if you happen to be in Tokyo this Sunday, March 15th.

Tokyo’s St Patrick’s Day Parade – It’s a long way from Tipperary

On Sunday, March 15, Omotesando-dori will be transformed into a bustling Celtic cultural fiesta. This year’s St Patrick’s Day parade is sure to be one of the best in years with over 2,000 participants and some 30,000 spectators expected along with dignitaries from Tokyo’s diplomatic community.

This fun-filled international parade offers a unique opportunity for all to enjoy the delights of Irish music and dancing, Celtic art and design, colorful paraders from throughout Japan and a even a chance to sample a free glass of Guinness or Baileys – two of Ireland’s finest liquid exports. Read More at JapanToday

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Vacation, Graduation and Life in Japan

It's officially been 1,000,000 years since I've made a post on this blog. Apologies, apologies. I suppose I've been concentrating mostly on work (it is the end of the school year crunch time), making videos for You Tube and organizing the first You Tube met up in Kansai. It's actually going to be tonight in Osaka. Should be a great time. Some of the You Tubers who I knowwill be there include: BusanKevin (moi), kansaipj, kkajapan, sydermurphy, thatjapanesegirl, renoldsair, platonicmojo, jnmorrison, Takarcuka Tim, and many others I'm sure.

Some interesting things have happened recently. March 3rd was Hina Matsuri 雛祭り, or Girl's Day here in Japan. I only have 2 girls in my class, but we used the afternoon to make Hina Matsuri crafts. It was very cute, the boys made their crafts and then gave them to the girls.

Here's a little more info about the festival.

The Japanese Doll Festival-雛祭り

This video was made by Gimmeabreakman, a well-known Japan video blogger.

I'm also very excited about the fact that next Friday will be my last day of work before Spring vacation. The Japanese school year ends in March and begins in April. I'm teaching at an international school, but we use the Japanese school cycle. I'm pretty excited because I'll be heading to South Korea for a vacation with my wife. We're going to Busan for 5 days. I'm really looking forward to it since both my wife and I have many mutual friends still living there. My old band will be having a "reunion" show on Friday, March 20th.

I think the thing I'm most looking forward to when visiting Korea (aside hanging out with my friends) will be the food. I'm really looking forward to filling my stomach with galbi (Korean bbq), anyong jimduk, bibimbap and many other things. I'll stay away from thesoju, but plan to bring a few bottles back to Japan as gifts!

Here's a video of my old band on my last night playing with them before I left Korea 2 years ago.

Hermit Kings in Korea (BusanKevin on drums)

I was the drummer...BusanKevin. For all my You Tube subscribers, now you know why the city "Busan" is in my username.

Recently, I've been enjoying a podcast based in Korea. Seoul Podcast is entertaining and fairly relevant for anyone who teaches in Korea, has taught there or would like to in the future. I'd recommend checking it out. Each podcast is quite long (between 2-3 hours), but interesting. I really enjoy listening to it when I'm out running.

The guy who runs this podcast is a fairly well-known blogger. He has a very cool blog about Korean food. Check out Zen Kimchi.